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One of the great men to emerge from the anti-communist revolutions was the Czech playwright and dissident Václav Havel. The author of several anti-communist, absurdist plays and a series of moving essays on the moral corruption of communism, Havel captured the support of the students leading the Velvet Revolution and went on to head the country. He quickly assumed the leadership of the anti-communist opposition, and was a crucial force in negotiating the agreement that eventually led the communists to peacefully relinquish power after 40 years of authoritarian rule.
Havel's rapid ascent from a lowly dissident to the Czech chief executive—in a matter of weeks—proves the weight of his writings. In essays like "The Power of the Powerless" Havel spoke of the power of ordinary citizens to internally and peacefully resist the communist authorities. His voice, it's safe to say, became the country's conscience.
Before 1989 he was jailed several times for his writings, and when the 1989 events came around, he was one of the few public personalities who were not compromised by the previous regime.
Havel's time as president—from 1990 until 2003, with some breaks—was a mixed affair. But if there was a success, it was in his image abroad. It's no stretch to say that much of the adoration and attention the Czechs received after 1989 was because of their universally respected president.
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