IBDP History EEs and IAs devoted to Czechoslovakia

Free essays about Czechoslovakia

To what extent did the legislative structure of Czechoslovakia under the Husák regime contribute to the breakup of Czechs and Slovaks?

Investigation plan…………………….….………..………………….…page 3
Summary of evidence…………………..…...…………………...........….page 4
Evaluation of sources…………….……..…………….……………....…page 9
Analysis…………………………….……….….…………………....…page 11
Conclusion……………………..…...……………………..………...…page 16
List of sources……………..………..………………..……………..….page 18
Appendix A1…………………………………………………………..page 21
Appendix A2…………………………….…………………………….page 22
Appendix A3…………………………….…………………………….page 24

Investigation plan

To what extent did the legislative structure of Czechoslovakia under the Husák regime contribute to the breakup of Czechs and Slovaks?

This research examines the relationships between the two main ethnical groups living in the federative Czechoslovakia before it broke up. The Czech-Slovak relations were influenced by many factors before the final split. However this research is focused to examine only the influence of the legislative structure of the Husák’s centralised federalism in communistic Czechoslovakia.

Czech historian Rychlík’s Rozpad Československa was used as the primary source, providing a deep overview of the disintegration of Czechoslovakia. Pollák, chronicler of the former Slovak president as well as Pavol Dubček, son of Alexander Dubček, were interviewed. Secondary sources, the majority of which are Czech and Slovakian, will be used to provide insight from books, newspapers and various statistics to analyse the relationships between the two nations in Czechoslovakia under Husák’s rule.

(Investigation Plan- 148 words)

Summary of evidence

Czechoslovakia at its establishment after the Pittsburgh Agreement was an artificial state contradicting the idea of self-determination as it included many nations, including the majority Czechs and Slovaks. [1] First president T. G. Masaryk denied self-determination for Slovaks stating “The Slovaks are Bohemians in spite of their using their dialect as their literary language”[2]. Leff called the policies of Czech politicians the assimilation of Slovaks under a common umbrella of Czechoslovakism.[3] Goebbels in the dying days of the Third Reich had prophesised that Czechoslovakia would become “the organising centre of Bolshevik plots against Europe.”[4] Indeed, Czechoslovakia finally fell under the direct rule of Moscow after the February 1948 coup.[5] During the time of so-called normalization post-1969[6], Head of State Husák declared his intention to return to the idea of “real socialism”.[7] Although communists proclaimed themselves the biggest nationalists,[8] the legislative structure of federation during this time exacerbated national problems between Czechs and Slovaks. The conflicts, which had their origins during Husák’s regime, culminated in final the separation of these nations in 1992, were:

1. Social

Because Marxist-Leninism could not justify the connection of Czechs and Slovaks in one nation because it emphasised national traditions over communist ideology, legislative restrictions were partially based on emphasizing common ideas of Czechoslovakism,[9] while ideas of self-determination were forbidden. [10] For Czechs this negated the ideas of Masaryk and Beneš since they asserted Slovaks were a part of Czech culture, while Slovaks were denied studying Hlinka and Tiso, supporters of independence.[11] This censorship was ensured by having teachers and professors appointed after strict verification by the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) and by state directives which allowed work from ‘forbidden’ authors to be read only after special authorisation, which was practically impossible to get.[12] This ultimately caused both sides to feel denied of their national history and to subsequently blame each other.
2. Political

Furthermore, the ‘federative’ system in Czechoslovakia, modelled on the USSR, caused Czechs and Slovaks to have unequal powers which limited the real meaning of federation.[13] Although both Czechs and Slovaks had their own governments[14], from 1970 the decisions of these governments could be vetoed by the federative government under restrictions of the KSČ led from Prague.[15] De facto, other institutions were directly subordinate to Prague’s KSČ, such as the Slovak Communist Party (KSS), various ministries[16], Slovak National Council (SNR), National Front (NF), army, security institutions, or courts.[17] Members and plenums of these institutions were fully organised by the KSČ. Even the results of ‘elections’ of Slovakia’s federative government and KSS were decided in Prague before actual elections, because the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (ÚV KSČ) was arranging all three governments in Czechoslovakia.[18] Čarnogurský argues Slovaks were not a real part of this federation having lost control over Slovakia and its internal affairs.[19]
3. Economic

Finally, economic measures under Husák were unequal. Slovak economist Slavo Koštúch stated as early as 1971: “You are saying that we are brothers, but our wallets are not sisters.”[20] Slovakian economists agreed that the country’s budget, depending on Slovakian money through the highest taxes of all socialist countries[21], were charged from Slovakian industries with only a miniscule amount returning to Slovakia; the rest being spent on Czech infrastructure and rebuilding the capital city.[22] This strengthened the view that Slovakia was economically exploited by Czechs and Moravians. Czech economists such as Komárek, Zeman and Klaus [23] retorted that the economy in fact suffered because Czech was providing enormous amounts of money to Slovakia rather than rebuilding the ‘homeland’.[24] This caused both sides to feel that the federation was inefficient and exploitative.

(Summary of evidence- 597 words)

Evaluation of sources

Czech historian Jan Rychlík’s, Rozpad Československa: Česko-slovenské vzťahy was published in Slovakia in 2002 with the stated purpose of analysing the causes for the disintegration of Czechoslovakia.[25] Rychlík took full advantage of the opening of the Soviet and Czechoslovakian archives and the first-hand experiences of Czechoslovak politicians[26] who provided him interviews, to support his argument. However the archives were not fully profitable for research given that Slovakia does not allow documents within the last 30 years to be made public and not all documents in the Czech Republic were available in the public archive. [27] His analysis of the relations between Czechs and Slovaks is helped by the fact that he studied and worked in both countries. During Husák’s regime, he experienced the impact of communism on Czechoslovakia first-hand. Given that his main focus of the book is analysing of the last three years of federation (1989-1992), he tends to gloss over important events of the 1970s and 1980s which later influenced events.

Pavol Pollák, a Slovakian politician in communist-era Czechoslovakia, was Alexander Dubček’s collaborator from the start of the latter’s political career until his ‘disappearance’. His specialty was mainly within the Soviet-Czechoslovak communication sphere.[28] After disintegration he worked as a chronicler for Slovakian president Kováč. The purpose of the interview was to gauge the view of a politician in the position of providing a unique and personal analysis of the impact of communist legislation on Czech-Slovak relations, particularly given his role over such a long period of time. As a chronicler in the presidential agency, he had access to the national and communist archives, which were opened after 1992. While acknowledging his support of a common Czechoslovak federation, he admits disagreeing with Husák’s centralised model of federation which at times colours his opinions of a number of the sources. A number of topics, including comparison of Husák’s and Dubček’s government, were not fully open to discussion given his continued loyalty to the latter.

(Evaluation of sources- 323 word)


The Husák era was most important in the history of the Czechoslovak nations because it marked the start of normalisation up to abolition of communism in the USSR, leading to the division of for the first time in 460 years.[29] Far from strengthening and ‘normalising’ Czechoslovakia, the hard-line rule of Gustav Husák created even more internal conflicts, leading to final disintegration in 1992.

The structure of the state should be studied when considering its legislation. Although Czechoslovakia was a federation, it was still a communist state based on the centralistic model of the USSR federation with the centre in Prague.[30] Nevertheless, Husák’s state did not seek to assimilate Slovaks under the common culture of Czechoslovakism as happened in the Soviet model with non-Russian nationalities, but sought good relations under the motto qietum non movere while propagating socialism as the best solution for solving the Czech-Slovak ‘question’.[31]

Although both nations in Czechoslovakia felt their national historical identities threatened during the communist era, Czech and Slovak cultures were strengthened in many ways. The similar languages helped Czechoslovaks to be naturally bilingual since the mass-media provided information in both languages, such as national television CSTV.[32] Abolition of national festivals such as 28th September and 29th August, and emphasising the “Czechoslovakia’s Day of Liberation by Soviet troops” created common customs and cultures for both nations resulting in a Czechoslovak culture containing two subcultures which were mutually interconnected creating a European country in times of peaceful internal stability appear strong and united[33].

Most agree that Slovaks never had the power to run their own internal affairs at any time in their history stretching back four centuries,[34] but Steiner argues that under Husák, Slovakia was finally regarded as a separate part of the national unit and administrative region.[35] From the time of normalization, Husák, a Slovak, was head of the KSČ and also president of Czechoslovakia; it appeared to many that the Slovaks were actually the ones “running the show”.[36] Besides Husák, the government included many other Slovaks in important positions[37], although they were in the minority according to the proportional division of government, which allowed 1500 Slovaks to 4500 Czechs in new federal institutions.[38] These views created the opinion among Czechs that they were ruled by the minority, antagonising Czech-Slovak relations. Nevertheless, the KSČ had the power to deny decisions of both national governments when it felt it was necessary to run the federation.[39] Slovak Husák himself could not be considered to have worked for Slovakian prosperity; although his 1969 motto was “Slovakia for Slovakians” emphasising the Slovak nationality,[40] the opposite became true. He did not give Slovaks their promised constitution or national arms and in public he only spoke Czech, leading to the Slovakian complaint that he was a “Prague Slovak”.[41]

Thirdly, both nations in the common federation felt that the economical measures of the legislation are unfair. High transfer of resources from Czech lands to Slovakia, which was the reason for dissatisfaction of Czechs, was caused by the big gap between living conditions in both republics, which had to be eliminated.[42] Nevertheless, it is important to consider that it is difficult to follow the financial flows in Czechoslovakia in that era because of common federative budget, so it is hard to arbitrate between ‘exploiting’ of Slovak economy and ‘suffering’ of Czech one. It is important to consider that Czechoslovak economy was working as uniform economy of one state, and it is necessary and natural even today that the ‘richer’ parts of one country have to supply ‘poorer’ ones, such as also ‘poorer’ parts of the country have to pay taxes even though the infrastructure of the ‘richer’ part could profit from these taxes more.[43] So the whole economic conflict was just artificially made up as the result of the high tension between two nations living in the same state.

(Analysis- 638 words)


The hard-line communist regime in Czechoslovakia occurred during so-called normalization of Czechoslovakia after Gustav Husák became the first secretary of the KSČ in 1969. The legislative measures and restrictions of this regime caused disagreements about some national, political and economical questions between Czechs and Slovaks in the common state. Both nations were felt to be denied for their national spirit, felt to be aggrieved because of the division of powers and felt to suffer because of the economical measures in the communist Czechoslovakia. These were also some of the causes that led to the final division of these two ‘brotherly’ nations after Husák left the position of head of the state and after the fall of communism in November 1989, when the separation was possible, since Czechoslovakia was not anymore occupied by the soviet troops[44] and under influence of the USSR. However, legislation in this communist regime did not have only negative influence on the relationships between Czechs and Slovaks and living conditions in Czechoslovakia, since the big part of the nation was finally against the separation of this federation.[45]

(Conclusion- 180 words)

List of sources


• Brager, L. B.: The Iron Curtain: The Cold War in Europe. Philadelphia 2004
• Cottrell, C. R.: The Czech Republic- Arbitrary Borders. Philadelphia 2005
• Hochman, J.: Nádej zomiera posledná Bratislava 1993
• Hradecka, V. - Koudelka, F.: Kádrova politika a nomenklatúra KSČ. Prague 1998
• Hubl, M.: Cesty k moci. Prague 1990
• Kirschbaum, S. J.: A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival. New York 1995
• Kishlansky M. – Geary P. - O’Brien P.: Societies and Cultures in World History. New York 1995
• Leff, Skalnik, C.: National Conflict in Czechoslovakia. Princeton 1988
• Lettrich, J.: History of Modern Slovakia New York 1955
• Millar R. J.: Politics, Work, and Daily Life in the USSR Cambridge 1988
• Millar, R. J. – Wolchik, L. S.: The Social Legacy of Communism Washington 1997
• Naďovič, S.: Foertsch H. - Karacsony, I. - Ostrowski, Z.: The Great Withdrawal. Bratislava 2005
• Nejedlý, Z.: Komunisté- dedici velkých tradic českého národa. 4. ed. Prague 1951
• Nogueres, H.: Munich, Peace for Our Time. New York 1965
• Plevza, V.: Historie československé současnosti. Prague 1978
• Roberts J. M.: The Penguin History of the World London 1997
• Rychlík, J.: Rozpad Československa: Česko-slovenské vzťahy. Bratislava 2002
• Šaling, S. – Šalingová Ivanová, M. – Manikova, Z.: Slovník cudzích slov. Bratislava 2002
• Steiner, E.: The Slovak Dilemma. London 1973
• Tkáč, M.: Národ bez peňazí. Bratislava 1992
• Tomašek, D.: Pozor, Cenzurováno. Prague 1994
• Wessel, S. M.: Loyalitaten in Tsechoslowakischen Republic 1918-1938. Munich 2004
• Žatkuliak, J.: Normalizácia česko-slovenskej federácie roku 1970 a jej následky. Banská Bystrica 1997


• Journal Alternativa: “Interview with Jan Čarnogurský” 2/1989
• The New York Times: "Prague Turns on Those Who Brought the 'Spring'", Tagliabue, John 24 Feb. 1992
• Journal Pravda: “The structure of the federative government” 27. Feb. 1969


• Danielle Seiler: Czechoslovakia: A state of perceived bias. 28 April 1998, (Date accessed: November 2007)
• Policy research department of the World Bank: Cash social transfers, direct taxes, and income distribution in late socialism. September 1993, (Date accessed: November 2007)
• The sociological institute SAV Bratislava: Československá Česká a Slovenská európska identita. April 2002, (Date accessed: November 2007)
• Open society archives: Eastern Europe’s Communist Leaders. 1 September 1966, (Date accessed: November 2007)


• Dubček P., interview held during personal meeting, 14th July 2007, Bratislava, Slovakia
• Pollák P., interview held during meeting in his apartment, 2nd August, Bratislava, Slovakia

Appendix A1

Abbreviations used in the assessment

• FZ- (Federálne Zhromaždenie) Federal Congress
• CNR- (Česká Národní Rada) Czech National Council
• KSČ- (Komunistická Strana Československa) Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
• KSS- (Komunistická Strana Slovenska) Communist Party of Slovakia
• ÚV KSČ- (Ústredný Výbor Komunistickej Strany Československa) Central Committee of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
• SNR- (Slovenská Národná Rada) Slovak National Council
• NF- (Národná Fronta) National Front

[1] Lettrich (p. 289)
[2] Masaryk propagated that Slovaks are actually the same nation as Czechs. He wanted to include Slovaks, a ‘tribe’, under the Czech culture. Kirschbaum (p. 149)
[3] Skalnik Leff (p. 136)
[4] Nogueres (p. 249-251)
[5] The communist coup in the last non-communist country in Eastern Europe destroyed all beliefs for Czechoslovakia’s independence. Roberts (p. 939)
[6] Hochman (p. 212) called it a step back to totalitarian Czechoslovakia after promising democratisation by Dubček in 1968 during Prague Spring. The resulting Soviet invasion was already the second betrayal by allies (the first one was Munich 1938) resulted in the most cynic joke in Czechoslovakia: “Every Czech knows what is the luckiest country in the world: Israel, because it is surrounded only by enemies” Brager (p. 99)
[7] “Real socialism” supposed to eliminate the ‘mistakes’ made during the Prague Spring. It was used as the reason to made KSČ centralised and autocratic. Rychlík (p. 15)
[8] According to Nejdlý (p. 71) Marxism proclaimed that “proletariat does not have homeland”, however the communism after 1945 which came to Eastern Europe and Asia was contrary, since it was based on ideas of patriotism, independence and national unity.
[9] Wessel (p. 23) states that Czechoslovakism was a political ideology from the first Czechoslovak republic (1918-1938), which stated that Czechs and Slovaks are one Czechoslovak nation including two ‘tribes’. Cottrell (p. 56) continues that the constitution of 1920 deemed “Czechoslovak” as the official language of the new republic, and designed Slovaks as “state people”, not members of a national minority.
[10] Dubček P., interview, 2nd August 2007
[11] According to secret directive of the Ministry of culture from 31 May 1972, all books that could called as ‘harmful’ or ‘revisionist’ were forbidden for public- Rychlík (p. 20)
[12] According to Tomašek (p. 154-155) this supposed to guarantee that no public discussions, which could disrupt the Czech-Slovak relations, will be held.
[13] Real meaning of Czechoslovak world federácia (federation) meant- “political connection of two or more states with equality before one constitution and where each state has the control of its internal affairs”, however this wasn’t the case. Šaling- Ivanová Šalingová- Maníková (p. 191)
[14] Czechs had ČNR- Česká Národní Rada, while Slovaks had SNR- Slovenská Národná Rada
[15] Therefore the real meaning of “federation” had been lost. Real Czechoslovak federation would have two non-subordinate political bodies like it was in Tito’s Yugoslavia. Rychlík (p. 26)
[16] Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Industry Development and Ministry of Internal Affairs were indeed subordinated to KSČ
[17] This gave Husák power to appoint ‘his people’ for the important positions in the state institutions. Hradecká (p. 97) An analogy could be the way how Stalin came to absolute power in the Soviet Union, which was also through these powers and connections.
[18] Rychlík (p.29) provides the example: Jozef Lenárt was announced to be the new secretary of KSS even before the actual elections. Indeed, as Pollák related to me, the political results of all elections were a foregone conclusion as the communist party always obtained more than 99% of the votes (interview, 2nd August 2007).
[19] “With federation we received formal coequality in the state, but still cannot solve our internal affairs by ourselves, because communism does not allow it. This overshadows all the assets of federation. By assets I mean national affairs, the nation should solve by itself, such as mainly education, culture, or partially economy.” Journal Alternativa, 2/1989, p. 41
[20] Koštúch- after KSČ declined the idea of two independent economies in the federation. Hubl (p.42-43)
[21] Direct and payroll taxes of some socialist countries in 1980s can be seen in Table 2- Appendix A2
[22] Tkáč (126) discusses that while central government was locating not profitable primary industry businesses to Slovakia, the secondary and tertiary industry of the federation was located mainly in Czech lands, so naturally Czech lands profited more money from the material that Slovakia produced.
[23] All would later become Czech politicians while arguing about the perceived exploitation of the Czech economy by Slovakia and thus justifying Czech independence. Pavol Pollák, interview 2nd August 2007
[24] The transfer of resources from the Czech lands to Slovak region can be seen in Table 2 in Appendix A2
[25] In author’s own words, the period of the federation during normalization with the final years of disintegration in 1989-1992 are the most important things to analyse to understand the Czech- Slovak relationships- Rychlík (p. 9)
[26] In particular Petr Pithard, Ján Čarnorurský, Václav Žák, Martin Porubjak, Mikuláš Huba, Anton Hrnko, Jacek Balouch, Gyorgy Varga and others
[27] Therefore Rychlík could not use the national archives for the research of 1980s and 90s. This made him use mainly private archives and the archives of non-governmental organisations. Jan Rychlík (p. 9)
[28] Pollák also was previously a member of Interhelpo, which included more than a thousand idealistic Czechoslovak Communists who formed an industrial cooperation with the Soviet Union which remained in existence until 1943- http://www.osa.ceu.hu/files/holdings/300/8/3/text/17-3-143.shtml
[29] Except the period of WWII when Czech lands were occupied by the Nazi Germany, both nations were in one country since 1526 when Ferdinand I included Czech lands into Habsburg monarchy
[30] However, Žatkuliak (p.251) states that the ideas of communism and a federation are contradictory. While communism is based on so-called democratic centralism with subordination lower party sections to higher ones like in army, federation requires division of powers.
[31] Normalisation historian Plevza (p. 36-42) states that the important moment, the creation of Czechoslovakia, was destroyed because of bureaucratic politicians (Masaryk, Beneš) who made Czechoslovakia easily destroyable by Germany. The communist putsch in 1948 opened the doors for the right solution for Czech-Slovak relations, however it still had some small ‘mistakes’ (Dubček). After 1968, KSČ finally realised the right Marxist-Leninists policies in national questions.
[32] The good example for importance of language could be seen here in China, where all the movies have Mandarin subtitles, so all the ethnical minorities speaking different dialects can understand them.
[33] Same nation cultures and same everyday problems in both republics created apparently one solid nation. However, big social and political changes in 1980s and 90s actually showed that the common national awareness was actually weak. Rychlík (p. 25)
[34] Kishlansky- Geary- O’Brien (p. 981) stated that Slovaks were never accepted as a national unit running own internal affairs. During Habsburg’s monarchy, word “Slovaks” were not even used, then during the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1948) there was only Czechoslovak nation, not Slovak one, and even during the short period during the World War II, when Slovakia declared independence, Tiso made agreement with Hitler according to which Slovakia was like a protectorate of Nazi Germany.
[35] Slovaks were recognised as a different nation and national unit and had their own government (SNR) according to Steiner (p. 41)
[36] Leff (p. 251). An analogy today could be Scot-educated Tony Blair and Scot Gordon Brown running #s 10 and 11 Downing St while the Midlothian question allows for Scotland to have a say in English issues.
[37] Slovaks- Minister of Foreign Affairs was Chnoupek, his deputy Nálepka, Minister of National Security Dzúr, Minister of Foreign Trades Barčák and the Ministries of Industry Stancel and Bahýl.- Rychlík (p.31)
[38] However, it was problematic to maintain this ratio since three out of seven ministries in the federation crated in 1969 maintained already from 1960s, where Czechs were in clear superiority. Pravda, 27. 2. 1969
[39] However even Slovak politician Karol Laco defends this veto power of the KSČ, so the common politics of Czechoslovakia were able to be achieved Rychlík (p. 27)
[40] Ibid (p. 33)
[41] However Pollák stated that Husák could not afford strengthening of Slovak patriotism, because it would result in destabilisation of internal affairs and bad image in the view of Moscow. For Husák it was much more profitable to be the head of whole Czechoslovakia, than to be just a head of ‘poor’ Slovakia.
[42] E.g. the income per capita gap in 1948 was 40% between Czech Lands and Slovakia, however thanks to the transfer of resources, in 1970s this gap was reduces to half- http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-42098-14735/unrestricted/etd.pdf. According to Millar and Wolchik, in book The social legacy of communism (p. 219), under Husák Czechoslovakia was socially and economically one of the best socialist countries. See Appendix A2 Table 3. However, Millar in his other book, Politics, work, and daily life in the USSR (p. 172), argues that the social position of Czechoslovak citizens was one of the worst from all the Eastern European countries in 1980s, since Czechoslovakia was the most egalitarian from all the countries.
[43] Rychlík (p. 43) argues that these financial supplies are negligible in one-nation country, however because of high tension between Czechs and Slovaks, politicians often used the economic reasons to accuse the other side.
[44] The last soviet soldier in Czechoslovakia, Colonel General Eduard Vorobiov left Czechoslovakia in Jun 21 1991. Naďovič- Foertsch- Karacsony- Ostrowski (p. 88)
[45] In 1993, only one year after Czechoslovakia was separated, more than 40 % of the nation assessed the separation of these two nations as negative. see Appendix A3 (Figure 1 and Figure 2)

History Internal Assessment

“To what extent was the terrain, the equipment of the Czech army, Czech fortifications and the unpreparedness of the German army going to help Czechoslovakians win the war that was lost without a battle?”


Plan of Investigation……………………………………………………………3

Summary of Evidence…………………………………………………………3

Evaluation of Sources………………………………………………………….5



Works Cited………………………………………………………………………9

Plan of Investigation

“To what extent was the terrain, the equipment of the Czech army, Czech fortifications and the unpreparedness of the German army going to help Czechoslovakians win the war that was lost without a battle?” This investigation will look at the 4 different factors that Williamson Murray argues that they gave Czechoslovakia a strong advantage against the Germans in 1938 during the Sudetenland crisis.  This investigation will not investigate events leading up to the crisis or after the crisis, it will also be limited to Czechoslovakia and Germany only. Using Czech and English sources, books such as The Forts and Fortifications of Europe 1815-1945, which will provide valuable unseen data and never explored facts, and a military study from 1937 by the Czech Military that provides first-hand perspective at that time, a conclusion will be made. I will also analyze views of various historians     such as J.E. Kaufmann and Jonathan Zarach to get more perspective on the fortifications and unpreparedness of the German power. The terrain and fortifications of south west and west Czechoslovakia will be shown using a map and it will be compared to the Basel-Dunkirk line. It will be crucial to analyze both sides involved to come to a balanced conclusion. The unpreparedness of the German army and the equipment that the Czech army had will be investigated using personal accounts from within the German army and military statistics.

Word Count – 231 words

Summary of Evidence

After the Munich conference in 1938, the Czech’s were put under heavy pressure by the Germans due to Sudetenland which was home to millions of ethnic Germans.  After increasing tensions between Czechoslovakia and Germany, on September 23rd Hitler met Chamberlain to discuss his intentions over Sudetenland otherwise he would threaten with war if his demands were not fulfilled.
Czechoslovakia had formal defense treaties with France and England however France and England were very reliant on each other and if one did not help, the other would not either.  On September 28th Hitler demanded that Czechoslovakia would either fight or give up Sudetenland, however Beneš only partially agreed by giving a smaller portion of Sudetenland but it did not satisfy Hitler.  The disagreement would then be finally sorted out at the Munich Conference on 29th-30th September, without any Czech representative.  After Czechoslovakia gave up shortly after having prepared 1,250,000 soldiers, Beneš resigned under pressure from their so called allies France and Britain to prevent European war.  War was imminent at any point of the year of 1938 but the Germans had a lot to consider. David Vital stated “The Germans took the Czech fortifications very seriously and considered them the major obstacle.” meaning that fortifications were Germany’s worry.  If they decided to fight, it would have been a tough battle, Historians argued that Czech defenses were a worry but even the German High Command had worries about Czech fortifications and defense.  Marshal von Manstein said “we would have been held up by her fortifications, for we did not have the means to break through” showing how uncertain the results of war between Czechoslovakia and Germany would have been. Czech fortifications were set out so that they would be able to fall back and use terrain to their advantage, with space between the border and Czechoslovakia.  Germany also was proved to be weak in 1938.  Germany had to still worry about the Rhine-land making sure that France would not pose a threat to Hitler, showing it was crucial that power was balanced wisely between the East and West side of Germany.  Germany had many divisions facing France and the communication was weak because of the spread of the army.  Most German soldiers were half un-trained, while the Czechs had the advantage of having the “sober and discipline force” however there were more soldiers available to the Germans.  The Czech army had the advantage of terrain, which was said that it would cause more casualties than the campaign against Poland in 1939.  Using terrain the Czechs formed a similar defense line to the Maginot Line since French officers helped Czechoslovakians form this line. ,  This made the terrain much harder to battle in for the Germans.

Word Count – 453 words

Evaluation of Sources

Source 1

Dating from August 1937 on the orders of General Husárka, this map is therefore based on first-hand access to the information required. The map is an extract from the highly credible official Prague military institution, meaning that it served the purpose to archive and possibly learn from mistakes in the future.  There is a limitation created by the time of the map (1937) because the war would have broken out mid 1938, providing less valuable information to someone researching the precise time in 1938. The graphing of the borders is fairly vague, not showing gaps or any geography besides rivers and main towns, which can also be seen as a limitation. The source could be limited because of bias, it is not known at whom this study was aimed at meaning that the map could have been altered to provide an advantage. However, this map holds a strength that it shows how complete the fortifications were , it also provides the level of fortifications which are categorized in “Heavy”, “Light” and “dependent” and “independent” fortifications. On this map it is clearly shown that the Czechs were well fortified, but with most outer fortifications being only in the first and second stages of completion. The purpose of the research would have been to serve information to the higher state officials of the Czechoslovakian army at that time but the limitation is that one does not know how much of the study was taken into account or even if it was read/noticed by anyone.

Source 2

The Forts and Fortifications of Europe 1815 – 1945: The Central States

J.E. Kaufmann – H.W. Kaufmann

The Forts and Fortifications of Europe 1815 – 1945 provides a clear analysis of all the fortifications that played a role in the time 1815 – 1945 in central Europe only. It provides excellent value because the authors would have had access to rare and unexplored documents & reports. This source would be aimed at anyone from fortification enthusiasts to people who want to study fortifications in central Europe. It was published in 2014 showing that the data would be up to date and that thorough research could have been carried out. The limitations are that some diagrams of fortifications were taken from less reliable sources, such as textbooks, and even some of the diagrams are not sourced. The largest strength that this book provides is that there is no opinion or bias provided, there is always a balance between both countries (Czechoslovakia and Germany).

Word Count - 395 words

Murray argues that Czechoslovakia had a large advantage against the Germans because of “the nature of the terrain, the equipment of the Czech army, Czech fortifications and the general state of unpreparedness of the German armored force” in 1938.
The nature of the terrain proved to be one of the biggest advantages to the Czechs, as Kaufmann stated “At the time, both armies were equal, and terrain favored the defender.” However, fortifications ended up being also very important so Czechoslovakia would have been able to hold the Germans in front of the mountainous terrain. A lot of negative opinion coming from German military leadership, which believed that the Czechoslovakians would have been a tough war and that leaving the weak Rhineland open to the French would have been risky shows that the organization of the German military would have been crucial for winning against the Czechs.  All these factors would have decided on victory if Czechoslovakia would have fought the German’s in 1938.

After the Czechs lost confidence in France and Russia, they started building fortifications along the German-Czech border.  The fortifications would bring time for the Czechoslovakians to mobilize without disruption  and the fortifications were supported by the harsh terrain of southwest Czechoslovakia.  However, Zorach further studied the fortifications and there are many counter-facts that prove the fortifications weak. The French spent 30 times as much money than the Czechs on the Basel-Dunkirk frontier which was 2,097km compared to the 776km which Czechs had to defend.  Reports from German Intelligence later discovered that the bunkers were poorly designed, they were strong but they had inadequate ventilation and a lot of dead space.  Kaufmann describes how the fortifications were built very quickly but at the same time, much of the equipment had not been installed and the forts were missing essential components. ,  All these factors would raise the question of how efficient the fortifications would have actually been in war. The fortifications were also not completely built by 1937 and they were at different stages of completion by the time the fortifications were needed.

The equipment of the Czech army proved to be a strong point in Czechoslovakian power. Beck informed Bloomberg that the German army would not be ready in the winter of 1938/39.  Germany could not win the war if it was on the defensive.  In September 1938, there were only 70 tanks armed significantly enough from the 1,200 tanks that they had available.  The Czechs had 540 tanks that had the same  power as Germany’s 70 tanks, proving a big disadvantage for the  Germans. J.E. Kaufmann argues in his book The Forts and Fortifications of Europe 1815-1945 that Germany had no advantage in military equipment besides Aircraft.  However, Naumann argues that a war against Czechoslovakia with the help of the Soviet Union could still have been managed because Germany’s readiness was undermined by a few.  Svoboda also argued that war against Germany would have been lost because not only was Czechoslovakia facing more soldiers, but every tenth general and every fifth soldier was an ethnic German meaning that there was miss-trust, which even led to Czechoslovakia removing ethnic German soldiers away from fortress and border positions. ,

The disorganization of the German army would have given a significant advantage to the Czechs. Czechoslovakia’s armored powers were much more efficient because tanks were scattered among infantry divisions instead of having armored only divisions compared as the Germans had.  The Czechs had been mobilizing since 1936 and enjoyed 21 divisions ready at all times, they were able to mobilize 20 extra divisions against the Germans in 1938.  5 of Germany’s divisions were facing France, making their total number of usable divisions against Czechoslovakia 32 divisions instead of 37.  However, no matter what the military statistics were, there were still the fortifications and strategies that had to be considered.

Word Count - 640 words

As William Shirer stated, I believe that Germany was in a “military impossible situation.  The Czechs had large fortification advantages and the German army was to a larger extent that unprepared that it would have made a difference of winning or losing a war that was never fought. The terrain and the equipment was not as problematic because both powers had disadvantages and advantages in both fields. Numbers however cannot be responsible for quality because technology and strategies largely mattered at that time for both sides. As it is stated in Czechoslovakia and Its powers, “neither side was obviously superior to the other”, but the Czech’s had an advantage of interior lines and had fortifications.  I as well as other historians do believe that if war started in 1938, it would have gone on for months before it would have been clear who would be more dominant.  As a Czech citizen myself I am of the opinion that Czechoslovakia would have won and essentially shown the rest of Europe that they were ready to stand up against the Germans.

Word Count – 179 words

Works Cited

1.    Cambria, Lawrence. Winning the Lost War Reassessing America's World War II Experience. N.p.: Rosedog Pr, 2013. Print.

2.    DBFP, vol. 1, no. 120, Memorandum by Stronge, 29 March 1938.

3.    Heer, Hannes, and Klaus Naumann. War of Extermination: The German Military in World War II, 1941-1944. New York: Berghahn, 2000. Print.

4.    Jonathan Zorach, "Czechoslovakia's Fortifications: Their Development and Role in the 1938 Munich Crisis," in Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen, vol. 20, 1976, 83.

5.    Kaufmann, J. E., H. W. Kaufmann, Aleksander Jankovič Potočnik, and Patrice Lang. The Maginot Line: History and Guide. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2011. Print.

6.    Kaufmann, J.E., and H.W. Kaufmann. The Forts and Fortifications of Europe 1815-1945: The Central States: Germany, Austria-Hungry and Czechoslovakia. 1st ed. Vol. 1. N.p.: Pen and Sword Military, 2014. Print.

7.    Murray, op. cit., p. 231; and David Vital, “Czechoslovakia and the Powers: September 1938,” Journal of Contemporary History, October 1966.

8.    Murray, Williamson. War over Czechoslovakia? N.p.: n.p., n.d. History CZ. History CZ, Aug. 2009. Web.

9.    Olson, James Stuart. Historical Dictionary of the Great Depression, 1929-1940. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Print.

10.    Record, Jeffrey. Appeasement Reconsidered: Investigating the Mythology of the 1930s. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2005. Print.

11.    Svoboda, Václav. Československá Armáda v Odboji Proti Nacismu v Období 1938 - 1942. Publication. Prague: Arcibiskupské Gymnázium, 2005. Print.

12.    The Czechs only had about 350 of these tanks, versus about 2100 German Pzkw Is and IIs (very light tanks armed only with machine guns).  700 tanks of a new series were on order but none were delivered before 30 September.  These were an important asset for the Germans in 1940, however -- one third of the German tanks that attacked France were Czech-built.  Hauner, 208-209.

13.    Vital, David. Journal of Contemporary History. 1st ed. Vol. 1. N.p.: Sage Publications, 1966. Print. Ser. 4.

14.    Vital, op. cit., p. 7. Also see Walter Gorlitz, ed., The Memoirs of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, David Irving, trans., New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000.

Extended essay History

Topic: The Significance of the Prague Spring in the development of communism in Czechoslovakia


I wish to thank Pavol Dubček and Pavol Pollák for kindly providing interviews in their free time. Special thanks to also to the Alexander Dubček Foundation for providing primary sources and a wide range of historical books for the purpose of this investigation.


The purpose of this investigation is to examine the significance of Prague Spring, in particular Alexander Dubček’s role, in the development of socialism in Czechoslovakia. One must first understand the factors leading to it, and this essay suggests four major reasons for the reforms resulting in the 1968 invasion: the inferior position of Slovaks in Czechoslovakia, the economic problems caused by its planned economy, the problematic legal system, and the centralised and dictatorial ideology of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party.

            The reforms introduced included freedom of speech, abolition of censorship and possible pluralism in the National Front which threatened the monolithic socialist bloc. The inevitable warnings and eventual response from the countries of the Treaty of Warsaw developed from the so-called Warsaw Letter, followed by the general meeting of socialist parties in Čierna nad Tisou, and finally the invasion by five countries of the Warsaw Pact.

The significance of Dubček in Prague Spring is stressed, having been the first to openly oppose the despotic rule of Novotný before replacing him as first secretary of the KSČ. Nevertheless, it is recognised that he would have been unable to have passed any reforms without others in the KSČ. It is hoped here to provide them with some recognition they have otherwise been denied.

            In the short-term, the success of the reforms has been argued, proving that communism was not monolithic and that even after Hungary in 1956 others had the courage to oppose the dictatorial rule of Moscow. However in the medium-term, Prague Spring brought eighteen years of autocratic communist rule in Czechoslovakia under Gustav Husák. Nevertheless, in the long-term consideration, Prague Spring gave psychological hope to Czechoslovakians; the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which abolished communism in Czechoslovakia, had its root in the ideas of Alexander Dubček from 1968.

 Word count: 296


To what extent were the reforms Alexander Dubček initiated responsible for the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czecholsovakia?

To start with the man himself, Dubček was born within the newly reorganised Europe after the culmination of the post-World War I treaties, on 27th August 1921, in the small Slovakian town of Uhrovec. There his father instilled in him a loyalty towards Moscow’s ideology. His family had lived most of the time in the Soviet Union and his father had received Soviet citizenship as a result of Stalin’s 1938 citizenship laws.[1] Dubček, upon returning to Czechoslovakia, entered the Czechoslovakian Socialist party at 18. This already showed his rebelling and reforming character as the party had been made an illegal organisation and he did so to protest the Munich agreement that year and against the current regime in Czechoslovakia. Five years later he found himself fighting in the Slovakian National Uprising, in which his brother died, against the Deutche Armiee occupation.

Dubček went on to study politics in Moscow a year before the Khrushchev’s deStalinisation had started. He returned to enjoy a quite radical promotion awaiting him. He was immediately elected into the Secretariat of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party (KSČ), two years later to the Presidium of the KSČ and followed one year after as First Secretary of Slovak Communist Party (KSS). Nevertheless, before 1967 Alexander Dubček was just an ordinary politician in the KSČ with neither decision-making power nor influence on decision-making of the KSČ, since the then First Secretary of KSČ, Antonín Novotný, held all power in his hands. Within a year before initiating the reforms that were to form the basis for the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Dubček became famous nearly overnight in October of 1967 by becoming an open critic of Novotný. On 5th of January 1968 he then became elected to the position of new First Secretary of KSČ.

Alexander Dubček became one of the youngest leaders in the communist world after Fidel Castro, if also having one of the shortest lasting reigns. Nevertheless, he is renowned today as having been among the most influential communist reformers ever.

Reasons for reforms

Czech historian Pavel Tigrid, a major anti-communist historian forced into exile, argues in his book Why Dubček Fell that there were four crucial factors in Czechoslovakia which lead to the radical reforms introduced by Alexander Dubček during so-called Prague Spring.[2]

1. Slovakia

Czechoslovakia was an artificially created state after World War I which included two major nations, the Czechs and the Slovaks. Already the first president Masaryk had denied any self-determination for Slovaks stating that “the Slovaks are Bohemians in spite of their using their dialect as their literary language”[3] and from then on all Czech politicians tried to assimilate Slovaks under the common umbrella of ‘Czechoslovakism’[4], which considered Czechs and Slovaks to be one nation including two ‘tribes’.[5]

Besides the denial of self-determination, the next problem was the division of powers in Czechoslovakia, which was modelled according to that of the USSR’s, assuring major power for Prague, giving it full over Slovakian institutions.[6] Furthermore, the division of industry was also seen as unfair. While the primary industrial sector was located in Slovakia, Czech lands maintained almost all facilities in the secondary and tertiary industrial sectors. Due to Stalin’s expansion of heavy industry, the efficiency of primary industrial sector in Slovakia decreased rapidly.[7] After the third five-years plan collapsed in 1962, Slovaks realized that the time for deStalinisation and even liberalisation has just come; however, until Alexander Dubček, they did not have any representative to voice their ideas.[8]

Nevertheless, Czech economists such as Komárek and Klaus argued that, even until the last years of the Czechoslovakian federation, the economic situation in Slovakia could not be the reason for Prague Spring, because for two decades before 1968, Czech lands were transferring record amounts of money to Slovakia.[9]

2. Economy

The division of industry, which led to many attacks upon the Czech side by Slovakian economists such as Slavo Koštúch[10], was not the only reason for the 1962 economic crisis in Czechoslovakia as they were for the most part due to Stalin’s policies.

The Czechoslovakian stock market was based on the protection of producers rather than consumers. However, on the other hand industrial enterprises were not searching for the market segment of the national market, but were directed to their market according to the interests of the party. This resulted in almost zero competition on the market, with only a few consumers’ goods being produced.[11] Furthermore, the market was not dependent on the interests of KSČ, but primarily on the demands of Moscow, because of the high number of compulsory Soviet economic advisors who were directing the economic flow in Soviet-Czechoslovak economic relations. All this resulted in a stagnating Czechoslovak economy with no development.[12]

According to Jirí Hochman, who is not only editor of Dubček’s autobiography,  but he is a professor of international relations in Soviet bloc, the most important moment was the position of Alexander Dubček in Prague in 1960 as the Secretary of state for industry and development. With economic experts Ota Sik and Karel Kouba, his role was to examine the economic problems of Czechoslovakia, although few paid attention to his reports.[13]

3. Constitution

All the problems with the legal system in Czechoslovakia arose from the strict centralisation of state organisations. All power was centralised in the hands of parliament and courts, which had a prominent role in Czechoslovakian society. The legal system in communist Czechoslovakia forbade many individual liberties to its citizens. People did not have freedom of speech, freedom of movement to western countries, which sometimes applied also to some eastern countries according to their relationship with Moscow, and the creation of any association and debate club was strictly forbidden.[14]

According to Hochman’s biography, disfranchisement of freedom of speech and the limited sources of information in the communistic block was problematic to Dubček because, as he argued, everybody had the right to study. From his time as a student in the University of Moscow , he recalled that none of the topics was offered in any objective way. Although some different opinions other than Marxist-Leninism were offered, they were always interpreted as revisionist or hostile. Some authors, such as Trotsky, Kautsky and Luxemburg, were forbidden, while on the other side those emphasising the power of ‘real’ communism were glorified.[15]

However, Pavol Pollák, who was politician during Prague Spring and the direct advisor of Dubček, argues that neither the constitution nor the legal system in Czechoslovakia changed radically since the end of World War II, so they could not have been the direct cause of Prague Spring. The psychology of people however had, especially after they had seen the movements and changes in neighbouring Hungary and Poland after 1956.[16]

4. Dogma of KSČ

The structure of the KSČ itself was based on the centralised power before 1968, becoming the autocratic dictatorship of the First Secretary of the party Antonín Novotný. During his time the party did not make any radical changes in leadership, because he was a defender of conservative and orthodox communism. As he himself mentioned in a public address on June 30 1967, his government was not willing to tolerate any deviation from Marxist-Leninism.[17] This proclamation was silently opposed by young party members in KSČ until the October 1967, when Alexander Dubček became the first party member to have the courage to criticize the First Secretary of the party by proclaiming that the ‘class epoch’ of Novotný could turn into a “smokescreen for conservatism and political secretarianism”.[18]

That reforms were inevitable also found support in the judgments of the party itself. For more than fifteen years there were 6334 people who, with their families, were innocent victims of the great purges trials of 1949-1954.[19] Although these people were not found to be guilty, rehabilitation of their private lives would pose a threat to the security and survival of the regime since important party members and Novotný himself were involved in the accusations of these people.[20] Since the party members were always involved in the mindless accusations, many innocent people could never completely rehabilitate their private lives and found themselves slowly disappearing from the public.

Road to ‘Socialism with a human face’

Although the time period of Prague Spring is often associated with one name, Alexander Dubček, who helped open the way for changes by opposing the traditional autocratic rule of the centralised KSČ, according to Pavel Tigrid such a ‘great man’ theory cannot be applied in this case, as Dubček was not alone. Prague Spring would never have happened without the support from other members of the Central Committee such as Jan Smrkovský, who attacked the reliability of Novotný in his position as First Secretary and President by saying: “It is unsatisfactory that an excessive number of duties should be piled upon one pair of shoulders.”[21] After January 5 1968, Dubček was elected to the position of First Secretary of KSČ; however, if there were not four other reformers elected into the Central Committee, namely Špaček, Borúvka, Rigo and Piller, Dubček would not have been able to pass any revolutionary acts without using autocratic power and thereby contradicts his argument for reform.

A few months later after some changes in the highest positions of the Czechoslovakian government where Oldrich Čiernik became the new Prime minister and Jozef Smrkovský the Chairman of the National Assembly, the so-called ‘Czechoslovakian road to socialism’, as the reformers called it, became possible as there were now enough revolutionaries to pass the resolutions.[22] On the 8th of April 1968, the “Action programme” was passed by the National Assembly and was also approved by new president Svoboda. This programme guaranteed many liberties and created such reforms as:

● Freedom of speech and press

● The right to assembly and associate

● Freedom of religion

● New electoral law, with brother candidate list

● Possible pluralism at least in form of four new parties within the communistic National Front (NF)

● Increasing the power of parliament and government relatively to power of KSČ

● Economic reforms: independence for enterprises, achieving of convertible currency, reviving of private sector companies and increased trade with Western markets

● Recognition of Slovakia’s federal status

● Full rehabilitation for all persons who were unjustly persecuted and accused during 1949 -1954[23]

However, according to historian Tirgit these reforms were not as radical as they seemed to have been in the beginning. They actually did not satisfy the strong desire Czechoslovakians had for reform. Dubček actually wanted not to promote radical changes but rather introduce gradual ones, finding a middle road between communism and capitalism. Although the Action Programme was spreading pluralism, the new parties could be created only within the communist NF, while KSČ strictly prohibited renovation of Social Democratic Party which had been destroyed during post-war purges. As a response, the Ministry of the Interior proclaimed that the creation of new political parties was to be illegal, which already opposed the basic ideas of the Action Programme. Furthermore, although the KSČ recognised the legal foundation of major debating club K-231, it prohibited the activities of another large such club, KAN.[24] There it could be argued that the rule of the KSČ with Dubček as its leader during the so-called reformist Prague Spring can very easily be characterized as arbitrary within control of the communist party.

On the other hand, Kenneth Ames argues that Dubček’s reforms produced opposite reactions to those ideas which Dubček was actually propagating. This was the case especially with the biggest reform, from 26th of June 1968, which abolished press censorship in Czechoslovakia. Political newspapers previously banned, such as Literarní Listy, Mladá Fronta, Reporter and Práce, started to publish again. The first, Literarní Listy, published on its first front page the article “2000 Words to Workers, Farmers, Scientists, Artists and Everyone” which assured its readers of the paper’s complete support of Dubček’s reforms, “even with arms” against Moscow. Since Dubček’s aim was to maintain good relations with Moscow and the continuation of Czechoslovakia towards his idea of a ‘better’ socialism, such a rebellion against Moscow’s rule grew out of his control and against his announced plans.[25]

Furthermore, thanks to the reintroduction of freedom of speech and of expression, in many Czechoslovakian cities political discussion meetings open for public were held known as “Mladí sa pýtaju” (“When young people ask”). During such meetings, many progressive politicians propagated the democratic future of Czechoslovakia with guaranteed human rights. These meetings increased not only the political awareness of people, but also radically increased the demand for more reforms to unstoppable levels. Pro-Soviet politician and historian Vasil Biľak, described the tactics of KSČ like this: “With fake and non-Marxist slogans it was achieved that the wide public masses, but also a lot of party members were deceived, so the objective view at a lot of actions was lost. Under the mass propagation of lies and half-truths a lot of people believed even into such a lie that our Czechoslovak socialism was not threatened by the imperialism, but from the side of the country, which sacrificed so much for the idea of socialism.”[26]

This development of events in Czechoslovakia had been seen by all East bloc leaders as a threat to European socialism. Both historians Tigrid and Mastný, the latter specialising in the general development of the Cold War and its impact on the superpowers, agree that the reactions of Warsaw Treaty countries were understandable and inevitable.[27] Understandable perhaps, but not necessarily justifiable. For Pavol Pollák, the final invasion was one of the worst treatments of a satellite state by the Soviet Union.[28] Firstly, the leaders of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, East Germany and Poland in the so-called Warsaw Letter warned the KSČ that the actual policy was totally unacceptable for the communist party and that the Warsaw Treaty was losing confidence in Dubček. However, the KSČ merely rejected this letter by explaining that the policies being pursued by the KSČ was in fact strengthening socialism.[29] On the other side, there were also socialist leaders in the Eastern bloc who fully supported the actions of Dubček. Both Tito and Ceausescu expressed their full support to Dubček during their personal visits of Prague and both guaranteed not to undertake any steps of intervention against the situation in Czechoslovakia.[30]

The second reaction of the Soviet Union was interpreted differently by each side. After the meeting of the presidium of the KSČ and by members of the Soviet politburo in the Slovakian town Čierna nad Tisou on July 29 1968, the situation was interpreted by Czechoslovak politicians as a “Czechoslovakian victory”, which assured the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia and guaranteed the future withdrawal of permanent Soviet troops on Czechoslovakian soil.[31] “The accepted communiqué, but also the behaviour of the Soviet partners- lets just remember the how Brezhnev cheerfully raised the hands of both Dubček and president Svoboda in from of the cameras- assured the Czechoslovak representatives that the conflict with the members of Warsaw pact is already banished… It seemed like the danger of the military intervention disappeared, which was anticipatable from the Soviet and allied ‘hawks’”[32] However, according to ‘normalisation’ historian Viliam Plevza, whose pro-Soviet standpoint was influenced by his position as secretary in Husák’s ‘Committee for the Creation of Federation’ in 1968, Dubček was blinded by his naivety, because Brezhnev’s actions and behaviour clearly indicated that while Czechoslovakia still had the support of the USSR, if Czechoslovakia continued to act contrary to the rules of Soviet socialism, this would not last and Czechoslovakia would find itself against the Soviet Union.[33] This misunderstanding could have been a major reason for the invasion, which ended all hopes of the reformers in Czechoslovakia.

Therefore, although Alexander Dubček had inspired the actual drive for reform in the Prague Spring, it cannot be said that the entire movement was his work, because he and other reformers came found themselves all at the point where they were driven by two forces and could not satisfy any of them. One of these forces was Moscow and the Treaty of Warsaw demanding that the Czechoslovakian regime keep control over the situation with no threat to the principle of monolithic communism, and the second force was of a Czechoslovakian nation demanding more and more freedom.

The resulting invasion

Historian Tigrid described Soviet foreign policy and its dealing with these problems with an apt metaphor: “When Moscow’s nerve breaks, Soviet tanks usually start rolling.”[34] This was not the situation only in Hungary in 1956, when 1100 tanks entered Hungary to ‘set things calm’, but also more than decade later in Czechoslovakia when double this amount of tanks crossed the borders from each neighbouring socialist border.[35] Only twelve days after the “Czechoslovakian victory,” the armed forces of five Warsaw Treaty states, namely the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary, invaded the unprepared Czechoslovakia with more than 600 000 troops.[36] Code named Operation Danube,[37] it was planned by the ‘grey eminence’ of the Kremlin, Suslov.[38]

Many revisionist and military historians, such as General Naďovič (who served in the Czechoslovakian army the year of the Polish and Hungarian revolts), blame Dubček for his naivety, which left Czechoslovakia totally unprepared for the attack on 21st of August.[39] Czechoslovakia was left without any organised defence apart from rebelling students defending their country with their own bodies.[40] Dubček and the whole of the KSČ underestimated the significance of Czechoslovakia for Moscow. It was clear that if the Soviet Union left the development of the ‘socialism with a human face’ without taking any counter steps, it would lead to complete loss of control of Moscow over the ‘dagger in the heart of Europe’, Czechoslovakia.

Nevertheless, another historic view is very much the opposite of the one of Nadovič. Analyst of communism during the Cold War, Devlin argues that Czechoslovakia’s situation would have been much worse if the army had opposed the Warsaw Treaty troops with much more disastrous political consequences. In this way, Moscow could not have achieved its main aim in Czechoslovakia, which was to produce an absolute counter-revolution to obtain the full control of Czechoslovakia and force the replacement of Dubček according to the previous Hungarian example with Nagy and Kadar in 1956.[41]

The political situation right after the invasion was indeed disastrous for the reformers in the KSČ and also affected the Czechoslovakian nation for another twenty years more. The direct outcome of the invasion was the arrest of Dubček and all his colleagues “in the name of the revolutionary government of the workers and peasants” as the Soviet Union’s Politburo called it.[42] On 23rd August, 1968, president Svoboda and Dubček signed in Moscow the so-called Moscow Protocols, which guaranteed that Dubček would stay in power. However censorship had to be reintroduced and the KSČ had to regain its monopolistic autocratic powers. It also changed the central committee of the KSČ and some of the other important positions in the party, so Dubček’s supporters like Kriegl, Sik, Pavel, Hajek, Hejzar and Pelikan were replaced by pro-Soviet politicians such as Husák and Biľak. According to historians Provazník and Lowenthal, Moscow’s Protocol ensured that Dubček was under Moscow’s full control which, through its actions, confirmed the earlier proclaimed so-called Brezhnev’s Doctrine, which had been announced on 26th September in Pravda, stating that the Soviet Union had the region-wide right to interfere in any socialist country to assure its socialist sovereignty.[43] A few months later, Dubček was replaced by Gustav Husák.

After the end of Dubček’s political career in the KSČ, the time of ‘normalisation’ came upon Czechoslovakia under the rule of Gustav Husák, who was the First Secretary of the KSČ and also president of Czechoslovakia. Although Czechoslovakia was a federation with propagated equal powers to both Czechs and Slovaks, Husák’s rule was significant in its having to deal with many economic and political problems, eventually resulting in the final abolition of communism in 1989 and also led to many social problems involving the dissatisfaction of both nations, which in turn resulted in division of Czechoslovakia into both Czech and Slovakian Republics.[44] Czechoslovakia once again found itself with full censorship, with one monopoly party enjoying complete control over everything and without freedom of speech and many other freedoms which had been introduced by Alexander Dubček and the KSČ under his rule.

However, the interpretation of ‘normalisation’ historians such as Viliam Plevza, takes the opposite view. Plevza’s view is based on the historical development of socialism in Czechoslovakia. 1918 had been a very important moment but because of some bureaucratic politicians such as Beneš and Masaryk, Czechoslovakia was left weak and could be very easily outflanked by Germany. Although the communist putsch in 1948 opened the doors for a proper solution of the Czechoslovakian question, there were still some small mistakes that came through the cracks, chief among the capitalist influence of Alexander Dubček. However, after the Prague Spring, the KSČ finally found the right way how to practice correct Marxist-Leninist policies in a beneficial and equal way for Czechoslovakia.[45]

Dubček’s political career was renewed only after the abolition of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989. His enigmatic and controversial life ended also in likewise. After being mentioned as possible candidate for the presidency of the federal, democratic Czechoslovakia opposing the break-up of federation, he died in circumstances which continue to be shrouded in mystery.[46]


According to the Soviet poet Yevtushenko, Alexander Dubček was a naïve but selfless politician.[47] The main idea behind his reforms during the Prague Spring was that of establishing “socialism with a human face”. However were his goals really achievable? The KSČ surely underestimated the importance of Czechoslovakia for the Soviet Union, because it was clear that losing the monopoly power of the KSČ and having equal competition between political parties would lead to the eventual separation of Czechoslovakia from the Eastern bloc.

While the significance of Prague Spring in the history of communist Czechoslovakia is important, the situation right after Prague Spring during ‘normalisation’ can be considered to have been politically worse than before any of the reforms introduced by Dubček given the absolute power returned to the KSČ, especially into the hands of Gustav Husák, president and First Secretary of KSČ, who was totally dependent on the central orders from Moscow throughout his rule. However, the actual significance of Prague Spring can be viewed from different angles. In the very short term, Dubček’s reforms shook the Cold War world because it again provided evidence that communism was not monolithic. Even after the Budapest massacre of 1956 when more than 20 000 Hungarian revolutionaries died, there were still those courageously opposing the autocratic rule of Moscow. Thus The New York Times wrote about Dubček: “Even though Dubček allegedly made some concessions to Brezhnev, he resisted Brezhnev’s insistence that the reforms should be stopped.”[48]In the medium-term however, Prague Spring was disastrous for Czechoslovakia because of the resulting period of ‘normalisation’ under Husák. Such as historian Maňák mentioned in his book after his access to Czechoslovak communist archives,[49] all reforms were abolished and the brand of communism in Czechoslovakia was even more hard-line than ever before, including the use of constant persecutions of ‘enemies of state’[50]. Husák was the autocratic leader of Czechoslovakia for 18 years. Nevertheless, in the consideration of the long term significance of the reforms the psychological impact was a positive one on the Czechoslovakian nation. It gave hope to people that even orthodox ideology such as communism could be improved and that changes could result. As Pollák mentioned, communism perhaps would still remain today without the Prague Spring in 1968 because there would not have been any basis for the ‘social uprising’ during the Velvet revolution in 1989 when thousands of people protested against communism through the simple clanging of keys.

Communism was not reformed in Czechoslovakia or in any other country in the remaining years of the Cold War. Any reform would have meant the acceptance of some elements of democracy and economic capitalism. However, such concepts are contrary to the meaning of communism which demands the centralised, monopolistic power of the communist party and a nationally-planned economy. With no compromise possible between communism and capitalism, the very concept of a reformed communism was found to be a fiction and the efforts of Alexander Dubček doomed to fail from the beginning.

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● Cottrell, C. R.: The Czech republic- arbitrary borders. Philadelphia 2005

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● Leksa L.: Tragédia na 88 kilometri. Spišská Nová Ves 1998

Lowenthal, R.: The Sparrow in the Cage. Prague 1971

Maňák, J.: Čistky v Komunistecké strane Československa. Prague 19972

● Mastný, V.: Czechoslovakia: Crisis in World Communism. New York 1972

● Naďovič, S.- Foertsch H. - Karacsony, I. - Ostrowski, Z.: The great withdrawal. Bratislava 2005

● Plevza, V.: Historie československé současnosti. Prague 1978

● Provazník, J.: The Politics of Retrenchment. Prague 1971

● Rychlík, J.: Rozpad Československa: Česko-slovenské vzťahy. Bratislava 2002

● Sik, O.: The Economic Impact of Stalinism. Prague 1971

Skoug, N. K.: Czechoslovak’s Lost Fight for Freedom, 1967-1969:An American Embassy Perspective. Connecticut 1999

● Svitak, I.: The Czechoslovak Experiment 1968-1969. New York and London 1971

● Tigrid, P.: Why Dubček Fell London 1971

● Wessel, S. M.: Loyalitaten in Tsechoslowakischen Republic 1918-1938. Munich 2004

Žatkuliak, J.- Laluha I.: Alexander Dubček: Od totality k demokracii. Bratislava 2002


Pavol Dubček: 14th July 2007, Bratislava, Slovakia

Pavol Pollak: 2nd August, Bratislava, Slovakia


● Danielle Seiler: Czechoslovakia: A state of perceived bias. 28 April 1998, <http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-42098-14735/unrestricted/etd.pdf> (Date accessed: November 2007)

● Amnezia.sk: Ladislav Bielik- kontakty. N.d. <http://www.amnezia.sk/upload/03/kontakty1.jpg > (February 2008)


● Historical journal Pamäť Národa, 1/2007: Patrik Košický “Čierna listina 1968

● The New York Times, 8 Nov. 1992: Severo, Richard “Alexander Dubček, 70, Dies in Prague.


Tridsať prípadov majora Zemana. TV series, directed by Jirí Sequens, performances by Vladimír Brabec, Emil Horváth and Rudolf Jelínek. Television Markíza. Prague, ČSTV, 1974-79.

Appendix 1

Table 1- the estimated value of transfers of resources from Czech lands to Slovakie in socialist Czechoslovakia.

Transfer of resources from Czech lands to Slovak regions
Total      (in billions CSK)
Relative (to Slovak national income)

[1] These laws didn’t allow any non-Soviet citizens to work in the USSR. Interview with Pavol Dubček, 14th July 2007, Bratislava, Slovakia. Pavol Dubček was not interviewed in purpose of historical analysis of his dad’s role, because of possible bias.
[2] Pavel Tigrid, Why Dubček Fell (London: Macdonald, 1971), p.17
[3] Masaryk propagated that Slovaks are actually the same nation as Czechs. He wanted to include Slovaks, a ‘tribe’, under Czech culture. Stanislav J. Kirschbaum, A History of Slovakia: The struggle for survival (New York: St.Martins Press, 1995) p.149
[4] For example Eduard Beneš: “The constitution of 1920 deemed ‘Czechoslovak’ as the official language of the new republic, and designed Slovaks as ‘state people’, not members of a national minority.” Robert C. Cottrell, The Czech republic- arbitrary borders (Philadelphia: Chelsea house Publishers, 2005) p. 56.
[5] Martin S. Wessel, Loyalitaten in Tsechoslowakischen Republic 1918-1938 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2004) p. 23
[6] Prague controlled KSS, Slovak ministries, Slovak National Council (SNR), but also courts and security institutions. Vladimira Hradecká- Frantisek Koudelka, Kádrova politika a nomenklatúra KSČ (Prague: AV CR, 1998) p.97
[7] Ota Sik, ‘The Economic Impact of Stalinism’, in Problems of Communism (Prague: Orbis 1971) p.5
[8] Galia Golan, ‘The Road to Reform’, in Problems of Communism (Prague: Orbis 1971) p.12-13
[9] See Appendix 1 page
[10] Slavo Koštúch openly criticized the Czech Ministry of finance on the official plenum by saying: “You are saying that we are brothers, but our wallets are not sisters.” Milan Hubl, Cesty k moci (Prague: Praha, 1990) p.42-43
[11] This could be seen in TV series “Tridsať prípadov majora Zemana” (The Thirty Cases of Major Zeman) situated in Czechoslovakia exactly during Prague Spring. People were sometimes had to wait in queue in from on the shop with shoes, where everybody buys the same style, just different size. Tridsať prípadov majora Zemana. TV series, directed by Jirí Sequens, performances by Vladimír Brabec, Emil Horvath and Rudolf Jelínek. Television Markíza. Prague, ČSTV, 1974-79. (part 23 “Štastný a veselý”)
[12] Interview with Pavol Pollák, 2nd August 2007, Bratislava, Slovakia
[13] Jirí Hochman: Alexander Dubček. Z pameti. Nádej Zomiera posledná (Bratislava, Nova Praca: 1993) p. 95
[14] Jozef Žatkuliak-Ivan Laluha: Alexander Dubček: Od totality k demokracii (Bratislava: Veda, 2002) p.47
[15] Hochman (p. 80)
[16] Interview Pavol Pollak, 2nd August 2007, Bratislava, Slovakia
[17] Cottrell (p. 90)
[18] Kenneth N. Skoug, Czechoslovak’s Lost Fight for Freedom, 1967-1969:An American Embassy Perspective.  (Connecticut: Preager, 1999) p.47
[19] Historical journal Pamäť Národa, 1/2007: Patrik Košický “Čierna listina 1968” p. 69
[20] Golan (p.11)
[21] Tigrid (p.30)
[22] Ivan Laluha- Miroslav Pekník- Boris Zala, Revolučné a protirevolučné hnutia v Európe po 2. svetovej vojne (Bratislava: Veda, 2004) p. 35
[23] Vojtech Mastný, Czechoslovakia: Crisis in World Communism (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1972) p.21
[24] Tigrid (p.48)
[25] Kenneth Ames, Czechoslovakia, the Brief Spring of 1968: Reform and Reaction (Prague: Orbis 1968) p.48
[26] Vasil Biľak, Vybrane prejavu a state. (Bratislava: Pravda, 1982). p.439
[27] Tigrid (p. 57) and Mastný (p. 37)
[28] Interview with Pavol Pollák, 2nd August 2007, Bratislava, Slovakia
[29] Mastný (p. 40)
[30] Hochman (p. 191)
[31] Tigrid (p. 89)
[32] Anton Benčík: Osem mesiacov Pražskej jari. (Martin: Osveta Rok, 1990). p. 155
[33] Viliam Plevza, Historie československé současnosti. (Prague: Horizont, 1978) p. 60
[34] Tigrid (p. 53)
[35] Svetozár Naďovič- Hartmut Foertsch- Imre Karacsony- Zdzislaw Ostrowski: The Great Withdrawal (Bratislava: Ministry of defense of the Slovak republic, 2005) p. 37
[36] Mastný (p.69)
[37] Cottrell (p.92)
[38] Hochman (p.118)
[39] Naďovič- Foertsch- Karacsony- Ostrowski (p. 38)
[40] One of the most famous Slovak photography comes from the day of invasion. Ladislav Bielik’s picture shows a student on the main square in Bratislava trying to stop a tank by his own body. See Appendix 2 page
[41] Kevin Devlin, ‘The New Crisis in European Communism’, in Problems of
(Prague: Orbis 1971) p.61
[42] Ivan Sviták, The Czechoslovak Experiment 1968-1969 (New York and London: Columbia University Press: 1971) p.109
[43] Jan Provazník, ‘The Politics of Retrenchment’, in Problems of Communism (Prague: Orbis 1971) p.3 and Richard Lowenthal, ‘The Sparrow in the Cage’, in Problems of Communism (Prague: Orbis 1971) p.24
[44] Jan Rychlík, Rozpad Československa: Česko-slovenské vzťahy (Bratislava: Academic Electronic Press, 2002) p. 16-20
[45] Plevza (p.36-42)
[46] Thirty two specific inconsistencies regarding Dubček’s death were analyzed in the book of Liboslav Leksa: Tragedia na 88 kilometri. Spisska Nova Ves, 1998, page 15-16
[47] Interview Pavol Dubček
[48] The New York Times : " Alexander Dubček, 70, Dies in Prague.", Severo, Richard. 8 Nov. 1992 p.56
[49] Jirí Maňák, Čistky v Komunistecké strane Československa (Prague: SAV ČR, 1997) p. 22
[50] For example according to so-called “Black List of 1968”, 10504 people were expelled from the party during the meetings of the Central Committee of KSČ, because they were considered to be “rightists” because of the cooperation with Alexander Dubček during Prague Spring. The actual signatures of all the persecutors from the Central Committee can be seen in Appendix 3 page