The Origins of Postcommunist Elites: From Prague Spring to the Breakup of Czechoslovakia

By Gil Eyal | Go to book overview

Introduction

On January 1, 1993, the Czechoslovak federation ceased to exist. For three-quarters of a century, Czechoslovakia was one of a handful of functioning binational states, but it disintegrated in a matter of only four years after the fall of communism. At the time, the breakup of Czechoslovakia was overshadowed by the more bloody events in the Balkans and by the spectacular demise of the Soviet Union. Unlike these other cases, Czechoslovakia's breakup was rapid, peaceful, and negotiated, and because the prevailing wisdom among political scientists was that binational states are generally unstable, it did not command much attention. Compared with the volumes written about the dissolution of the USSR and the former Yugoslavia, the crop of scholarship on the Czechoslovak split was, and still remains, meager. This book seeks to rectify this situation, with the firm belief that there is also a more general lesson to be learned from the case of Czechoslovakia, particularly with respect to the role played by the "new class"—the class composed of intellectuals, professionals, technocrats, bureaucrats, and managers—in the transition from communism to capitalism. I will argue that the main process leading to the split of Czechoslovakia was a struggle within the "new class," between Czech and Slovak fractions who represented alternative visions of postcommunist society, and of the role of intellectuals within

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