|1936||October 5: Václav Havel is born in Prague to Božena née Vavrečková and Václav Havel, as part of a prominent and wealthy Prague family.|
|1948||February Revolution; the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia seizes control of the state; the Havel family are declared class enemies and lose much of their property to the state.|
|1951-1955||After completing basic school, Havel is unable because of his class background to continue full-time secondary education. While working as an apprentice and, later, laboratory technician, he attends night classes to complete his secondary education.|
|1955||Havel publishes his first journal articles, and enrolls at a technical college to study economics.|
Havel begins dating Olga Šplíchalová, whom he will marry in 1964.
In November he was invited to speak at a conference of the official Writers’ Union, where he makes a provocative challenge to the policy of privileging Socialist Realist literature.
|1957-1959||While performing compulsory duty in the Czechoslovak Army, Havel and his friend Karel Brynda start an amateur theater company in the regiment which proves to be unpopular with his superior officers. Their first original play was declared by a tribunal to be anti-army.|
|1959||After being refused entry to the Performing Arts Academy [AMU], Havel begins work as a stagehand at the ABC Theatre in Prague.|
|1960||Havel moves to another small Prague theater, the Theatre on the Balustrade, where he continues to work until 1968, first as stagehand and later as dramaturge.|
|1963||December 3: The Garden Party [Zahradní slavnost], the first full-length play authored completely by Havel to be produced, premieres at the Theatre on the Balustrade.|
July 9: Havel marries Olga Šplíchalová in a secret ceremony at Žižkov Town Hall. The newlyweds only announced their marriage one week later.
November 7: A literary agent named Klaus Juncker from the Rowohlt Verlag publishing house in West Germany went to Prague to see The Garden Party and offers to represent Havel, which he continues to do for many years.
Havel begins working on the editorial board of the journal Tvář, known for its friendliness toward boundary-pushing literature.
July 26: The Memorandum [Vyrozumění] premieres at the Theatre on the Balustrade.
Protocols [Protokoly], Havel’s first book, is published. The book contained his two produced plays, a collection of typograms, and two essays.
Havel completes correspondence studies at DAMU, the Dramatic Faculty of the Performing Arts Acadamy.
|1967||June 28: At the Fourth Congress of the Writers’ Union, Havel gives a speech denouncing the undemocratic character of the Union and the Communist Party’s influence in its decisions. As a result, communist official have Havel removed from candidacy for the central committee of the Union.|
January 5: Alexander Dubček becomes first secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and begins instituting liberalizing reforms in what becomes known as the Prague Spring.
A group of writers, including Havel, forms a new circle within the Writers’ Union for writers who were not members of the Communist Party. In April Havel is elected chairman of the circle’s committee.
April 4: The journal Literární listy publishes an article by Havel calling for the creation of a multiparty system for Czechoslovakia.
April 11: Theatre on the Balustrade premieres Havel’s The Increased Difficulty of Concentration [Ztížená možnost soustředění].
May-June: Havel visits the United States to attend the New York Shakespeare Festival’s English-language premiere of The Memorandum, which won an Obie later in the year.
Havel takes part in increasing calls for liberalization and democratization. On August 20, Warsaw Pact forces cross the Czechoslovak frontier and occupy the country, reasserting the control of the Communist Party and ending the Prague Spring.
August 21 to 27: Havel broadcasts commentaries on the impromptu Free Czechoslovak Radio set up in Liberec.
Fall: Havel becomes a member of the Central Committee of the Writers’ Union, a post which he holds until the Union is dissolved in 1970, and resumes his work on the editorial staff of Tvář.
Havel receives the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.
February: Milan Kundera and Havel carry out a famous debate in the pages of Tvář concerning the usefulness of resistance and the nature of the Czech destiny.
August 21: Havel and others sign a protest against normalization policies, called “Ten Points [Deset bodů].” The signatories are charged with subversion, but the trial is suspended.
Havel wins a second Obie award for a New York production of The Increased Difficulty of Concentration at the Off-Broadway Theater.
Havel’s completes a version of his play The Conspirators [Spiklenci], which cannot be performed or published legally in Czechoslovakia.
|1971||Havel’s works are banned in schools and public libraries.|
|1972||December 4: A group of thirty-five writers, including Havel, petition for the release of political prisoners.|
|1974||Havel works in the Trutnov brewery, near his cottage in the Krkonoše mountains, for some nine months.|
April 8: Havel writes his famous “Letter to Dr. Gustáv Husák [Dopis Dr Gustávu Husákovi],” addressed to the first secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, criticizing the Czechoslovak government.
Havel finishes writing The Beggar’s Opera [Žebráčká opera] and writes two one-act plays featuring the character Ferdinand Vaněk Audience [Audience] and A Private View [Vernisáž]. A legendary one-night performance of The Beggar’s Opera takes place in the dancehall of an inn in the Prague suburb of Horní Počernice. The playwright remained anonymous, but the performance was reported on Radio Free Europe, leading the authorities to the harass the cast and crackdown on the Prague theater-world.
|1976||Four members of the rock group The Plastic People of the Universe are tried and sentenced to prison terms for performing. Havel acts as a liason between the band and the foreign press, and actively protests the arrest and sentence.|
|1977||January 6: A document entitled “Charter 77” is printed in a West German newspaper. The document is a call for the Czechoslovak government to adhere to its commitments to international human rights agreements, and is signed by hundreds of Czechoslovak citizens, including Havel. He becomes a spokesperson for the movement that takes its name from the document, and is imprisoned for five months for his involvement. Havel becomes the focus of an intense smear campaign in the official press. The movement continues to circulate declarations and organize petitions throughout the next decade.|
April 24: The foundation of a new organization, VONS or the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted [Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných], is announced, with Havel among the founding members.
October: Havel circulates the essay “The Power of the Powerless” [“Moc bezmocných”], an analysis of the totalitarian system and a call for “living in the truth” as the ultimate defense against the corrupt use of power.
November: The StB (State Security) begin continuous surveillance of Havel.
Havel writes a third one-act play featuring the Vaněk character, titled Protest [Protest].
May 29: StB arrest ten members of VONS, including Havel, on subversion charges.
June: Havel begins writing letters to his wife and his friends that will be published in samizdat in 1983 under the title Letters to Olga [Dopisy Olze].
August: While in prison, Havel is offered the chance to “spend a year” in New York but refuses to go, knowing that he would not be allowed to return to Czechoslovakia.
October 22-23: Havel and five other VONS members go on trial. Havel is given a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence.
|1980||January 7: Havel is transferred to Heřmanice prison camp in Moravia.|
July: Havel becomes ill and is transferred to a prison hospital in Prague, then to the Plzeň-Bory prison.
December 8: Havel’s request for release is denied.
June 10: Havel receives an honorary doctoral degree from York University in Toronto in abstentia.
August 17: Havel receives an honorary doctoral degree from University of Toulouse-Le Mirail, with a ceremony held February 1984 at which Tom Stoppard accepted the degree on Havel’s behalf.
December: Havel refuses to request a pardon from Czechoslovak president Gustáv Husák.
January: Letters to Olga [Dopisy Olze], a collection of letters Havel wrote between June 1979 and September 1982 while incarcerated, is published in samizdat form.
February 7: Havel’s sentence is suspended for health reasons, on account of pneumonia developed in January. After leaving hospital he is kept under police surveillance. He resumes his work with Charter 77 and continues to write essays on philosophical and political topics, open letters, and occasional pieces. He is given amnesty from the remainder of his sentence in September 1985.
May: Havel writes the one-act play Mistake [Omyl] for a performance on October 29 in Sweden dedicated to solidarity with Charter 77.
|1984||August: Havel completes his play Largo Desolato [Largo desolato].|
August 9-19: Havel travels through Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia by car, visits friends and fellow resistors, and is followed, harassed and retained by police and State Security. Upon returning home, Havel sent a letter to the General Prosecutor of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, complaining of the harassment and the waste of state resources.
October: Completes his play Temptation [Pokoušení].
January: Havel receives the Erasmus Prize for significant contributions to European culture from the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation in Rotterdam. At the ceremony in Holland on November 13, the actor Jan Tříska read an acceptance speech prepared by Havel.
June: Havel finishes editing a collection of interviews conducted by Karel Hvížďala, published in samizdat as Long-Distance Interrogation [Dálkový výslech] (English-language editions have the title Disturbing the Peace).
October 4: Havel celebrates his fiftieth birthday at home in Prague.
October: Havel completes his play Redevelopment [Asanace].
December 17: Havel is detained by police along with other Charter 77 spokespeople to prevent their attending a Charter 77 forum.
October 21: Havel’s play titled Tomorrow We’ll Fire It Up [Zítra to spustíme] is performed legally (without credit for the playwright) at the Theater on a String in Brno, Czechoslovakia.
November 11: Havel is arrested after giving the opening address of the “Czechoslovakia 88” symposium in Prague. He is released three days later.
January 16: Havel is arrested on Wenceslas Square for involvement in the “Palach Week” mass demonstrations. He is sentenced to nine months in prison on February 21, but is released in May after serving half of his term.
The frequency of demonstrations and of clashes between demonstrators and police increase throughout the year.
November 17: A student demonstration in Prague is met with police violence, and the Velvet Revolution begins. In the following days, hundreds of thousands gather in squares in Prague and other cities in Czechoslovakia.
Havel and other opposition spokespeople form Civic Forum [Občanské fórum] and over the following weeks begin negotiations with the Communist Party for a coalition government.
December 29: Havel is elected President of Czechoslovakia by the Federal Parliament.
February: Havel travels to the United States. On February 22, he is awarded an honorary doctoral degree at Columbia University.
July 5: Havel is reelected as president by the new, freely-elected parliament.
|1992||Tensions between Slovak and Czech members of parliament increase throughout the year. Havel opposes a dissolution of the federal union, but ultimately does not have enough power to prevent it. The Slovak parliament adopts a “Declaration of Independence of the Slovak Nation” on July 17, and Havel resigns as President of Czechoslovakia on July 20. On November 25 the federal parliament adopts a law calling for the end of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic on December 31, in a peaceful dissolution that is often called “the Velvet Divorce.”|
|1993||January 26: Havel is elected President of the Czech Republic.|
Havel’s wife, Olga, dies of cancer. Later in the year Havel himself is diagnosed with lung cancer and undergoes surgery.
Great Britain makes Havel a Knight Grand Cross.
|1997||Havel marries the actress Dagmar Veškrnová.|
|1998||January 20: Reelected President of the Czech Republic.|
Havel leads the Czech Republic to membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
A seven-volume Czech edition of Havel’s collected writings is published in Prague by the Torst publishing house.
Havel broadcasts a message into Cuba, denouncing that country’s regime.
November: While hosting a NATO summit in Prague, the leaders of the member countries toasted farewell to the Havel presidency, which will end a few months later when Havel’s second and final term as President of the Czech Republic.
February 2: Havel’s final term of Presidency ends.
Havel devotes himself to his writing and to humanitarian pursuits through Vize 97, a foundation he operates with his wife Dagmar.
July: The President of the United States awards Havel the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
October: Awarded the Czech Republic’s highest order, the White Lion.
|2004||Havel is made Companion of the Order of Canada.|
|2006||May: Prosím stručně [Briefly, Please], a collection of interviews, notes and documents, is published in the Czech Republic.|