The Man Who Ended An Empire, Vaclav Havel Dead At 75

Vaclav Havel, the man who ended an empire, died at his home in the Czech Republic today. He was 75 years old. He had been fighting a long drawn out battle with lung disease since he had served time in prison for advocating democracy while under the thumb of the Soviet Union. A chain smoker his whole adult life, Havel had been repeatedly afflicted with pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. In 1996 he had a malignant tumor removed as well as part of one of his lungs.

The Cabinet of the Czech Republic will hold a special meeting tomorrow to prepare for his state funeral.

Havel became a symbol for freedom for his work against the oppression of the Soviet Union. After his Velvet Revolution brought him to power, he served as the president of the Czech Republic for 13 years.

“I am personally affected because he was the symbol of what happened here in November 1989,” said Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas on state television. “He did a lot for the Czech Republic, for its transition to democracy, to the structures of the European Union,” which the Czech Republic joined in 2004. “His departure is a big loss because he still had a lot to offer in politics as well as society,” Necas said.

Officially serving as President of the Czech Republic gave him the chance to build what he refereed to a s a “Civil Society” using radio broadcast, speeches and any other medium he could to talk about the virtue of morals and truth in politics. “We are living in the first truly atheistic society, and there’s no feeling that there is any kind of moral anchor,” he was quoited as saying to Bloomberg news.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Havel was one of the strongest advocates of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Under his leadership, the Czech Republic joined both.

His autobiography , which was published in 2006, he decided to avoid just the telling of his life story and instead used past interviews and speeches to recount his feeling on events and how they influenced his thinking.

“If I’ve made any mistakes, then they probably all derive from my awkwardness, my indecisiveness, politeness that slips easily into compromise,” Havel wrote. “I didn’t know how to make proper use of the authority I had, particularly in that first period and I didn’t know how to maintain that authority.”

Havel died with no children.

How do you feel about Vaclav Havel and the world he lead?