|Czech Republic & Slovakia|
After WWII, Czechoslovakia was recreated with its pre-war borders except for Ruthenia which became part of the USSR. Eduard Benes resumed his postion as Czechoslovakia's leader.
Czechoslovakia had been mostly liberated by the Soviet and their influence remained strong even after the war. In the 1946 elections, the Communists won 38% of the vote and many important government positions. In February 1948, the Communists formed a new government in which they were clearly dominant. Benes was replaced by the Communist party leader, Klement Gottwold.
The new government was modeled closely on the Soviet system. The only real force was the Communist party although other parties were allowed to exist. However, the secret police prevented oppostion to the government and in the 1950's, show trial of those accused of being enimies of the Party resulted in sevral imprisonments and executions. Soon, the economy was centralized, agriculture was collectivized, and private ownership was eliminated.
After the teath of Gottwold in 1953, Antonin Zapotocky became president with Antonin Novotny as party secretary. Mild liberalization occurred in the period after the death of Stalin. In 1957, Antonin Novotny assumed the presidency and a Stalinist system was reimposed. After 1963, economic troubles force Novotny to de-Stalinize.
In 1968, attempts were made by intellectuals and party leaders to reform the system and create "socialism with a human face." In January 1968, Novotny was replaced as Party Secretary by Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak. In March, he was replaced as president by WWII general Ludvik Svobda. The new leadership began to liberalize and democratize the system in a period that came to be known as the Praque Spring. The government began its Action Program which allowed free speech, press, assembly, and religion. The program gave more power to non-Communist parties, began economic reforms, began the rehabilitation of people unjustly convicted from 1949 to 1954, and promised federal status to Slovakia.
The program was well received in Czechoslovakia and was praised by Romanian, Yugoslav, and Western European Communist Parties. However, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries became angry learning that this kind of liberalization could spread. Czechoslovakian leaders stood firm in their reform policies and tried to appease the hard-line Soviet Communists by pledging to maintain the Communist Party as the leading force in Czechoslovakian politics and by promising to continue its alliance with the USSR and the Warsaw Pact nations.
The Soviet Union and its other Warsaw Pact allies were not satisfied with Czechoslovia's promise and decided to put an end to the "Czechoslovak Experiment." On the 20th August, 1968, 600,000 Soviet, East German, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops invaded and occuped Czechoslovakia. Resistance was, for the most part, not violent, although twenty-five Czech and Slovaks were killed. Dubcek was abducted and taken to the Soviet Union.
Soviet troops were to remain in the country indefinitely. In April 1969, Dubcek was officially replaced as Party Secretary by another Slovak, Gustav Husak, who became president in 1975. Husak's government entirely reversed the reforms of the Prague Spring. Reformers were purged or punished and the country became a tightly controlled suuprter of the USSR.
During the 1970's, an underground resistance movement resulted in several hundred individuals signing a document charging the Husak regime with human rights violations. The government reacted by exiling or imprisoning the opposition's leaders.
In Cecember 1987, Husak resigned as general secretary bur maintained his presidency. Another hardliner, Milos Jukes, succeeded him as Party Secretary. As rapid changed occurred in the USSR and other Eastern European countries, Jukes found he could not sustain his Communist regime. He and the other party leaders resigned in November 1989. The government began negotiations with an opposition group, the Civic Forum, led by Vaclav Havel, a Czech writer.
A new government took offic in December with Marizn Calfa, a Slovak, as Prime Minister. Dubcek was elected head of the Federal Assembly which appointed Havel as president of Czechoslovakia. The country's first free elections in 44 years were held in June 1990. The Civic Forum won majorities in both houses of Parliament. Havel was reelected to a tow-year term and invited a former Communist to lead a coalition government.
In the spring of 1992, negotiations between Czechs and Slovaks over the economic disparity of the two area led to the decision to create two separate republics. On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia became the two separate nations of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.