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

Such a social contract did not produce ardent socialists but neither did it produce challengers of the existing status quo. The societal activism of the 1960s was replaced by the apathy of the 1970s. The passivity of the alienated public, immune to any kind of idealism, was also reflected in the economic sphere where minimal exertion became an universal norm.

"The spirit of Helsinki" in 1975 bore its best fruit in the form of a manifesto, Charter 77, issued in January 1977 in Prague through an initiative of Vaclav Havel, and a handful of dissidents, and subsequently signed by several hundred individuals from various walks of life – Communists and non-Communists, intellectuals as well as blue-collar workers, former victims of the regime as well as former potentates, including an army general and a police colonel.

It was a truly unique document, for it was an appeal to the government to obey its own laws. It cited the provisions of valid statutes and ratified international conventions and stressed the necessity to live up to these commitments. The signatories of the Charter 77 were explicit in their emphasis neither to challenge the government nor to form any opposition. Yet, not a single sentence of the Charter 77 was ever mentioned in the mass media. This blackout notwithstanding thousands of citizens were forced under the threat of severe repercussions to append their signatures to the condemnation of the document they were not permitted to read.

With poorly qualified opportunists in charge of all levels of responsibility, the economy registered negative growth in 1981.

The policies of reconstruction (perestroika) and glasnost initiated in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev following his assumption of power in 1985 explicitly rejected the practices of Brezhnev era, characterized as one of corruption and decay. Yet, what Moscow rejected as "stagnation", proved particularly difficult for the Czech leadership to emulate. Prague continued to adhere to "normalization" as the only correct course. No substantial change was achieved in December 1987, when president Husak was forced to surrender the leadership of the Communist Party and Miloš Jakeš, a colorless apparatchik, was chosen as his successor. He was deeply involved in the mammoth purge of the 1968 reformers and was subsequently in charge of failed economic policies.

By the end of the annus mirabilis 1989 – exactly two hundred years after the French Revolution - the East European regimes fell apart with increasing speed. What took ten months in East Germany and ten weeks in Hungary, took a mere ten days in Czechoslovakia. While gallons of blood were shed in Romania, not a shot was fired in what became known as the "Velvet Revolution." A so-called government of national reconciliation undertook the task of transition toward pluralistic democracy. The playwright Vaclav Havel was catapulted from dissident to president, from jail to castle – the kind of scenario fitting this author of the theater of the absurd. In December 1989, the parliament which a few months earlier would have sent Havel to the gallows, elected him unanimously to be the head of the republic.

"Nationalism is the last stage of communism," has become a frequently heard diagnosis. Whereas the majority of the Czechs seemed to view nationalism as an expression of a "collective inferiority complex", in Slovakia it was cherished as a prime value to which other considerations had to be subordinated. An increasing number of Czechs responded with philosophical resignation to these aspirations, with the sentiment that "everyone has the right to live his nineteenth century,".

The "velvet revolution" was followed by a "velvet divorce" that was finalized in November 1992 by the majority vote in the federal parliament. At the stroke of midnight ending the year 1992, the state of Czechoslovakia expired, at the age of seventy-two. Unlike the majority of Czechs who viewed the separation as an unnecessary impoverishment, jubilation erupted on the streets of Slovakia. Least enthusiastic was the Hungarian minority of 600,000 residing mainly in southern Slovakia.

After almost twenty years on the road toward the goal of pluralistic democracy, the burden of four decades of totalitarian experience is still all too visible: lack of tolerance, unwillingness to consider one’s political opponent an honorable person, compromise viewed as a dirty word implying an unacceptable surrender, a "give-and- take" approach seen as abandonment of one’s principles. Lack of inhibitions about not telling the truth still prevails. Miloš Zeman, former premier, acknowledged that it was easier to get rid of the communist power than of the communist mentality which each person absorbed to some degree.

In the nation at large the unwillingness to face the past and the record of less than admirable behavior persist. The multitudes of crimes of the communist era are ignored and the culprits left unpunished. Former tormentors frequently draw higher pensions than their former victims. Many former Communist functionaries switched from the political to the far more lucrative economic roles.

In contrast to all the other East European countries, the Communist Party (Komunistické strana Čech a Moravy – KSČM) continues to prosper, momentarily enjoying the electoral support as the third largest force in the state, with substantial visibility, represented in the National Assembly, still under its original thoroughly discredited label -- though having replaced the revolutionary symbols of a hammer and sickle with red cherries.



Author Bio:

Otto Ulc =author bio not available]

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