Insight with Michael Žantovský: Havel and the Velvet Revolution
This event is organised by the Czech Centre London.
Twenty five years ago in December 1989, Václav Havel was elected as President of Czechoslovakia, marking the end of the Velvet Revolution and with it, the culmination of 41 years of communist rule.
Before becoming a statesman, Havel was a playwright, essayist, dissident and philosopher. His political activities during the communist regime brought him under the surveillance of the secret police and led to multiple prison stints, including a four-year incarceration between 1979 and 1983. His Civic Forum Party played a major role in the Velvet Revolution, and Havel himself was instrumental in dismantling the Warsaw Pact and expanding NATO eastwards. Above all, however, he remained an intellectual and an artist.
By his side throughout was Michael Žantovský, Havel’s press secretary, speech-writer, translator and close friend. The pair met as dissidents under communist rule and remained close until Havel’s death in 2011. Žantovský will be joining us in conversation with Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist, to bear witness to Havel’s extraordinary life as documented in his new book Havel: A Life, and to share his own experiences of living through the Velvet Revolution and the formation of the Czech Republic.
Michael Žantovský is the current Czech Ambassador to the Court of St James. He was among the founding members of the movement that coordinated the overthrow of the communist regime. In January 1990, he became the spokesman, press secretary and advisor to his lifelong friend, President Václav Havel. He has combined a career in politics and the foreign service with work as an author and translator into Czech of many contemporary British and American writers.
Part of the Made in Prague Festival, 17 October – 30 November 2014.