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Kim Jong-il and Václav Havel’s deaths: to leave as an inglorious dictator or as a respectable person

Today’s news about North Korean ruthless dictator Kim Jong-il’s death, who actually died on Saturday, December 17, came along with news about a death of another world-known political figure, Václav Havel.

Both had their own ways to leading positions in the government — North Korean blue-blooded Kim, son of then leader of North Korea’s Kim Il-sung, and future “Dear Leader” and “Generalissimo”, got into his seat due to his father’s will.

Václav Havel, born to a well-known and wealthy entrepreneurial and intellectual family, dedicated himself to the democratization of Czechoslovakia, an active participant of the Prague Spring.

In 1977, his active involvement with the human rights manifesto Charter 77 brought him international fame as the leader of the opposition in communist Czechoslovakia, which also led to his imprisonment. After the 1989 Velvet Revolution launched Havel into the presidency, with its own ups and down, including leaving the post for some period of time in between.

Talking about accomplishments of the two, PARADE’s The World’s Worst Dictators placed Kim Jong-il to the first place. Opposite to the North Korean former leader’s “best” positions in the international community of dictators, Václav Havel received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Order of Canada, the freedom medal of the Four Freedoms Award, and the Ambassador of Conscience Award and several other distinctions. He was also voted 4th in Prospect magazine’s 2005 global poll of the world’s top 100 intellectuals. At the time of his death he was Chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

So, why is this post appearing on neweurasia? I just wanted to emphasize how different the deaths of two political figures will be celebrated around the globe — totally differently. Leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan should think about it and make some notes in their bucket lists — to die as inglorious dictators leaving people of their countries with mixed feelings, or to leave with the opposite, a respectable reputation that will leave people to have real tears of sincere sadness on their eyes. To go out as a Kim or as a Havel – which of the two would Central Asian leaders prefer?

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