The Velvet Revolution Revisited: Havel at Columbia

havel20 years ago, the domi­noes fell in East­ern Europe. Not long after the Wall fell in Berlin, a non-vio­lent rev­o­lu­tion got under­way in Czecho­slo­va­kia. The Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion took just a mat­ter of six weeks (Novem­ber 17 — Decem­ber 29, 1989) to unfold. It was fast and blood­less, and it put on the world stage Václav Hav­el — the play­wright, turned anti-Sovi­et dis­si­dent, and soon demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dent of Czecho­slo­va­kia (and lat­er the Czech Repub­lic).

In 2006, Hav­el arrived in New York City, to spend 8 weeks at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. To mark the occa­sion, the uni­ver­si­ty built a web site called Hav­el at Colum­bia that recon­sid­ered Hav­el and the Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion. Along with some intrigu­ing his­tor­i­cal footage, the site fea­tures video inter­views with George H.W. Bush, David Rem­nick (the New York­er edi­tor and author of Lenin’s Tomb), Milos For­man (the great movie direc­tor of Czech her­itage), Edward Albee (the play­wright best known for Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf?), George Soros, and Lou Reed. Col­lec­tive­ly, these con­ver­sa­tions give you a very good feel for the man, the artist, and his his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions. You will also then find a con­ver­sa­tion between Pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton and Václav Hav­el, and a read­ing of Havel’s play, The Gar­den Par­ty, direct­ed by Israel Horvitz fea­tur­ing Dustin Hoff­man and Robert Klein. Pod­casts of many of these won­der­ful events can be found on iTunes.

Note: The media-packed web­site, Hav­el at Colum­bia, was cre­at­ed by the Colum­bia Cen­ter for New Media for New Media Teach­ing and Learn­ing (CCNMTL) and the Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Arts Ini­tia­tive (CUArts). Great work here, and I want to thank John F. for help­ing us put this post togeth­er.

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