16. Czechoslovakia (1918-1992)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (October 28, 1918-January 20, 1933):  The Czechoslovak Republic was proclaimed on October 28, 1918, and a provisional constitution was adopted on November 13, 1918. Karl Kramarcz formed a government as prime minister. Tomas Masaryk was elected president by the National Assembly on November 14, 1918. Parliamentary elections were held on June 15, 1919. Prime Minister Kramarcz resigned on July 5, 1919, and Vlastimil Tusar of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) formed a government as prime minister on July 8, 1919. The National Assembly approved a constitution on February 29, 1920, which provided for a president and bicameral legislature.  Parliamentary elections were held on April 18-25, 1920, and President Masaryk was re-elected on May 28, 1920. Prime Minister Tusar resigned on September 15, 1920, and Jan Cerny of the National Democratic Party (NDP) on September 16, 1920. Government troops suppressed political violence in Prague on October 28-November 16, 1920. Government troops suppressed labor strikes in Prague on December 15, 1920, resulting in the deaths of some 11 individuals. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) was established on May 16, 1921.

Prime Minister Cerny resigned on September 25, 1921, and Edvard Benes formed a government as prime minister on September 26, 1921. Prime Minister Benes resigned on October 7, 1922, and Antonin Svehla of the Agrarian Party (AP) formed a government as prime minister on October 8, 1922. Parliamentary elections were held on November 15-22, 1925, and the coalition headed by Prime Minister Svehla won 159 out of 300 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Prime Minister Svehla resigned on March 17, 1926, and Jan Cerny formed a government as prime minister on March 18, 1926. Prime Minister Cerny resigned on October 12, 1926, and Antonin Svehla formed a government as prime minister on October 13, 1926. President Masaryk was re-elected to a second term by the parliament on May 27, 1927. Parliamentary elections were held on December 2, 1927. Prime Minister Svehla resigned due to ill-health on February 1, 1929, and Frantisek Udzal of the AP formed a government as prime minister on February 2, 1929. Prime Minister Udzal dissolved the parliament on September 25, 1929, and parliamentary elections were held on October 27, 1929. Prime Minister Udzal resigned due to illness on October 24, 1932, and Jan Malypetr formed a government as prime minister on October 25, 1932.  Government troops suppressed an attempted Nazi rebellion in Brno on January 21-22, 1933. The government banned hundreds of newspaper for spreading Nazi propaganda on May 8, 1933, and outlawed Nazi political organizations on October 4, 1933. President Tomas Masaryk was re-elected to a third term by the parliament on May 24, 1934. Parliamentary elections were held on May 19, 1935, and the government coalition won 149 out of 300 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Sudeten Deutsch Party (SDP) headed by Konrad Henlein won 64 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Milan Hodza, leader of the AP, formed a government on November 5, 1935 after Prime Minister Malypetr resigned to become speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. President Masaryk resigned due to ill-health on December 14, 1935, and Edvard Benes was elected president by the parliament on December 18, 1935. Tomas Masaryk died on September 14, 1937. Ethnic Czechs and ethnic Germans clashed in the Sudetenland on October 17, 1937, and Sudeten German deputies walked out of the parliament on November 29, 1937. Konrad Henlein demanded full autonomy for the Sudetenland on April 24, 1938.

Crisis Phase (May 20, 1938-May 9, 1948):  On May 20, 1938, the government declared a state-of-emergency after Germany concentrated troops near the Czechoslovak border on May 19, 1938. On July 25, 1938, the British sent a fact-finding mission headed by Lord Walter Runciman to Prague to investigate the Sudetenland problem, and the fact-finding mission issued a report in August 1938. On September 7, 1938, government police detained 82 members of the SDP in Moravska Ostrava for alledged weapons smuggling. German leader Adolf Hitler demanded self-determination for Sudeten Germans on September 12, 1938. On September 19, 1938, Britain and France proposed that Czechoslovak government cede sections of the Sudetenland to Germany, but the government rejected this proposal on September 20, 1938. On September 21, 1938, the government accepted the British-French proposal following an ultimatum by Britain and France. Prime Minister Hodza resigned on September 22, 1938, and General Jan Syrovy formed a government as prime minister on September 23, 1938. Prime Minister Syrovy ordered a general mobilization of the military forces on September 23, 1938. German leader Adolf Hitler issued a warning regarding the Sudetenland to the government on September 26, 1938. As a result of the Munich Conference (Britain, France, Germany, Italy) on September 29, 1938, the Sudetenland was turned over to Germany on October 1, 1938. German troops occupied the Sudetenland on October 1-10, 1938. President Benes resigned on October 5, 1938, and he went into exile in Britain. Slovakia was granted full autonomy on October 6, 1938. The CPC was banned on October 20, 1938. Emil Hacha was elected president on November 30, 1938, and Rudolf Beran of the AP formed a government as prime minister on December 1, 1938. Slovakia declared its independence on March 14, 1939, and German troops occupied Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939 (the provinces were declared German protectorates on March 16, 1939). Edvard Benes formed the Czechoslovak National Committee (CNC) in London in November 1939, and Britain provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the CNC on July 21, 1940.  Reinhard Heydrich was appointed as Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia on September 27, 1941, but he was assassinated by Czech resistance forces on May 27, 1942. German troops killed some 1,300 individuals in retaliation for the assassination. German troops occupied Slovakia on August 29, 1944. Slovaks rebelled against German troops from August 29-October 27, 1944. Soviet troops entered Slovakia on October 18, 1944. President Benes and the government of Prime Minister Zdenek Fierlinger entered Slovakia from the Soviet Union on April 3, 1945, and Soviet troops occupied Bratislava on April 4, 1945. US troops entered Bohemia in April 1945, and some 2,000 individuals were killed during a rebellion against German troops in Prague on May 5-8, 1945. Some 38,000 Czechs were executed by German troops between 1938 and 1945, and some 155,000 out of 180,000 Czechoslovak Jews were killed between 1938 and 1945. German troops surrendered in Prague on May 8, 1945, and Soviet troops entered Prague on May 9, 1945. Some 345,000 individuals, including 263,000 Jews, were killed during the crisis.  Another 144,000 Soviet soldiers were killed during the liberation of Czechoslovakia.  President Benes returned to Prague on May 16, 1945. The government deprived ethnic Germans and Hungarians of Czech citizenship on August 3, 1945. Elections for a provisional parliament were held on October 14, 1945.  US and Soviet troops withdrew from Czechoslovakia on December 1, 1945. Some 2.4 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia in 1945-1946.  Some 15,000 to 25,000 ethnic Germans died as a result of their expulsion. Parliamentary elections were held on May 26, 1946, and the communist party won 114 out of 300 seats in the National Assembly. President Benes was re-elected as president on June 19, 1946, and Klement Gottwald formed a National Front (NF) coalition government on July 2, 1946.  The government suppressed an attempted right-wing rebellion on September 11-13, 1947, resulting in the arrests of some 140 individuals. The Czech National Socialist Party (CNSP), People’s Party (PP), and the Slovak Democratic Party (SDP) withdrew from the coalition government on February 21, 1948. The communists compelled President Benes to appointed a communist-dominated government under Prime Minister Gottwald on February 25, 1948. Britain, France and the US jointly condemned the communist-dominated government on February 26, 1948. The National Assembly approved a new constitution, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on May 9, 1948.

Post-Crisis Phase (May 10, 1948-August 19, 1968): Parliamentary elections were held on May 30, 1948, and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) won 89 percent of the vote. On June 7, 1948, President Edvard Benes resigned after refusing to sign the new constitution. Klement Gottwald was elected president by the National Assembly, and Antonin Zapotocky was elected prime minister by the National Assembly on June 14, 1948. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) merged with the CPC on June 27, 1948.  Government police suppressed a planned coup on August 30, 1949, and six individuals were executed for their involvement in the planned coup.  Eleven former communist party members were sentenced to death for treason on November 20-27, 1952, and the eleven individuals were executed on December 3, 1952.  President Gottwald died on March 14, 1953, and Antonin Zapotocky was elected president by the National Assembly on March 21, 1953.  President Zapotocky appointed Viliam Siroky as prime minister on March 22, 1953. Antonin Novotny was elected leader of the CPC on September 11, 1953.  Parliamentary elections were held on November 28, 1954, and the CPC won 99 percent of the vote.  President Zapotocky died on November 13, 1957, and Antonin Novotny was elected president by the National Assembly on November 19, 1957. Government police suppressed anti-government protests in Prague on May 1, 1964.  Parliamentary elections were held on June 14, 1964, and the CPC won 99 percent of the vote.  Some 1,000 individuals demonstrated against the government in Prague on October 11, 1964.  President Novotny was re-elected by the National Assembly on November 12, 1964.  Government police and students clashed during demonstrations in Prague on October 31, 1967.  Alexander Dubcek was elected first-secretary of the CPC on January 5, 1968, and Alexander Dubcek initiated a policy of political and social liberalization on March 5, 1968.  President Antonin Novotny resigned on March 22, 1968, and General Ludvik Svoboda was elected president by the National Assembly on March 30, 1968. Jozef Lenart was removed as prime minister on April 6, 1968.  Oldrich Cernik formed a government as prime minister on April 19, 1968.  Antonin Novotny and other hard-line communists were expelled from the CPC on May 30, 1968.  The Warsaw Pact condemned the reformist government on July 15, 1968.  Romania expressed support for the reformist government on July 17, 1968, and Yugoslavia expressed support for the reformist government on July 18, 1968.

Crisis Phase (August 20, 1968-August 28, 1970):  Some 650,000 Warsaw Pact troops from the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland intervened in support of hard-line communists beginning on August 20-21, 1968. Demonstrations against the Warsaw Pact intervention occurred in Prague on August 22, 1968, resulting in the deaths of seven individuals. The National Assembly condemned the Warsaw Pact intervention on August 28, 1968. Warsaw Pact troops withdrew from Prague on September 11-12, 1968. Some 70 individuals were killed during the intervention, and some 40,000 individuals fled as refugees to Austria. The Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) provided repatriation assistance to some 40,000 Czechoslovakian refugees in Austria. A new constitution went into effect on October 27, 1968, which provided complete autonomy to the republics of Slovakia and Bohemia-Moravia. Warsaw Pact troops were withdrawn from Czechoslovakia on October 29, 1968. Jan Palach, a 21-year old student, burned himself to death in Prague on January 17, 1969 in protest of the Warsaw Pact intervention. Alexander Dubek was replaced as general-secretary of the CPC by Gustav Husak on April 17, 1969. Alexander Dubcek was elected chair of the Federal Assembly on April 28, 1969, but he was removed from the presidium of the CPC by the central committee on September 26, 1969. Five individuals were killed during demonstrations against the government in Prague on August 19-20, 1969. Prime Minister Cernik formed a hard-line communist government on September 27, 1969. Alexander Dubek was removed as chair of the Federal Assembly on October 15, 1969. Prime Minister Cernik resigned, and Lubomir Strougal was chosen as prime minister on January 28, 1970. Alexander Dubek was expelled from the CPC on June 26, 1970, and General-Secretary Husak declared an end to the political crisis on August 28, 1970.

Post-Crisis Phase (August 29, 1970-November 18, 1989): Amnesty International (AI) condemned the government for poor prison conditions for political prisoners on March 27, 1974. Gustav Husak was elected president by the Federal Assembly on May 29, 1975. Parliamentary elections were held on October 21-23, 1976, and the National Front (NF) won 200 out of 200 seats in the Federal Assembly. The Charter 77 Movement was established by Jiri Hajek, Vaclav Havel, and Jan Patocka on January 1, 1977. The US condemned the government for arresting and harassing members of the Charter 77 Movement on January 26, 1977. Jan Patocka died on March 13, 1977. Vaclav Havel and five other signatories of the Charter 77 document were arrested for subversive activities on May 29, 1979, and were sentenced to prison terms on October 23, 1979. President Husak was re-elected for a second term by the Federal Assembly on May 22, 1980. President Husak was re-elected for a third term by the Federal Assembly on May 22, 1985. President Husak resigned as general-secretary of the CPC on December 17, 1987, and he was succeeded by Milos Jakes on December 18, 1987.

Crisis Phase (November 19, 1989-December 31, 1992): The Civic Forum headed by Vaclav Havel was established in opposition to the communist government on November 19, 1989. Several hundred thousand individuals demonstrated against the communist government in Prague on November 20-28, 1989. Milos Jakes was replaced by Karel Urbanek as general-secretary of the CPC on November 24, 1989. President Husak resigned on December 10, 1989, and Marian Calfa formed a non-communist government on December 10, 1989. Vaclav Havel was elected president by the Federal Assembly on December 29, 1989. Parliamentary elections were held on June 9-10, 1990, and the Civic Forum won a plurality of the vote. Prime Minister Calfa formed a new government on June 27, 1990. President Havel was re-elected by the Federal Assembly on July 5, 1990. The Federal Assembly approved an amendment to the constitution on December 12, 1990, which provided for a division of powers between the federal government and the two republics.  Parliamentary elections were held on June 5-6, 1992, and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won a plurality of 85 out of 300 seats in the Federal Assembly. President Havel resigned on July 20, 1992. The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic agreed to a dissolution of Czechoslovakia on August 27, 1992. The Charter 77 Movement was disbanded on November 3, 1992. Alexander Dubcek died from injuries in a car accident on November 7, 1992. The Federal Assembly voted to approved the dissolution of Czechoslovakia on November 25, 1992. Czechoslovakia was dissolved on December 31, 1992.

[Sources: Banks and Muller, 1998, 249-253; Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 136-137; Brecher and Wilkenfeld, 1997, 226-231, 341-342; Bulletin of the International Commission of Jurists, September 1968; Clodfelter, 1992, 892-893, 981; Degenhardt, 1988, 70-78; Donelan and Grieve, 1973, 274-279; Facts on File, February 22-28, 1948; Ference, 1994, 103-164; Keesing’s Record of World Events, November 15-22, 1947, March 6-13, 1948, February 10-17, 1968, May 25-June 1, 1968, June 15-22, 1968, August 31-September 7, 1968, September 14-21, 1968, October 26-November 2, 1968, April 19-26, 1969, October 4-11, 1969, July 25-August 1, 1970, December 10, 1976, February 26, 1982, August 1985, March 1988, November 1989, January 1990, December 1990, June 1992, August 1992, November 1992; Langer, 1972, 1203-1205; Schmid, 1985, 30-34; Survey of International Affairs (SIA), 1935, 417; Tillema, 1991, 54-55; Weisburd, 1997, 224-226.]