18 December 2011
Last updated at 08:33 ET
Vaclav Havel, who has died at the age of 75, was a dissident playwright who became Czechoslovakia's first post-communist president.
Born to a wealthy family, he was considered "too bourgeois" by the communist leaders of Czechoslovakia to be allowed to attend secondary school, so he educated himself at night school.
As a playwright he satirised the communist leadership in the years before the 1968 suppression of the Prague Spring reforms led by Alexander Dubcek, pictured right.
In 1977, Vaclav Havel co-authored the Charter 77 manifesto calling for democratic change. It turned him into Czechoslovakia's most famous dissident and led to years of harassment by the communist authorities.
When communism began to fall across Europe, popular support propelled Vaclav Havel into the position of Czechoslovak president in December 1989.
He resigned in 1992 at what he saw as his failure to prevent the break-up of Czechoslovakia. A year later, he was re-elected president of the new Czech Republic.
Although his role became largely ceremonial, he oversaw the Czech Republic's membership of Nato in 1999 and of the European Union in 2004.
A former chain-smoker, Vaclav Havel was beset by health problems. After he stepped down as Czech president in 2003, he returned to writing - publishing in 2007 the play Leaving.
He directed a film version of Leaving and received a standing ovation - pictured here alongside his wife, the actress Dagmar Veskrnova - at its premiere in March this year.