Vaclav Havel is a Czech writer and dramatist. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1993-2003). A leading dissident and repeated political prisoner during the Soviet era, Havel became president of Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution of 1989, saw his country through a transition to a democratic market economy, and managed the split with Slovakia. He has written over 20 plays and numerous nonfiction works.
On December 29, 1989, as leader of the Civic Forum, Havel became president by a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly – an ironic turn of fate for a man who had long insisted that he was uninterested in politics. In this he joined many dissidents of the period, who argued that political change should happen through civic initiatives autonomous from the state, rather than through the state itself. In 1990, he was awarded the Prize For Freedom of the Liberal International.
On July 4, 1994 Havel was awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Medal. In 2002, he was the third recipient of the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award presented by the Prague Society for International Cooperation. He was awarded in 2003 the International Gandhi Peace Prize, named after Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, by the government of India for his outstanding contribution towards world peace and upholding human rights in most difficult situations through Gandhian means. In 2003, Havel was the inaugural recipient of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for his work in promoting human rights. In 2004, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In January 2008, the Europe-based A Different View cited Havel to be one of the 15 Champions of World Democracy.