Havel at Columbia


Youth and Education, 1936-1959

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.
1956 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.

Life in the Theater, 1959-1968

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.
1964 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.
1965 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.
1966 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.
1968 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.

Suppression and Resistance, 1969-1976

1969 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.
1970 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.
1975 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.

Charter 77 and the Power of the Powerless, 1977-1989

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.
1978 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.
1979 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.
1981 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.
1982 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.
1983 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].
1985 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].
1986 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.
1987 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.
1988 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.

This Day In 1989

A daily "event in the history" of the 1989 Velvet Revolution 1989 was highlighted to coincide with Havel's residency at Columbia University.

October 26: Dissidents call for demonstration

Havel and other organizers of the petition "A Few Sentences" call for a public gathering on Czechoslovak Independence Day (Oct. 28) to show support for a dialogue between the government and citizens' groups. (See also: Havel, Václav, "Testing Ground," in Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990. Selected and Edited by Paul Wilson (New York: Knopf, 1991), 373-5.)

October 27: Havel detained by police, released to hospital

Havel and other dissidents across Czechoslovakia are detained by police on the eve of Czechoslovak Independence Day to prevent them from leading a demonstration in
Prague. Complaining of breathing difficulties, Havel is released to hospital.

October 28: Independence Day demonstration in Prague

Anniversary of the foundation of an independent Czechoslovak state in 1918. Police violently suppress some 10,000 demonstrators protesting against the communist regime on Prague's Wenceslas Square. Havel is in hospital because of breathing problems and cannot attend the protest, but his name figures prominently in the crowd's chants.

October 29: Crowd supports Havel at hospital

Some 500 people gather and chant "Long live Havel!" outside of the hospital where Havel was taken from a police station after being arrested at home in his sickbed on October 27th.

October 30: Czechoslovak security forces remain on alert

Security forces in Czechoslovakia remain on alert in the midst of a reform wave in neighboring Eastern Bloc countries and following the recent weekend of protests in Prague. Havel and other opposition activists remain guardedly optimistic about the possibility of reform in Czechoslovakia, though no one is certain how soon it will come.

October 31: East German communist leader calls for a slowing of reform push

Hundreds of thousands of East Germans in several cities demonstrate against the communist regime, while Party leader Egon Krenz warns that unrealistic demands for fast reform would endanger the stability of the country. Despite the reforms going on just across Czechoslovakia's borders, the Czechoslovak communist leadership maintains its hard-line stance. Havel and other opposition activists continue to press for changes in the regime's position and for dialogue between the government and citizens' groups.

November 1: East Germans cross into Czechoslovakia on way to the West

East Germany eases border restrictions with Czechoslovakia, and several thousand cross into the country trying to obtain refuge in the West German embassy in Prague. Despite the reforms going on in neighboring Eastern Bloc countries, the Czechoslovak communist leadership maintains its hard-line stance. Havel and other opposition activists continue to press for changes in the regime's position and for dialogue between the government and citizens' groups.

November 2: East German upheaval intensifies

Czechoslovakia's hard-line ally East Germany continues to soften rapidly. Thousands more East Germans continue to seek refuge at the West German embassy in Prague, top officials announce their resignations, large protests persist and the Foreign Ministry says it will consider officially recognizing the major opposition group in that country. Czechoslovak citizens observe the changes going on across their northwestern border, but there is little sign of any movement toward reform at home.

November 3: East German leader purges Politburo, promises extensive reforms

After returning from meetings with Gorbachev in Moscow and the Solidarity-led government of Poland in Warsaw, East German Communist Party leader Egon Krenz dismisses several senior Politburo members and promises extensive reforms. Despite the changes going on in neighboring Eastern Bloc countries, the Czechoslovak communist leadership maintains its hard-line stance. Havel and other opposition activists continue to press for changes in the regime's position and for dialogue between the government and citizens' groups.

November 4: 500,000 protest in East Berlin

In the largest protest so far, at least 500,000 gather in the center of the East German capital to call for political change. Despite the reforms going on in neighboring Eastern Bloc countries, the Czechoslovak communist leadership maintains its hard-line stance. Havel and other opposition activists continue to press for changes in the regime's position and for dialogue between the government and citizens' groups.

November 5, 1989: Conference in Poland serves as protest forum for Czechoslovaks

An estimated 7,000 Czechoslovaks defy a travel ban to attend a conference on Central Europe at Wrocław University in Poland, where they hear Polish dissident-turned-senator Adam Michnik apologize for Poland's role in the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Havel is refused a passport to attend the conference, but his featured speech is read out in his absence. Participants sign a protest to Prague calling for liberalization and denouncing 'the arrest of friends who had only come to wonder about what binds and unites Central European societies.'

November 6, 1989: Pressure on East German communists mounts

Half a million East Germans take to the streets in Leipzig to pressure the communist government for reform. The number of East German refugees who have fled to West Germany via the embassy in Prague reaches 23,000.

November 7, 1989: Protest against trial of dissident in Bratislava

A few hundred Czechoslovaks gathered to demand the freedom of lawyer and dissident Ján Čarnogurský, who was charged with sedition in August for his activity in the underground press. Police film the event, but do not disperse the demonstrators.

November 8, 1989: Havel predicts change in Czechoslovakia, but not necessarily soon

Questioned by journalists whether he thinks Czechoslovakia will soon be joining the wave of reforms in the Eastern Bloc, Havel says, "in comparison with a year or two ago, things are very different but that doesn't mean change tomorrow or the day after."

November 9, 1989: Berlin Wall opened

The Krenz government in East Germany announces it will allow East German citizens with proper exit permission to enter West Berlin directly through checkpoints in the Berlin Wall. Thousands mob the checkpoints, making it impossible for authorities to maintain control and the Wall is effectively breached. The communist leadership in Czechoslovakia remains silent on the events in Berlin. Havel and other opposition activists continue to press for changes and dialogue between the government and citizens' groups.

November 10, 1989: Soviet leaders warn Czechoslovak regime against delay of reforms

Soviet leaders send messages to high-level Czechoslovak Communist Party officials to warn them against any foot-dragging in enacting reforms, stating that a failure to give some ground could lead to an upheaval similar to that in East Germany.

November 11, 1989: Czechoslovak dissidents plan for December rally

Havel is at his country home in Hrádeček, meeting with other dissidents to plan a rally for International Human Rights Day on December 10.

November 12, 1989: Czechoslovak dissidents plan for December rally

Havel is at his country home in Hrádeček, meeting with other dissidents to plan a rally for International Human Rights Day on December 10.

November 13, 1989: Travel restrictions for Czechoslovaks lifted

The Czechoslovak government announces that it will no longer require its citizens to obtain exit permits before traveling to the West. Many see the move as a merely symbolic tactic, and Prime Minister Adamec is quoted as saying that "travelling abroad with the aim of staying abroad permanently has been made simpler," implying that visas to reenter the country will not be guaranteed.

November 14, 1989: Bush to discuss changes in the Eastern Bloc with NATO allies

U.S. President George Bush announces that he will meet with leaders of NATO member states in early December to discuss the rapid changes in Eastern Bloc states. Bush also praised the Czechoslovak government's lifting of travel restrictions and says that he predicts further reforms to follow soon.

November 15, 1989: Gorbachev endorses changes in Eastern Europe

Speaking at a student meeting in Moscow, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev emphasized his support for the 'process of renewal' underway in Eastern European states, stating, "It's time to remember that the modern world does not consist of two mutually exclusive civilizations, but of one common civilization, in which human values and the freedom of choice are supreme." Reports of Gorbachev's statements reach Czechoslovakia through foreign broadcasts.

November 16, 1989: Police disperse peaceful demonstration in Bratislava

A peaceful student demonstration in Bratislava on the eve of International Student Day puts the already-wary authorities on the alert. Plans are in place to control the approved student march in Prague the following day. Havel is out of Prague at his country home, seeking to avoid the kind of preemptive detention he underwent on October 27th.

November 17, 1989: Police violently suppress demonstration in Prague; the Velvet Revolution begins

A student demonstration in Prague is met with police violence, and the events that will come to be known as the Velvet Revolution are underway. Havel is at his country home in Hrádeček, but returns to Prague after receiving news of the violence. During the following days, hundreds of thousands gather in squares in Prague and other cities in Czechoslovakia to demand change in their country.

November 18, 1989: Havel leads theater strike

Havel leads a strike of Prague theaters to protest the beating of students on November 17.

November 19, 1989: Civic Forum founded

Havel and other opposition spokespeople form Civic Forum [Občanské fórum], a coalition organization of those who oppose communist control in Czechoslovakia. Over the following weeks the group enters into negotiations with the Communist Party for reform.

November 20, 1989: 300,000 demonstrate in Prague

An estimated 300,000 people demonstrate in the streets of Prague. Czechoslovak Television breaks its blackout on the growing unrest in the country, showing live footage of demonstrations in Prague and other Czechoslovak cities. At a Civic Forum press conference, Havel says "We are at a time when there are beginnings of real opposition in our country."

November 21, 1989: Prime Minister meets with Civic Forum

Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec agrees to meet with representatives of Civic Forum, but refuses to admit Havel to his offices.

November 22, 1989: Havel makes first address to demonstrators

Havel makes his first public address since the beginning of the Revolution, speaking from the balcony of the Melantrich publishing house to a crowd of 200,000 on Wenceslas Square.

November 23, 1989: Civic Forum moves into new headquarters at the Laterna Magika Theater

Civic Forum moves into its new headquarters, the Laterna Magika theater in Prague. Demonstrations continue throughout Czechoslovakia.

November 24, 1989: Communist Party Presidium resigns; crowds cheer Havel and Dubček

Demonstrations continue in Prague and in other cities in Czechoslovakia. Civic Forum holds a press conference and announces the resignation of Communist Party Secretary Miloš Jakeš and other party leaders. Following the press conference, Havel and Dubček are cheered by crowds of students.

November 25, 1989: Rally on Letná Plain in Prague draws 500,000

Civic Forum again announces the resignations of the Communist Party at a rally attended by an estimated 500,000 Czechoslovak citizens on Letná Plain in Prague. It is the largest demonstration of the Revolution thus far.

November 26, 1989: Communists begin negotiating a new government with opposition representatives

Havel and other Civic Forum leaders meet with Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec to negotiate a new government. After the meeting Havel appears with Dubček and Adamec before a crowd of one million on Letná Plain in Prague, where Adamec is booed from the podium.

November 27, 1989: Millions of Czechoslovaks observe strike called by opposition

Millions of Czechoslovak citizens observe a two-hour strike called by Civic Forum, demonstrating the popular success of the Revolution.

November 28, 1989: Czechoslovak Communist Party renounces monopoly on power

Havel and other Civic Forum leaders meet with the Communist government for the third time. The government announces their agreement to renounce "the leading role of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia" and to form a new government.

November 29, 1989: Guarantee of communist power removed from Czechoslovak constitution

The Federal Parliament unanimously votes to remove provisions for the leading role of the Communist Party from the Czechoslovak constitution. Havel and other Civic Forum leaders appeal to the army and security forces to "protect the interests of the people" and not to interfere in the political course of the country.

November 30, 1989: Czechoslovak border opened

The Czechoslovak government announces that it will open the southern border with Austria. Havel and other Civic Forum leaders continue meetings with the government to discuss the formation of a new government.

December 1, 1989: Havel meets with minority party leaders

Havel meets with the chairman of the People's Party, a former Communist Party satellite, and gains his support for the formation of a new government.

December 2, 1989: Havel warns that delay on transition will lead to conflict

At a Civic Forum press conference Havel warns that any attempt by the government to slow the process of transition away from communist dominance would lead to confrontation. The government begins disarming the People's Militia, the Communist Party's own forces.

December 3, 1989: Opposition leaders reject new cabinet

Havel and Civic Forum leaders reject Adamec's proposed cabinet, which would give 16 of the 21 posts to Communist Party members. Civic Forum calls for a mass "gathering of citizens" to protest.

December 4, 1989: Protestors call for new cabinet's resignation

150,000 protestors gather to call for the resignation of Adamec's new cabinet. Havel's name again figures prominently in the crowd's chants. Civic Forum announces that the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic had already agreed to a new regional government in which the Communist Party would have a minority role, and that negotiations were continuing with the Federal government.

December 5, 1989: Havel chosen as Civic Forum's nominee for president

Havel and Civic Forum continue negotiations with Adamec's government. At a Civic Forum meeting, leaders come to a decision that Havel will be the Forum's nominee for President of Czechoslovakia.

December 6, 1989: Negotiations with Prime Minister Adamec break down

Havel tells journalists that Adamec has promised to present a revised cabinet in the next two days, but later in the day Adamec indicates that he is prepared to resign rather than give in to opposition "ultimatums."

December 7, 1989: Prime Minister resigns; Havel says he is prepared to take on presidency

Ladislav Adamec resigns as prime minister. Asked at a press conference about the possibility that he would run for President, Havel expresses reluctance but eventually states, "If the only service I could perform for my country would be to do this, I would do it."

December 8, 1989: Communists agree to minority role in government

During negotiations with Havel and Civic Forum, communist leaders agree to surrender control of the government and to take a minority role in a coalition cabinet. Also, President Gustáv Husák announces an amnesty for political prisoners.

December 9, 1989: President Husák announces he will resign after swearing in new government

President Gustáv Husák announces that he will resign after the new cabinet is formed on December 10. Both Communist Party officials and opposition leaders tell journalists of their support for Havel as Husák's successor.

December 10, 1989: Havel nominated for presidency

A new government is sworn in, with the Communist Party in a minority role. Husák resigns and Civic Forum nominates Havel for President of Czechoslovakia.

December 11, 1989: Czechoslovaks celebrate arrival of democracy

At noon, factory whistles, car horns and jangling keys ring-in the arrival of democracy throughout Czechoslovakia. "Havel na hrad [Havel to the Castle]" campaign posters begin appearing around Prague.

December 12, 1989: Electoral-procedure debates begin in Federal Assembly

The Communist Party and the opposition negotiate over the procedure for electing a president to replace Husák. The Communists push to change the constitution and have the President elected by popular ballot rather than by the Parliament. This is widely seen as a move to keep Havel from gaining the office, since he is not well known outside of Prague and would not likely win a popular vote. Chanting crowds gather outside the chambers in support of Havel's candidacy.

December 13, 1989: Electoral controversy resolved; Czechoslovakia ready for first new president in fourteen years

Opposition and Communist leaders resolve to maintain the Parliamentary-vote system of electing a new President of Czechoslovakia, clearing the way for Havel to win the office.

December 14, 1989: Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union begin talks on troop withdrawal

Civic Forum member and new Foreign Minister Jiří Dienstbier announces that he has begun talks with Soviet officials on the withdrawal Soviet troops from Czechoslovak territory.

December 15, 1989: Concerns of national divide over Presidential election

Havel announces that he would be willing to take on the role of President if elected. Alexander Dubček, the leader of the "Prague Spring" reforms in 1968, is now seen as Havel's major rival for the post. The rivalry could divide support in the Federal Assembly along national lines between the Czech, Havel, and the Slovak, Dubč.

December 16, 1989: Havel talks with Dubček to avoid national split over presidency

Appearing on state television, Havel again states that he would accept the nomination for President of Czechoslovakia as a "temporary working President." Havel holds talks with Alexander Dubček in order to avoid a struggle between the two over the Presidency.

Revolution and Divorce, 1989-1992

1989 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.
1990 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.”

Presidency of the Czech Republic, 1993-2003

1993 January 26: Havel is elected President of the Czech Republic.
1996 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.
1999 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.
2002 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.

After the Presidency, 2003-Present

2003 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.