News24

Velvet Revolution's Havel dies

2011-12-18 18:14

Prague - Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theatre 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 on 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".

A former chain-smoker, Havel had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his years in communist jails.

Havel left office in 2003, 10 years after Czechoslovakia broke up and just months before both nations joined the European Union.

He was credited with laying the groundwork that brought his Czech Republic into the 27-nation bloc, and was president when it joined Nato in 1999.

Shy and bookish, Havel came to symbolise the power of the people to peacefully overcome totalitarian rule.

"Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred," Havel famously said.

It became his revolutionary motto which he said he always strove to live by.