Czech Republic: Cui Bono, Cui Prodest?

By Basta, Jaroslav | Demokratizatsiya, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Czech Republic: Cui Bono, Cui Prodest?

Basta, Jaroslav, Demokratizatsiya

When Czechoslovakia shed its totalitarian regime in November 1989, its new leaders were confronted with an entrenched secret police apparatus, the origins of which dated back more than forty years to the Soviet-backed Communist seizure of power through a coalition government. Democratic parties, united with the Communists in a National Front in a joint attempt to oppose Nazi occupation (and later to rid state institutions of Nazi collaborators), failed to notice the Communist takeover of the government, particularly the instruments of force. For their part, the Communists increasingly infiltrated government posts, private companies, and even the non-Communist political parties, until--after gerrymandering "free" elections--the Communists took control in February 1948. Within two months, the new government created the National Security Brigade (Sbor nadrodni bezpecnosti, or SNB) and placed it under the control of Communist Minister of the Interior Vaclav Nosek.

With its SNB and elite State Police (Statni bezpecnost, or StB), the Communist Party became the new leader of Czechoslovakia. It immediately cowed the opposition through its use of the Ministry of the Interior and other security organs, with security policy directed by the Czechoslovakian Communist Party Central Committee (Ustredni vybor, UV KSC) leadership. The pro-Communist wings of the individual non-Communist parties simultaneously "cleansed" their own ranks, consolidating their power and subsequently emerging to lead the new government of the National Front. Pre-war Communists--many of them graduates of the Soviet intelligence schools and political academies and often fully recruited KGB agents--administered the activities of these parties.

The Ministry of the Interior and the state police played an enormous role in the establishment and consolidation of the totalitarian system. A standing police organization, it became integrated with the secret, or political, police. In the former Czechoslovakia, the vast majority of ministry staff members were also part of the SNB, while the ministry itself, though a formal member of the government, was nonetheless administered not by the prime minister but by the Communist Party apparat.

The SNB's most important repressive section, the StB, held immense power in the government, wielding near total control over the citizenry. Fear was one of its most skillfully used tools. The StB sowed fear and nurtured it among the population. Stories of repression, violence, and execution during the first years of the new Communist regime planted indelible feelings of horror and hopelessness in people's minds, crushing any hope of resistance.

In addition to its primary intelligence role, the StB held executive and investigative powers. This meant that, apart from intelligence and counterintelligence activities, the StB also conducted searches of homes, arrests, and prosecutions of its victims. Additionally, the StB remained in constant close contact with the Soviet KGB. In the early years, Soviet agents themselves served inside the StB, but as the Czechoslovakian Communist regime matured and developed its own cadres, Moscow supervised and practically administered the StB through Soviet "advisers." Interestingly, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, each state in the Soviet bloc began to post a representative of its Ministry of the Interior in its embassy in the capitals of fellow Soviet satellite countries. These representatives mediated contacts between the Ministries of the Interior and their police forces. (The state security organs maintained similar liaison offices.) Direct cooperation with the KGB might have detailed, for instance, participation in intelligence operations or the screening or loaning of officers and agents for operations conducted by another country's intelligence services. These StB operatives also traveled to the USSR to "raise their intellect" in so-called instruktace briefs.

The StB was concerned about Czechoslovakian society as a whole.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Czech Republic: Cui Bono, Cui Prodest?


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?