Vaclav Havel becomes a Bratislava citizen

Václav Havel, the former president of Czechoslovakia, dissident and one of the key figures of the Velvet Revolution that toppled Communism in the former federation has become an honorary citizen of Bratislava. The Slovak capital granted him honorary citizenship on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the totalitarian regime for his fight for freedom, democracy and assisting in the process of Slovakia's integration into Europe.

The great statesman and philosopher/king Václav Havel said that he respects the award all the more after discovering the personalities who have received it. He has had a long and and enduring relationship with Bratislava, whose people he said he considers very amiable both while he was in office and after his retirement from active politics.

He characterised personality as uniqueness of the human soul and deeds, and as what differentiates one human being from his fellows. Another awardee was the first Austrian Ambassador to Slovakia, Maximilian Pammer. Havel and Pammer received their awards in person.

Havel will receive it on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, which Slovaks and Czechs mark on November 17.

The resistance to the communist regime's excesses were very much felt in Bratislava as well as Prague. A mass demonstration took place on Hviezdoslav Square in downtown Bratislava and then moved to the Square of the Slovak National Uprising) SNP. Students presented various demands and asked the people to participate in the planned general strike for Monday, November 27. A separate demonstration demanding the release of the political prisoner and christian activist Ján Čarnogurský (the later Prime Minister of Slovakia) took place in front of the Palace of Justice. Alexander Dubček delivered an address at this demonstration – his first appearance during the Velvet Revolution. As a result, Čarnogurský was released on November 23.

"The diplomas will be handed at a ceremonial meeting of the Bratislava City Hall on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the totalitarian regime. Its preliminary date is November 18, 2009," the City Hall said in a statement.

Havel, a playwright and a leading dissident under the former communist regime, was the last Czechoslovak president (1989-92) and the first Czech president (1993-2003).

Even under the communist regime he was known as one of the most promitent thinkers and human rights fighters. Havel contributed to the fall of communism in 1989 to a great extent.

In the past, Havel was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Three years ago, Havel was presented with an honorary doctor's degree in Bratislava on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Last year, the Slovak premiere of Havel's latest play Leaving was staged in the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava.

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