Czechoslovak Socialist Republic

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Czechoslovak Republic
Československá republikaCzechoslovak Socialist Republic
Československá socialistická republika
Flag of Czechoslovakia Flag Emblem (1960–1990) of Czechoslovakia Emblem
Pravda vítězí / Pravda víťazí
"Truth prevails"
Anthem: ’Kde domov můj’ (Czech)
’Where my home is’

Nad Tatrou sa blýska’ (Slovak)
’Lightning Over the Tatras’
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1989The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1989
StatusSatellite state of the Soviet Union and member of the Warsaw Pact
Capitaland largest cityPrague
50°05′N 14°25′E / 50.083°N 14.417°E / 50.083; 14.417
Official languages
Demonym(s)Czechoslovak, Czechoslovakian
General Secretary 
• 1948–1953 Klement Gottwald
• 1953–1968 Antonín Novotný
• 1968–1969 Alexander Dubček
• 1969–1987 Gustáv Husák
• 1987–1989 Miloš Jakeš
• 1989 Karel Urbánek
• 1989–1990 Ladislav Adamec
• 1948–1953 (first) Klement Gottwald
• 1989–1990 (last) Václav Havel
Prime Minister 
• 1948–1953 (first) Antonín Zápotocký
• 1989–1990 (last) Marián Čalfa
LegislatureNational Assembly
Federal Assembly
Historical eraCold War
• Coup d'etat 25 February 1948
• Ninth-of-May Constitution 9 May 1948
• CSSR established 11 July 1960
• Warsaw Pact invasion 21 August 1968
• Federation law 1 January 1969
• Velvet Revolution 24 November 1989
• Constitutional amendment 23 April 1990
• End of the Government of National Understanding 27 June 1990
• Total127,900 km2 (49,400 sq mi)
• Estimate15,600,000
HDI (1990)Steady 0.931
very high
CurrencyCzechoslovak koruna (Kčs)
Driving sideright
Calling code42
Internet TLD.cs
Preceded by Succeeded by
Third Czechoslovak Republic
Czech and Slovak Federative Republic
Today part of
  • a. ^ All permanent non-Soviet members of the Warsaw Pact, except Romania, were "European colonies".

The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, known from 1948 to 1960 as the Czechoslovak Republic, Fourth Czechoslovak Republic, or simply Czechoslovakia, was the Czechoslovak state from 1948 until 1989, when the country was under communist rule, and was regarded as a satellite state in the Soviet sphere of interest.

Following the coup d'état of February 1948, when the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia seized power with the support of the Soviet Union, the country was declared a socialist republic when the Ninth-of-May Constitution became effective. The traditional name Československá republika (Czechoslovak Republic), along with several other state symbols, were changed on 11 July 1960 following the implementation of the 1960 Constitution of Czechoslovakia as a symbol of the "final victory of socialism" in the country.

In April 1990, shortly after the Velvet Revolution of November 1989, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was renamed to the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. On 10 December 1989, the National Government of Understanding was established with Marián Čalfa as Prime Minister, replacing a Ladislav Adamec led communist government, with a cabinet in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia held 10 of 21 seats, compared with the 15 of 20 seats they had held in the previous cabinet. The Communist Party continued to hold a strong plurality in government until democratic elections in June 1990 where the Civic Forum claimed victory, and a new government was formed on 27 June by Prime Minister Čalfa which led the government until its end.


The official name of the country was the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Conventional wisdom suggested that it would be known as simply the "Czechoslovak Republic"—its official name from 1920 to 1938 and from 1945 to 1960. Slovak politicians felt this diminished Slovakia's equal stature and demanded the country's name be spelled with a hyphen (i.e. "Czecho-Slovak Republic"), as it was spelled from Czechoslovak independence in 1918 until 1920, and again from 1938 to 1939. President Havel then changed his proposal to "Republic of Czecho-Slovakia"—a proposal that did not sit well with Czech politicians who saw reminders of the 1938 Munich Agreement, in which Nazi Germany annexed a part of that territory. The name also means "Land of the Czechs and Slovaks" while Latinised from the country's original name – "the Czechoslovak Nation" – upon independence in 1918, from the Czech endonym Češi – via its Polish orthography

The name "Czech" derives from the Czech endonym Češi via Polish, from the archaic Czech Čechové, originally the name of the West Slavic tribe whose Přemyslid dynasty subdued its neighbors in Bohemia around AD 900. Its further etymology is disputed. The traditional etymology derives it from an eponymous leader Čech who led the tribe into Bohemia. Modern theories consider it an obscure derivative, e.g. from četa, a medieval military unit. Meanwhile, the name "Slovak" was taken from the Slovaks. During the state's existence, it was simply referred to "Czechoslovakia", or sometimes the "ČSSR" and "ČSR" for short.



Before the Prague Offensive in 1945, Edvard Beneš, the Czechoslovak leader, agreed to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's demands for unconditional agreement with Soviet foreign policy and the Beneš decrees. While Beneš was not a Moscow cadre and several domestic reforms of other Eastern Bloc countries were not part of Beneš's plan, Stalin did not object because the plan included property expropriation and he was satisfied with the relative strength of communists in Czechoslovakia compared to other Eastern Bloc countries.

In April 1945, the Third Republic was formed, led by a National Front of six parties. Because of the Communist Party's strength and Beneš's loyalty, unlike in other Central and Eastern European countries, USSR did not require Eastern Bloc politics or "reliable" cadres in Czechoslovak power positions, and the executive and legislative branches retained their traditional structures. The Communists were the big winners in the 1946 elections, taking a total of 114 seats (they ran a separate list in Slovakia). Thereafter, the Soviet Union was disappointed that the government failed to eliminate "bourgeois" influence in the army, expropriate industrialists and large landowners and eliminate parties outside of the "National Front". Hope in Moscow was waning for a Communist victory in the 1948 elections following a May 1947 Kremlin report concluding that "reactionary elements" praising Western democracy had strengthened.

Following Czechoslovakia's brief consideration of taking Marshall Plan funds, and the subsequent scolding of Communist parties by the Cominform at Szklarska Poręba in September 1947, Rudolf Slánský returned to Prague with a plan for the final seizure of power. Thereafter, Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin arranged a communist coup d'état, followed by the occupation of non-Communist ministers' ministries, while the army was confined to barracks.

Pro-Communist demonstrations before the coup d'état in 1948

On 25 February 1948, Beneš, fearful of civil war and Soviet intervention, capitulated and appointed a Communist-dominated government who was sworn in two days later. Although members of the other National Front parties still nominally figured, this was, for all intents and purposes, the start of out-and-out Communist rule in the country. Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, the only prominent Minister still left who was not either a Communist or fellow traveler, was found dead two weeks later. On 30 May, a single list of candidates from the National Front, which became an organization dominated by the Communist Party, was elected to the National Assembly.

Czechoslovak Republic (1948–1960)

After passage of the Ninth-of-May Constitution on 9 June 1948, the country became a People's Republic until 1960. Although it was not a completely Communist document, it was close enough to the Soviet model that Beneš refused to sign it. He had resigned a week before it was finally ratified, and died in September. The Ninth-of-May Constitution confirmed that the KSČ possessed absolute power, as other Communist parties had in the Eastern Bloc. On 11 July 1960, the 1960 Constitution of Czechoslovakia was promulgated, changing the name of the country from the "Czechoslovak Republic" to the "Czechoslovak Socialist Republic".


In 20–21 August 1968 the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was jointly invaded by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. The invasion stopped Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring liberalisation reforms and strengthened the authoritarian wing of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ).

Except the Prague Spring in the late-1960s, Czechoslovakia was characterized by the absence of democracy and competitiveness of its Western European counterparts as part of the Cold War. In 1969, the country became a federative republic comprising the Czech Socialist Republic and Slovak Socialist Republic.

Under the federation, social and economic inequities between the Czech and Slovak halves of the country were largely eliminated. Several ministries, such as Education, were formally transferred to the two republics. The centralized political control of the Communist Party severely limited the effects of federalization.

The 1970s saw the rise of the dissident movement in Czechoslovakia, represented (among others) by Václav Havel. The movement sought greater political participation and expression in the face of official disapproval, making itself felt by limits on work activities (up to a ban on any professional employment and refusal of higher education to the dissident's children), police harassment and even prison time.

In late 1989, the country became a democracy again through the Velvet Revolution. In 1992, the Federal Assembly decided it would break up the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.


The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was bounded on the west by West Germany and East Germany, on the north by Poland, on the east by the Soviet Union (via the Ukrainian SSR) and on the south by Hungary and Austria.


The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) led initially by First Secretary Klement Gottwald, held a monopoly on politics. Following the 1948 Tito–Stalin split, increased party purges occurred throughout the Eastern Bloc, including a purge of 550,000 party members of the KSČ, 30% of its members.

The evolution of the resulting harshness of purges in Czechoslovakia, like much of its history after 1948, was a function of the late takeover by the communists, with many of the purges focusing on the sizable numbers of party members with prior memberships in other parties. The purges accompanied various show trials, including those of Rudolf Slánský, Vladimír Clementis, Ladislav Novomeský and Gustáv Husák (Clementis was later executed). Slánský and eleven others were convicted together of being "Trotskyist-zionist-titoist-bourgeois-nationalist traitors" in one series of show trials, after which they were executed and their ashes were mixed with material being used to fill roads on the outskirts of Prague.

Antonín Novotny served as First Secretary of the KSČ from 1953 to 1968. Gustáv Husák was elected first secretary of KSČ in 1969 (changed to General Secretary in 1971) and president of Czechoslovakia in 1975. Other parties and organizations existed but functioned in subordinate roles to KSČ. All political parties, as well as numerous mass organizations, were grouped under the umbrella of National Front of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Human rights activists and religious activists were severely repressed.

In terms of political appointments, the KSČ maintained cadre and nomenklatura lists, with the latter containing every post that was important to the smooth application of party policy, including military posts, administrative positions, directors of local enterprises, social organization administrators, newspapers, etc. The KSČ's nomenklatura lists were thought to contain 100,000 post listings. The names of those that the party considered to be trustworthy enough to secure a nomenklatura post were compiled on the cadre list.

Leaders of the Communist Party

Flag of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, after February 1948, the Communist Party became the only autonomous political entity in the country Presidential standard of Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1960–1990)
Name Photo Title In office
Antonín Novotny First Secretary 14 March 1953 – 5 January 1968
Alexander Dubček First Secretary 5 January 1968 – 17 April 1969
Gustáv Husák Portrait of Gustáv Husák wearing a suit, tie and spectacles First Secretary /

General Secretary

17 April 1969 – 17 December 1987

as First Secretary 1969–1971
as General Secretary 1971–1987

Miloš Jakeš Portrait of Milos Jakes wearing a hat, tie and coat General Secretary 17 December 1987 – 24 November 1989
Karel Urbánek General Secretary 24 November 1989 – 20 December 1989
Ladislav Adamec Chairman 21 December 1989 – 1 September 1990

Foreign relations

Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia was an active participant in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), Warsaw Pact, the UN and its specialized agencies, and Non-Aligned Movement; it was a signatory of conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Administrative divisions

Czechoslovakia in 1969


Obverse of the 100 Kčs banknote of the State Bank of Czechoslovakia dated 1989

The CSSR's economy was a centrally planned command economy with links controlled by the communist party, similar to the Soviet Union. It had a large metallurgical industry, but was dependent on imports for iron and nonferrous ores. Like the rest of the Eastern Bloc, producer goods were favored over consumer goods, and as a result consumer goods were lacking in quantity and quality. This resulted in a shortage economy. Economic growth rates lagged well behind Czechoslovakia's western European counterparts. Investments made in industry did not yield the results expected, and consumption of energy and raw materials was excessive. Czechoslovak leaders themselves decried the economy's failure to modernize with sufficient speed.

In the 1950s, Czechoslovakia experienced high economic growth (averaging 7% per year), which allowed for a substantial increase in wages and living standards, thus promoting the stability of the regime.

Resource base

After World War II, the country was short on energy, relying on imported crude oil and natural gas from the Soviet Union, domestic brown coal, and nuclear and hydroelectric energy. Energy constraints were a major factor in 1980s.


Society and social groups

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1962.


Religion was oppressed and attacked in communist-era Czechoslovakia. In 1991, 46.4% of Czechoslovaks were Roman Catholics, 29.5% were atheists, 5.3% were Evangelical Lutherans, and 16.7% were n/a, but there were huge differences between the 2 constituent republics – see Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Culture and society

Health, social welfare and housing

After World War II, free health care was available to all citizens. National health planning emphasized preventive medicine; factory and local health-care centers supplemented hospitals and other inpatient institutions. Substantial improvement in rural health care in 1960s and 1970s.

Mass media

The mass media in Czechoslovakia was controlled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). Private ownership of any publication or agency of the mass media was generally forbidden, although churches and other organizations published small periodicals and newspapers. Even with this informational monopoly in the hands of organizations under KSČ control, all publications were reviewed by the government's Office for Press and Information.


See also


  1. ^ Czech and Slovak: Československá socialistická republika, ČSSR
  2. ^ Czech and Slovak: Československá republika


  1. ^ "Human Development Report 1990" (PDF). Human Development Reports.
  2. ^ Vladimir Tismaneanu, Marius Stan, Cambridge University Press, 17 May, 2018, Romania Confronts Its Communist Past: Democracy, Memory, and Moral Justice, p. 132
  3. ^ Rao, B. V. (2006), History of Modern Europe Ad 1789–2002: A.D. 1789–2002, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  4. ^ Masaryk, Tomáš. Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence. 1918.
  5. ^ a b Czech. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  6. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary. "Czech". Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  7. ^ a b Wettig 2008, p. 45
  8. ^ Wettig 2008, p. 86
  9. ^ Wettig 2008, p. 152
  10. ^ Wettig 2008, p. 110
  11. ^ Wettig 2008, p. 138
  12. ^ Grogin 2001, p. 134
  13. ^ Grenville 2005, p. 371
  14. ^ Grenville 2005, pp. 370–371
  15. ^ Grogin 2001, pp. 134–135
  16. ^ Saxonberg 2001, p. 15
  17. ^ Grogin 2001, p. 135
  18. ^ a b c Crampton 1997, p. 262
  19. ^ Bideleux & Jeffries 2007, p. 477
  20. ^ Crampton 1997, p. 270
  21. ^ a b c Crampton 1997, p. 249
  22. ^ Dale 2005, p. 85
  23. ^ Bideleux & Jeffries 2007, p. 474
  24. ^ Hardt & Kaufman 1995, p. 17
  25. ^ Chris Harman, A People's History of the World, 1999, p 625
  26. ^ "Vers la décriminalisation de l'homosexualité sous le communisme". February 2017.
  27. ^ Catholics in Communist Czechoslovakia: A Story of Persecution and Perseverance