Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War, has died. He was 75.
Havel died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic, his assistant Sabina Dancecova said.
Havel was his country’s first democratically elected president after the nonviolent “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 breakup into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Even out of office, the diminutive Czech remained a world figure.
He was part of the “new Europe” — in the coinage of then-US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — of ex-communist countries that stood up for the US when the democracies of “old Europe” opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion.
A former chain-smoker, Havel had a history of chronic respiratory problems, which were dated back to his years in communist jails. He was hospitalised in Prague on January 12, 2009, with an unspecified inflammation, and had developed breathing difficulties after undergoing minor throat surgery.