It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
The end of Czechoslovakia's totalitarian regime was called the Velvet Revolution because of how smooth the transition seemed: Communism dead in a matter of weeks, without a shot fired. But for Vaclav Havel, it was a moment he helped pay for with decades of suffering and struggle.
The dissident playwright spent years in jail but never lost his defiance, or his eloquence, and the government's attempts to crush his will ended up expanding his influence. He became a source of inspiration to Czechs, and to all of Eastern Europe. He went from prisoner to president in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and communism crumbled across the region.
"Shyness and courage, both very extreme – that's Havel," his friend Forman once said, though Havel would only admit to having been "a non-coward" in circumstances where he could not avoid choosing between cowardice and what he called non-cowardice.
Installed in the castle, the man who had succeeded Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in the minds of western intellectuals as the very type and pattern of literary dissident, became now the most admired of leaders of the newly democratising states.
It is hard to think of a better provisional epitaph than that supplied in the midst of his later troubles by Martin Palouš, one of the first signatories of Charter 77: "Havel was the man who was able to stage this miracle play. The sacrifice was to cast himself in the main role."