By Ria Novosti
The funeral of former Czech President Vaclav Havel, one of the leading anti-Communist dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s, will take place on Friday, the CTK news agency said.
The former president, a former chain smoker with chronic respiratory problems, had been in failing health in the past few months. He died on Sunday morning at the age of 75.
“The coffin with Vaclav Havel’s body will be put in the Vladislavsky Sal [Vladislav Hall] of the Prague Castle on Wednesday, December 21, so that people could pay their last respect,” the head of the Czech presidential administration, Jiri Weigl, said.
A book of condolences for Vaclav Havel will be placed in Prague Castle on Monday.
Czech leaders – President Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Petr Necas and speakers of two chambers of the Czech Parliament, Milan Stech and Miroslava Nemcova, – gathered in the Prague Castle on Sunday to discuss the funeral ceremony. Its details are yet unknown.
A state commission will organize the ex-president’s funeral in accordance with recommendations from the deceased ex-leader’s family.
The Czech government will gather for an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the introduction of a nationwide mourning day.
Havel first came to international fame as a dissident playwright in the 1970s.
The playwright turned political activist spent four and a half years in prison for opposing Czechslovakia’s Communist government before emerging as a leader of the nonviolent Velvet Revolution that swept it aside in 1989.
Havel was his country’s first democratically elected president after the Velvet Revolution. As president, he oversaw the country’s transition to democracy and a free-market economy, as well its peaceful 1993 breakup into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement.
“He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world.”
“Vaclav Havel was one of the greatest Europeans of our age,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter. “His voice for freedom paved way for a Europe whole and free.”
“The man has died but the legacy of his poems, plays and above all his ideas and personal example will remain alive for many generations to come,” said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
“As he said himself in 1975 in an open letter to Gustav Husak, then president of the communist regime: ‘Life cannot be destroyed for good, neither can history be brought entirely to a halt.'”