Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

calcitrant citizen to a labor camp if such a person was judged to be dangerous for communist control. No judicial action was necessary for a two-year stint in such a camp; the sentences were given out at the discretion of the local committee. Many of these committees became hotbeds of corruption and nepotism as well as means of settling personal disputes in localities. During the collectivization drive, the National Committees were widely used against uncooperative peasants.


Bibliography

Wolchik Sharon, "Czechoslovakia," in Joseph Held, ed. The Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century ( New York, 1992).

'Normalization in Czechoslovakia. In April 1969, Alexander Dubcek (see Dubcek, Alexander), powerless since the Warsaw Pact invasion the year before, was officially removed from his posts in the Communist party and was replaced by the Slovak Gustav Husak (see Husak, Gustav). The personnel change brought about great efforts to undo the reforms introduced during Dubcek's leadership. Husak cleverly exploited the latent antagonism between Czechs and Slovaks in order to direct popular attention away from the national humiliation of the invasion. This was a time of "normalization," a euphemism for the elimination of reformers and reforms from politics and economics.

Husak restored the Communist party's monopoly of power. Censorship was reestablished, and strict controls were placed on radio and television broadcasting. A large number of people were dismissed from the Communist party, which usually meant the loss of jobs and income. Nonparty groups and dissident intellectuals were warned that discipline would be enforced. "Unlawful" assemblies were dispersed by the secret police. Dubcek's supporters were removed from all levels of the party and were replaced by pliant collaborators. The leaders of mass-organizations were also purged. The universities and research institutes were cleansed of their reformist scholars. Scores left the country in search of freedom of expression and research. Many talented experts were eliminated from Czechoslovak cultural and scientific life. The role of the secret police as the party secretary's private army was reestablished.

As a consequence, over 500,000 people lost their livelihoods. No wonder that the economic life of the country was seriously affected. Normalization also meant no reliance on mass-citizen support for the policies pursued by the Communist party. Instead, material advantages were offered to those willing to go along with neo-Stalinist policies. For those who were not willing, there was coercion. The regime paid more attention to previously neglected issues, such as the plight of the collective farmers. In the countryside, its unpopularity was, therefore, less.

Slovakia was appeased by the fact that Husak was a Slovak, and, for the first time in the twentieth century, a Slovak had real power in the republic ( Alexander Dubcek, himself a Slovak, was not considered to have had real power). Nevertheless, the communist Husak ruled over a sullen people withdrawn into passive resistance.

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