The 1968 Exhibit: Vaclav Havel's 1968 visit to NYC

 

Vaclav Havel, the writer and intellectual who became the president of a post-Communist Czechoslovakia in 1989, has died at age 75.  You can read his obituary here.

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Havel made his first trip to the United States in May 1968.  (This photo shows Havel in 1968, when he was 31 years old.)  He had already begun to distinguish himself  as a dissident with the publication of an article, "On the Theme of an Opposition,‚Äù which advocated the end of single-party rule, so it was somewhat surprising that the Communist regime let him out of the country.  But he was allowed to visit New York on an invitation by Joe Papp--producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival--to see the theater's production of Havel's second play, The Memorandum. 

It was the last time Havel was allowed out of the country under Communist rule.  

During the "Prague Spring," the brief period when reform Communists, led by Alexander Dubcek, believed that ‚Äúsocialism with a human face‚Äù was possible, Havel argued--correctly, as it turned out--that Communism could never be tamed.  

The reforms were brutally crushed by Soviet and Eastern bloc troops in August 1968.