Dedicated to the 100 million victims of communism worldwide.
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National Exhibit
National Exhibit
Czechoslovakia Under Communism

Czechoslovakia, which officially declared the achievement of socialism in 1960, experienced subsequent severe economic difficulties, including a decline of economic growth.

De-Stalinization remained a matter of words rather than deeds and Czech intellectuals started to speak up. At a congress of Czech writers, the Communist Party member Ludvik Vaculik accused the regime of having failed in its twenty years of domination to solve a single problem facing the society.

A growing unrest among intellectuals and students evolved in 1968 in a period known as the "Prague Spring." The compromise candidate chosen to replace the discredited president and Party first secretary Antonín Novotný was a Slovak apparatchik, Alexander Dubček. He was an unlikely reformer to attempt to combine socialism with democracy and economic security with civil liberties – while leaving the power monopoly of the Communist Party intact.

The events of 1968 catapulted Prague into the role of a challenger of the Soviet monopoly of Marxist ideology. Few, if any, ideological principles were left unchallenged. Sacrosanct values, such as the doctrine of global struggle between the socialist and capitalist camps, were questioned and rejected.
The "tanks of August" was Moscow’s answer. The Soviet-led military invasion in August 1968 was redefined as "selfless fraternal international assistance, a honest fulfillment of the pledge of non-interference into domestic affairs."

The post-invasion policies carried the official designation of "normalization", though "abnormalization" would have been a more accurate term. The aim was the reestablishment of the status quo ante: political reforms were squashed and the reformist Action Program of 1968 deactivated. Groups interested in enlarging political participation such as the Human Rights Society were outlawed. Censorship was reintroduced, penal legislation amended and rehabilitated victims of Stalinism were "de-rehabilitated."

The main protagonists of the "Prague Spring" were removed from the political scene, some went into exile. Alexander Dubček was dispatched as ambassador to Turkey, soon to be recalled and made a lowly official in the forestry administration. With Moscow’s approval, an ambitious Slovak, the opportunistic Gustv Husák, himself an earlier victim of Stalinism who had spent several years in jail, was chosen to lead the Party.

An estimated 500,000 Communists left the ranks of the Party, either voluntarily or in a purge conducted in 1970, reducing the ranks by one-third. Three-fourths of those affected were assigned to manual labor.

In addition to professional and occupational demotion, and the attendant economic deprivation, a sociopolitical stigma was attached to their families, with children denied access to higher education. Political loyalty, genuine or pretended, became the prime and frequently the only qualification of an office holder. Thousands of scientist and university professors were dismissed, 280,000 individuals lost their jobs for political reasons. "I would not hesitate to fire even Einstein!" was a vow expressed by a political appointee at the Academy of Sciences in Prague, prompting the comment that whereas in the Soviet Union healthy people were locked up in lunatic asylums, in Czechoslovakia mentally disturbed individuals were put in charges of healthy institutions. The country turned into what the French Communist poet Louis Aragon described as "the Biafra of the Soul."

An estimated 150,000 people fled abroad. It was an exodus of almost one percent of the population, a mini-diaspora of mainly the young, skilled and well educated, amounting to a considerable loss of talent. In the 1970s, the Party rule was fully restored, but the commitment to the cause was not. The Party ceased to seek such commitment, preferring a neutralized, superficially politicized, but essentially apolitical, population. Nothing was left of the original vision of the "new socialist citizen."

Instead an implicit social contract emerged: the rulers would rule and the citizenry were to be rewarded for not meddling in public affairs by allowed to attend to their private affairs. Preoccupation with the pleasures of a consumer society - an automobile, weekend cottage, a poodle, or a vacation – became widespread replacing the putative new socialist values.

Click for sources of the victims of communism

Location:  Central Europe
Capital:  Prague
Communist Rule:  1948-1989
Status:  31.12.92 - Dissolution
Victims of Communism:
65 000