Fenič’s Appeal and Petition for Renaming

After Václav Havel’s death on December 19, 2011, Fero Fenič issued a statement calling for the Prague-Ruzyně airport at Prague-Ruzyně to be renamed Václav Havel Airport. According to Fenič, the name Ruzyně is more a memory of the infamous Prague prison. According to Fenič, it would not be a renaming but the actual naming of the airport because there is no name in the name of “Prague Airport”. Among his examples, he listed John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

The advertising and marketing agency Graffitti Networks has established websites, www.letiste-vaclava-havla.cz and www.letistevaclavahavla.cz, for the presentation and support of the suggestion. The media have repeatedly reported on the appeal; it was signed, for example, by Jiří Bartoška, Jaroslav Brabec, Tereza Brdečková, Martin Bursik, Věra Čáslavská and David Černý. By December 29, 2011, in 10 days, about 70 thousand signatures had appeared under the internet petition.

The Steps Towards Renaming

On 23 December 2011, the Prague Airport Company filed a request to the Office of Industrial Property to register trademarks with the wording “Václav Havel International Airport in Prague” and “Vaclav Havel Prague International Airport”. Dagmar Havlová, the wife of the deceased former president Václav Havel, permitted to rename the airport after her husband to the Czech Republic government in the middle of January 2012 [99]. The government was supposed to vote about the Prague Airport renaming in the spring of 2012.

The Petition Against Renaming From the Artist Mr Kellner

On Saturday, December 25, 2011, an anonymous petition against the airport’s renaming appeared on the internet. On Monday, December 27, the website Parliamentary Letters first attributed its authorship to the billionaire Petr Kellner, whose company announced immediately that PPF shareholder Petr Kellner has nothing to do with the petition and does not support the text in any way. At the same time, he expressed a suspicion that if it was not a random match of names, it could be a racket or provocation that grossly affects the rights of PPF’s shareholder Petr Kellner. By December 29, 2011, in four days, about seven thousand signatures appeared under the petition. At the end of the article in British Letters, named “On the threshold of the authoritarian regime” from January 13, 2012, its author Petr Kellner referred to a petition with just over 19 thousand signatures at that time. Back then, the petition website said about the author:

The author of the petition, born in 1956, was not a member of the SSM pioneer, the Communist Party, or any other political party, was not dissenting, and is the enemy of all totalitarian systems, both right and left.

From 1985 to the present day, he has been a freelance painter.

Petr Kellner

At the end of January 2012, Petr Kellner published an Open Letter to the Government of the Czech Republic January 30, 2012, in which he advocated “at least some restraint, especially to the memory of the deceased ex-president Václav Havel, who himself was a hardcore critic of creating cults of personality before 1990”, and he asked, “the government to consider and rethink this move, which could appear as a terrible signal for civil society, and in consequence, it could create a precedent that resembles the principles of decision-making far before 1989 when the power apparatus of the former regime was determined in an authoritative manner, who is, or is not worth the admiration of the citizens of our country.” [105] At that time, more than 22,000 supporters signed the petition against renaming (under Fero Fenič’s petition for renaming, there were over 81,000 signatures).

Other Reactions

Havel’s former secretary, Vladimír Hanzel, expressed doubts about renaming the airport on December 27, 2011. He said the airport was too much of a commercial subject, and Havel actually really hated flying. He proposed to name an institution that could carry Havel’s spiritual heritage after him – a theatre, library, university, or concert hall.

According to a survey conducted by CVVM, the critics of renaming prevailed over supporters among the general public.

The Agreement of the Government and the Renaming

On March 21, 2012, the government approved the proposal to rename Ruzyně Airport to Václav Havel Airport Prague, in English “Prague Airport – Vaclav Havel”.

Many remarks on the wrong wording arose on the very same day. Václav Pinkava, the son of writer Jan Křesadlo, notified the editors of iDNES.cz and Lidové noviny that in this wording, the name means that Václav Havel became an airport, i.e. “Prague Airport Vaclav Havel”, and he wondered over the missing comma in Havel’s name. He labelled the name as a poor imitation. The translator and publicist František Fuka, and Pavla Pohořálková from the language school Glossa, both confirmed the absurdity of the approved name. The Ministry of Transport stated that Prague Airport proposed the name and that the Ministry has not been notified of the problem yet. Airport spokeswoman Eva Krejčí attempted to defend the name by saying that sometimes the abbreviated name is used all around the world, for example, “Paris – Charles de Gaulle” in Paris instead of “Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport” in Paris. However, she promised that the company still has a few more months to prepare the final version of the new name and that the most appropriate English equivalent would be found. On June 4, 2012, the airport spokeswoman announced that after consultation with language experts, the English name was reworked and will take the form of “Václav Havel Airport Prague”.

On October 5, 2012, on the Anniversary of Vaclav Havel’s Birth, a Renaming Ceremony Took Place

The Company, Prague Airport, Has Not Changed Its Name Though

On December 9, 2012, on the evening of World Human Rights Day and nine days before the first anniversary of Vaclav Havel’s death, a tapestry to honour Václav Havel named The Last Audience, created in France according to a design by artist Peter Sís, was unveiled in Terminal 2 with the participation of Dagmar Havlová and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg; the picture was originally used after Havel’s death for the front page of Hospodářské noviny newspaper. Bill Shipsey, the founder of Art for Amnesty International, initiated the creation of the artwork. The artwork, worth 1.5 million CZK, was funded by musicians Bono and The Edge from U2, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Yoko Ono. The woven wall carpet measuring 5 × 4.25 meters shows a flock of white birds in the shape of a man hovering above the river and above the city’s silhouette on a dark blue background.