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Czech Republic - HISTORY




Czech Republic - EARLY HISTORY

Czech Republic First Political Units

Although a Czechoslovak state did not emerge until 1918, its roots go back many centuries. The earliest records of Slavic inhabitants in present-day Czechoslovakia date from the fifth century A.D. The ancestors of the Czechs settled in present-day Bohemia and Moravia, and those of the Slovaks settled in presentday Slovakia. The settlers developed an agricultural economy and built the characteristically circular Slavic villages, the okroulice.

The peaceful life of the Slavic tribes was shattered in the sixth century by the invasion of the Avars, a people of undetermined origin and language who established a loosely connected empire between the Labe (Elbe) and Dnieper rivers. The Avars did not conquer all the Slavic tribes in the area, but they subjugated some of them and conducted raids on others. It was in response to the Avars that Samo--a foreigner thought to be a Frankish merchant--unified some of the Slavic tribes and in A.D. 625 established the empire of Samo. Although the territorial extent of the empire is not known, it was centered in Bohemia and is considered the first coherent Slavic political unit. The empire disintegrated when Samo died in 658.

A more stable polity emerged in Moravia. The Czech tribes of Moravia helped Charlemagne destroy the Avar Empire (ca. 796) and were rewarded by receiving part of it as a fief. Although the Moravians paid tribute to Charlemagne, they did enjoy considerable independence. Early in the ninth century, Mojmir--a Slavic chief--formed the Moravian Kingdom. His two successors expanded its domains to include Bohemia, Slovakia, southern Poland, and western Hungary. The expanded kingdom became known as the Great Moravian Empire. Its importance to Czechoslovak history is that it united in a single state the ancestors of the Czechs and Slovaks.

The Great Moravian Empire was located at the crossroad of two civilizations: the German lands in the West and Byzantium in the East. From the West the Franks (a Germanic people) conducted destructive raids into Moravian territory, and German priests and monks came to spread Christianity in its Roman form among the Slavs. Mojmir and his fellow chiefs were baptized at Regensburg in modern-day Germany. Rostislav (850-70), Mojmir's successor, feared the German influence as a threat to his personal rule, however, and turned to Byzantium. At Rostislav's request, Emperor Michael of Byzantium dispatched the monks Cyril and Methodius to the Great Moravian Empire to introduce Eastern Christian rites and liturgy in the Slavic language. A new Slavonic script, the Cyrillic alphabet, was devised. Methodius was invested by the pope as archbishop of Moravia. But Svatopluk (871-94), Rostislav's successor, chose to ally himself with the German clerics. After the death of Methodius in 885, the Great Moravian Empire was drawn into the sphere of influence of the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, the Czechs and Slovaks adopted the Latin alphabet and became further differentiated from the Eastern Slavs, who continued to use the Cyrillic alphabet and adhered to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Magyar Invasion

Czech Republic

The unification of Czech and Slovak tribes in a single state was shattered by the Magyar invasion in 907. The Magyars, who entered the region as seminomadic pastoralists, soon developed settled agricultural communities; they held the territory until the Ottoman conquest in the sixteenth century. With the arrival of the Magyars, the Great Moravian Empire disintegrated. The chiefs of the Czech tribes in Bohemia broke from the tribes in Moravia and swore allegiance instead to the Frankish emperor Arnulf. The political center of gravity for the Czechs shifted to Bohemia, where a new political unit, the Bohemian Kingdom, would develop. The Magyars established the Kingdom of Hungary, which included a good part of the Great Moravian Empire, primarily all of modern-day Slovakia. As it turned out, the Magyar invasion had profound long-term consequences, for it meant that the Slavic people of the Kingdom of Hungary--the ancestors of the Slovaks-- would be separated politically from the western areas, inhabited by the ancestors of the Czechs for virtually a millennium. This separation was a major factor in the development of distinct Czech and Slovak nationalities.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Bohemian Kingdom

Czech Republic Foundation

When the Great Moravian Empire disintegrated, a new political entity, the Bohemian Kingdom, emerged. It would play an important role in the development of the Czech nation. The Bohemian Kingdom was a major medieval and early modern political, economic, and cultural entity and subsequently was viewed by many Czechs as one of the brightest periods of Czech history. But whatever its longrange implications for Czech history, it is important to remember that the Bohemian Kingdom was a medieval state in which ethnic or national questions were far overshadowed by dynastic politics.

The Bohemian Kingdom emerged in the tenth century when the Premyslid chiefs--members of the Cechove, a tribe from which the Czechs derive their name--unified neighboring Czech tribes and established a form of centralized rule. Cut off from Byzantium by the Hungarian presence, the Bohemian Kingdom existed in the shadow of the Holy Roman Empire. In 950 the powerful emperor Otto I, a Saxon, led an expedition to Bohemia demanding tribute; the Bohemian Kingdom thus became a fief of the Holy Roman Empire and its king one of the seven electors of the emperor. The German emperors continued the practice of using the Roman Catholic clergy to extend German influence into Czech territory. Significantly, the bishopric of <"http://worldfacts.us/Czech-Republic-Prague.htm">Prague, founded in 973 during the reign of Boleslav II (967-99), was subordinated to the German archbishopric of Mainz. Thus, at the same time that Premyslid rulers utilized the German alliance to consolidate their rule against a perpetually rebellious regional nobility, they struggled to retain their autonomy in relation to the empire.

After a struggle with Poland and Hungary, the Bohemian Kingdom acquired Moravia in 1029. Moravia, however, continued to be a separate margravate, usually ruled by a younger son of the Bohemian king. Because of complex dynastic arrangements, Moravia's link with the Bohemian Kingdom between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries was occasionally severed; during such interludes Moravia was subordinated directly to the Holy Roman Empire or to Hungary (see fig. 2). Although Moravia's fate was intertwined with Bohemia's, in general it did not participate in Bohemia's civil and religious struggles. The main course of Czech history evolved in Bohemia proper.

Growth

The thirteenth century was the most dynamic period of Premyslid reign over Bohemia. Emperor Frederick II's preoccupation with Mediterranean affairs and the dynastic struggles known as the Great Interregnum (1254-73) weakened imperial authority in Central Europe, thus providing opportunities for Premyslid assertiveness. At the same time, the Mongol invasions (1220-42) absorbed the attention of the Bohemian Kingdom's eastern neighbors, the Hungarians and the Poles.

In 1212 King Premysl Otakar I (1198-1230) extracted a Golden Bull (a formal edict) from the emperor confirming the royal title for Otakar and his descendants. The imperial prerogative to ratify each Bohemian king and to appoint the bishop of Prague was revoked. The king's successor, Premysl Otakar II (1253-78), married a German princess, Margaret of Babenberg, and became duke of Austria, thereby acquiring upper and lower Austria and part of Styria. He conquered the rest of Styria, most of Carinthia, and parts of Carniola. From 1273, however, Hapsburg emperor Rudolf began to reassert imperial authority. All of Premysl Otakar's German possessions were lost in 1276, and in 1278 Premysl Otakar II died in battle against Rudolf.

The thirteenth century was also a period of large-scale German immigration, often encouraged by Premyslid kings hoping to weaken the influence of their own Czech nobility. The Germans populated towns and mining districts on the Bohemian periphery and in some cases formed German colonies in the interior of the Czech lands. Stribro, Kutna Hora, Nemecky Brod (present-day Havliekýv Brod and Jihlava were important German settlements. The Germans brought their own code of law--the jus teutonicum- -which formed the basis of the later commercial law of Bohemia and Moravia. Marriages between Germans and Czech nobles soon became commonplace.

Golden Age

The fourteenth century, particularly the reign of Charles IV (1342-78), is considered the Golden Age of Czech history. By that time the Premyslid line had died out, and, after a series of dynastic wars, a new Luxemburg dynasty captured the Bohemian crown. Charles, the second Luxemburg king, was raised at the French court and was cosmopolitan in attitude. He strengthened the power and prestige of the Bohemian Kingdom. In 1344 Charles elevated the bishopric of Prague, making it an archbishopric and freeing it from the jurisdiction of Mainz and the Holy Roman Empire. The archbishop was given the right to crown Bohemian kings. Charles curbed the Czech nobility, rationalized the provincial administration of Bohemia and Moravia, and made Brandenburg, Lusatia, and Silesia into fiefs of the Czech crown (see fig. 3). In 1355 Charles was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In 1356 he issued a Golden Bull defining and systematizing the process of election to the imperial throne and making the Czech king foremost among the seven electors. The Bohemian Kingdom ceased to be a fief of the emperor.

Charles made Prague into an imperial city. Extensive building projects undertaken by the king included the founding of the New Town southeast of the old city. The royal castle, Hradcany, was rebuilt. Of particular significance was the founding of Charles University in Prague in 1348. Charles's intention was to make Prague into an international center of learning, and the university was divided into Czech, Polish, Saxon, and Bavarian "nations," each with one controlling vote. Charles University, however, would become the nucleus of intense Czech particularism. Charles died in 1378, and the Bohemian crown went to his son, Wenceslas IV.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Hussite Movement

Czech Republic

The Hussite movement was a national, as well as a religious, manifestation. As a religious reform movement, it represented a challenge to papal authority and an assertion of national autonomy in ecclesiastical affairs. As a Czech national movement, it acquired anti-imperial and anti-German implications and thus can be considered a manifestation of a long-term Czech-German conflict. The Hussite movement is also viewed by many Czechs as a precursor to the Protestant reformation.

Hussitism began during the long reign of Wenceslas IV (1378-1419), a period of papal schism and concomitant anarchy in the Holy Roman Empire, and was precipitated by a controversy at Charles University. In 1403 Jan Hus became rector of the university. A reformist preacher, Hus espoused the antipapal and antihierarchical teachings of John Wyclif of England, often referred to as the "Morning Star of the Reformation." Hussitism--as Hus's teaching became known--was distinguished by its rejection of the wealth, corruption, and hierarchical tendencies of the Roman Catholic Church. It advocated the Wycliffite doctrine of clerical purity and poverty and insisted on communion under both kinds, bread and wine, for the laity. (The Roman Catholic Church reserved the cup--wine--for the clergy.) The more moderate followers of Hus, the Utraquists, took their name from the Latin sub utraque specie, meaning "under each kind." A more radical sect soon formed--the Taborite sect. The Taborites, who took their name from the city of Tabor, their stronghold in southern Bohemia, rejected church doctrine and upheld the Bible as the sole authority in all matters of belief.

Soon after Hus assumed office, German professors of theology demanded the condemnation of Wyclif's writings. Hus protested and received the support of the Czech element at the university. Having only one vote in policy decisions against three for the Germans, the Czechs were outvoted, and the orthodox position was maintained. In subsequent years the Czechs demanded a revision of the university charter, granting more adequate representation to the native, i.e., Czech, faculty.

The university controversy was intensified by the vacillating position of the Bohemian king. His insistence at first on favoring Germans in appointments to councillor and other administrative positions had aroused the national sentiments of the Czech nobility and rallied them to Hus's defense. The German faculties had the support of Archbishop Zbynek of Prague and the German clergy. Wenceslas, for political reasons, switched his support from the Germans to Hus and allied with the reformers. On January 18, 1409, Wenceslas issued the Kutna Hora Decree: the Czechs would have three votes; the foreigners, a single vote. Germans were expelled from administrative positions at the university, and Czechs were appointed. In consequence, Germans left Charles University en masse.

Hus's victory was short lived, however. He preached against the sale of indulgences, which lost him the support of the king, who received a percentage of the sales. In 1412 Hus and his followers were suspended from the university and expelled from Prague. For two years the reformers served as itinerant preachers throughout Bohemia. In 1414 Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance to defend his views. The council condemned him as a heretic and burned him at the stake in 1415.

Hus's death sparked decades of religious warfare. Sigismund, the pro-papal king of Hungary and successor to the Bohemian throne after the death of Wenceslas in 1419, failed repeatedly in attempts to gain control of the kingdom despite aid by Hungarian and German armies. Riots broke out in Prague. Led by a Czech yeoman, Jan Zizka, the Taborites streamed into the capital. Religious strife pervaded the entire kingdom and was particularly intense in the German-dominated towns. Czech burghers turned against the Roman Catholic Germans; many were massacred, and most survivors fled to the Holy Roman Empire. In the countryside Zizka's armies stormed monasteries, churches, and villages, expelling the Catholic clergy and expropriating ecclesiastical lands.

During the struggle against Sigismund, Taborite armies penetrated into Slovakia as well. Czech refugees from the religious wars in Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia settled there, and from 1438 to 1453 a Czech noble, Jiskra of Brandys, controlled most of southern Slovakia from the centers of Zvolen and Kosice. Thus Hussite doctrines and the Czech Bible were disseminated among the Slovaks, providing the basis for a future link between the Czechs and their Slovak neighbors.

When Sigismund died in 1437, the Bohemian estates elected Albert of Austria as his successor. Albert died, however, and his son, Ladislas the Posthumous--so called because he was born after his father's death--was acknowledged as king. During Ladislas's minority, Bohemia was ruled by a regency composed of moderate reform nobles who were Utraquists. Internal dissension among the Czechs provided the primary challenge to the regency. A part of the Czech nobility remained Catholic and loyal to the pope. A Utraquist delegation to the Council of Basel in 1433 had negotiated a seeming reconciliation with the Catholic Church. The Council's Compact of Basel accepted the basic tenets of Hussitism expressed in the Four Articles of Prague: communion under both kinds; free preaching of the Gospels; expropriation of church land; and exposure and punishment of public sinners. The pope, however, rejected the compact, thus preventing the reconciliation of Czech Catholics with the Utraquists.

George of Podebrady, later to become the "national" king of Bohemia, emerged as leader of the Utraquist regency. George installed a Utraquist, John of Rokycan, as archbishop of Prague and succeeded in uniting the more radical Taborites with the Czech Reformed Church. The Catholic party was driven out of Prague. Ladislas died of the plague in 1457, and in 1458 the Bohemian estates elected George of Podebrady king of Bohemia. The pope, however, refused to recognize the election. Czech Catholic nobles, joined in the League of Zelena Hora, continued to challenge the authority of George of Podebrady until his death in 1471.

Upon the death of the Hussite king, the Bohemian estates elected a Polish prince, Vladislav II, as king. In 1490 Vladislav also became king of Hungary, and the Polish Jagellonian line ruled both Bohemia and Hungary. The Jagellonians governed Bohemia as absentee monarchs; their influence in the kingdom was minimal, and effective government fell to the regional nobility. Czech Catholics accepted the Compact of Basel in 1485 and were reconciled with the Utraquists.

In 1526 Vladislav's son, King Louis, was decisively defeated by the Ottomans at Mohacs and subsequently died. As a result, the Turks conquered part of the Kingdom of Hungary; the rest (including Slovakia) came under Hapsburg rule. The Bohemian estates elected Archduke Ferdinand, younger brother of Emperor Charles V, to succeed Louis as king of Bohemia. Thus began almost three centuries of Hapsburg rule for both Bohemia and Slovakia.

In several instances, the Bohemian Kingdom had the possibility of becoming a Czech national monarchy. The failure to establish a native dynasty, however, prevented such an outcome and left the fate of the Bohemian Kingdom to dynastic politics and foreign rulers. Although the Bohemian Kingdom evolved neither into a national monarchy nor into a Czech nation-state, the memory of it served as a source of inspiration and pride for modern Czech nationalists.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - HAPSBURG RULE, 1526-1867

Czech Republic The Hapsburgs and the Czechoslovak Lands

Although the Bohemian Kingdom, the Margravate of Moravia, and Slovakia were all under Hapsburg rule, they followed different paths of development. The defeat at Mohacs in 1526 meant that most of Hungary proper was taken by the Turks; until Hungary's reconquest by the Hapsburgs in the second half of the seventeenth century, Slovakia became the center of Hungarian political, cultural, and economic life. The Hapsburg kings of Hungary were crowned in Bratislava, the present-day capital of Slovakia, and the Hungarian estates met there. Slovakia's importance in Hungarian life proved of no benefit, however, to the Slovaks. In essence, the Hungarian political nation consisted of an association of estates (primarily the nobility). Because Slovaks were primarily serfs, they were not considered members of a political nation and had no influence on politics in their own land. The Slovak peasant had only to perform duties: work for a landlord, pay taxes, and provide recruits for military service. Even under such hostile conditions, there were a few positive developments. The Protestant Reformation brought to Slovakia literature written in Czech, and Czech replaced Latin as the literary language of a small, educated Slovak elite. But on the whole, the Slovaks languished for centuries in a state of political, economic, and cultural deprivation.

Moravia had accepted the hereditary right of the Austrian Hapsburgs to rule it and thus escaped the intense struggle between native estates and the Hapsburg monarchy that was to characterize Bohemian history. The Moravians had a poorly developed historical or national consciousness, made few demands on the Hapsburgs, and were permitted to live in tranquillity. Late in the eighteenth century, the Margravate of Moravia was abolished and merged with Austrian Silesia.

In contrast to Moravia, the Bohemian Kingdom had entrenched estates that were ready to defend what they considered their rights and liberties. Because the Hapsburgs pursued a policy of centralization, conflict was inevitable. The conflict was further complicated by ethnic and religious issues and was subsequently seen by some as a struggle for the preservation of Czech institutions and the Czech nation.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Hapsburg Absolutism and the Bohemian Estates

Czech Republic

Initial Clash

Hapsburg rule brought two centuries of conflict between the Bohemian estates and the monarchy. As a result of this struggle, the Czechs lost a major portion of their native aristocracy, their particular form of religion, and even the widespread use of the Czech language. The Hapsburg policy of centralization began with its first ruler, King Ferdinand (1526-64). His efforts to eliminate the influence of the Bohemian estates were met with stubborn resistance. But the Bohemian estates were themselves divided, primarily on religious lines. By several adroit political maneuvers, Ferdinand was able to establish hereditary succession to the Bohemian crown for the Hapsburgs. The estates' inability to establish the principle of electing or even confirming a monarch made their position considerably weaker.

The conflict in Bohemia was complicated further by the Reformation and the subsequent wars of religion in Central Europe. Adherents of the Czech Reformed Church the (Hussites) opposed the Roman Catholic Hapsburgs, who were in turn supported by the Czech and German Catholics. The Lutheran Reformation of 1517 introduced an added dimension to the struggle: much of the German burgher population of Bohemia adopted the Reformed Creed (both Lutheran and Calvinist); the Hussites split, and one faction allied with the German Protestants. In 1537 Ferdinand conceded to the Czechs, recognized the Compact of Basel, and accepted moderate Utraquism. The reconciliation, however, was of brief duration.

In 1546 German Protestants united in the Schmalkaldic League to wage war against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Whereas Ferdinand wanted to aid his brother, the Hussite and pro-Protestant Czech nobility sympathized with the German Protestant princes. Armed conflict between Ferdinand and the Bohemian estates broke out in 1547. But the Bohemians were not unified; victory went to Ferdinand, and reprisals against the Czech rebels followed. The property of Czech Utraquist nobility was confiscated and their privileges abrogated. Four rebels (two lesser nobles and two burghers) were executed in the square before the royal palace. Members of the Unity of Czech Brethren, a Hussite sect that had figured prominently in the rebellion, were bitterly persecuted. Their leader, Bishop John Augusta, was sentenced to sixteen years' imprisonment. Ferdinand, now Holy Roman Emperor (1556-64), attempted to extend the influence of Catholicism in Bohemia by forming the Jesuit Academy in Prague and by bringing Jesuit missionaries into Bohemia.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Decisive Battle

Czech Republic

Discord between Hapsburgs and Czechs and between Catholics and the followers of the reformed creeds erupted again into an open clash in the early seventeenth century. At that time, the Czechs were able to take advantage of the struggle between two contenders to the imperial throne, and in 1609 they extracted a Letter of Majesty from Emperor Rudolf II (1576-1612) that promised toleration of the Czech Reformed Church, gave control of Charles University to the Czech estates, and made other concessions. Rudolf's successor, Matthias (1612-17), proved to be an ardent Catholic and quickly moved against the estates. Violation of promises contained in the Letter of Majesty regarding royal and church domains and Matthias's reliance on a council composed of ardent Catholics further increased tensions.

In 1618 two Catholic imperial councillors were thrown out of a window of a Prague castle, signaling an open revolt by the Bohemian estates against the Hapsburgs. The Bohemian estates decided to levy an army, decreed the expulsion of the Jesuits, and proclaimed the Bohemian throne to be elective. They elected a Calvinist, Frederick of the Palatinate, to the Bohemian throne. The Bohemian troops confronted the imperial forces. On November 8, 1620, the Czech estates were decisively defeated at the famous Battle of White Mountain.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Consequences of Czech Defeat

Czech Republic

The Czech defeat at the Battle of White Mountain was followed by measures that effectively secured Hapsburg authority and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church. Many Czech nobles were executed; most others were forced to flee the kingdom. An estimated five-sixths of the Czech nobility went into exile soon after the Battle of White Mountain, and their properties were confiscated. Large numbers of Czech and German Protestant burghers emigrated. In 1622 Charles University was merged with the Jesuit Academy, and the entire education system of the Bohemian Kingdom was placed under Jesuit control. In 1624 all non-Catholic priests were expelled by royal decree.

The Revised Ordinance of the Land (1627) established a legal basis for Hapsburg absolutism. All Czech lands were declared hereditary property of the Hapsburg family. The legislative function of the diets of both Bohemia and Moravia was revoked; all subsequent legislation was to be by royal decree, receiving only formal approval from the diets. The highest officials of the kingdom, to be chosen from among the local nobility, would be strictly subordinate to the king. Thus, little remained of an autonomous and distinct Bohemian Kingdom.

Hapsburg rule was further buttressed by the large-scale immigration into Bohemia of Catholic Germans from south German territories. The Germans received most of the land confiscated from Czech owners and came to constitute the new Bohemian nobility. The remaining Czech Catholic nobles gradually abandoned Czech particularism and became loyal servants of the imperial system. German Catholic immigrants took over commerce and industry as well.

The religious wars continued after the Czech defeat. The Thirty Years' War (1618-48) of the German Protestant princes against the Holy Roman Emperor involved foreign powers and extended beyond German territory. Czechs fought on all sides: most of the rebellious Czech generals joined Protestant armies; Albrecht of Wallenstein was the most prominent Czech defector to the imperial cause. Bohemia served as a battlefield throughout the war. Prince Bethlen Gabor's Hungarian forces, reinforced by Turkish mercenaries, fought against the emperor and periodically devastated Slovakia and Moravia. Protestant German armies and, later, Danish and Swedish armies, laid waste the Czech provinces. Cities, villages, and castle fortresses were destroyed. Lusatia was incorporated into Saxony in 1635.

The Thirty Years' War ended during the reign of Ferdinand III (1637-56). In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia confirmed the incorporation of the Bohemian Kingdom into the Hapsburg imperial system, which established its seat in Vienna (see fig. 4). Leopold I (1656-1705) defeated the Turks and paved the way for the restoration of the Kingdom of Hungary to its previous territorial dimensions. The brief reign of Joseph I (1705-11) was followed by that of Charles VI (1711-40). Between 1720 and 1725, Charles concluded a series of treaties by which the various estates of the Hapsburg lands recognized the unity of the territory under Hapsburg rule and accepted hereditary Hapsburg succession, including the female line.

The struggle between the Bohemian estates and Hapsburg absolutism resulted in the complete subordination of the Bohemian estates to Hapsburg interests. In the aftermath of the defeat at White Mountain, the Czechs lost their native noble class, their reformed religion, and a vibrant Czech Protestant culture. With the influx of foreigners, primarily Germans, the German language became more prominent in government and polite society. It seemed that Bohemia was destined to become a mere province of the Hapsburg realm.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Enlightened Absolutism

Czech Republic

The reigns of Maria-Theresa (1740-80) and her son Joseph II (1780-90), Holy Roman Emperor and coregent from 1765, were characterized by enlightened rule. Influenced by the ideas of eighteenth-century Enlightenment philosophers, Maria-Theresa and Joseph worked toward rational and efficient administration of the Bohemian Kingdom. In this respect, they opposed regional privilege and the rights of the estates and preferred to rule through a centrally controlled imperial bureaucracy. At the same time, they instituted reforms to eliminate the repressive features of the Counter-Reformation and to permit secular social progress.

Maria-Theresa's accession to the Hapsburg lands was challenged by the territorial aspirations of the increasingly powerful Hohenzollern dynasty. The Prussian king, Frederick II, joined by the dukes of Bavaria and Saxony, invaded the Bohemian Kingdom in 1741. The duke of Bavaria, Charles Albert, was proclaimed king by the Czech nobility. Although Maria-Theresa regained most of the Bohemian Kingdom and was crowned queen in Prague in 1743, all of the highly industrialized territory of Silesia except for Tesin, Opava, and Krnov was ceded to Prussia.

In attempting to make administration more rational, Maria-Theresa embarked on a policy of centralization and bureaucratization. What remained of the Bohemian Kingdom was now merged into the Austrian provinces of the Hapsburg realm. The two separate chancelleries were abolished and replaced by a joint Austro-Bohemian chancellery. The Czech estates were stripped of the last remnants of their political power, and their functions were assumed by imperial civil servants appointed by the queen. The provinces of the Czech and Austrian territories were subdivided into administrative districts. German became the official language.

Further reforms introduced by Maria-Theresa and Joseph II reflected such Enlightenment principles as the dissolution of feudal social structures and the curtailment of power of the Catholic Church. Maria-Theresa nationalized and Germanized the education system, eliminated Jesuit control, and shifted educational emphasis from theology to the sciences. Serfdom was modified: robota (forced labor on the lord's land) was reduced, and serfs could marry and change domiciles without the lord's consent. Joseph II abolished serfdom altogether. In 1781 Joseph's Edict of Toleration extended freedom of worship to Lutherans and Calvinists.

The enlightened rule of Maria-Theresa and Joseph II played a leading role in the development of a modern Czech nation, but one that was full of contradictions. On the one hand, the policy of centralization whittled down further any vestiges of a separate Bohemian Kingdom and resulted in the Germanization of the imperial administration and nobility. On the other hand, by removing the worst features of the Counter-Reformation and by introducing social and education reforms, these rulers provided the basis for economic progress and the opportunity for social mobility. The consequences for Bohemia were of widespread significance. The nobility turned its attention to industrial enterprise. Many of the nobles sublet their lands and invested their profits in the development of textile, coal, and glass manufacture. Czech peasants, free to leave the land, moved to cities and manufacturing centers. Urban areas, formerly populated by Germans, became increasingly Czech in character. The sons of Czech peasants were sent to school; some attended the university, and a new Czech intellectual elite emerged. During this same period the population of Bohemia nearly quadrupled, and a similar increase occurred in Moravia.

But in response to pressures from the nobility, Joseph's successor, Leopold II (1790-92), abrogated many of Joseph's edicts and restored certain feudal obligations. (Serfdom was not completely abolished until 1848.) Under Francis II (1792-1835), the aristocratic and clerical reaction gathered strength. The war against revolutionary France and the subsequent Napoleonic wars caused a temporary interruption of the reactionary movement. In 1804 Francis II transferred his imperial title to the Austrian domains (Austria, Bohemian Kingdom, Hungary, Galicia, and parts of Italy), and two years later the Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved. The Austrian Empire came into existence and was to play a leading role in the newly established German Confederation (see fig. 5). From 1815, after the conclusive defeat of Napoleon, the policy of reaction devised by Austria's foreign minister, Prince Metternich, dominated European affairs.

Enlightened rule destroyed the few remaining vestiges of the Bohemian Kingdom. The dismantling of Bohemian institutions and the dominance of the German language seemed to threaten the very existence of the Czech nation. Yet, enlightened rule also provided new educational and economic opportunities for the Czech people. Inadvertently, the enlightened monarchs helped set the stage for a Czech national revival.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - National Revival

Czech Republic

The first half of the nineteenth century was a period of national awakening in Central Europe. German nationalism--sparked by confrontation with the armies of the French revolutionaries--and Napoleonic expansionism inspired corresponding efforts toward national revival among the subject Slavic peoples. The concept of the "nation," defined as a people united by linguistic and cultural affinities, produced an intellectual revival that laid the foundation for a subsequent struggle for political autonomy.

In Bohemia, where the nobility was largely German or Germanized, the leaders of the Czech revival were members of the new intelligentsia, which had its origin in peasant stock. Only a small part of the nobility lent the revival support.

The earliest phase of the national movement was philological. Scholars attempted to record and codify native languages. A chair for Czech language and literature was established at Charles-- Ferdinand University in 1791. The Czech language, however, had survived only as a peasant patois. The tasks of molding the Czech language into a literary medium and introducing the study of Czech in state schools were accomplished by Josef Dobrovsky and Josef Jungmann. Their efforts were rewarded by an efflorescence of Czech literature and the growth of a Czech reading public. Prominent among the original Czech literary elite were poets Jan Kollar (a Slovak), F.L. Celakovsky, Karel J. Erben, and Karel H. Macha; dramatists V.K. Klicpera and J.K. Tyl; and journalistpoliticians F.A. Brauner and Karel Havlicek.

The Czech revival acquired an institutional foundation with the establishment of the Museum of the Bohemian Kingdom (1818) as a center for Czech scholarship. In 1827 the museum began publication of a journal that became the first continuous voice of Czech nationalism. In 1830 the museum absorbed the Matice Ceska, a society of Czech intellectuals devoted to the publication of scholarly and popular books. The museum membership, composed of patriotic scholars and nobles, worked to establish contacts with other Slavic peoples and to make Prague the intellectual and scholarly capital of the Slavs.

The major figure of the Czech revival was Frantisek Palacky. Of Moravian Protestant descent and attracted by the nationalist spirit of the Hussite tradition, Palacky became the great historian of the Czech nation. His monumental, five-volume History of the Czech People focused on the struggle of the Czech nation for political freedom and became one of the pillars of modern Czech life and thought. Palacky--who fancied himself the heir and successor to the great educator and leader of the Unity of Czech Brethren, Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius)--became the political leader of the Czech nation during the revolutionary struggles of 1848. In the tradition of Komensky, Palacky developed a political platform based on cultural renaissance.

The Slovaks experienced an analogous national revival. The Kingdom of Hungary, restored to its original territorial dimensions in 1711, was ruled by a Hungarian aristocracy that was experiencing its own national awakening. In 1792 Hungarian replaced Latin as the official state language. In contrast to the more secular Czech nation, among the subject peoples of Hungary both the Catholic and the Protestant religions retained a solid hold. The Slovak clergy constituted the intellectual elite of the predominantly peasant Slovaks, and the Slovak revival occurred under its leadership.

The initial attempt to develop a Slovak literary language was made by a Jesuit priest, Anton Bernolak. The language he developed in the 1780s was subsequently called bernolacina and was based primarily on western Slovak dialects. The language was adopted by the Catholic clergy and disseminated in religious literature. Bernolak and his followers, however, remained loyal to the Kingdom of Hungary, and their movement never developed nationalist political implications.

The Protestant revival was more limited in scope, confined largely to the Slovak minority settled in urban centers. Slovak Protestantism was characterized by an attachment to Czech culture. The artificial and archaic language of the Czech Bible, known as biblictina, had served as the literary vehicle of the Protestant clergy since the sixteenth century. In the early nineteenth century, two German-educated Protestant theologians, the poet Jan Kollar and Pavel Safarik, endeavored to create a literary language that would combine Czech with elements of the central Slovak dialect. They published a reader, Citanka, in 1825, and beginning in the 1830s they gained a following among the younger generation of students at Protestant secondary schools.

At this time, the Slovak national awakening split into two factions. Kollar and Safarik were adherents of pan-Slavic concepts that stressed the unity of all Slavic peoples. They continued to view Czechs and Slovaks as members of a single nation, and they attempted to draw the languages closer together. Other Slovaks broke with the Czechs and proclaimed the separate identity of the Slovak nation. L'udovit Stur, a student at the Bratislava secondary school, developed the sturovcina, which was based on the central Slovak dialect. In 1843 Stur advocated that the sturovcina be made the Slovak literary language, and it spread rapidly in the Protestant community and beyond. Beginning in the 1840s, Slovak literary development took a separate path from Czech.

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Czech Republic - Revolutions of 1848

Czech Republic

The Paris revolution of February 1848 precipitated a succession of liberal and national revolts against autocratic governments. Revolutionary disturbances pervaded the territories of the Austrian Empire, and Emperor Ferdinand I (1835-48) promised to reorganize the empire on a constitutional, parliamentary basis.

In the Bohemian Kingdom, a national committee was formed that included Germans and Czechs. But Bohemian Germans favored creating a Greater Germany out of various German-speaking territories. The Bohemian Germans soon withdrew from the committee, signaling the Czech-German conflict that would characterize subsequent history. Palacky proposed Austro-Slavism as the creed of the Czech national movement. He advocated the preservation of the Austrian Empire as a buffer against both German and Russian expansionism. He also proposed the federalization of the empire on an ethnographic basis to unite the Bohemian Germans with Austria in one province and Czechs and Slovaks in another. Palacky further suggested that the various Slavic peoples of the empire, together constituting a majority, should form a political unit to defend their common interests. In June 1848 the Czechs convened the first Slavic Congress to discuss the possibility of political consolidation of Austrian Slavs, including Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs.

In the Kingdom of Hungary, the 1848 revolution temporarily toppled Hapsburg absolutism, and there was an attempt at establishing a liberal constitutional government. Conflict soon ensued between the Hungarians and several other nationalities as to how Hungary was to be restructured. Hungarian liberals like Louis Kossuth, who favored the overthrow of the Hapsburgs and an independent Hungary, were at the same time opposed to the aspirations of the non-Hungarian nationalities. The liberals sought to create a national state solely for the Hungarians.

It was within this struggle that the Slovak National Council, under Stur's leadership, drafted the "Demands of the Slovak Nation." These included the establishment of separate national legislative assemblies and the right of each national group to employ its own language in the Hungarian Diet, in administration, and in the education system. The petition was presented to the Hungarian Diet in May 1848. When it was rejected, armed conflict broke out, and the Slovaks were crushed by Hungarian troops. Disappointed by the Hungarians and hoping to take advantage of the conflict between the imperial government and the Hungarians, Slovak patriots turned to the imperial government, requesting recognition of Slovakia as an independent crown land within the Austrian Empire. But after the Hungarian revolt was suppressed with the aid of Russian troops, Vienna lost interest in the demands of the Slovak and other nonHungarian nationalities.

National revival for both Czechs and Slovaks had been begun by small groups of intellectuals. At first, the national movements were confined to discussion of language, literature, and culture. But during the revolutions of 1848, the Czechs and Slovaks made bold political demands. The revolutions of 1848 also revealed that the German and Hungarian liberals, who were opposed to Hapsburg absolutism, were equally hostile to Czech and Slovak aspirations. It had become clear that the Czech and Slovak national movements had to contend not only with Hapsburg absolutism but also with increasingly virulent German and Hungarian nationalism.

Czech Republic

Source: U.S. Library of Congress

Czech Republic - THE DUAL MONARCHY, 1867-1918

Czech Republic Formation of the Dual System

After the revolutions of 1848, Francis Joseph attempted to rule as an absolute monarch, keeping all the nationalities in check. But the Hapsburgs suffered a series of defeats. In 1859 they were driven out of Italy, and in 1866 they were defeated by Prussia and expelled from the German Confederation. To strengthen his position, Francis Joseph was ready to improve his relations with the Hungarians. At first it seemed that some concessions would be made to Bohemia, but in the end the crown effected a compromise with the Hungarian gentry. The Compromise of 1867 established the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary (also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The two parts of the empire were united by a common ruler, by a joint foreign policy, and, to some extent, by shared finances. Otherwise, Austria and Hungary were virtually independent states, each having its own parliament, government, administration, and judicial system.

Despite a series of crises, this dual system survived until 1918. It made permanent the dominant position of the Hungarians in Hungary and of the Germans in the Austrian parts of the monarchy. While Czechs, Poles, and other nationalities had some influence in government, they were never permitted to share political power. This inability to come to terms with its nationalities contributed to the ultimate collapse of the Dual Monarchy.

As a result of the dual system, the Czechs and Slovaks continued to go their separate ways. The Slovaks chafed under the Hungarians, and the Czechs were ruled by Vienna. The Austrian and Hungarian parts of the empire had different political systems. Austria had a parliamentary government, and a gradual enlargement of the franchise culminated in universal male suffrage in 1907. The Czechs, therefore, were able to take a greater and greater part in the political life of Austria. In Hungary the franchise continued to be fairly restricted and pretty much controlled by the Hungarian aristocracy. Because of this, very few Slovaks gained positions of importance in Hungary.

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Czech Republic - Austria and the Czechs

Czech Republic

In Austria, German liberals held political power in parliament from 1867 to 1879. They were determined to maintain German dominance in the Austrian part of the empire. The Czech leaders, subsequently labeled Old Czechs, favored alliance with the conservative and largely Germanized Bohemian nobility and advocated the restoration of traditional Bohemian autonomy. In essence, they wanted a reconstituted Bohemian Kingdom (including Moravia and Silesia) with a constitutional arrangement similar to Hungary's. In 1871 the Old Czechs seemed successful, for the government agreed to the Fundamental Articles, which would have reinstated the historic rights of the Bohemian Kingdom. Violent protest from both German and Hungarian liberals ensued, however, and the articles were never adopted.

Objecting to an increase of Slavs in the empire, the German liberals opposed the 1878 Austrian occupation of BosniaHercegovina . The emperor, stung by the rejection of his foreign policy, dismissed the liberal government and turned to Count Eduard Taafe's conservative "Iron Ring" cabinet (1879-83). The Taaffe government took the Slavic element into greater account than the liberals had and, in turn, was supported by the Old Czechs. Czechs made appreciable gains. A language decree promulgated in 1880 put Czech on an equal footing with German in Bohemian administration and law. In 1882 Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague was divided into two separate institutions: one Czech and the other German. These concessions, however, seemed insufficient to a newly developing Czech commercial and industrial bourgeoisie. Intense conflict ensued as Czechs and Germans attempted to control administration and education. When some of the Old Czechs attempted to work out a compromise with the Bohemian Germans in 1890, they were denounced by a younger and more radical intelligentsia. The next year the Old Czechs were soundly defeated by the Young Czechs, ending a period of attempted compromises.

While relations between Czechs and Germans worsened in Bohemia, they remained relatively tranquil in Moravia. Although the separate administrative status of Moravia had been abolished in the eighteenth century, the area was reconstituted as a separate crown land in 1849. In Moravia, unlike in Bohemia, a compromise was reached, in 1905, between the Czech majority and the German minority. Although the German language retained a slight predominance, the preservation of Czech language and culture was legally guaranteed. The compromise seemed to work reasonably well until the end of Hapsburg rule in 1918.

During the final decade of the empire, obstructionism by both Czechs and Germans rendered parliamentary politics ineffectual, and governments rose and fell with great frequency. The importance of the Young Czech Party waned as Czech politics changed orientation. Political parties advocating democracy and socialism emerged. In 1900 Tomas Masaryk, a university professor and former Young Czech deputy who was to become president of the Czechoslovak Republic, founded the Czech Progressive Party. Basing its struggle for national autonomy on the principle of popular sovereignty, the Czech Progressive Party supported parliamentary politics, advocated universal suffrage, and rejected radicalism.

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Czech Republic - Hungary and the Slovaks

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In Hungary the government gave full sway to Hungarian nationalism. Only a year after the Compromise of 1867, the Nationalities Act established Hungarian as the exclusive official language. Slovak was relegated to private use and was regarded by the authorities as a peasant dialect. Franchise laws restricted the right to vote to large property holders (approximately 6 percent of the total population), thus favoring the Hungarian aristocracy. As a result, Slovaks rarely elected parliamentary representatives. The Slovaks, nevertheless, formed the Slovak National Party. Supported by Catholics and Protestants, the Slovak National Party was conservative and pan-Slavic in orientation and looked to autocratic Russia for national liberation. It remained the center of Slovak national life until the twentieth century.

Fearing the evolution of a full-fledged Slovak national movement, the Hungarian government attempted to do away with various aspects of organized Slovak life. In the 1860s, the Slovaks had founded a private cultural foundation, the Slovak Matica, which fostered education and encouraged literature and the arts. At its founding, even the Austrian emperor donated 1,000 florins for the Slovak Matica. In 1875 the Hungarian government dissolved the Slovak Matica and confiscated its assets. Similar attacks were made against Slovak education. In 1874 all three Slovak secondary schools were closed, and in 1879 a law made Hungarian mandatory even in church-sponsored village schools. The Hungarian government attempted to prevent the formation of an educated, nationally conscious, Slovak elite.

It is remarkable that the Slovak national movement was able to survive. Most Slovaks continued to live as peasants or industrial laborers. Poverty prevailed, and on the eve of World War I about 20 percent of the population of Slovakia had emigrated to other lands. This emigration aided the national movement, for it received both moral and financial support from Slovaks living abroad, particularly in the United States. The Slovak national movement was aided also by the example of other nationalities struggling against the Hungarians (particularly the Romanians) and by contacts with the Czechs.

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Czech Republic - The Czechoslovak Idea

Czech Republic

At the turn of the century, the idea of a "Czechoslovak" entity began to be advocated by some Czech and Slovak leaders. The concept that Czechs and Slovaks shared a common heritage was hardly new. But as the two nations developed, the Slovaks had been intent on demonstrating the legitimacy of Slovak as a language separate from Czech. In the 1890s, contacts between Czech and Slovak intellectuals intensified. The Czech leader Masaryk was a keen advocate of Czech-Slovak cooperation. Some of his students formed the Czechoslovak Union and in 1898 published the journal Hlas (The Voice). In Slovakia, young Slovak intellectuals began to challenge the old Slovak National Party. But although the Czech and Slovak national movements began drawing closer together, their ultimate goals remained unclear. At least until World War I, the Czech and Slovak national movements struggled for autonomy within Austria and Hungary, respectively. Only during the war did the idea of an independent Czechoslovakia emerge.

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Czech Republic - World War I

Czech Republic

At the outbreak of World War I, the Czechs and Slovaks showed little enthusiasm for fighting for their respective enemies, the Germans and the Hungarians, against fellow Slavs, the Russians and the Serbs. Large numbers of Czechs and Slovaks defected on the Russian front and formed the Czechoslovak Legion. Masaryk went to western Europe and began propagating the idea that the Austro-Hungarian Empire should be dismembered and that Czechoslovakia should be an independent state. In 1916, together with Eduard Benes and Milan Stefanik (a Slovak war hero), Masaryk created the Czechoslovak National Council. Masaryk in the United States and Benes in France and Britain worked tirelessly to gain Allied recognition. When secret talks between the Allies and Austrian emperor Charles I (1916-18) collapsed, the Allies recognized, in the summer of 1918, the Czechoslovak National Council as the supreme organ of a future Czechoslovak government.

In early October 1918, Germany and Austria proposed peace negotiations. On October 18, while in the United States, Masaryk issued a declaration of Czechoslovak independence. Masaryk insisted that the new Czechoslovak state include the historic Bohemian Kingdom, containing the German-populated Sudetenland. On October 21, however, German deputies from the Sudetenland joined other German and Austrian deputies in the Austrian parliament in declaring an independent German-Austrian state. Following the abdication of Emperor Charles on November 11, Czech troops occupied the Sudetenland.

Hungary withdrew from the Hapsburg Empire on November 1. The new liberal-democratic government of Hungary under Count Michael Karolyi attempted to retain Slovakia. With Allied approval, the Czechs occupied Slovakia, and the Hungarians were forced to withdraw. The Czechs and Allies agreed on the Danube and Ipel' rivers as the boundary between Hungary and Slovakia; a large Hungarian minority, occupying the fertile plain of the Danube, would be included in the new state (see fig. 6).

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Czech Republic - The Emergence of Subcarpathian Ruthenia

Czech Republic

The Ruthenians (from the Ukrainian Rusyn--a name used for Ukrainians in the Hapsburg monarchy) were Ukrainian-speaking mountain people who lived in the deep, narrow valleys of the Carpathian Mountains. In the eleventh century, Ruthenia (also known as Subcarpathian Ruthenia) came under the Hungarian crown. Poor peasants, grazers, and lumbermen, the Ruthenians were vassals and serfs of the Hungarian magnates dominating the plains of the Tisza River. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Ruthenia lay within the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire. Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, most Ruthenians were converted from Eastern Orthodoxy to the Uniate Church. Combining spiritual allegiance to Rome with Orthodox rites, the Uniate Church enabled the Hungarian clergy to win the loyalty of their Eastern-oriented subjects.

The Ruthenians remained a poor, agrarian, and politically inert people. Ruthenian delegates did, however, attend the Slavic Congress in 1848 and later appealed to Vienna for autonomy and the right of cultural development. The great awakener of Subcarpathian Ruthenia was Oleksander Dukhnovych, a Uniate priest, who through his pedagogical, literary, and publishing activities attempted to save the Ruthenians from Hungarianization. The Ruthenian revival was fueled further by a vigorous movement in Galicia (under Austrian administration). But the Compromise of 1867 virtually eliminated the possibility of educational progress; Hungarianization affected all secondary schools and most elementary schools in Ruthenia. Many Ruthenians emigrated (over 50,000 before World War I). Russian pan-Slavic propaganda had an impact beginning in the late nineteenth century, and many Ruthenians became converts to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Political activity on behalf of Ruthenia during World War I was conducted by Ruthenian emigrants in the United States. They formed groups with varying political objectives: semiautonomy within Hungary, complete independence, federation in a Ukrainian state, inclusion in a Soviet federation, or union with the Czechs. The American Ruthenian leader, Gregory Zatkovic, negotiated with Masaryk to make Subcarpathian Ruthenia part of the Czechoslovak Republic. This decision received international sanction in the Treaty of Saint-Germain (September 10, 1919), which guaranteed Subcarpathian Ruthenia autonomy within the Czechoslovak Republic.

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Czech Republic - THE CZECHOSLOVAK REPUBLIC, 1918-39

Czech Republic Features of the New State

The independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on October 28, 1918, by the Czechoslovak National Council in Prague. Only several years before, an independent Czechoslovakia had been a dream of a small number of intellectuals. The transformation of the dream into reality was a formidable task. While the creation of Czechoslovakia was based on certain historical precedents, it was, nevertheless, a new country carved out of disparate parts of the old Hapsburg Empire. Several ethnic groups and territories with different historical, political, and economic traditions had to be blended into a new state structure. In the face of such obstacles, the creation of Czechoslovak democracy was indeed a triumph. But the Czechoslovak Republic (which also came to be known as the First Republic) suffered internal constrictions, which, when coupled with foreign aggression, destroyed it.

Initial authority within Czechoslovakia was assumed by the newly created National Assembly on November 14, 1918. Because territorial demarcations were uncertain and elections impossible, the provisional National Assembly was constituted on the basis of the 1911 elections to the Austrian parliament with the addition of fifty-four representatives from Slovakia. National minorities were not represented; Sudeten Germans harbored secessionist aspirations, and Hungarians remained loyal to Hungary. The National Assembly elected Masaryk as its first president, chose a provisional government headed by Karel Kramar, and drafted a provisional constitution.

The Paris Peace Conference convened in January 1919. The Czech delegation was led by Kramar and Benes, premier and foreign minister respectively, of the Czechoslovak provisional government. The conference approved the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic, to encompass the historic Bohemian Kingdom (including Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia), Slovakia, and Ruthenia. The Czechs requested the inclusion of Ruthenia to provide a common frontier with Romania. Tesin, an industrial area also claimed by Poland, was divided between Czechoslovakia (Cesky Tesin) and Poland (Cieszyn). The Czech claim to Lusatia, which had been part of the Bohemian Kingdom until the Thirty Years' War, was rejected. On September 10, 1919, Czechoslovakia signed a "minorities" treaty, placing its ethnic minorities under the protection of the League of Nations (see fig. 7).

The new nation had a population of over 13.5 million. It had inherited 70 to 80 percent of all the industry of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the china and glass industries and thesugar refineries; more than 40 percent of all its distilleries and breweries; the Skoda works of Plzen (Pilsen), which produced armaments, locomotives, automobiles, and machinery; and the chemical industry of northern Bohemia. The 17 percent of all Hungarian industry that had developed in Slovakia during the late nineteenth century also fell to the republic. Czechoslovakia was one of the world's ten most industrialized states.

The Czech lands were far more industrialized than Slovakia. In Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, 39 percent of the population was employed in industry and 31 percent in agriculture and forestry. Most light and heavy industry was located in the Sudetenland and was owned by Germans and controlled by German-owned banks. Czechs controlled only 20 to 30 percent of all industry. In Slovakia 17.1 percent of the population was employed in industry, and 60.4 percent worked in agriculture and forestry. Only 5 percent of all industry in Slovakia was in Slovak hands. Subcarpathian Ruthenia was essentially without industry.

In the agricultural sector, a program of reform introduced soon after the establishment of the republic was intended to rectify the unequal distribution of land. One-third of all agricultural land and forests belonged to a few aristocratic landowners--mostly Germans and Hungarians--and the Roman Catholic Church. Half of all holdings were under two hectares. The Land Control Act of April 1919 called for the expropriation of all estates exceeding 150 hectares of arable land or 250 hectares of land in general (500 hectares to be the absolute maximum). Redistribution was to proceed on a gradual basis; owners would continue in possession in the interim, and compensation was offered.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Czechoslovak Democracy

Czech Republic

The Constitution of 1920

The constitution of 1920 approved the provisional constitution in its basic features. The Czechoslovak state was conceived as a parliamentary democracy, guided primarily by the National Assembly, consisting of the senate and the Chamber of Deputies, whose members were to be elected on the basis of universal suffrage. The National Assembly was responsible for legislative initiative and was given supervisory control over the executive and judiciary as well. Every seven years it elected the president and confirmed the cabinet appointed by him. Executive power was to be shared by the president and the cabinet; the latter, responsible to the National Assembly, was to prevail. The reality differed somewhat from this ideal, however, during the strong presidencies of Masaryk and his successor, Benes.

To a large extent, Czechoslovak democracy was held together by the country's first president, Masaryk. As the principal founding father of the republic, Masaryk was regarded similar to the way George Washington is regarded in the United States. Such universal respect enabled Masaryk to overcome seemingly irresolvable political problems. Even to this day, Masaryk is regarded as the symbol of Czechoslovak democracy.

The constitution of 1920 provided for the central government to have a high degree of control over local government. Czechoslovakia was divided into zeme (lands), such as Czechia, Moravia, and Ruthenia. Although in 1927 assemblies were provided for Czechia, Slovakia, and Ruthenia, their jurisdiction was limited to adjusting laws and regulations of the central government to local needs. The central government appointed onethird of the members of these assemblies. Centralization prevailed on the next two levels (zupa and okres). Only on the lowest levels, in local communities (mesto and obec) was government completely in the hands of and elected by the local population.

The constitution identified the "Czechoslovak nation" as the creator and principal constituent of the Czechoslovak state and established Czech and Slovak as official languages. National minorities, however, were assured special protection; in districts where they constituted 20 percent of the population, members of minority groups were granted full freedom to use their language in everyday life, in schools, and in dealings with authorities.

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Czech Republic - Political Parties

Czech Republic

The operation of the new Czechoslovak government was distinguished by stability. Largely responsible for this were the well-organized political parties that emerged as the real centers of power. Excluding the period from March 1926 to November 1929, when the coalition did not hold, a coalition of five Czechoslovak parties constituted the backbone of the government: Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants, Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, Czechoslovak National Socialist Party, Czechoslovak Populist Party, and Czechoslovak National Democratic Party. The leaders of these parties became known as the Petka (The Five). The Petka was headed by Antonin Svehla, who held the office of prime minister for most of the 1920s and designed a pattern of coalition politics that survived to 1938. The coalition's policy was expressed in the slogan "We have agreed that we will agree." German parties participated in the government beginning in 1926. Hungarian parties, influenced by irredentist propaganda from Hungary, never joined the Czechoslovak government but were not openly hostile.

The Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants was formed in 1922 from a merger of the Czech Agrarian Party and the Slovak Agrarian Party. Led by Svehla, the new party became the principal voice for the agrarian population, representing mainly peasants with small and medium-sized farms. Svehla combined support for progressive social legislation with a democratic outlook. His party was the core of all government coalitions between 1922 and 1938.

The Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party was considerably weakened when the communists seceded in 1921 to form the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, but by 1929 it had begun to regain its strength. A party of moderation, the Czechoslovak Social Democratoc Party declared in favor of parliamentary democracy in 1930. Antonin Hampl was chairman of the party, and Ivan Derer was the leader of its Slovak branch. The Czechoslovak National Socialist Party (called the Czech Socialist Party until 1926) was created before World War I when the socialists split from the Social Democratic Party. It rejected class struggle and promoted nationalism. Led by Vaclav Klofac, its membership derived primarily from the lower middle class, civil servants, and the intelligentsia (including Benes).

The Czechoslovak Populist Party--a fusion of several Catholic parties, groups, and labor unions--developed separately in Bohemia in 1918 and in the more strongly Catholic Moravia in 1919. In 1922 a common executive committee was formed, headed by Jan Sramek. The Czechoslovak Populists espoused Christian moral principles and the social encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII.

The Czechoslovak National Democratic Party developed from a post-World War I merger of the Young Czech Party with other right and center parties. Ideologically, it was characterized by national radicalism and economic liberalism. Led by Kramar and Alois Rasin, the National Democrats became the party of big business, banking, and industry. The party declined in influence after 1920, however.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Problem of Dissatisfied Nationalities

Czech Republic

Slovak Autonomy

Czechoslovakia's centralized political structure might have been well suited to a single nation-state, but it proved inadequate for a multinational state. Constitutional protection of minority languages and culture notwithstanding, the major nonCzech nationalities demanded broader political autonomy. Political autonomy was a particularly grave issue for the Czechs' partners, the Slovaks. In 1918 Masaryk signed an agreement with American Slovaks in Pittsburgh, promising Slovak autonomy. The provisional National Assembly, however, agreed on the temporary need for centralized government to secure the stability of the new state. The Hlasists, centered on the journal Hlas, continued to favor the drawing together of Czechs and Slovaks. Although the Hlasists did not form a separate political party, they dominated Slovak politics in the early stages of the republic. The Hlasists' support of Prague's centralization policy was bitterly challenged by the Slovak Populist Party. The party had been founded by a Catholic priest, Andrej Hlinka, in December 1918. Hlinka argued for Slovak autonomy both in the National Assembly and at the Paris Peace Conference. He made Slovak autonomy the cornerstone of his policy until his death in August 1938.

The Slovak Populist Party was Catholic in orientation and found its support among Slovak Catholics, many of whom objected to the secularist tendencies of the Czechs. Religious differences compounded secular problems. The Slovak peasantry had suffered hardships during the period of economic readjustment after the disintegration of the Hapsburg Empire. Moreover, the apparent lack of qualified Slovaks had led to the importation of Czechs into Slovakia to fill jobs (formerly held by Hungarians) in administration, education, and the judiciary. Nevertheless, at the height of its popularity in 1925, the Slovak Populist Party polled only 32 percent of the Slovak vote, although Catholics constituted approximately 80 percent of the population. Then, in 1927, a modest concession by Prague granted Slovakia the status of a separate province, and Slovak Populists joined the central government. Monsignor Jozef Tiso and Marko Gazlik from Slovakia were appointed to the cabinet.

Although Hlinka's objective was Slovak autonomy within a democratic Czechoslovak state, his party contained a more radical wing, led by Vojtech Tuka. From the early 1920s, Tuka maintained secret contacts with Austria, Hungary, and Hitler's National Socialists (Nazis). He set up the Rodobrana (semimilitary units) and published subversive literature. Tuka gained the support of the younger members of the Slovak Populist Party, who called themselves Nastupists, after the journal Nastup.

Tuka's arrest and trial in 1929 precipitated the reorientation of Hlinka's party in a totalitarian direction. The Nastupists gained control of the party; Slovak Populists resigned from the government. In subsequent years the party's popularity dropped slightly. In 1935 it polled 30 percent of the vote and again refused to join the government. In 1936 Slovak Populists demanded a Czechoslovak alliance with Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. In September 1938, the Slovak Populist Party received instructions from Hitler to press its demands for Slovak autonomy.

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Czech Republic - Conflict in Subcarpathian Ruthenia

Czech Republic

During World War I, emigre Ruthenian leaders had reached an agreement with Masaryk to include an autonomous Ruthenia in a future Czechoslovak state. The agreement received international sanction in the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain. The Paris Peace Conference had also stipulated earlier that year that Subcarpathian Ruthenia be granted full autonomy and promised the territory a diet having legislative power in all matters of local administration. But the constitution of 1920 limited the provision on autonomy, making reference to the requirements of the unity of the state. All Ruthenian legislation was made subject to approval by the president of the republic, and the governor of Ruthenia was to be nominated by the president. As a result, even the constitutional provision for Ruthenian autonomy was never implemented; the Ruthenian diet was never convened. The issue of autonomy became a major source of discontent. Other grievances included the placement of the western boundary--which left 150,000 Ruthenians in Slovakia--and the large numbers of Czechs brought to Ruthenia as administrators and educators.

Post-World War I Ruthenia was characterized by a proliferation of political parties and a diversity of cultural tendencies. All Czechoslovak political parties were represented, and a number of indigenous parties emerged as well. Of particular significance were the Ukrainophiles, Russophiles, Hungarians, and communists.

Ukrainophile and Russophile tendencies were strengthened by the large influx of emigres following the war. The Ukrainophiles were largely Uniates and espoused autonomy within Czechoslovakia. Some favored union with Ukraine. The Ukrainophiles were represented by the Ruthenian National Christian Party led by Augustin Volosin. Russophile Ruthenians were largely Greek Orthodox and also espoused Ruthenian autonomy. They were organized politically in the Agricultural Federation, led by Andrej Brody, and the fascist-style Fencik Party.

Hungarians populated a compact area in southern Ruthenia. They were represented by the Unified Magyar Party, which consistently received 10 percent of the vote in Subcarpathian Ruthenia and was in permanent opposition to the government.

The communists, strong in backward Ruthenia, attempted to appeal to the Ukrainian element by espousing union with the Soviet Ukraine. In 1935 the communists polled 25 percent of the Ruthenian vote. The elections of 1935 gave only 37 percent of the Ruthenian vote to political parties supporting the Czechoslovak government. The communists, Unified Magyars, and autonomist groups polled 63 percent.

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Czech Republic - Sudetenland

Czech Republic

The most intractable nationality problem in the interwar period--one that played a major role in the destruction of democratic Czechoslovakia--was that of the Sudeten Germans. The Sudetenland was inhabited by over 3 million Germans, comprising about 23 percent of the population of the republic. It possessed huge chemical works and lignite mines, as well as textile, china, and glass factories. To the west, a solid German triangle surrounded Cheb (Eger) and included the highly nationalistic Egerland. The Cesky Les (Bohemian Forest) extended along the Bavarian frontier to the poor agricultural areas of southern Bohemia.

Moravia contained patches of "locked" German territory to the north and south. More characteristic were the German "language islands"--towns inhabited by important German minorities and surrounded by Czechs. Extreme German nationalism was never typical of this area. The German nationalism of the coal-mining region of southern Silesia, 40.5 percent German, was restrained by fear of competition from industry in Germany. Early policies of the Czechoslovak government, intended to correct social injustice and effect a moderate redistribution of wealth, had fallen more heavily on the German population than on other citizens. In 1919 the government confiscated one-fifth of each individual's holdings in paper currency. Germans, constituting the wealthiest element in the Czech lands, were most affected. The Land Control Act brought the expropriation of vast estates belonging to Germans. Land was allotted primarily to Czech peasants, often landless, who constituted the majority of the agricultural population. Only 4.5 percent of all land allotted by January 1937 was received by Sudeten Germans, whose protests were expressed in countless petitions.

According to the 1920 constitution, German minority rights were carefully protected; their educational and cultural institutions were preserved in proportion to the population. Local hostilities were engendered, however, by policies intended to protect the security of the Czechoslovak state and the rights of Czechs. Border forestland, considered the most ancient Sudeten German national territory, was expropriated for security reasons. The Czechoslovak government settled Czechs in areas of German concentration in an effort to mitigate German nationalism; the policy, however, often produced the opposite effect. Minority laws were most often applied to create new Czech schools in German districts. Sudeten Germans, in possession of a large number of subsidized local theaters, were required to put these at the disposal of the Czech minority one night a week.

Sudeten German industry, highly dependent on foreign trade and having close financial links with Germany, suffered badly during the depression, particularly when banks in Germany failed in 1931. Czechs, whose industry was concentrated on the production of essential domestic items, suffered less. Tensions between the two groups resulted. Relations between Czechs and Germans were further envenomed when Sudeten Germans were forced to turn to the Czechoslovak government and the Central Bank (Zivnostenka Banka) for assistance. These authorities often made the hiring of Czechs in proportion to their numbers in the population a condition for aid. Czech workmen, dispatched by the government to engage in public works projects in Sudeten German territories, were also resented.

Sudeten German nationalist sentiment ran high during the early years of the republic. The constitution of 1920 was drafted without Sudeten German representation, and the group declined to participate in the election of the president. Sudeten German political parties pursued an "obstructionist," or negativist, policy in parliament. In 1926, however, Chancellor Gustav Stresemann of Germany, adopting a policy of rapprochement with the West, advised Sudeten Germans to cooperate actively with the Czechoslovak government. In consequence, most Sudeten German parties (including the German Agrarian Party, the German Social Democratic Party, and the German Christian Socialist Party) changed from negativism to activism, and Sudeten Germans accepted cabinet posts.

By 1929 only a small number of Sudeten German deputies--most of them members of the German National Party (propertied classes) and the Sudeten Nazi Party (Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei)--remained in opposition. Nationalist sentiment flourished, however, among Sudeten German youth, who belonged to a variety of organizations. These included the older Turnverband and Schutzvereine, the newly formed Kameradschaftsbund, the Nazi Volkssport (1929), and the Bereitschaft.

Sudeten German nationalists, particularly the Nazis, expanded their activities during the depression years. On January 30, 1933, Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany. The Czechoslovak government prepared to suppress the Sudeten Nazi Party. In the fall of 1933 the Sudeten Nazis dissolved their organization, and the German Nationals were pressured to do likewise. German Nationals and Sudeten Nazis were expelled from local government positions. The Sudeten German population was indignant, especially in nationalist strongholds like Egerland.

On October 1, 1933, Konrad Henlein, aided by other members of the Kameradschaftsbund, a youth organization of romantic mystical orientation, created a new political organization. The Sudeten German Home Front (Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront) professed loyalty to the Czechoslovak state but championed decentralization. It absorbed most former German Nationals and Sudeten Nazis. In 1935 the Sudeten German Home Front became the Sudeten German Party (Sudetendeutsche Partei--SdP) and embarked on an active propaganda campaign. In the May election the SdP won more than 60 percent of the Sudeten German vote. The German Agrarians, Christian Socialists, and Social Democrats each lost approximately one-half of their following. The SdP became the fulcrum of German nationalist forces. The party represented itself as striving for a just settlement of Sudeten German claims within the framework of Czechoslovak democracy. Henlein, however, maintained secret contact with Nazi Germany and received material aid from Berlin. The SdP endorsed the idea of a fuhrer and mimicked Nazi methods with banners, slogans, and uniformed troops. Concessions offered by the Czechoslovak government, including the transfer of Sudeten German officials to Sudeten German areas and possible participation of the SdP in the cabinet, were rejected. By 1937 most SdP leaders supported Hitler's pan-German objectives.

On March 13, 1938, Austria was annexed by the Third Reich, a union known as Anschluss. Immediately thereafter almost the entire Sudeten German bourgeois activist movement threw its support to Henlein. On March 22, the German Agrarian Party, led by Gustav Hacker, fused with the SdP. German Christian Socialists suspended their activities on March 24; their deputies and senators entered the SdP parliamentary club. Only the Social Democrats continued to champion democratic freedom. The masses, however, gave overwhelming support to the SdP.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Eduard Benes

Czech Republic

Eduard Benes, Czechoslovak foreign minister from 1918 to 1935, created the system of alliances that determined the republic's international stance in 1938. A democratic statesman of Western orientation, Benes relied heavily on the League of Nations as guarantor of the postwar status quo and the security of newly formed states. He negotiated the Little Entente (an alliance with Yugoslavia and Romania) in 1921 to counter Hungarian revanchism and Hapsburg restoration. He attempted further to negotiate treaties with Britain and France, seeking their promises of assistance in the event of aggression against the small, democratic Czechoslovak Republic. Britain remained intransigent in its isolationist policy, and in 1924 Benes concluded a separate alliance with France.

Benes's Western policy received a serious blow as early as 1925. The Locarno Pact, which paved the way for Germany's admission to the League of Nations, guaranteed Germany's western border. French troops were thus left immobilized on the Rhine, making French assistance to Czechoslovakia difficult. In addition, the treaty stipulated that Germany's eastern frontier would remain subject to negotiation.

When Hitler secured power in 1933, fear of German aggression became generalized in eastern Central Europe. Benes ignored the possibility of a stronger Central European alliance system, remaining faithful to his Western policy. He did, however, seek the participation of the Soviet Union in an alliance to include France. (Benes's earlier attitude toward the Soviet regime had been one of caution.) In 1935 the Soviet Union signed treaties with France and Czechoslovakia. In essence, the treaties provided that the Soviet Union would come to Czechoslovakia's aid only if French assistance came first.

In 1935 Benes succeeded Masaryk as president, and Prime Minister Milan Hodza took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hodza's efforts to strengthen alliances in Central Europe came too late. In February 1936 the foreign ministry came under the direction of Kamil Krofta, an adherent of Benes's line.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Munich

Czech Republic

After the Austrian Anchluss, Czechoslovakia was to become Hitler's next target. Hitler's strategy was to exploit the existing Sudeten German minority problem as a pretext for German penetration into eastern Central Europe. Sudeten German leader Henlein offered the SdP as the agent for Hitler's campaign. Henlein met with Hitler in Berlin on March 28, 1938, and was instructed to raise demands unacceptable to the Czechoslovak government. In the Carlsbad Decrees, issued on April 24, the SdP demanded complete autonomy for the Sudetenland and freedom to profess Nazi ideology. If Henlein's demands were granted, the Sudetenland would be in a position to align itself with Nazi Germany.

In 1938 neither Britain nor France desired war. France, not wanting to face Germany alone, subordinated itself to Britain. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain became the major spokesman for the West. Chamberlain believed that Sudeten German grievances were just and Hitler's intention limited. Both Britain and France advised Czechoslovakia to concede. Benes, however, resisted pressure to move toward autonomy or federalism for the Sudetenland. On May 20, Czechoslovakia initiated a partial mobilization in response to rumors of German troop movements. On May 30, Hitler signed a secret directive for war against Czechoslovakia to begin no later than October 1. The British government demanded that Benes request a mediator. Not wishing to sever his ties with the West, Benes reluctantly accepted mediation. The British appointed Walter Runciman as mediator and instructed him to force a solution on Benes that would be acceptable to the Sudeten Germans. On September 2, Benes submitted the Fourth Plan, which granted nearly all the demands of the Carlsbad Decrees. Intent on obstructing conciliation, the SdP held a demonstration that provoked police action at the town of Ostrava on September 7. On September 13, the Sudeten Germans broke off negotiations. Violence and disruption ensued. Czechoslovak troops attempted to restore order. Henlein flew to Germany and on September 15 issued a proclamation demanding the return of the Sudetenland to Germany.

On September 15, Hitler met with Chamberlain at Berchtesgaden and demanded the swift return of the Sudetenland to the Third Reich under threat of war. The Czechoslovaks, Hitler claimed, were slaughtering the Sudeten Germans. Chamberlain referred the demand to the British and French governments; both accepted. The Czechoslovak government resisted, arguing that Hitler's proposal would ruin the nation's economy and lead ultimately to German control of all of Czechoslovakia. Britain and France issued an ultimatum, making the French commitment to Czechoslovakia contingent upon acceptance. On September 21, Czechoslovakia capitulated. The next day, however, Hitler added new demands, insisting that the claims of Poland and Hungary for their minorities also be satisfied.

The Czechoslovak capitulation precipitated an outburst of national indignation. In demonstrations and rallies, the Czechoslovaks called for a strong military government to defend the integrity of the state. A new cabinet, under General Jan Syrovy, was installed, and on September 23 a decree of general mobilization was issued. The Czechoslovak army, highly modernized and possessing an excellent system of frontier fortifications, was prepared to fight. The Soviet Union announced its willingness to come to Czechoslovakia's assistance. Benes, however, refused to go to war without the support of the Western powers. War, he believed, would come soon enough.

On September 28, Chamberlain appealed to Hitler for a conference. Hitler met the next day, at <"http://worldfacts.us/Germany-Munich.htm">Munich, with the chiefs of government of France, Italy, and Britain. The Czechoslovak government was neither invited nor consulted. On September 29, the Munich Agreement was signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain. The Czechoslovak government capitulated September 30 and agreed to abide by the agreement.

The Munich Agreement stipulated that Czechoslovakia must cede Sudeten territory to Germany. German occupation of the Sudetenland would be completed by October 10. An international commission (representing Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Czechoslovakia) would supervise a plebiscite to determine the final frontier. Britain and France promised to join in an international guarantee of the new frontiers against unprovoked aggression. Germany and Italy, however, would not join in the guarantee until the Polish and Hungarian minority problems were settled.

After Munich, Bohemia and Moravia lost about 38 percent of their combined area, as well as about 2.8 million Germans and approximately 750,000 Czechs to Germany. Hungary received 11,882 square kilometers in southern Slovakia and southern Ruthenia; only 53 percent of the population in this territory was Hungarian. Poland acquired Tesin and two minor border areas in northern Slovakia.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Second Republic, 1938-39

Czech Republic

As a result of the Munich Agreement, the greatly weakened Czechoslovak Republic was forced to grant major concessions to the non-Czechs. The executive committee of the Slovak Populist Party met at Zilina on October 5, 1938, and with the acquiescence of all Slovak parties except the Social Democrats formed an autonomous Slovak government under Tiso. Similarly, the two major factions in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the Russophiles and Ukrainophiles, agreed on the establishment of an autonomous government, which was constituted on October 8, 1938. Reflecting the spread of modern Ukrainian national consciousness, the proUkrainian faction, led by Volosin, gained control of the local government, and Subcarpathian Ruthenia was renamed CarpathoUkraine.

In November 1938, Emil Hacha, succeeding Benes, was elected president of the federated Second Republic, consisting of three parts: Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, and Carpatho-Ukraine. Lacking its natural frontier and having lost its costly system of border fortification, the new state was militarily indefensible. In January 1939, negotiations between Germany and Poland broke down. Hitler, intent on war against Poland, needed to eliminate Czechoslovakia first. He scheduled a German invasion of Bohemia and Moravia for the morning of March 15. In the interim, he negotiated with Slovak Populists and with Hungary to prepare the dismemberment of the republic before the invasion. On March 14, the Slovak Diet convened and unanimously declared Slovak independence. Carpatho-Ukraine also declared independence, but Hungarian troops occupied it and eastern Slovakia. Hitler summoned President Hacha to Berlin.

During the early hours of March 15, Hitler informed Hacha of the imminent German invasion. Threatening a Luftwaffe attack on Prague, Hitler persuaded Hacha to order the capitulation of the Czechoslovak army. On the morning of March 15, German troops entered Bohemia and Moravia, meeting no resistance. The Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine did encounter resistance, but the Hungarian army quickly crushed it. On March 16, Hitler went to Czechoslovakia and from Prague's Hradcany Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.

Independent Czechoslovakia collapsed in the wake of foreign aggression and internal tensions. Subsequently, interwar Czechoslovakia has been idealized by its proponents as the only bastion of democracy surrounded by authoritarian and fascist regimes. It has also been condemned by its detractors as an artificial and unworkable creation of intellectuals supported by the great powers. Both views have some validity. Interwar Czechoslovakia was comprised of lands and peoples that were far from being integrated into a modern nation-state. Moreover, the dominant Czechs, who had suffered political discrimination under the Hapsburgs, were not able to cope with the demands of other nationalities. In fairness to the Czechs, it should be acknowledged that some of the minority demands served as mere pretexts to justify intervention by Nazi Germany. That Czechoslovakia was able under such circumstances to maintain a viable economy and a democratic political system was indeed a remarkable achievement of the interwar period.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - THE WAR YEARS, 1939-45

Czech Republic Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia

For the Czechs of Bohemia and Moravia, German occupation was a period of brutal oppression, made even more painful by the memory of independence and democracy. Legally, Bohemia and Moravia were declared a protectorate of the Third Reich and were placed under the supervision of the Reich protector, Baron Konstantin von Neurath. German officials manned departments analogous to cabinet ministries. Small German control offices were established locally. The Gestapo assumed police authority. Jews were dismissed from the civil service and placed in an extralegal position. Communism was banned, and many Czech communists fled.

The population of the protectorate was mobilized for labor that would aid the German war effort, and special offices were organized to supervise the management of industries important to that effort. Czechs were drafted to work in coal mines, the iron and steel industry, and armaments production; some were sent to Germany. Consumer goods production, much diminished, was largely directed toward supplying the German armed forces. The protectorate's population was subjected to strict rationing.

German rule was moderate during the first months of the occupation. The Czech government and political system, reorganized by Hacha, continued in existence. Gestapo activities were directed mainly against Czech politicians and the intelligentsia. Nevertheless, the Czechs demonstrated against the occupation on October 28, the anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. The death on November 15 of a medical student, Jan Opletal, who had been wounded in the October violence, precipitated widespread student demonstrations, and the Reich retaliated. Politicians were arrested en masse, as were an estimated 1,800 students and teachers. On November 17, all universities and colleges in the protectorate were closed, and students were sent to work.

In the fall of 1941, the Reich adopted a more radical policy in the protectorate. Reinhard Heydrich was appointed Reich protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Under his authority Prime Minister Alois Elias was arrested, the Czech government was reorganized, and all Czech cultural organizations were closed. The Gestapo indulged in arrests and executions. The deportation of Jews to concentration camps was organized, and the fortress town of Terezin was made into a ghetto way station for Jewish families. On June 4, 1942, Heydrich died after being wounded by an assassin. Heydrich's successor, Colonel-General Kurt Daluege, ordered mass arrests and executions and the destruction of the village of Lidice. In 1943 the German war effort was accelerated. Under the authority of Karl Hermann Frank, German minister of state for Bohemia and Moravia, some 30,000 Czech laborers were dispatched to the Reich. Within the protectorate, all non-war-related industry was prohibited. The Czech population obeyed quiescently up until the final months preceding the liberation.

Czech losses resulting from political persecution and deaths in concentration camps totaled between 36,000 and 55,000, relatively minor losses compared with those of other nations. But the Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia (118,000 according to the 1930 census) was virtually annihilated. Many Jews emigrated after 1939; more than 70,000 were killed; 8,000 survived at Terezin. Several thousand Jews managed to live in freedom or in hiding throughout the occupation.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Government-in-Exile

Czech Republic

Benes had resigned as president of the Czechoslovak Republic on October 5, 1938. In London he and other Czechoslovak exiles organized a Czechoslovak government-in-exile and negotiated to obtain international recognition for the government and a renunciation of the Munich Agreement and its consequences. Benes hoped for a restoration of the Czechoslovak state in its pre-Munich form after the anticipated Allied victory. In the summer of 1941, the Allies recognized the exiled government. In 1942 Allied repudiation of the Munich Agreement established the political and legal continuity of the First Republic and Benes's presidency.

The Munich Agreement had been precipitated by the subversive activities of the Sudeten Germans. During the latter years of the war, Benes worked toward resolving the German minority problem and received consent from the Allies for a solution based on a postwar transfer of the Sudeten German population.

The First Republic had been committed to a Western policy in foreign affairs. The Munich Agreement was the outcome. Benes determined to strengthen Czechoslovak security against future German aggression through alliances with Poland and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, however, objected to a tripartite Czechoslovak-Polish-Soviet commitment. In December 1943, Benes's government concluded a treaty with the Soviets.

Benes's interest in maintaining friendly relations with the Soviet Union was motivated also by his desire to avoid Soviet encouragement of a postwar communist coup in Czechoslovakia. Benes worked to bring Czechoslovak communist exiles in Britain into active cooperation with his government, offering far-reaching concessions, including nationalization of heavy industry and the creation of local people's committees at the war's end. In March 1945, he gave key cabinet positions to Czechoslovak communist exiles in Moscow.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Czech Resistance

Czech Republic

In exile, Benes organized a resistance network. Hacha, Prime Minister Elias, and the Czech resistance acknowledged Benes's leadership. Active collaboration between London and the Czechoslovak home front was maintained throughout the war years. The Czech resistance comprised four main groups. The army command coordinated with a multitude of spontaneous groupings to form the Defense of the Nation (Obrana naroda--ON) with branches in Britain and France. Benes's collaborators, led by Prokop Drtina, created the Political Center (Politicke ustredi--PU). The PU was nearly destroyed by arrests in November 1939, after which younger politicians took control. Social democrats and leftist intellectuals, in association with such groups as trade-unions and educational institutions, constituted the Committee of the Petition We Remain Faithful (Peticni vybor Verni zustanme--PVVZ).

The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (Komunisticka strana Ceskoslovenska--KSC) was the fourth resistance group. The KSC had been one of over twenty political parties in the democratic First Republic, but it had never gained sufficient votes to unsettle the domocratic government. After the Munich Agreement the leadership of the KSC moved to Moscow and the party went underground. Until 1943, however, KSC resistance was weak. The Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in 1939 had left the KSC in disarray. But ever faithful to the Soviet line, the KSC began a more active struggle against the Nazis after Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941.

The democratic groups--ON, PU, and PVVZ--united in early 1940 and formed the Central Committee of the Home Resistance (Ustredni vybor odboje domaciho--UVOD). Involved primarily in intelligence gathering, the UVOD cooperated with a Soviet intelligence organization in Prague. Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the democratic groups attempted to create a united front that would include the KSC. Heydrich's appointment in the fall thwarted these efforts. By mid-1942 the Nazis had succeeded in exterminating the most experienced elements of the Czech resistance forces.

Czech forces regrouped in 1942 and 1943. The Council of the Three (R3), in which the communist underground was strongly represented, emerged as the focal point of the resistance. The R3 prepared to assist the liberating armies of the United States and the Soviet Union. In cooperation with Red Army partisan units, the R3 developed a guerrilla structure.

Guerrilla activity intensified after the formation of a provisional Czechoslovak government in Kosice on April 4, 1945. "National committees" took over the administration of towns as the Germans were expelled. Under the supervision of the Red Army, more than 4,850 such committees were formed between 1944 and the end of the war. On May 5 a national uprising began spontaneously in Prague, and the newly formed Czech National Council (Ceska narodni rada) almost immediately assumed leadership of the revolt. Over 1,600 barricades were erected throughout the city, and some 30,000 Czech men and women battled for three days against 37,000 to 40,000 German troops backed by tanks and artillery. On May 8 the German Wehrmacht capitulated; Soviet troops arrived on May 9.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Slovak Republic

Czech Republic

On March 14, 1939, Slovakia declared its independence, causing itself the Slovak Republic. Monsignor Tiso was elected president of this new republic. A clerical nationalist, Tiso opposed the Nazification of Slovak society and hoped instead to establish Slovakia as a nationalist, Christian, corporative state. His plan conflicted with that of Slovak radicals who were organized into the paramilitary Hlinka Guards. The latter cooperated closely with the Nazi-oriented German minority led by Franz Karmasin. Radicals dominated the Slovak government. Vojtech Tuka, recently released from prison, became prime minister; his associate, Ferdinand Durcansky, was named foreign minister. Alexander Mach, head of the Hlinka Guards, was propaganda minister. German "advisory missions" were appointed to all Slovak ministries, and German troops were stationed in Slovakia beginning March 15, 1939.

The conflict between Tiso and the radicals resulted in the Salzburg Compromise, concluded between Slovakia and the Reich in July 1940. The compromise called for dual command by the Slovak Populist Party and the Hlinka Guards. The Reich appointed storm trooper leader Manfred von Killinger as the German representative in Slovakia. While Tiso successfully restructured the Slovak Populist Party in harmony with Christian corporative principles, Tuka and Mach radicalized Slovak policy toward the Jews (130,000 in the 1930 census). In September 1941, the Slovak government enacted a "Jewish code," providing a legal foundation for property expropriation, internment, and deportation. In 1942 the Slovak government reached an agreement with Germany on the deportation of Jews. The same year, when most of the deportations occurred, approximately 68,000 Slovak Jews were sent out of Slovakia to German-run concentration camps. Many Jews escaped deportation under a provision that allowed Tiso to exempt Jews whose services were considered an economic necessity.

Tiso's power was strengthened in October 1942, when the Slovak Diet proclaimed him leader of the state and Slovak Populist Party, giving him rights of intervention in all affairs of state. The HG was effectively subordinated to party control. The new German representative, Hans Elard Ludin, concentrated his energies on war production. German banks acquired a controlling interest in all Slovak industries. With the aid of German investments and technical advice, Slovakia experienced a considerable economic boom, especially in the armaments industry, which had been controlled by the German government since December 1939. To some extent, Slovakia served as a showcase for Hitler's new order.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Slovak Resistance

Czech Republic

In the aftermath of Munich, Slovak politicians from the democratic parties (Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants, Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, and Czechoslovak National Socialist Party) organized a resistance movement. Individual underground cells sprang up in towns and villages throughout Slovakia. A campaign of "whispering" propaganda was initiated to alert the acquiescent Slovak population to the true nature of the Tiso regime. The goal of the democratic resistance was the restoration of the Czechoslovak Republic, but with greater participation for Slovakia. In the spring of 1939, the "Zeta" headquarters was established in Bratislava to coordinate with the Czech resistance and to transmit intelligence information to the liberation movement abroad. Party Communists remaining in Slovakia formed the underground Communist of Slovakia (Komunisticka strana Slovenska--KSS) and until 1943 favored the creation of an independent "Soviet Slovakia."

The shortage of qualified personnel enabled resistance members to infiltrate all levels of the Tiso administration, where they promoted economic sabotage. Mutiny within the Slovak army (marshaled by the Axis powers for combat against Poland and, later, the Soviet Union) was encouraged and became commonplace. At Kremnica, on September 15, 1939, approximately 3,500 Slovak soldiers abandoned their transport train and marched into the city. Members of the underground Slovak Revolutionary Youth set fire to machinery in factories, emptied the fuel tanks of locomotives, and exploded munitions in warehouses. Slovak youth turned increasingly against the Tiso regime.

In his Christmas broadcast of 1942, Benes called for resistance groups in Slovakia to increase their activity in preparation for a seizure of power. The groups worked to unify their efforts. The following November, negotiations between democratic and communist resistance leaders culminated in the signing of the Christmas Agreement of 1943. The agreement called for the creation of the Slovak National Council to represent the political will of the Slovak nation. The Slovak National Council would act in concert with the Czechoslovak government and liberation movement abroad. The postwar Czechoslovak state would be democratic and organized on the basis of national equality. The Christmas Agreement provided also for a close association with the Soviet Union in foreign policy and military affairs. Benes endorsed the agreement on March 27, 1944.

The Allied powers agreed that Slovakia would be liberated by Soviet armies. In March 1944, with Benes's approval, the Slovak National Council authorized Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Golian to prepare for a national coup to be coordinated with the arrival of Soviet troops. Golian organized a secret military center at Banska Bystrica and created Slovak partisan units composed of escaped prisoners of war and army deserters. The Slovak National Uprising of August 29, however, was premature. The Soviet government, regarding the Slovak resistance as politically suspect, failed to inform the Slovaks of a change in Soviet strategy. Despite American efforts to assist the uprising, the German Wehrmacht occupied Slovakia, and Banska Bystrica fell on October 27. Nonetheless, local partisan warfare continued up to the liberation.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Soviet Annexation of Subcarpathian Ruthenia

Czech Republic

On May 8, 1944, Benes signed an agreement with Soviet leaders stipulating that Czechoslovak territory liberated by Soviet armies would be placed under Czechoslovak civilian control. Subcarpathian Ruthenia had been reconstituted into the autonomous Carpatho-Ukraine during the Second Republic. When the Second Republic collapsed, Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence but was occupied by the Hungarians. In October 1944, Carpatho-Ukraine was taken by the Soviets. A Czechoslovak delegation under Frantisek Nemec was dispatched to the area. The delegation was to mobilize the liberated local population to form a Czechoslovak army and to prepare for elections in cooperation with recently established national committees. Loyalty to a Czechoslovak state was tenuous in Carpatho-Ukraine. Benes's proclamation of April 1944 excluded former collaborationist Hungarians, Germans, and the Russophile Ruthenian followers of Andrej Brody and the Fencik Party (who had collaborated with the Hungarians) from political participation. This amounted to approximately one-third of the population. Another one-third was communist, leaving one-third of the population presumably sympathetic to the Czechoslovak Republic.

Upon arrival in Carpatho-Ukraine, the Czechoslovak delegation set up headquarters in Khust and on October 30 issued a mobilization proclamation. Soviet military forces prevented both the printing and the posting of the Czechoslovak proclamation and proceeded instead to organize the local population. Protests from Benes's government went unheeded. Soviet activities led much of the local population to believe that Soviet annexation was imminent.

The Czechoslovak delegation was also prevented from establishing a cooperative relationship with the local national committees promoted by the Soviets. On November 19, the communists, meeting in Mukachevo, issued a resolution requesting separation of Carpatho-Ukraine from Czechoslovakia and incorporation into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. On November 26, the Congress of National Committees unanimously accepted the resolution of the communists. The congress elected the National Council and instructed that a delegation be sent to Moscow to discuss union. The Czechoslovak delegation was asked to leave Carpatho-Ukraine.

Negotiations between the Czechoslovak government and Moscow ensued. Both Czech and Slovak communists encouraged Benes to cede Carpatho-Ukraine. The Soviet Union agreed to postpone annexation until the postwar period to avoid compromising Benes's policy based on the pre-Munich frontiers. The treaty ceding CarpathoUkraine to the Soviet Union was signed in June 1945. Czechs and Slovaks living in Carpatho-Ukraine and Ukrainians (Ruthenians) living in Czechoslovakia were given the choice of Czechoslovak or Soviet citizenship.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Minorities and Population Transfers

Czech Republic

The Czechoslovak National Front coalition government, formed at Kosice in April 1945, issued decrees providing for the expulsion of all Sudeten Germans with the exception of those who had demonstrated loyalty to the republic. German property would be confiscated without compensation. All officials of the SdP, or the Sudeten Nazis, and all members of the Nazi Security Police would be prosecuted.

In May 1945, Czechoslovak troops took possession of the Sudetenland. A Czechoslovak administrative commission composed exclusively of Czechs was established. Sudeten Germans were subjected to restrictive measures and conscripted for compulsory labor to repair war damages. Individual acts of retaliation against Germans and precipitous expulsion under harsh conditions characterized the immediate aftermath of the occupation. On June 15, however, Benes called Czechoslovak authorities to order. In July Czechoslovak representatives addressed the Potsdam Conference (the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union) and presented plans for a humane and orderly transfer of the Sudeten German population.

The Potsdam Agreement provided for the resettlement of Sudeten Germans in Germany under the supervision of the Allied Control Council. The transfer began in January 1946. By December 31, 1946, some 1.7 million Germans had been resettled in the American Zone and 750,000 in the Soviet Zone. Approximately 225,000 Germans remained in Czechoslovakia, of whom 50,000 emigrated or were expelled soon after.

The Potsdam Agreement pertained to Germans only. Decisions regarding the Hungarian minority reverted to the Czechoslovak government. The resettlement of about 700,000 Hungarians was envisaged at Kosice and subsequently reaffirmed by the National Front. Budapest, however, opposed a unilateral transfer. In February 1946, the Hungarian government agreed that Czechoslovakia could expatriate as many Hungarians as there were Slovaks in Hungary wishing to return to Czechoslovakia. By the spring of 1948 only 160,000 Hungarians had been resettled.

Territory ceded to Poland in 1938 and restored to Slovakia after the Nazi invasion of Poland, in accordance with the terms of the German-Slovak agreement of November 21, 1939, became part of the restored Czechoslovak state in 1945. The Polish minority (100,000) enjoyed full civil liberties.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - COMMUNIST CZECHOSLOVAKIA

Czech Republic Third Republic and the Communist Takeover

During World War II, Czechoslovakia disappeared from the map of Europe. The re-emergence of Czechoslovakia as a sovereign state was not only the result of Allied policies but also an indication of the strength of the Czechoslovak idea, particularly as embodied in the First Republic. But Czechoslovakia now found itself within the Soviet sphere of influence--a fact that had to be taken into account in any postwar reconstruction. Thus the political and economic organization of postwar Czechoslovakia was largely the result of negotiations between Benes and KSC exiles in Moscow.

The Third Republic came into being in April 1945. Its government, installed at Kosice on April 4 and moved to Prague in May, was a National Front coalition in which three socialist parties--KSC, Czechoslovak Social democratic Party, and Czechoslovak National Socialist Party--predominated. The Slovak Populist Party was banned as collaborationist with the Nazis. Other conservative yet democratic parties, such as the Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants, were prevented from resuming activities in the postwar period. Certain acceptable nonsocialist parties were included in the coalition; among them were the Catholic People's Party (in Moravia) and the Slovak Democratic Party. All property belonging to Nazi collaborators was confiscated without compensation. Their land was distributed among the peasants, and their industries--amounting to 16.4 percent of all Czechoslovak industry, employing 61.2 percent of the industrial labor force--were nationalized.

Benes had compromised with the KSC to avoid a postwar coup; he anticipated that the democratic process would restore a more equitable distribution of power. Benes had negotiated the Soviet alliance, but at the same time he hoped to establish Czechoslovakia as a "bridge" between East and West, capable of maintaining contacts with both sides. KSC leader Klement Gottwald, however, professed commitment to a "gradualist" approach, that is, to a KSC assumption of power by democratic means.

The popular enthusiasm evoked by the Soviet armies of liberation benefited the KSC. Czechoslovaks, bitterly disappointed by the West at Munich, responded favorably to both the KSC and the Soviet alliance. Communists secured strong representation in the popularly elected national committees, the new organs of local administration. The KSC organized and centralized the trade union movement; of 120 representatives to the Central Council of Trade Unions, 94 were communists. The party worked to acquire a mass membership, including peasants and the petite bourgeoisie, as well as the proletariat. Between May 1945 and May 1946, KSC membership grew from 27,000 to over 1.1 million.

In the May 1946 election, the KSC won a plurality of 38 percent of the vote. Benes continued as president of the republic, and Jan Masaryk, son of the revered founding father, continued as foreign minister. Gottwald became prime minister. Most important, although the communists held only a minority of portfolios, they were able to gain control over such key ministries as information, internal trade, finance, and interior (including the police apparatus). Through these ministries, the communists were able to suppress noncommunist opposition, place party members in positions of power, and create a solid basis for a takeover attempt.

The year that followed was uneventful. The KSC continued to proclaim its "national" and "democratic" orientation. The turning point came in the summer of 1947. In July the Czechoslovak government, with KSC approval, accepted an Anglo-French invitation to attend preliminary discussions of the Marshall Plan. The Soviet Union responded immediately to the Czechoslovak move to continue the Western alliance. Stalin summoned Gottwald to Moscow; upon his return to Prague, the KSC reversed its decision. In subsequent months, the party demonstrated a significant radicalization of its tactics.

The KSC raised the specter of an impending counterrevolutionary coup as a pretext for intensified activity. Originally announced by Gottwald at the KSC Central Committee meeting in November 1947, news of the "reactionary plot" was disseminated throughout the country by communist agents provocateurs and by the communist press. In January 1948, the communist-controlled Ministry of Interior proceeded to purge the Czechoslovak security forces, substituting communists for noncommunists. Simultaneously, the KSC began agitating for increased nationalization and for a new land reform limiting landholdings to fifty hectares.

A cabinet crisis precipitated the February coup Czechoslovak. National Socialist ministers, backed by all noncommunist parties, demanded a halt to the communists' blatant use of the Ministry of Interior's police and security forces to suppress noncommunists. Prime Minister Gottwald, however, repeatedly forestalled discussion of the police issue. On February 20, National Socialists resigned from the cabinet in protest. The Catholic People's Party and the Slovak Democratic Party followed suit.

The twelve noncommunist ministers resigned, in part, to induce Benes to call for early elections: Communist losses were anticipated owing to popular disapproval of recent KSC tactics. A January poll indicated a 10-percent decline in communist electoral support. The Czechoslovak National Socialists made their move, however, without adequate coordination with Benes. The democratic parties, in addition, made no effort to rally popular support.

Benes refused to accept the cabinet resignations and did not call for elections. In the days that followed, he shunned democratic ministers to avoid accusation of collusion. The Czechoslovak army remained neutral.

In the meantime, the KSC garnered its forces. The communistcontrolled Ministry of Interior deployed police regiments to sensitive areas and equipped a workers' militia. The communist-controlled Ministry of Information refused broadcasting time to noncommunist officials. Ministries held by democratic parties were "secured" by communist "action committees." The action committees also purged all governmental and political party organs of unreliable elements.

On February 25, Benes, perhaps fearing Soviet intervention, capitulated. He accepted the resignations of the dissident ministers and received a new cabinet list from Gottwald, thus completing the communist takeover.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Stalinization

Czech Republic

In February 1948, Czechoslovakia became a "people's democracy"--a preliminary step toward socialism and, ultimately, communism. Bureaucratic centralism under the direction of KSC leadership was introduced. Dissident elements were purged from all levels of society, including the Catholic Church. The ideological principles of Marxism-Leninism and socialist realism pervaded cultural and intellectual life. The entire education system was submitted to state control. The economy was committed to comprehensive central planning and the elimination of private ownership. Czechoslovakia became a satellite of the Soviet Union; it was a founding member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) in 1949 and of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The attainment of Soviet-style "socialism" became the government's avowed policy.

A new constitution was passed by the National Assembly on May 9, 1948. Because it was prepared by a special committee in the 1945-48 period, it contained many liberal and democratic provisions. It reflected, however, the reality of Communist power through an addition that discussed the dictatorship of the proletariat and the leadership role of the Communist party. Benes refused to sign the Ninth-of-May Constitution, as it was called, and resigned from the presidency; he was succeeded by Gottwald.

Although in theory Czechoslovakia remained a multiparty state, in actuality the Communists were in complete control. Political participation became subject to KSC approval. The KSC also prescribed percentage representation for non-Marxist parties. The National Assembly, purged of dissidents, became a mere rubber stamp for KSC programs. In 1953 an inner cabinet of the National Assembly, the Presidium, was created. Composed of KSC leaders, the Presidium served to convey party policies through government channels. Regional, district, and local committees were subordinated to the Ministry of Interior. Slovak autonomy was constrained; the KSS was reunited with the KSC but retained its own identity.

Gottwald died in 1953. He was succeeded by Antonin Zapotocky as president and by Antonin Novotny as head of the KSC. Novotny became president in 1957 when Zapotocky died.

Czechoslovak interests were subordinated to the interests of the Soviet Union. Stalin became particularly concerned about controlling and integrating the socialist bloc in the wake of Tito's challenge to his authority. Stalin's paranoia resulted in sweeping political changes in the Soviet Union and the satellite countries. In Czechoslovakia the Stalinists accused their opponents of "conspiracy against the people's democratic order" and "high treason" in order to oust them from positions of power. Large-scale arrests of Communists with an "international" background, i.e., those with a wartime connection with the West, veterans of the Spanish Civil War, Jews, and Slovak "bourgeois nationalists," were followed by show trials. The most spectacular of these was the trial of KSC first secretary Rudolf Slansky and thirteen other prominent Communist personalities in November and December 1952. Slansky was executed, and many others were sentenced to death or to forced labor in prison camps. The KSC rank-and-file membership, approximately 2.5 million in March 1948, began to be subjected to careful scrutiny. By 1960 KSC membership had been reduced to 1.4 million.

The Ninth-of-May Constitution provided for the nationalization of all commercial and industrial enterprises having more than fifty employees. The nonagricultural private sector was nearly eliminated. Private ownership of land was limited to fifty hectares. The remnants of private enterprise and independent farming were permitted to carry on only as a temporary concession to the petite bourgeoisie and the peasantry. The Czechoslovak economy was subjected to a succession of five-year plans.

Following the Soviet example, Czechoslovakia began emphasizing the rapid development of heavy industry. The industrial sector was reorganized with an emphasis on metallurgy, heavy machinery, and coal mining. Production was concentrated in larger units; the more than 350,000 units of the prewar period were reduced to about 1,700 units by 1958. Industrial output reportedly increased 233 percent between 1948 and 1959; employment in industry, 44 percent. The speed of industrialization was particularly accelerated in Slovakia, where production increased 347 percent and employment, 70 percent. Although Czechoslovakia's industrial growth of 170 percent between 1948 and 1957 was impressive, it was far exceeded by that of Japan (300 percent) and the Federal Republic of Germany (almost 300 percent) and more than equaled by Austria and Greece. For the 1954-59 period, Czechoslovak industrial growth was equaled by France and Italy.

Industrial growth in Czechoslovakia required substantial additional labor. Czechoslovaks were subjected to long hours and long workweeks to meet production quotas. Part-time, volunteer labor--students and white-collar workers--was drafted in massive numbers. Labor productivity, however, was not significantly increased, nor were production costs reduced. Czechoslovak products were characterized by poor quality.

The Ninth-of-May Constitution declared the government's intention to collectivize agriculture. In February 1949, the National Assembly adopted the Unified Agricultural Cooperatives Act. Cooperatives were to be founded on a voluntary basis; formal title to land was left vested in the original owners. The imposition of high compulsory quotas, however, forced peasants to collectivize in order to increase efficiency and facilitate mechanization. Discriminatory policies were employed to bring about the ruin of recalcitrant kulaks (wealthy peasants). Collectivization was near completion by 1960. Sixteen percent of all farmland (obtained from collaborators and kulaks) had been turned into state farms.

Despite the elimination of poor land from cultivation and a tremendous increase in the use of fertilizers and tractors, agricultural production declined seriously. By 1959 prewar production levels still had not been met. Major causes of the decline were the diversion of labor from agriculture to industry (in 1948 an estimated 2.2 million workers were employed in agriculture; by 1960, only 1.5 million); the suppression of the kulak, the most experienced and productive farmer; and the peasantry's opposition to collectivization, which resulted in sabotage.

The 1960 Constitution declared the victory of "socialism" and proclaimed the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The ambiguous precept of "democratic centralism"--power emanating from the people but bound by the authority of higher organs--was made a formal part of consitutional law. The president, the cabinet, the Slovak National Council, and the local governments were made responsible to the National Assembly. The National Assembly, however, continued its rubber-stamp approval of KSC policies. All private enterprises using hired labor were abolished. Comprehensive economic planning was reaffirmed. The Bill of Rights emphasized economic and social rights, e.g., the right to work, leisure, health care, and education. Civil rights, however, were deemphasized. The judiciary was combined with the prosecuting branch; all judges were committed to the protection of the socialist state and the education of citizens in loyalty to the cause of socialism.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - The Reform Movement

Czech Republic

De-Stalinization had a late start in Czechoslovakia. The KSC leadership virtually ignored the Soviet thaw announced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956 at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In Czechoslovakia that April, at the Second Writers' Congress, several authors criticized acts of political repression and attempted to gain control of the writers' congress. The writers' rebellion was suppressed, however, and the conservatives retained control. Students in Prague and Bratislava demonstrated on May Day of 1956, demanding freedom of speech and access to the Western press. The Novotny regime condemned these activities and introduced a policy of neo-Stalinism. The 1958 KSC Party congress formalized the continuation of Stalinism.

In the early 1960s, the Czechoslovak economy became severely stagnated. The industrial growth rate was the lowest in Eastern Europe. Food imports strained the balance of payments. Pressures both from Moscow and from within the party precipitated a reform movement. In 1963 reform-minded Communist intellectuals produced a proliferation of critical articles. Criticism of economic planning merged with more generalized protests against KSC bureaucratic control and ideological conformity. The KSC leadership responded. The purge trials of 1949-54 were reviewed, for example, and some of those purged were rehabilitated. Some hardliners were removed from top levels of government and replaced by younger, more liberal communists. Jozef Lenart replaced Prime Minister Vilam Siroky. The KSC organized committees to review economic policy.

In 1965 the party approved the New Economic Model, which had been drafted under the direction of economist and theoretician Ota Sik. The program called for a second, intensive stage of economic development, emphasizing technological and managerial improvements. Central planning would be limited to overall production and investment indexes as well as price and wage guidelines. Management personnel would be involved in decision making. Production would be market oriented and geared toward profitability. Prices would respond to supply and demand. Wage differentials would be introduced.

The KSC "Theses" of December 1965 presented the party response to the call for political reform. Democratic centralism was redefined, placing a stronger emphasis on democracy. The leading role of the KSC was reaffirmed but limited. In consequence, the National Assembly was promised increased legislative responsibility. The Slovak executive (Board of Commissioners) and legislature (Slovak National Council) were assured that they could assist the central government in program planning and assume responsibility for program implementation in Slovakia. The regional, district, and local national committees were to be permitted a degree of autonomy. The KSC agreed to refrain from superseding the authority of economic and social organizations. Party control in cultural policy, however, was reaffirmed.

January 1967 was the date for full implementation of the reform program. Novotny and his supporters hesitated, introducing amendments to reinforce central control. Pressure from the reformists was stepped up. Slovaks pressed for federalization. Economists called for complete enterprise autonomy and economic responsiveness to the market mechanism. The Fourth Writers' Congress adopted a resolution calling for rehabilitation of the Czechoslovak literary tradition and the establishment of free contact with Western culture. The Novotny regime responded with repressive measures.

At the October 30-31 meeting of the KSC Central Committee, Alexander Dubcek, a moderate reformer, challenged Novotny. As university students in Prague demonstrated in support of the liberals, Novotny appealed to Moscow for assistance. On December 8, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Prague but did not support Novotny. On January 5, 1968, the Central Committee elected Dubcek to replace Novotny as first secretary of the KSC. Novotny's fall from KSC leadership precipitated initiatives to oust Stalinists from all levels of government, from mass associations, e.g., the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement and the Czechoslovak Union Youth, and from local party organs. On March 22, 1968, Novotny resigned from the presidency and was succeeded by General Ludvik Svoboda.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - The Prague Spring, 1968

Czech Republic

Dubcek carried the reform movement a step further in the direction of liberalism. After Novotny's fall, censorship was lifted. The media--press, radio, and television--were mobilized for reformist propaganda purposes. The movement to democratize socialism in Czechoslovakia, formerly confined largely to the party intelligentsia, acquired a new, popular dynamism in the spring of 1968. In April the KSC Presidium adopted the Action Program that had been drafted by a coalition headed by Dubcek and made up of reformers, moderates, centrists, and conservatives. The program proposed a "new model of socialism," profoundly "democratic" and "national," that is, adapted to Czechoslovak conditions. The National Front and the electoral system were to be democratized, and Czechoslovakia was to be federalized. Freedom of assembly and expression would be guaranteed in constitutional law. The New Economic Model was to be implemented. The Action Program also reaffirmed the Czechoslovak alliance with the Soviet Union and other socialist states. The reform movement, which rejected Stalinism as the road to communism, remained committed to communism as a goal.

The Action Program stipulated that reform must proceed under KSC direction. In subsequent months, however, popular pressure mounted to implement reforms forthwith. Radical elements found expression: anti-Soviet polemics appeared in the press; the Social Democrats began to form a separate party; new unaffiliated political clubs were created. Party conservatives urged the implementation of repressive measures, but Dubcek counseled moderation and reemphasized KSC leadership. In May he announced that the Fourteenth Party Congress would convene in an early session on September 9. The congress would incorporate the Action Program into the party statutes, draft a federalization law, and elect a new (presumably more liberal) Central Committee.

On June 27, Ludvik Vaculik, a lifelong communist and a candidate member of the Central Committee, published a manifesto entitled "Two Thousand Words." The manifesto expressed concern about conservative elements within the KSC and "foreign" forces as well. (Warsaw Pact maneuvers were held in Czechoslovakia in late June.) It called on the "people" to take the initiative in implementing the reform program. Dubcek, the party Presidium, the National Front, and the cabinet sharply denounced the manifesto.

The Soviet leadership was alarmed. In mid-July a Warsaw Pact conference was held without Czechoslovak participation. The Warsaw Pact nations drafted a letter to the KSC leadership referring to the manifesto as an "organizational and political platform of counterrevolution." Pact members demanded the reimposition of censorship, the banning of new political parties and clubs, and the repression of "rightist" forces within the party. The Warsaw Pact nations declared the defense of Czechoslovakia's socialist gains to be not only the task of Czechoslovakia but also the mutual task of all Warsaw Pact countries. The KSC rejected the Warsaw Pact ultimatum, and Dubcek requested bilateral talks with the Soviet Union.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Intervention

Czech Republic

Soviet leader Brezhnev hesitated to intervene militarily in Czechoslovakia. Dubcek's Action Program proposed a "new model of socialism"--"democratic" and "national." Significantly, however, Dubcek did not challenge Czechoslovak commitment to the Warsaw Pact. In the early spring of 1968, the Soviet leadership adopted a wait-and-see attitude. By midsummer, however, two camps had formed: advocates and opponents of military intervention.

The pro-interventionist coalition viewed the situation in Czechoslovakia as "counterrevolutionary" and favored the defeat of Dubcek and his supporters. This coalition was headed by the Ukrainian party leader Pyotr Shelest and included communist bureaucrats from Belorussia and from the non-Russian national republics of the western part of the Soviet Union (the Baltic republics). The coalition members feared the awakening of nationalism within their respective republics and the influence of the Ukrainian minority in Czechoslovakia on Ukrainians in the Soviet Union. Bureaucrats responsible for political stability in Soviet cities and for the ideological supervision of the intellectual community also favored a military solution. Within the Warsaw Pact, only the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and Poland were strongly interventionist. Walter Ulbricht and Wladyslaw Gomulka--party leaders of East Germany and Poland, respectively--viewed liberalism as threatening to their own positions.

The Soviet Union agreed to bilateral talks with Czechoslovakia to be held in July at Cierna nad Tisou, Slovakia. At the meeting, Dubcek defended the program of the reformist wing of the KSC while pledging commitment to the Warsaw Pact and Comecon. The KSC leadership, however, was divided. Vigorous reformers--Josef Smrkovsky, Oldrich Cernik, and Frantisek Kriegel--supported Dubcek. Conservatives--Vasil Bil'ak, Drahomir Kolder, and Oldrich Svestka--adopted an anti-reformist stance. Brezhnev decided on compromise. The KSC delegates reaffirmed their loyalty to the Warsaw Pact and promised to curb "antisocialist" tendencies, prevent the revival of the Czechoslovaka Social Democratic Party, and control the press more effectively. The Soviets agreed to withdraw their troops (stationed in Czechoslovakia since the June maneuvers) and permit the September 9 party congress.

On August 3, representatives from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia met in Bratislava and signed the Bratislava Declaration. The declaration affirmed unshakable fidelity to Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism and declared an implacable struggle against "bourgeois" ideology and all "antisocialist" forces. The Soviet Union expressed its intention to intervene in a Warsaw Pact country if a "bourgeois" system--a pluralist system of several political parties--was ever established. After the Bratislava conference, Soviet troops left Czechoslovak territory but remained along Czechoslovak borders. Dubcek made no attempt to mobilize the Czechoslovak army to resist an invasion.

The KSC party congress remained scheduled for September 9. In the week following the Bratislava conference, it became an open secret in Prague that most of Dubcek's opponents would be removed from the Central Committee. The Prague municipal party organization prepared and circulated a blacklist. The antireformist coalition could hope to stay in power only with Soviet assistance.

KSC anti-reformists, therefore, made efforts to convince the Soviets that the danger of political instability and "counterrevolution" did indeed exist. They used the Kaspar Report, prepared by the Central Committee's Information Department, headed by Jan Kaspar, to achieve this end. The report provided an extensive review of the general political situation in Czechoslovakia as it might relate to the forthcoming party congress. It predicted that a stable Central Committee and a firm leadership could not necessarily be expected as the outcome of the congress. The report was received by the party Presidium on August 12. Two Presidium members, Kolder and Alois Indra, were instructed to evaluate the report for the August 20 meeting of the Presidium.

Kolder and Indra viewed the Kaspar Report with alarm and, some observers think, communicated their conclusions to the Soviet ambassador, Stepan V. Chervonenko. These actions are thought to have precipitated the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. As the KSC Presidium convened on August 20, the anti-reformists planned to make a bid for power, pointing to the imminent danger of counterrevolution. Kolder and Indra presented a resolution declaring a state of emergency and calling for "fraternal assistance." The resolution was never voted on: Warsaw Pact troops entered Czechoslovakia that same day.

KSC conservatives had misinformed Moscow regarding the strength of the reform movement. The KSC Presidium met during the night of August 20-21; it rejected the option of armed resistance but condemned the invasion. Two-thirds of the KSC Central Committee opposed the Soviet intervention. A KSC party congress, convened secretly on August 22, passed a resolution affirming its loyalty to Dubcek's Action Program and denouncing the Soviet aggression. President Svoboda repeatedly resisted Soviet pressure to form a new government under Indra. The Czechoslovak population was virtually unanimous in its repudiation of the Soviet action. In compliance with Svoboda's caution against acts that might provoke violence, they avoided mass demonstrations and strikes but observed a symbolic one-hour general work stoppage on August 23. Popular opposition was expressed in numerous spontaneous acts of nonviolent resistance. In Prague and other cities throughout the republic, Czechs and Slovaks greeted Warsaw Pact soldiers with arguments and reproaches. Every form of assistance, including the provision of food and water, was denied the invaders. Signs, placards, and graffiti drawn on walls and pavements denounced the invaders, the Soviet leaders, and suspected collaborators. Pictures of Dubcek and Svoboda appeared everywhere.

The generalized resistance caused the Soviet Union to abandon its original plan to oust Dubcek. The KSC leader, who had been arrested on the night of August 20, was taken to Moscow for negotiations. The outcome was the Brezhnev Doctrine of limited sovereignty, which provided for the strengthening of the KSC, strict party control of the media, and the suppression of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party. It was agreed that Dubcek would remain in office and that a program of moderate reform would continue.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Normalization

Czech Republic

Dubcek remained in office only until April 1969. Anti-Soviet demonstrations, following Czechoslovakia's victory over the Soviet team in the World Ice Hockey Championships in March, precipitated Soviet pressures for a KSC Presidium reorganization. Gustav Husak (a centrist) was named first secretary (title changed to general secretary in 1971). Only centrists and the conservatives led by Bilak continued in the Presidium. A program of "normalization"--the restoration of continuity with the prereform period--was initiated. Normalization entailed thoroughgoing political repression and the return to ideological conformity. A new purge cleansed the Czechoslovak leadership of all reformist elements. Of the 115 members of the KSC Central Committee, 54 were replaced.

Reformists were removed from regional, district, and local party branches in the Czech lands and, to a lesser extent, in Slovakia. KSC party membership, which had been close to 1.7 million in January 1968, was reduced by about 500,000. Top levels of government and the leadership of social organizations were purged. Publishing houses and film studios were placed under new direction. Censorship was strictly imposed, and a campaign of militant atheism was organized.

Czechoslovakia had been federalized under the Constitutional Law of Federation of October 27, 1968. The newly created Federal Assembly, which replaced the National Assembly, was to work in close cooperation with the Czech National Council and the Slovak National Council. The Husak regime amended the law in January 1971. Although federalism was retained in form, central authority was effectively restored.

In May 1970, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which incorporated the principle of limited sovereignty. Soviet troops remained stationed in Czechoslovakia, and the Czechoslovak armed forces worked in close cooperation with the Warsaw Pact command. Soviet advisers supervised the functioning of the Ministry of Interior and the security apparatus. Czechoslovak leaders and propagandists, led by Bilak, became the most ardent advocates of proletarian internationalism.

The purges of the first half of 1970 eliminated the reformists within the party organization. In the fall of 1970, the ex-communist intelligentsia organized the Socialist Movement of Czechoslovak Citizens, a protest movement dedicated to the goals of 1968. Forty-seven leaders of the movement were arrested and tried in the summer of 1972. Organized protest was effectively stilled.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Preserving the Status Quo

Czech Republic

In May 1971, party chief Husak announced at the official Fourteenth Party Congress--the 1968 Fourteenth Party Congress had been abrogated--that "normalization" had been completed and that all that remained was for the party to consolidate its gains. Husak's policy was to maintain a rigid status quo; for the next fifteen years even key personnel of the party and government remained the same. In 1975 Husak added the position of president to his post as party chief. He and other party leaders faced the task of rebuilding general party membership after the purges of 1969-71. By 1983 membership had returned to 1.6 million, about the same as in 1960.

In preserving the status quo, the Husak regime required conformity and obedience in all aspects of life. Culture suffered greatly from this straitjacket on independent thought, as did the humanities, social sciences, and ultimately the pure sciences. Art had to adhere to a rigid socialist realist formula. Soviet examples were held up for emulation. During the 1970s and 1980s, many of Czechoslovakia's most creative individuals were silenced, imprisoned, or sent into exile. Some found expression for their art through samizdat. Those artists, poets, and writers who were officially sanctioned were, for the most part, undistinguished. The award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1984 to Jaroslav Seifert--a poet identified with reformism and not favored by the Husak regime--was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak cultural scene.

In addition to applying repression, Husak also tried to obtain acquiescence to his rule by providing an improved standard of living. He returned Czechoslovakia to an orthodox command economy with a heavy emphasis on central planning and continued to extend industrialization. For a while the policy seemed successful because, despite the lack of investment in new technologies, there was an increase in industrial output. The government encouraged consumerism and materialism and took a tolerant attitude toward a slack work ethic and a growing blackmarket second economy. In the early 1970s, there was a steady increase in the standard of living; it seemed that the improved economy might mitigate political and cultural oppression and give the government a modicum of legitimacy.

By the mid-1970s, consumerism failed as a palliative for political oppression. The government could not sustain an indefinite expansion without coming to grips with limitations inherent in a command economy. The oil crisis of 1973-74 further exacerbated the economic decline. Materialism, encouraged by a corrupt regime, also produced cynicism, greed, nepotism, corruption, and a lack of work discipline. Whatever elements of a social contract the government tried to establish with Czechoslovak society crumbled with the decline in living standards of the mid-1970s. Czechoslovakia was to have neither freedom nor prosperity.

Another feature of Husak's rule was a continued dependence on the Soviet Union. As of the mid-1980s, Husak had not yet achieved a balance between what could be perceived as Czechoslovak national interest and Soviet dictate. In foreign policy, Czechoslovakia parroted every utterance of the Soviet position. Frequent contacts between the Soviet and Czechoslovak communist parties and governments made certain that the Soviet position on any issue was both understood and followed. The Soviets continued to exert control over Czechoslovak internal affairs, including oversight over the police and security apparatus. Five Soviet ground divisions and two air divisions had become a permanent fixture, while the Czechoslovak military was further integrated into the Warsaw Pact. In the 1980s, approximately 50 percent of Czechoslovakia's foreign trade was with the Soviet Union, and almost 80 percent was with communist countries. There were constant exhortations about further cooperation and integration between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in industry, science, technology, consumer goods, and agriculture. Deriving its legitimacy from Moscow, the Husak regime remained a slavish imitator of political, cultural, and economic trends emanating from Moscow.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Dissent and Independent Activity

Czech Republic

Through the 1970s and 1980s, the regime's emphasis on obedience, conformity, and the preservation of the status quo was challenged by individuals and organized groups aspiring to independent thinking and activity. Although only a few such activities could be deemed political by Western standards, the regime viewed any independent action, no matter how innocuous, as a defiance of the party's control over all aspects of Czechoslovak life. The regime's response to such activity was harassment, persecution, and, in some instances, imprisonment.

The first organized opposition emerged under the umbrella of Charter 77. On January 6, 1977, a manifesto called Charter 77 appeared in West German newspapers. The document was immediately translated and reprinted throughout the world. The original manifesto reportedly was signed by 243 persons; among them were artists, former public officials, and other prominent figures, such as Zdenek Mlynar, secretary of the KSC Central Committee in 1968; Vaclav Slavik, a Central Committee member in 1968; and Vaculik, author of "Two Thousand Words." Charter 77 defined itself as "a loose, informal, and open community of people" concerned with the protection of civil and human rights. It denied oppositional intent and based its defense of rights on legally binding international documents signed by the Czechoslovak government and on guarantees of civil rights contained in the Czechoslovak Constitution.

In the context of international detente, Czechoslovakia had signed the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1968. In 1975 these were ratified by the Federal Assembly, which, according to the Constitution of 1960, is the highest legislative organization. The Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Final Act (also known as the Helsinki Accords), signed by Czechoslovakia in 1975, also included guarantees of human rights.

The Charter 77 group declared its objectives to be the following: to draw attention to individual cases of human rights infringements; to suggest remedies; to make general proposals to strengthen rights and freedoms and the mechanisms designed to protect them; and to act as intermediary in situations of conflict. The Charter had over 800 signatures by the end of 1977, including workers and youth; by 1985 nearly 1,200 Czechoslovaks had signed the Charter.

The Husak regime, which claimed that all rights derive from the state and that international covenants are subject to the internal jurisdiction of the state, responded with fury to the Charter. The text was never published in the official media. Signatories were arrested and interrogated; dismissal from employment often followed. The Czechoslovak press launched vicious attacks against the Charter. The public was mobilized to sign either individual condemnations or various forms of "anti-Charters."

Closely associated with Charter 77, the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted (Vybor na obranu nespravedlive stihanych--VONS) was formed in 1978 with the specific goal of documenting individual cases of government persecution and human rights violations. Between 1978 and 1984, VONS issued 409 communiques concerning individuals prosecuted or harassed.

On a larger scale, independent activity was expressed through underground writing and publishing. Because of the decentralized nature of underground writing, it is difficult to estimate its extent or impact. Some observers state that hundreds of books, journals, essays, and short stories were published and distributed. In the mid-1980s, several samizdat publishing houses were in operation. The best known was Edice Petlice (Padlock Editions), which had published more than 250 volumes. There were a number of clandestine religious publishing houses that published journals in photocopy or printed form.

The production and distribution of underground literature was difficult. In most cases, manuscripts had to be typed and retyped without the aid of modern publishing equipment. Publication and distribution were also dangerous. Mere possession of samizdat materials could be the basis for harassment, loss of employment, and arrest and imprisonment.

Independent activity also extended to music. The regime was particularly concerned about the impact of Western popular music on Czechoslovak youth. The persecution of rock musicians and their fans led a number of musicians to sign Charter 77. In the forefront of the struggle for independent music was the Jazz Section of the Union of Musicians. Initially organized to promote jazz, in the late 1970s it became a protector of various kinds of nonconformist music. The widely popular Jazz Section had a membership of approximately 7,000 and received no official funds. It published music and promoted concerts and festivals. The regime condemned the Jazz Section for spreading "unacceptable views" among the youth and moved against its leadership. In March 1985, the Jazz Section was dissolved under a 1968 statute banning "counterrevolutionary activities." The Jazz Section continued to operate, however, and in 1986 the government arrested the members of its steering committee.

Because religion offered possibilities for thought and activities independent of the state, it too was severely restricted and controlled. Clergymen were required to be licensed. In attempting to manipulate the number and kind of clergy, the state even sponsored a pro-regime organization of Catholic priests, the Czechoslovak Association of Catholic Clergy (more commonly known as Pacem in Terris). Nevertheless, there was religious opposition, including a lively Catholic samizdat. In the 1980s, Frantisek Cardinal Tomasek, the Czech primate, adopted a more independent stand. In 1984 he invited the pope to come to Czechoslovakia for the 1,100th anniversary of the death of Methodius, the missionary to the Slavs. The pope accepted, but the trip was blocked by the government. The cardinal's invitation and the pope's acceptance were widely circulated in samizdat. A petition requesting the government to permit the papal visit had 17,000 signatories. The Catholic Church did have a massive commemoration of the 1,100th anniversary in 1985. At Velehrad (the site of Methodius's tomb) more than 150,000 pilgrims attended a commemorative mass, and another 100,000 came to a ceremony at Levoca (in eastern Slovakia).

Unlike in Poland, dissent, opposition to the government, and independent activity were limited in Czechoslovakia to a fairly small segment of the populace. Even the dissenters saw scant prospect for fundamental reforms. In this sense, the Husak regime was successful in preserving the status quo in "normalized" Czechoslovakia.

The selection of Mikhail Gorbachev as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1985, presented the Husak regime with a new and unexpected challenge to the status quo. Soon after assuming office, Gorbachev began a policy of "restructuring" (perestroika) the Soviet economy and advocated "openness" (glasnost') in the discussion of economic, social, and, to some extent, political questions. Up to this time, the Husak regime had dutifully adopted the programs and slogans that had emanated from Moscow. But, for a government wholly dedicated to the preservation of the status quo, subjects such as "openness," economic "restructuring," and "reform" had been taboo. Czechoslovakia's future course would depend, to a large extent, on the Husak regime's response to the Gorbachev program.

Czech Republic





CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.


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