JÁN Langoš, the director of the National Memory Institute and the former interior minister for Czechoslovakia after the fall of communism in 1989, died in a car crash near Košice in the east of the country yesterday.
Langoš' red Škoda Octavia struck a gravel truck at full speed after the truck driver pulled onto the main road and failed to yield, according to police. Langoš died immediately, while the driver of the truck was taken to hospital with serious injuries.
His friends and former peers described the death of Langoš, 59, as a major loss to the nation.
"I am deeply affected by the news of Ján's death. It is a loss for everyone but especially for us, his friends," said Václav Havel, the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia.
Many of Langoš's friends and colleagues said he was one of the most significant personalities of the Slovak nation in the second half of the 20th century.
"[During communism] he was a dissident and after November 1989 he rose to prominence thanks to his clear stand on all aspects of life," said František Mikloško, an MP for the Christian Democratic Movement.
According to musician Marián Varga, "not just me, but Slovaks in general have lost an angel".
Langoš achieved what many regarded as the dream of his lifetime when the National Memory Institute was set up based on a law passed in 2002. He went on to oversee the publication of the files of the former communist ŠtB secret police, causing embarrassment to many who were listed as agents and collaborators. While many opposed the revelations, Langoš maintained that the nation would be healthier for having exposed and come to terms with its totalitarian past.
Compiled by Martina Jurinová from press reports
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16. Jun 2006 at 9:50