On the anniversary of his death, Václav Havel remembered worldwide for his dedication to truth

Havel passed away nine years ago but his legacy lives on in monuments worldwide; take a tour of the streets and landmarks bearing his name.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 18.12.2020 08:00 (updated on 17.12.2020)

Playwright and former president Václav Havel passed away nine years ago on Dec. 18, 2011, but he has not been forgotten either at home or abroad. The number of places named for him and monuments bearing his name or likeness has been growing.

There are 10 streets or squares named for him worldwide, with five outside the Czech Republic. Schools, parks and even a European Parliament building also recognize his legacy.

Prague has the most spots, and for people arriving (at least in normal times) they see one of the biggest tributes: Václav Havel Airport, renamed on Oct. 5, 2012, on what would have been Havel's 76th birthday. Fero Fenič, the man behind the annual film festival Febiofest, launched the petition for the name change a week after Havel’s death.

Václav Havel Airport at night. (photo: Prague Airport / prg.aero)
Václav Havel Airport at night. (photo: Prague Airport / prg.aero)

Havel always wanted to be remembered for his writing rather than for politics. When Prague looked for a place to name after him, the administration finally settled on the plaza behind the National Theatre, which was named náměstí Václava Havla on Sept. 26, 2016.

A monument called Heart for Havel with a replica of his signature is in the square. It is the work of artist Kurt Gebauer. A heart after the signature was one of Havel’s trademarks.

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There are squares in the Czech Republic with the same name in Hradec Králové and Litomyšl. There is also a square in Haifa, Israel.

Heart for Havel by Kurt Gebauer. (photo: Raymond Johnston)
Heart for Havel by Kurt Gebauer. (photo: Raymond Johnston)

An honor that not a lot of people know about is a bell at the Church of St Gallen, which in Czech is St. Havel (kostel sv. Havla). The bell is also dedicated to St. Wenceslas, which is Václav in Czech.

Ondřej Boháč, who in addition to being head the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR Praha) is a bell ringer, realized that a bell named Václav was going to the St. Havel Church. He then promoted including Václav Havel in the dedication.

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The bell first rang in March 2017. It was supposed to ring on Dec. 18, 2016, the fifth anniversary of Havel’s death, but it wasn’t ready in time. A replica of Havel’s signature and the phrase “Truth and love win over lies and hate” appear on the bell.

Havel's Place in Prague. (photo: Raymond Johnston)
Havel's Place in Prague. (photo: Raymond Johnston)

Prague also has the fourth Havel’s Place, a round table surrounding a tree with two wooden seats. Located at Maltézské náměstí, it was installed May 1, 2014, on the 10th anniversary of the Czech Republic joining the European Union. A second one in Prague was installed in Horní Počernice in 2017. It was the 21st worldwide.

The first Havel’s Place, in Washington, D.C., was unveiled Oct. 3, 2013. Dublin was next, followed by Barcelona. There are now 38 benches worldwide, with three new ones installed in 2020: in Bratislava, Cheb and Jihlava.

The Havel’s Place project was initiated by the Czech politician Petr Gandalovič, who was ambassador to the U.S. in 2011–17, and designer Bořek Šípek. The aim is to create a network of public spaces where it will be possible to hold discussions and reflect on the spirit of Havel’s ideals and philosophy.

Prague is also home to the Václav Havel Library, which houses many of his writings and hosts discussions.

Inauguration of the Vaclav Havel building, with Dagmar Havlová, center, and Antonio Tajani, right . (photo: European Parliament press department)
Inauguration of the Vaclav Havel building, with Dagmar Havlová, center, and Antonio Tajani, right . (photo: European Parliament press department)

Internationally, Havel’s name can be found on a European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France. The building was dedicated July 5, 2017. It has a bronze bust by Czech sculptor Marie Šeborová in front of the entrance, 25 photographs by Havel’s official photographer Tomki Němec and a tapestry designed by Petr Sís in the main meeting room.

During the dedication, then–European Parliament President Antonio Tajani reminded people of Havel’s statement: “If I feel myself to be a European, it does not mean that I cease to be a Czech. In fact, the opposite is the case: as a Czech, I am also a European. Europe is the homeland of our homelands.”

In another international honor, a bust of Havel by sculptor Lubomír Janečka was installed at the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19, 2014. It marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Then–Speaker of the House John Boehner accepted the bust on behalf of the American people, acknowledging Havel’s dedication to truth . ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons played two brief songs. Several Czech politicians also attended.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka attended the unveiling of the bust of Havel at the U.S. Congress. (photo: Vlada.cz)
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka attended the unveiling of the bust of Havel at the U.S. Congress. (photo: Vlada.cz press)

In 2017, a statue of a seated Havel was unveiled in Tbilisi, Georgia. “Havel's monument is a wonderful message for Georgian youth that politics is their business, they should act honestly in politics and that politics are actually based on values,” Giorgi Margvelashvili, who was Georgia’s president at the time, said. The statue is by Jumber Jikia, who won a competition to create the monument.

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Not all of the honors are tangible. In July 2020 a biopic simply titled Havel was released, looking at his dissident years.

A list of monuments and other honors for Havel can be found on the website of the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation Vize 97.

Due to pandemic restriction, memorial events to remember Havel on Dec. 18 are very limited this year. The annual Short Pants for Havel event will be online only, and people can share photos over Facebook. Another online event is Candles for Václav Havel 2020, which asks people to share reminiscences or videos online. People can also stop by Jungmannovo náměstí from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to light a candle and write in a message book, but they shouldn’t linger or form groups. A procession from náměstí Václava Havla, next to the National Theatre, leading to the statue of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk in front of Prague Castle will take place at 6 p.m. It will be led by some participants in the Velvet Revolution. People who attend are asked to wear a face covering, respect social distancing and follow police instructions.

Here is a brief overview of some of the main memorials:

Streets:

Brno – street
Hradec Králové – square
Litomyšl – square
Prague– square with a memorial
Trutnov– street
Haifa, Israel – square
Gdansk, Poland – street
Opole, Poland – street and small square at a university
Kiev, Ukraine – street

Schools and classrooms:

Kralupy nad Vltavou – primary school
Poděbrady – primary school
Prague – theater at the English International School
Brno – primary school and kindergarten in Žďárec
Olomouc – classroom at Palacký University
Rennes, France – classroom at the IPAG Institute
Dallas, Texas– Czech school

Parks and memorials:

Litoměřice – park with a bust of Havel
Říčany – park
Tbilisi, Georgia – park and statue
Jerusalem, Israel – garden
La Valletta, Malta – memorial in Hastings Garden
Washington (U.S. Congress) – bust

Buildings and complexes:

Hradec Králové – new gallery
Ostrov nad Ohří – palace orangery (hothouse)
Prague – airport
Prague – library
Paris, France – library
Strasbourg, France – European Parliament building