Václav Havel

Playwright, writer, essayist and philosopher, defender of human rights, Charter 77 spokesman, prisoner of conscience, leading figure in the political changes of November 1989, Czechoslovak and later Czech president, world renowned politician, engaged citizen

Václav Havel make a speech at the meeting on the occasion of the Human Rights Day in 1988. Photo (c) Přemysl Fialka.

5. 10. 1936 born in Prague into well-known business family

1950 barred from studying for reasons of background, studies to be chemical laboratory technician, writes first poems

1956–1960 publishes first reviews, essays and articles   

1957–1959 undergoes mandatory military service          

1960–1968 joins Theatre on Balustrade, serving as stagehand and later dramaturge; writes first plays         

1964 marries Olga Šplíchalová     

1968 participates in “Prague Spring”; following occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact armies gradually becomes banned writer

1970–1976 mainly lives at cottage in Krkonoše foothills with his wife, openly criticises normalisation regime, sets up samizdat Expedice Editions

1977 co-founds Charter 77 and is one of its first spokespeople, arrested for first time

1979 arrested and given four-and-half-year sentence for subversion

1983 released from prison after serious bout of pneumonia

1983−1989 intensifies anti-totalitarian activities despite constant persecution, writes essays and plays

1989 after brutal repression of student march on 17 November 1989 becomes informal leader of “Velvet Revolution” leading to the overthrow of communist regime

29. 12. 1989 elected president, focuses efforts on reviving democracy and returning country to community of democratic states

1990 re-elected  president by first freely elected parliament; proposes fundamental changes to constitution, supports creation Constitutional Court

1992 abdicates from post of president of Czech and Slovak Federal Republic

26. 1. 1993 becomes the first president of Czech  Republic following dissolution of Czechoslovakia; pushes for country’s accession to NATO and European Union

1996 wife Olga Havlová dies         

1997 marriage to Dagmar Veškrnová, together they start Vize 97 Foundation; initiates first Forum 2000 Conference together with Elie Wiesel

1998 elected president of Czech Republic for second time

2003 after leaving the presidency continues to comment on political events, and to advocate for human rights and freedoms

2010 directs film Leaving, based on his own play 

18. 12. 2011 dies at his county house at Hrádeček

Vaclav Havel writing his Letter to Gustáv Husák, 1975. Foto (c) Oldřich Škácha

Works by Vaclav Havel / selected publications


1963 The Garden Party

1965 The Memorandum

1968 The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

1971 The Conspirators

1972 The Beggar's Opera

1975 Audience

          Private View (Unveiling)

1976 Mountain Hotel

1978 Protest

1984 Largo desolato

1985 Temptation

1987 Redevelopment

2007 Leaving (made into a film in 2011)

Essays, interviews and other works

1963–1969 Anticodes (visual poetry)

1969 Letter to Alexander Dubček

1975 An Open Letter to Gustáv Husák

1978 The Power of the Powerless

1979–1982 Letters to Olga

1984 Politics and Conscience

1985 The Anatomy of a Reticence

1986 Erasmus Prize Acceptance Speech

           Disturbing the Peace (A Conversation with Karel Hvížďala)

1986 On the Meaning of Charter 77

1987 Stories and Totalitarianism

1989 A Word About Words

1990−2003 Speeches of the President of the Czechoslovak and Czech Republic

1991 Summer Meditations

2006 To the Castle and Back (A Conversation with Karel Hvížďala)