National Theatre plaza may be named for Václav Havel

Two variations of the new name are being considered for the paved area between buildings

The plaza between the historical building of the National Theatre and the glass-encased New Stage could soon be named after former president and playwright Václav Havel. Members of the Prague topographical commission have agreed in principle on the change. They prefer the name Havlovo náměstí, meaning Havel Square, while City Councilor Jan Wolf and others favor the more formal náměstí Václava Havla, meaning Square of Václav Havel.

Wolf cited similar examples for squares named after contemporary people such as náměstí Jana Palacha and náměstí Winstona Churchilla, for Jan Palach, who died protesting the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, and Winston Churchill, the World War II leader of Britain. He added that he preferred this style since it includes the full name. “Havlovo náměstí seems very strange to me,” he told the daily Lidové noviny.

Commission member Eliška Kaplicky Fuchsová said that the name Havlovo náměstí was recommended by the TOP 09 party. She added that square is in need of revitalization, but Havel's widow, Dagmar Havlová, supports the renaming. Fuchsová also said renaming the square would be a nice present for Havel, who would have turned 80 on Oct. 5.

Commission member Alena Ježková pointed out that the name Havlovo náměstí could cause confusion among tourists, as there is Havelská Street and Havelský trh, which are historical names not related to Václav Havel. She said that renaming the plaza would pose the least problems, as only the National Theatre is located there. Part of Rašínovo nábřeží had been considered, but this would have affected many residents and businesses, who would have had to change their official addresses on documents. Residents of the street opposed the change.

Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) said she favors the plaza for honoring Havel. It is close to Národní třída, where significant events in the Velvet Revolution took place. Also, Havel considered himself more of a playwright than a politician, so naming a square near a theater is fitting, she said.

Václav Havel, who died Dec. 18, 2011, was president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 and president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003, when term limits prevented him from seeking another term. During the communist era, he was a dissident and was one of the main figures behind Charter 77, which called for increased human rights.

He also wrote several plays including The Garden Party and The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, and directed one feature film, Leaving (Odcházení) in 2011.

There are streets, squares, parks or buildings already named for Havel in Jerusalem, Haifa, Gdańsk, Strasbourg and Paris. There are benches in several cities named for him. The airport in Prague was renamed Václav Havel Airport Prague in 2012.

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