Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview
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The Catholic Church tried to fight back. In 1949, the Bishops' Conference sent a pastoral letter to all its parishes, pointing out the incompatibility between Christianity and materialist Marxism. The response was increased repression against all churches. All religious and social organizations that were supervised by priests or ministers were now dissolved. Church properties were confiscated, seminaries and church-run schools were closed, and their teachers were fired. Many bishops were harassed and jailed. The state declared its open support of atheism and sponsored rallies, published books, and held lectures against religion. When a bishopric fell vacant, the regime refused to accept newly appointed replacements. The relations of the Catholic church with the Vatican were forbidden. Church attendance was monitored, and party members were forbidden to participate in church rituals and ceremonies. Anyone who was discovered to have religious convictions could lose a job.

After the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968, the party continued to emphasize the antireligious nature of socialism. Yet tactics were changed. Agreements were soon reached with the Vatican over the appointment of four new bishops to vacant sees. A new cardinal was also appointed by the pope in the person of Stephan Trochta, the bishop of Litomerice. In spite of the seeming relaxation of anti religious policies, the publication of antireligious texts was continued and so were conferences in the name of atheism. The state presented an exhibition on Czechoslovak atheistic traditions at the Slovak National Museum in Bratislava in 1972. Only the collapse of the communist regime in 1989 put a stop to official persecution of religions in Czechoslovakia.


Ramet Pedro, "Christianity and National Heritage among the Czechs and Slovaks," in Pedro Ramet, ed. Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics 2nd Ed.( Durham, NC, 1989).

Sik, Ota (1919-). Sik spent his early years studying economics at Charles University in Prague. When the Germans occupied the Czech lands, Sik was taken to Mauthausen concentration camp where he was kept until 1945. After his liberation, Sik joined the Communist party. He was appointed a member of the party's regional committee. He attended the higher party school for cadres in 1950 and became chairman of the Department of Economics at his alma mater in 1953. In that year, he was appointed full professor.

Between 1958 and 1962, Sik was a candidate (nonvoting) member of the Central Committee of the Communist party. In 1962, he was appointed director of the Economics Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, and he became a recognized expert on socialist economics. In that same year, he became a full voting member of the Central Committee, and in 1968 he was appointed deputy prime minister in Alexander Dubcek's government. His theories served as the basis for the economic reform plans introduced during the Prague Spring (see Prague Spring, 1968). Following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, Sik was unwilling to go along with the old, stodgy policies of "normalization" (see "Normalization" in


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Dictionary of East European History since 1945
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