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Havel Fellow Brings Havel Legacy To Russian Audiences

2013-2014 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow Ivan Beliaev.
2013-2014 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow Ivan Beliaev.

In 2011, RFE/RL and the Czech Foreign Ministry launched the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship as a demonstration of their joint commitment to media freedom. The program, generously supported by the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation Vize97, has provided almost 40 aspiring journalists from countries in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program with intensive training and mentoring alongside RFE/RL’s seasoned professionals in Prague. It marks its 10th anniversary this fall.

The Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship, launched in partnership with the Foreign Ministry in 2014, supports professional, independent media in the Western Balkans. It is inspired by the late Czech Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier Sr.’s contributions to the fields of journalism, foreign policy, and human rights.

This spring, Ivan Beliaev, a 2014 Havel Fellowship alumnus, published Vaclav Havel: Life in History, a biography of the playwright, dissident, and first president of post-Communist Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel. Beliaev says the book would have been inconceivable without the experience of the fellowship. It is meant to place Havel’s life and work “in context” for a Russian audience.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Beliaev provided this perspective on Havel’s work:

RFE/RL: And if I asked you to briefly describe Vaclav Havel as a politician, what would you say about him?

BELIAEV: One of Havel’s close friends, also a dissident, Ladislav Heydanek, shortly before the Velvet Revolution, called Havel the “carbon” of the opposition. He explained that many participants in the dissident movement were capable of dramatic deeds and vivid texts, and could appeal to the audience and create social movements, but Havel was the necessary element that was able to rally the entire spectrum of politically and civically active society in Czechoslovakia and, subsequently, the Czech Republic. And long before that, other people had said that he was an excellent intermediary and unifier of people. This, it seems to me, is his most important political talent – the ability to lead people to unify, to compromise. In my opinion, partly because of this, he was well-known and influential as a politician, even though he led a country in Europe that was far from the continent’s richest or most powerful.