Czech Dissident And President Václav Havel Dies At 75 | Václav Havel, a dissident of Communist rule over Eastern Europe who rose to serve as the first president of Czechoslovakia and, later, the Czech Republic, died at his country home at 75 years of age. Repeatedly jailed by the Communist government, his release from his final detention in 1989 heralded the overthrow of the Communist order. Havel, a writer and philosopher who said words were a “mysterious, ambiguous, ambivalent, and perfidious phenomenon,” still believed in the ability of words to triumph for good. “Is the human word truly powerful enough to change the world and influence history?” he asked when accepting a German peace prize in 1989. His own life is a testament to the resounding answer: Yes.