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Václav Havel Memorial Day

“Keep the company of those who seek the truth- run from those who have found it.”

~ Vaclav Havel (1936-2011)

According to the designer, anyone who believes that free expression is an essential component of every healthy society is welcome to wear or display the Havel tartan. The Havel tartan portrays an endless succession of prison cell windows struck through in red, protesting the persecution and imprisonment of writers of conscience in the knowledge that free expression is an essential component of every healthy society. It is named in honour of the late Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright and co-author of Charter 77, the landmark human rights declaration for which he was imprisoned for several years, only to lead the ‘Velvet Revolution’ that peacefully overthrew communism and installed him as Czechoslovakia’s president. Charter 77 was also the inspiration for Charter 08, the petition demanding the end of one-party rule in China for which at the time of the tartan's design, author Liu Xiaobo was serving an 11-year sentence. During this fourth prison term, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. On 26 June 2017, he was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with liver cancer, and died a few days later on 13 July 2017. Permission to adopt the Havel name was graciously granted by his wife, Dagmar Havlova Veskrnova, with assistance from the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation and PEN International, the worldwide writers’ association promoting literature and defending freedom of expression. ✍️

Václav Havel October 1936 –  December 2011) was a Czech statesman, playwright, and former dissident, who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992 and then as the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. He was the first democratically elected president of either country after the Fall of Communism. As a writer of Czech literature, he is known for his plays, essays, and memoirs.  With educational opportunities curtailed by his bourgeois background, at a time when such freedoms were limited by the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Havel  first rose to prominence as a playwright.  In works such as The Garden Party and The Memorandum, Havel used an absurdist style to criticize the Communist system. After participating in the Prague Spring and being blacklisted after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, he became more politically active and helped found several dissident initiatives, including Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted. His political activities brought him under the surveillance of the StB secret police, and he spent multiple periods as a political prisoner,  the longest of his imprisoned terms being nearly four years, between 1979 and 1983.


For more on Vaclav Havel, click his portrait.