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20. století

Communist Era

Restricted freedom and totality in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR)
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This was a long era, starting with the February Communist Revolution in 1948 and ending with the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
The Communist Party used its participation in World War II resistance movements and the fact that Czechoslovakia had, by and large, been liberated by the Red Army to put itself forward. The party also took credit from the post-war removal of the German minority from the Sudetenland. The war had led to a strong aversion against anything German and to admiration of everything that belonged to the "winners". The Communist Party managed to masterly use the generally left-wing outlook of the post-war population towards the world, and it took advantage of the shrewd way Social Democrats were eliminating the former First Czechoslovak Republic elite class. Their property was nationalized to a large degree and the Communists masterly used these factors to grab more power. They used lawful methods and manoeuvering to control the most important sections of the government apparatus, thus creating a political climate that catapulted them to the very top. In time, they achieved the February Revolution of 1948, which meant the start of the Totalitarian Regime.
The newly installed Communist regime controlled all key government mechanisms but still wanted to protect itself against existing or potential opposition. Hence, the gradual removal of non-Communist intellectuals began following the pattern Stalin had used in the 20s in the Soviet Union. Forced-labor camps were formed, which swallowed more than 22,000 "inappropriate" people. Universities, colleges and high schools started to promote the Marx-Lenin ideology and many "improper" individuals were expelled. Fabricated trials, especially those led by prosecutor Urválek, were supposed to discourage the opposition (execution of Dr. Milada Horáková, execution of General Heliodor Píka, etc.). Members who felt "uncomfortable" left on their own (Rudolf Slánský).
The economy became planned following the Soviet Union pattern, and the "Five-Year Economic Plan" system that favoured the heavy industry was put into force. After both the death of Joseph Stalin

and Klement Gottwald, at the end of the fifties, the strong totalitarian regime began to thaw. The gradual liberation during the sixties led to the reinstating of several political prisoners. Some economic sectors were decentralized as the last Five-Year Economic Plan had turned out to be disastrous.
This process culminated in the Prague Spring in 1968. Alexandr Dubček and others tried to install the so-called "Socialism with a Human Face". But this was crushed by the Warsaw Pact troops on August 21st 1968. Leonid Ilich Brezhnev (1906 - 1982), General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, feared the contra-revolution in Czechoslovakia and radically terminated the experiment and any hope for a change.
The era of "Normalization" had begun in Czechoslovakia. Gustáv Husák became President in 1975 and under his leadership the "Prague Spring" reforms were almost entirely scrapped by the end of 1969. The federalization of the country, put into effect on January 1st 1969, was however maintained. The reformers themselves were purged and punished. Czechoslovakia again became a tightly controlled, orthodox Communist state and a loyal supporter of the USSR. Although initially there was little opposition to the new regime, a clandestine resistance developed during the seventies. The most striking act of defiance came in 1977, with the Charter 77 movement, when several hundred individuals signed a document charging the Husák government with basic violations of human rights. The regime responded by imprisoning or exiling many of the movement’s leaders, provoking protests abroad. The opposition was neutralized, but not eliminated.
The economic crisis hit hard again during the eighties, thus the Communist Party found itself at a "dead end", which led to gradual liberation and tolerance towards something alternative.
As the pace of political change quickened in the USSR and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the Communist regime gradually caved in. The single hit of the Velvet Revolution on November 17th 1989 ended it all and for good. On August 1st 1993, Communism was actually outlawed in the country.


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