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Karel Schwarzenberg, Renegade Czech Prince and Politician, Dies at 85

Karel Schwarzenberg, Renegade Czech Prince and Politician, Dies at 85 Karel Schwarzenberg, a prominent Czech politician and member of the Schwarzenberg noble family, has died at the age of 85. Known for his defiance of the aristocracy and his commitment to democracy, Schwarzenberg served as foreign minister twice and ran for president in 2013. Schwarzenberg's political career was marked by his dedication to public service and his commitment to the principles of democracy. Despite coming from a traditional aristocratic family, he was popular with the Czech public for his efforts to challenge and subvert the established order. Born on December 10, 1937, in Prague to a prominent noble family, Schwarzenberg's early life was shaped by the turbulence of World War II and the subsequent communist regime. His family was exiled during the communist takeover in 1948 and settled in Austria. After spending years in exile, Schwarzenberg returned to Czechoslovakia in the 1990s following the fall of the communist regime. He quickly became involved in politics and joined the newly formed Civic Forum party, which played a key role in the Velvet Revolution that brought an end to communist rule. In 2007, Schwarzenberg was appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he held for two years. His time as foreign minister was marked by his commitment to promoting human rights and democracy, particularly in Eastern Europe. He played a pivotal role in advocating for the expansion of the European Union and strengthening ties with the United States. However, Schwarzenberg's tenure as foreign minister also faced controversy. In 2009, he faced criticism for his handling of the case of Ivan Pilip, a Czech diplomat arrested in Belarus. Despite the criticism, Schwarzenberg maintained his commitment to diplomacy and resolving international conflicts through peaceful means. After leaving his post as foreign minister in 2009, Schwarzenberg continued to be an influential figure in Czech politics. In 2010, he founded the Top 09 political party, which focused on promoting civil rights, democracy, and European integration. The party gained support from both the urban middle class and rural voters, thanks in large part to Schwarzenberg's unique blend of traditional aristocracy and progressive politics. Schwarzenberg's political career reached its height in 2013 when he ran for president of the Czech Republic. His campaign emphasized his commitment to democratic values, his European background, and his unorthodox approach to politics. Although he ultimately lost the election to Miloš Zeman, Schwarzenberg's campaign demonstrated his ability to connect with the public and challenge the political establishment. Throughout his career, Schwarzenberg was known for his unconventional style and his refusal to conform to the expectations of the aristocracy. He often sported his trademark bow tie and was frequently seen in public riding his motorcycle. Beyond politics, Schwarzenberg was also a passionate advocate for the environment and an accomplished historian. He published several books on historical topics, including "The Unknown Martyrs: Stories of Anti-Communist Resistance in Central and Eastern Europe" and "Don't Touch My Forest: Essays on the Environment and Nature Conservation." His work reflected his deep appreciation for Czech history and his belief in the importance of preserving the country's natural heritage. Schwarzenberg's death has been met with an outpouring of grief and tributes from politicians and citizens alike. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš described him as a "symbol of democracy and freedom" and praised his contributions to Czech politics. Schwarzenberg's passing marks the end of an era in Czech politics. His commitment to democratic values, his dedication to public service, and his unyielding spirit made him a beloved figure in the country's political landscape. He leaves behind a powerful legacy of defiance and a reminder that anyone, regardless of their background, can make a meaningful impact on their society.

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