Prague Minos Guide

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19. - 20. století

Klement Gottwald

First communist president of Czechoslovakia
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He was a politician and became president of Czechoslovakia after the communist coup d’état in February 1948. His infamy is mainly due to his responsibility in the political terror that reigned in the 50’s.
According to some sources, he was affected by syphilis and was a heavy alcoholic, which was actually the cause of his death.
He was a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army from 1915 to 1918 but deserted in the summer of 1918. He later entered the communist party and from 1926 on he rose in the hierarchy. In February 1929 he was elected at the head of the party during the talks at the fifth convention of the communist party (CP).
In the second half of the 30’s, Gottwald carried out numerous reforms in the policy of the CP, in accordance with the reforms of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy, specifically in the policy of the People's Front of struggle against fascism, defined at the 7th congress of the Communist International in the summer of 1935. In September and October 1938 he was one of the main representatives of the opposition against the adoption of the Munich Agreement. Following the ban of the CP, Gottwald emigrated to the Soviet Union in November 1939, where until 1941 he adhered to the policy corresponding

to the Soviet-German pact of August 1939. After the Soviet Union was attacked in 1941, he saw the creation of an anti-Hitler coalition as his big chance of breaking through and he started thinking about his future takeover of power in Czechoslovakia.
In December 1943, Gottwald made an agreement with the representative of the government-in-exile in London Edvard Benes to unite the home and abroad anti-Nazi resistance. After the end of the war he managed to secure substantial leverage for the communists in the post-war organization of Czechoslovakia.
Gottwald returned to Prague on the 10th of May 1945 as vice-prime minister of Czechoslovakia and leader of the National Front. He was also president of the Communist party from that same year until his death. He became prime minister after his party’s victory in the democratic elections in 1946.
In the fall of 1947 it became clear that there would be no democracy with communists in power. In February 1948 the non-communists decided to start an opposition movement but Gottwald was already controlling the army of general Svoboda and he made a coup d’état.
During his presidency he initiated numerous show trials, which sentenced more than 230 people to the death penalty.


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