The Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

Celebrating those who unmask the lie of dictatorship through art.

Who is Václav Havel?


The prize is given in honor of Václav Havel, the late poet, playwright, philosopher, statesman, and Human Rights Foundation chairman.

Havel led the nonviolent revolution that freed Czechoslovakia from communist rule, using first his poetry and plays, and later political essays and the Charter 77 manifesto, to challenge arbitrary power and injustice in his country.

For Havel, living in truth meant an unwavering commitment to living according to one’s belief in democracy and civil liberty. In his 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless,” Havel describes how ordinary citizens naturally resist dictatorship just by living their lives.

He tells us the parable of the greengrocer, who puts a communist propaganda sign in his store window simply because it is the way things are done: the sign arrives with his carrots and onions, and he displays it alongside them. If he fails to display the sign, there will be trouble. He may disagree with the message on the sign, but he is compelled to put it up and thus lives within a lie.

Havel explains that dictatorships rely on this kind of social control, where, in order to preserve a normal life, people are willing to submit to the system.

If one day the greengrocer refuses to sign up, his quiet defiance of the limits set by the system has the potential to inspire others and ignite a mass revolt, channeling what Havel calls a “singular, explosive, incalculable political power.”

Havel Prize Impact

Countries Represented
Fields of Activism


” The rain starts with a single drop.

Manal al-Sharif

Saudi women’s rights advocate and 2012 Havel Prize laureate

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