Former Czech leader Vaclav Havel dies age 75
Sunday 18 December 2011
Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who turned to politics to help peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia, has died at the age of 75.
His assistant Sabina Dancecova said Mr Havel died this morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic.
Mr Havel was his country's first democratically elected president after the non-violent "Velvet Revolution" that ended four decades of repression by a regime he ridiculed as "Absurdistan".
As president, he oversaw the country's bumpy transition to democracy and a free-market economy, as well its peaceful 1993 break-up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Czech leaders and foreign politicians have begun paying tribute to Mr Havel.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas called him "the symbol of 1989" and said he "did a tremendous job for this country".
Mr Necas's deputy, Karolina Peake, called his death "the end of an era, and end of the person who meant so much for the country".
Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted that Havel was "one of the greatest Europeans of our age".
The Czech government is expected to meet tomorrow to declare a period of official mourning.
In neighbouring Poland, the founder of the anti-communist Solidarity movement and former president Lech Walesa called Mr Havel "a great fighter for the freedom of nations and for democracy".
"It is a great pity and a great loss. His outstanding voice of wisdom will be missed in Europe," said Mr Walesa, the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
In Slovakia, which split from the Czech Republic in 1993, Prime Minister Iveta Radicova said it was Mr Havel who "opened the gates to the world after 1989".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany and went into politics as communism crumbled, said she learned "with great dismay" of Mr Havel's death.
"His dedication to freedom and democracy is as unforgotten as his great humanity," Ms Merkel said. "We Germans also have much to thank him for."
The president of the European parliament Jerzy Buzek - a former Polish prime minister and activist in Solidarity - wrote on Twitter: "Vaclav Havel is the figure that represents the Velvet Revolution and the reunification of Europe. He will be sorely missed."
In Russia, Grigory Yavlinsky, a veteran opposition figure and leader of the Yabloko party, told the Itar-TASS news agency that Havel "was a man of integrity and dignity who has never been afraid of anyone".
"He devoted his life to freeing his people from a totalitarian regime," Mr Yavlinsky said
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
musicPolice chief rejects rappers' claims that his work is as dangerous as law enforcement or military service
comedy'Fresh Meat' star sees off stiff competition from Alan Carr, David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Lee Mack and Sarah Millican to win top prize
Beatles rush out 'bootleg' album to defy EU copyright law
healthJames Bond's alcohol consumption puts him at 'high risk' of cirrhosis, tremors... and impotence
Harvey Weinstein reveals his secret weapon on-set
Now that an oil trader's drinking has got him sacked, will we all have to make do with an afternoon latte?
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba get nods for Best Actor, which no black Brit has ever won
Geoffrey Macnab reviews The Desolation of Smaug - the meat in Peter Jackson's Hobbit sandwich
peopleWhat advice would David Cameron give to his younger self?
French café starts charging extra to rude customers
Mystery of Epping Forest 'big cat' is solved
North Korea executes Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek for 'attempting to overthrow the state'
Australia incest case: Deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
- 1 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Australia incest case: Deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 4 Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
- 5 Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
- < Previous
- Next >
£30k - 35k : Charter Selection: Leading property consultancy firm based in Sou...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: My client is a Top 50 Accoun...
£42000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Audit & Accounts - Top 50 ...
£35000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: My client, a very highly r...