Vaclav Havel, the Czech dissident playwright who served as his country's first democratically-elected president after throwing off Soviet rule, died Sunday morning, The New York Times reported. He was 75.
Havel, who was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, helped lead the country's non-violent "Velvet Revolution," which ended roughly four decades of Communist rule. As president, he helped his country transition to a democratic system and a free market economy.
He also aided the peacefull breakup of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the early 1990s. The Czech Republic subsequently joined the European Union and became a member of NATO.
Havel, a former smoker with a history of respiratory problems, left office in 2003 but remained a figure on the world stage.