Československá socialistická republika
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic

Satellite state of the ‌Soviet Union
Flag of the Czech Republic 1960–1968 Flag of the Czech Republic
Flag of the Czech Republic Coat of Arms of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
Pravda vítězí
Kde domov můj
Location Czechoslovakia
Prague Spring:
Federal Constitution
Flag of the Czech Republic
Flag of the Czech Republic
Government Socialist republic
- 1960-1968Antonín Novotný
- 1968Ludvík Svoboda
Prime Minister
- 1960-1963Viliám Siroký
- 1963-1968Josef Lenárt
- 1968Oldrich Cerník
Legislature National Assembly
July 11, 1960New constitution
October 27, 1968Federalization
Area127,900 km²
CurrencyCzechoslovak koruna
Flag of the Czech Republic Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia Flag of the Czech Republic

The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1960-1968) was a socialist republic and a satellite state of the Soviet Union. In 1968 a federal constitution was established as a result of the Prague Spring ().

Background Edit

De-Stalinization had a late start in Czechoslovakia. The KSC leadership virtually ignored the Soviet thaw announced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956 at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In Czechoslovakia that April, at the Second Writers' Congress, several authors criticized acts of political repression and attempted to gain control of the writers' congress. The writers' rebellion was suppressed, however, and the conservatives retained control. Students in Prague and Bratislava demonstrated on May Day of 1956, demanding freedom of speech and access to the Western press. The Novotny regime condemned these activities and introduced a policy of neo-Stalinism. The 1958 KSC Party congress formalized the continuation of Stalinism.

In the early 1960s, the Czechoslovak economy became severely stagnated. The industrial growth rate was the lowest in Eastern Europe. Food imports strained the balance of payments. Pressures both from Moscow and from within the party precipitated a reform movement. In 1963 reform-minded Communist intellectuals produced a proliferation of critical articles. Criticism of economic planning merged with more generalized protests against KSC bureaucratic control and ideological conformity. The KSC leadership responded. The purge trials of 1949-54 were reviewed, for example, and some of those purged were rehabilitated. Some hardliners were removed from top levels of government and replaced by younger, more liberal communists. Jozef Lenart replaced Prime Minister Vilam Siroky. The KSC organized committees to review economic policy.

In 1965 the party approved the New Economic Model, which had been drafted under the direction of economist and theoretician Ota Sik. The program called for a second, intensive stage of economic development, emphasizing technological and managerial improvements. Central planning would be limited to overall production and investment indexes as well as price and wage guidelines. Management personnel would be involved in decision making. Production would be market oriented and geared toward profitability. Prices would respond to supply and demand. Wage differentials would be introduced.

The KSC "Theses" of December 1965 presented the party response to the call for political reform. Democratic centralism was redefined, placing a stronger emphasis on democracy. The leading role of the KSC was reaffirmed but limited. In consequence, the National Assembly was promised increased legislative responsibility. The Slovak executive (Board of Commissioners) and legislature (Slovak National Council) were assured that they could assist the central government in program planning and assume responsibility for program implementation in Slovakia. The regional, district, and local national committees were to be permitted a degree of autonomy. The KSC agreed to refrain from superseding the authority of economic and social organizations. Party control in cultural policy, however, was reaffirmed.

January 1967 was the date for full implementation of the reform program. Novotny and his supporters hesitated, introducing amendments to reinforce central control. Pressure from the reformists was stepped up. Slovaks pressed for federalization. Economists called for complete enterprise autonomy and economic responsiveness to the market mechanism. The Fourth Writers' Congress adopted a resolution calling for rehabilitation of the Czechoslovak literary tradition and the establishment of free contact with Western culture. The Novotny regime responded with repressive measures.

At the October 30-31 meeting of the KSC Central Committee, Alexander Dubcek, a moderate reformer, challenged Novotny. As university students in Prague demonstrated in support of the liberals, Novotny appealed to Moscow for assistance. On December 8, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Prague but did not support Novotny. On January 5, 1968, the Central Committee elected Dubcek to replace Novotny as first secretary of the KSC. Novotny's fall from KSC leadership precipitated initiatives to oust Stalinists from all levels of government, from mass associations, e.g., the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement and the Czechoslovak Union Youth, and from local party organs. On March 22, 1968, Novotny resigned from the presidency and was succeeded by General Ludvik Svoboda.[1]

Prague Spring Edit

Dubcek carried the reform movement a step further in the direction of liberalism. After Novotny's fall, censorship was lifted. The media--press, radio, and television--were mobilized for reformist propaganda purposes. The movement to democratize socialism in Czechoslovakia, formerly confined largely to the party intelligentsia, acquired a new, popular dynamism in the spring of 1968. In April the KSC Presidium adopted the Action Program that had been drafted by a coalition headed by Dubcek and made up of reformers, moderates, centrists, and conservatives. The program proposed a "new model of socialism," profoundly "democratic" and "national," that is, adapted to Czechoslovak conditions. The National Front and the electoral system were to be democratized, and Czechoslovakia was to be federalized. Freedom of assembly and expression would be guaranteed in constitutional law. The New Economic Model was to be implemented. The Action Program also reaffirmed the Czechoslovak alliance with the Soviet Union and other socialist states. The reform movement, which rejected Stalinism as the road to communism, remained committed to communism as a goal.

The Action Program stipulated that reform must proceed under KSC direction. In subsequent months, however, popular pressure mounted to implement reforms forthwith. Radical elements found expression: anti-Soviet polemics appeared in the press; the Social Democrats began to form a separate party; new unaffiliated political clubs were created. Party conservatives urged the implementation of repressive measures, but Dubcek counseled moderation and reemphasized KSC leadership. In May he announced that the Fourteenth Party Congress would convene in an early session on September 9. The congress would incorporate the Action Program into the party statutes, draft a federalization law, and elect a new (presumably more liberal) Central Committee.

On June 27, Ludvik Vaculik, a lifelong communist and a candidate member of the Central Committee, published a manifesto entitled "Two Thousand Words." The manifesto expressed concern about conservative elements within the KSC and "foreign" forces as well. (Warsaw Pact maneuvers were held in Czechoslovakia in late June.) It called on the "people" to take the initiative in implementing the reform program. Dubcek, the party Presidium, the National Front, and the cabinet sharply denounced the manifesto.

The Soviet leadership was alarmed. In mid-July a Warsaw Pact conference was held without Czechoslovak participation. The Warsaw Pact nations drafted a letter to the KSC leadership referring to the manifesto as an "organizational and political platform of counterrevolution." Pact members demanded the reimposition of censorship, the banning of new political parties and clubs, and the repression of "rightist" forces within the party. The Warsaw Pact nations declared the defense of Czechoslovakia's socialist gains to be not only the task of Czechoslovakia but also the mutual task of all Warsaw Pact countries. The KSC rejected the Warsaw Pact ultimatum, and Dubcek requested bilateral talks with the Soviet Union.[2]

Soviet Intervention Edit

Soviet leader Brezhnev hesitated to intervene militarily in Czechoslovakia. Dubcek's Action Program proposed a "new model of socialism"--"democratic" and "national." Significantly, however, Dubcek did not challenge Czechoslovak commitment to the Warsaw Pact. In the early spring of 1968, the Soviet leadership adopted a wait-and-see attitude. By midsummer, however, two camps had formed: advocates and opponents of military intervention.

The pro-interventionist coalition viewed the situation in Czechoslovakia as "counterrevolutionary" and favored the defeat of Dubcek and his supporters. This coalition was headed by the Ukrainian party leader Pyotr Shelest and included communist bureaucrats from Belorussia and from the non-Russian national republics of the western part of the Soviet Union (the Baltic republics). The coalition members feared the awakening of nationalism within their respective republics and the influence of the Ukrainian minority in Czechoslovakia on Ukrainians in the Soviet Union. Bureaucrats responsible for political stability in Soviet cities and for the ideological supervision of the intellectual community also favored a military solution. Within the Warsaw Pact, only the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and Poland were strongly interventionist. Walter Ulbricht and Wladyslaw Gomulka--party leaders of East Germany and Poland, respectively--viewed liberalism as threatening to their own positions.

The Soviet Union agreed to bilateral talks with Czechoslovakia to be held in July at Cierna nad Tisou, Slovakia. At the meeting, Dubcek defended the program of the reformist wing of the KSC while pledging commitment to the Warsaw Pact and Comecon. The KSC leadership, however, was divided. Vigorous reformers--Josef Smrkovsky, Oldrich Cernik, and Frantisek Kriegel--supported Dubcek. Conservatives--Vasil Bil'ak, Drahomir Kolder, and Oldrich Svestka--adopted an anti-reformist stance. Brezhnev decided on compromise. The KSC delegates reaffirmed their loyalty to the Warsaw Pact and promised to curb "antisocialist" tendencies, prevent the revival of the Czechoslovaka Social Democratic Party, and control the press more effectively. The Soviets agreed to withdraw their troops (stationed in Czechoslovakia since the June maneuvers) and permit the September 9 party congress.

On August 3, representatives from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia met in Bratislava and signed the Bratislava Declaration. The declaration affirmed unshakable fidelity to Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism and declared an implacable struggle against "bourgeois" ideology and all "antisocialist" forces. The Soviet Union expressed its intention to intervene in a Warsaw Pact country if a "bourgeois" system--a pluralist system of several political parties--was ever established. After the Bratislava conference, Soviet troops left Czechoslovak territory but remained along Czechoslovak borders. Dubcek made no attempt to mobilize the Czechoslovak army to resist an invasion.

The KSC party congress remained scheduled for September 9. In the week following the Bratislava conference, it became an open secret in Prague that most of Dubcek's opponents would be removed from the Central Committee. The Prague municipal party organization prepared and circulated a blacklist. The antireformist coalition could hope to stay in power only with Soviet assistance.

KSC anti-reformists, therefore, made efforts to convince the Soviets that the danger of political instability and "counterrevolution" did indeed exist. They used the Kaspar Report, prepared by the Central Committee's Information Department, headed by Jan Kaspar, to achieve this end. The report provided an extensive review of the general political situation in Czechoslovakia as it might relate to the forthcoming party congress. It predicted that a stable Central Committee and a firm leadership could not necessarily be expected as the outcome of the congress. The report was received by the party Presidium on August 12. Two Presidium members, Kolder and Alois Indra, were instructed to evaluate the report for the August 20 meeting of the Presidium.

Kolder and Indra viewed the Kaspar Report with alarm and, some observers think, communicated their conclusions to the Soviet ambassador, Stepan V. Chervonenko. These actions are thought to have precipitated the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. As the KSC Presidium convened on August 20, the anti-reformists planned to make a bid for power, pointing to the imminent danger of counterrevolution. Kolder and Indra presented a resolution declaring a state of emergency and calling for "fraternal assistance." The resolution was never voted on: Warsaw Pact troops entered Czechoslovakia that same day.

KSC conservatives had misinformed Moscow regarding the strength of the reform movement. The KSC Presidium met during the night of August 20-21; it rejected the option of armed resistance but condemned the invasion. Two-thirds of the KSC Central Committee opposed the Soviet intervention. A KSC party congress, convened secretly on August 22, passed a resolution affirming its loyalty to Dubcek's Action Program and denouncing the Soviet aggression. President Svoboda repeatedly resisted Soviet pressure to form a new government under Indra. The Czechoslovak population was virtually unanimous in its repudiation of the Soviet action. In compliance with Svoboda's caution against acts that might provoke violence, they avoided mass demonstrations and strikes but observed a symbolic one-hour general work stoppage on August 23. Popular opposition was expressed in numerous spontaneous acts of nonviolent resistance. In Prague and other cities throughout the republic, Czechs and Slovaks greeted Warsaw Pact soldiers with arguments and reproaches. Every form of assistance, including the provision of food and water, was denied the invaders. Signs, placards, and graffiti drawn on walls and pavements denounced the invaders, the Soviet leaders, and suspected collaborators. Pictures of Dubcek and Svoboda appeared everywhere.

The generalized resistance caused the Soviet Union to abandon its original plan to oust Dubcek. The KSC leader, who had been arrested on the night of August 20, was taken to Moscow for negotiations. The outcome was the Brezhnev Doctrine of limited sovereignty, which provided for the strengthening of the KSC, strict party control of the media, and the suppression of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party. It was agreed that Dubcek would remain in office and that a program of moderate reform would continue.[3]


  • Antonín Novotný () (July 11, 1960 - March 30, 1968)
  • Ludvík Svoboda () (March 30, 1968 - October 27, 1968)

Prime Minister

  • Viliám Siroký () (July 11, 1960 - September 22, 1963)
  • Josef Lenárt () (September 22, 1963 - April 4, 1968)
  • Oldrich Cerník () (April 4, 1968 - October 27, 1968)


Czechoslovakian Polities

Neighbouring Nations


  1. The Library of Congress: Czechoslovakia - A Country Study, Chapter 1
  2. The Library of Congress: Czechoslovakia - A Country Study, Chapter 1
  3. The Library of Congress: Czechoslovakia - A Country Study, Chapter 1