Václav Havel (1936–2011) was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. Havel was one of the six signers of the statement “Tibet: The Peace of the Graveyard.”

Václav vs. Václav

When Václav Havel’s memoirs were published in Prague last May, under the title Please, Be Brief, one of the most eagerly anticipated aspects of his story was what he would say about his famously contentious relationship with Václav Klaus, the Czech prime minister under Havel who succeeded him as president …

The Freedom Tower

Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced yesterday that he supported going ahead with construction of the Freedom Tower at ground zero, making official his change of mind about a project that he once called a white elephant. —The New York Times, February 21, 2007 May 19, 2005 I have to admit …

A Farewell to Politics

The following speech was given by President Havel in New York on September 19, 2002, at the Graduate Center of the City University, on the occasion of his last official trip to the United States as President of the Czech Republic. I still have vivid memories of the concert almost …

The First Laugh

The following speech was given by President Havel upon receiving the Open Society Prize awarded by the Central European University in Budapest earlier this year. Several weeks ago, after the Czech national team won the World Hockey Championship, there were enormous celebrations in the streets of our country. I followed …

Paying Back the West

Following are excerpts from the address given by President Havel in Warsaw earlier this year when he accepted the First Decade Prize at the tenth-anniversary celebration of the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. When the totalitarian system collapsed in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and many important political …

Kosovo and the End of the Nation-State

The following is the address given by President Václav Havel to the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons in Ottawa on April 29. The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was then in its sixth week. The Czech Republic, along with Poland and Hungary, had recently become members of the alliance, …

The Sad State of the Republic

Last November, the Czech government, led by Prime Minister Václav Klaus, was forced to resign in the wake of allegations that, among other things, the Civic Democratic Party, led by Klaus, had access to a slush fund held in an unauthorized Swiss bank account. In the period between those resignations …

The Charms of NATO

President Havel gave the following address in Washington on October 3, 1997, after receiving the Fulbright Prize. It has been edited and slightly abridged. I still remember the interest with which almost thirty years ago I read the book The Arrogance of Power by Senator James William Fulbright. What struck …

The Hope for Europe

President Havel gave the following address in Aachen on May 15, 1996. Recently, when I looked into how Europe got its name, I was surprised to discover that many see its primeval roots in the Akkadian word erebu, which means twilight or sunset. Asia, on the other hand, is believed …

The Responsibility of Intellectuals

President Havel gave the following address at Victoria University, in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 31, 1995. Some time ago a wise old man came to see me in Prague and I listened to him with admiration. Shortly afterward I heard that he had died. His name was Karl Popper.

A New European Order?

President Havel delivered the following address in December 1994 at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Budapest. This meeting coincides with the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the totalitarian systems in our part of the world, and thus the …

On Rita Klímová (1931–1993)

The life of Rita Klímová, who died shortly after Christmas of leukemia, mirrored in a remarkable way the turbulent history of our country. She was the daughter of Stanislav Budín, an important Czech journalist who was expelled from the Communist Party in the 1930s. He emigrated to the United States …

How Europe Could Fail

The following address was given on October 9 to the General Assembly of the Council on Europe in Vienna. All of us—whether from the west, the east, the south, or the north of Europe—can agree that the common basis of any effort to integrate Europe is the wealth of values …

The Post-Communist Nightmare

President Havel gave the following speech on April 22, at George Washington University in Washington, DC, at a convocation honoring him with a presidential medal. I remember a time when some of my friends and acquaintances used to go out of their way to avoid meeting me in the street.

A Dream for Czechoslovakia

I often think about what our country will be like in ten, fifteen, or twenty years, and I regret that I cannot, for a moment at least, leap over the hard years that lie ahead and look into our future. That life is unfathomable is part of its dramatic beauty …

‘The Culture of Everything’

From my political ideals, it should be clear enough that I would like to accentuate culture in every possible way in my practice of politics. Culture in the widest possible sense of the word, including everything from what might be called the culture of everyday life—or “civility”—to what we know …

Paradise Lost

The return of freedom to a place that became morally unhinged has produced something that it clearly had to produce, and therefore something we might have expected. But it has turned out to be far more serious than anyone could have predicted: an enormous and blindingly visible explosion of every …

On Home

The following speech was given on October 26, when President Havel received an honorary degree at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It is a great pleasure for me to receive an honorary doctorate in a town in which many of my countrymen took refuge centuries ago, and which is still …

‘Uncertain Strength’: An Interview With Václav Havel

The following interview was recently conducted in Prague by Dana Emingerová and Luboš Beniak, and first published in the magazine Mladý Svet. What have you found surprising in the world of the powerful? I realize again and again how terribly important the personal characteristics of politicians are, their relationships and …

The New Year in Prague

Dear Fellow Citizens, There was a time when each New Year the president could deliver the same speech as he had the year before and no one would know the difference. Fortunately, that time is past. Time and history have come back into our lives. The gloomy skies of boredom …

On Kafka

In Kafka I have found a portion of my own experience of the world, of myself, and of my way of being in the world. I will try, briefly and in broad terms, to name some of the more easily defined forms of this experience.

Reflections on a Paradoxical Life

(The following is drawn from Karel Hvízdala’s long interview with Havel, which took place in 1986. It will be published later this month as Disturbing the Peace. —The Editors) You’re approaching fifty now; perhaps this might be an occasion for some self-reflection as well— It’s a diabolical task, and the …

History of a Public Enemy

We publish here excerpts from Václav Havel’s book Disturbing the Peace, whose origins are described as follows by Paul Wilson, Havel’s translator: When the Czech journalist Karel Hvízdala first proposed the idea of a book-length interview to Václav Havel in 1985, Hvízdala was living in West Germany, Havel in Prague, …

The Return of Germany

On March 15, the fifty-first anniversary of the German takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1939, the president of the GDR, Richard von Weizsäcker, visited Hradcany Castle, Prague. The following is drawn from the speeches given there by President von Weizsäcker and by President Václav Havel of Czechoslovakia. Richard von Weizsäcker Fifty-one …

The Future of Central Europe

The following is the text of the speech given by President Havel to the Polish Sejm and Senate on January 21, 1990. I am very glad that the first foreign parliament in which I have the honor of speaking is the Polish Sejm. It is not merely a coincidence. It …

From a New Year’s Day Speech

Masaryk founded his politics on morality. Let us try, in a new time and in a new way, to revive this concept of politics. Let us teach both ourselves and others that politics ought to be a reflection of the aspiration to contribute to the happiness of the community and …

Words on Words

Václav Havel received the Friedenpreis des Deutschen Buchandels, the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers Association, on October 15, 1989. He wrote the following as his acceptance speech. The prize which it is my honor to receive today is called a peace prize and has been awarded to me by …