Václav Havel, perhaps one of the most famous intellectuals
to appear during the hegemony
of the Soviet Union
in East Central Europe
, was born to a bourgeois
family in Czechoslovakia
in 1936. Communist
disdain for the scions of wealthy families prevented him from receiving a university education
and cemented his position as an outsider in his native country.
By the 1960’s revival of Czech culture, Havel was involved in the theatre, having seen his first play staged in 1963. By 1965, his increasing dissatisfaction with government censorship led him to satirize the bureaucracy and draw the ire of the authorities; at the same time, he became associated through his dissidence with the intellectuals responsible for the Prague Spring of 1968. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the nations of the Warsaw Pact that year, he continued criticizing the government, taking part in the activities of Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted and penning essays in the samizdat periodical “Lidové Noviny.” An inquisitive humanist, he suggested, as did Milan Kundera, that the realm of human life was not the political but rather the experiential. He was arrested for his oppositional activity and spent a total of six years in prison over several sentences.
After fall of Communism, he was elected President of the nation, and though he resigned in 1992, he was re-elected in 1993 as President of the newly independent Czech Republic (a largely symbolic position).