Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview
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The trial was a link in the chain of Stalinist terror, one of the most barbaric episodes in the modern history of Europe, and certainly of Czechoslovakia. The consequences of the Slansky trial for Czechoslovakia and the Communist party were long- lasting. The leaders who survived were all involved in the purges and approved of the judicial murders. Thereafter they were always worried about their roles being exposed to the public's view. In the mid-1960s, the reform communists attempted to rehabilitate Slansky and the others who had shared his fate, partly as a means of discrediting the hard-line party leaders, partly to cleanse the party of its sins. A commission was set up in 1967, but its report was not made public, and Slansky was not rehabilitated.


London Arthur, On Trial ( London, 1968); Pelikan Jiri. ed. The Czechoslovak Political Trials, 1950-1954 ( Stanford, CA, 1971).

Slovakia and the Slovak Problem. Relations between Slovaks and Czechs have been rocky ever since the establishment of the Czechoslovak state in 1918. The Slovaks have always felt that their culture and nationality have never been appreciated appropriately by their Czech compatriots and that they were denied the autonomy promised in 1918. This led to the split of Czechoslovakia after the appeasement at Munich in 1938 and to the establishment of a puppet Slovak state, which was independent in name but was subordinated to the Germans in practice.

In August 1944, the Slovak Communist party led a national uprising against the Germans and their Slovak supporters. The uprising was easily suppressed by the German army with great losses to the resistance fighters and the civilian population. Nevertheless, the very fact that the uprising even occurred, gave self-confidence and stature to the Slovak communists, since there was no analogue to their heroic act on the part of the Czechs.

After 1945, the Slovak communists did not want their party to be merged with the Czech party in a centralized common organization. A compromise was eventually reached with Soviet mediation. The Slovak Communist party was included in the Communist party of Czechoslovakia as an autonomous body. Yet this was not a real concession because the supreme organization was that of the federal party as it was also the primary organization in Bohemia and Moravia. Thus, the solution did not really provide the autonomy demanded by the Slovak communists. It created perpetual discontent in party ranks until, with the show trial of Gustav Husak (see Husak, Gustav) and Vladimir Clementis, all muttering was silenced.

It was the Slovak Alexander Dubcek (see Dubcek, Alexander) who brought the controversy into the open once again in 1968. The Soviet leaders took advantage of Slovak discontent after the invasion of Czechoslovakia in that year and installed the Slovak Husak--who survived the purges--as the new Czechoslovak leader. In 1968, it was the Slovak wing of the Czechoslovak Communist party that became the strongest critic of the Novotny leadership. Its former leaders, who had fallen victim to the


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Dictionary of East European History since 1945
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