Timeline: Vaclav Havel, playwright and president

Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:29am EST

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(Reuters) - Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has died after a long period of illness. He was 75.

Following are key events in the life of the former president:

October 5, 1936 - Born into a wealthy Prague family that made its money in construction and has strong influence in the artistic community.

December 3, 1963 - His first play, "Garden Party" premieres at a Prague theatre, lampooning the communist system.

1969 - Havel is barred by communist leaders from his job as a writer/editor after the suppression of the Prague Spring reforms of 1968. He is forced to work as a manual laborer.

January 1, 1977 - Becomes first spokesman for the Charter 77 dissident group that strongly criticizes communist officials.

October 18, 1977 - He is given a suspended sentence of 14 months for hurting the interests of the country, a phrase commonly used at the time to denote criticism of the government.

1978 - He publishes one of his most important works, the "Power of the Powerless," an analysis of how a totalitarian regime sticks to power by morally corrupting and manipulating individuals.

October 23, 1979 - Sentenced to four and a half years in prison for "subversion" against the state.

February 7, 1983 - Released from prison amid immense foreign diplomatic pressure after falling seriously ill with pneumonia.

January 1989 - Imprisoned again after meeting dissidents and French President Francois Mitterrand several weeks earlier when Mitterrand visited Prague. Havel was sentenced to nine months, but released in May after protests from both home and abroad.

December 29, 1989 - Chosen as Czechoslovak president following the November collapse of the communist regime.

July 3, 1992, - Leaves office ahead of the breakup of Czechoslovakia. On January 26, 1993, he is elected president of the newly-emerged and independent Czech Republic.

December 2, 1996 - A heavy smoker, Havel is forced into hospital with recurring pneumonia. Doctors remove part of his cancerous right lung.

January 20, 1998 - Havel becomes president for a second five-year term after elections. In April, he nearly dies and has emergency surgery on his large intestine in Austria.

February 2, 2003 - Havel steps down as Czech president.

November 2007 - Havel publishes "Leaving," his first play since 1988. The satire is about a political leader who resigns but refuses to leave his government residence. Some reviewers say it is his best work.

January 2008 - Suffers heart arrhythmia and is released from hospital after two weeks.

May 23, 2008 - Havel wins a standing ovation at the premiere of his new play "Leaving," marking a successful return to theatre after two decades. The play, inspired by Shakespeare's "King Lear" and Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard," depicts a former ruler whose world falls apart after he leaves office.

January 14, 2009 - Havel is in serious but stable condition after throat surgery and a battle to halt the spread of an inflammation in his chronically ill lungs.

March 8, 2011 - Havel is taken to hospital and will spend several days there due to a fresh bout of his chronic respiratory illness, the Prague Central Military Hospital says.

March 22 - "Leaving" a film version of the play directed by Havel, has its premiere in Prague.

-- Starring Josef Abrham, Atiana Vilhemora and Oldrich Kaier, Havel's movie also includes turns from Karlovy Vary film festival director Jiri Bartoska and Havel's wife, the actress Dagmar Veskrnova.

-- Havel's movie details the story of a government chancellor who faces a crisis after being removed from political power.

December 10 - Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, arrives in Prague for a three-day visit at Havel's invitation and the two meet for an hour.

December 18 - Vaclav Havel dies.

(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

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