How did people perceive Alexander Dubcek after Prague Spring?

Dr. Michal Pullman related to us how popular Alexander Dubcek was back in 1968 and the cruel life he had after what was known as Prague Spring.

(Alexander Dubcek) “was extremely popular in the time of Prague Spring. People were shocked there can be someone who is open minded, who is flexible in ideas and can talk in variety of languages… who has fantastic contacts in the whole world and is recognised as the person who represents the Democratic Socialism which was an idea broadly acceptable in 1968, the very notion of democratisation, of solutions. He was the person who was also admired at that time.

Everything changed with the Soviet occupation in August 1968. Already this negotiation of the Soviets political representation and the Czechoslovak one was very difficult because both sides had to do some compromises that were not perceived positively in their home countries.  Alexander was pushed afterwards to be an ambassador to Turkey because it was a way of removing him from political negotiation.   Eventually he was dismissed from this position and became a forest worker in Slovakia… and had to do a hard job. Afterwards he rose again in the second half of the 80’s on the background of renewed attractiveness of the idea of democratic socialism, of course.

He was the person most popular in the days of November 1989 because everyone knew him as the representative of what people really wanted at that time (in 1968), that was the democratic socialism but now, he was much older and had less personal/physical power or possibilities and then, the developments did not go towards the democratic socialism but rather towards democratic capitalism or privatised  which was not his idea and unfortunately came his death on the highway.”

Marina Gogeanu

Interview transcribed by: Rose Muzvondiwa

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Why did Czechoslovakia split and what effect did it have on people?

The Czechoslovakia’s split and its effects on people are some of the topics we covered in the interview we took to Dr. Michal Pullman:

“This is a very complicated, hard and complex topic and we need […] long time to explain precisely post war period when the Slovak political representation hoped to have some kind of autonomy even though they did not agree with the split of Czechoslovakia in the 1938 and then especially in 1939.

They hoped to keep some kind of autonomy they were not successful at the time between 1948 and 1968 did not recognise any special rights for Slovakia then the federation came.  Federation was one of the most important things taken from the Slovak perspective.  October 1968 the introduction of the federation, of some rights in Education and culture was perceived positively. that was one of the reasons why the normalisation regime was so much more accepted in Slovakia than in the Czech land.

This of course had radicalised after 1989 when the public space was opened, not only for democratic forces but also for regressive movements such as the national one.  And the Czech Neo Liberal ruling elite was able to take part or to do some kind of agreement with the Slovak political Elite and to split the republic because this was somehow attractive for both side.

The Czech were not limited in their attempt to introduce neo liberal system in the Czech land and the Slovaks political elite were not limited in the introduction of their Nationalist Populist national; it was a kind of deal between these two elites in 1991/92 and they suddenly realised it was attractive for both sides so they just did.

At the same time I just want to add just one idea (not resisting the split) it was unconstitutional, I have to say it openly because there was no poll about that, because it is written in the constitution that when the sovereignty of the state changes there must be some kind of referendum but this political elite I was talking about it in 1991/92 knew that majority would reject that so they did not do any kind of popular decision making they just decided.  But with that I do not want to be under thin eyes because it is difficult to talk about these things, today the Czechs and Slovaks approve of this because they see somehow it brought bad things but also good things and best thing was there was no war. The Elite knew, the popular rejection of the split would come which led them to do split technocratic ally, from that point of view, the split even though its acceptable now has a big deal of internal legitimacy problem. ”

Marina Gogeanu

Interview Transcribed by Rose Muzvondiwa

Why and how was communism implemented in Czechoslovakia?

Dr. Michal Pullmann (teacher of contemporary history at the Charles University, faculty of Arts) explained to us during the interview we took to him why and how the communist regime was implemented in Czechoslovakia.

“There is a different root when we talk about central Europe because Czechoslovakia was a special case in contrast to Hungary and Poland where communism was a kind of import from Soviet Union.  The Czechs, Slovaks especially, voted for the communist predominantly after the 2nd world war.  Czechoslovakia is the only country where the communist came to power democratically because they won elections after the 2nd world war and so it’s in Czechoslovakia to some respects specific in contrast to some countries I deliberately mentioned like Poland and Hungary where it was an import of Soldiers with an army etc,

The popularity of communism as an idea in the post war time was predominantly rooted in a positive view of  the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia very strongly, with high admiration of Stalin even in the spirit  and the liberating role of the Soviet Union and off course expectations of more just order that wouldn’t bring the big economy crisis etc, so the fact that Czechoslovakia was not exposed to mass violence of the Red Army as in Hungary or Poland was the root of very positive view of Soviet Union and communism in post war especially Czech Society.  I mean they do not have such large, huge hegemony as in Czech lands but as a whole in Czechoslovakia the communists they won the elections so they were very important even in the Democratic time and in February Stalin was pushing somehow now we have to do a turnover etc. and they did it in Feb 1948 they changed the political system towards the Soviet.  Soviet won with a kind of coup d’etat, how it is interpreted till today.  Afterwards Stalin’s model of Socialism was implemented.

The hardest time for the whole of Czechoslovakia came at the end of the 40’s and beginning of the 50’s where short trials and terror came in Czechoslovakia. At the same time we need to take into account even this was not an import from the Soviet Union.  Czechoslovakia was very special in this respect.  Many people such as workers, the people who profited from the regime, supported the terror especially at the beginning when it was not completely clear that the destruction would be such large, there were many people who expected from the Stalin model the betterment of their life and also the safety that the same Imperialist capitalist etc. They would not destroy the very basic, the very existence of the Czech nation.

We have to take into account that the complex of Munich as it is said in the Czech history in Sept 1938, Czechoslovakia through the Munich agreement was taken especially the borderlands were taken to Germany afterwards in March 1939 the German Nazis took the rest which they created a kind of protectorate of Germany and  were almost successful in destroying the very existence of the Czech nation because they closed the University and was visible within the 5yrs that intelligence, if you close Universities and don’t reproduce the elite, you can destroy the Nation.  I mean the Stalinism or the Socialist promise that was mostly understood at that time as kind of national communism as a kind of specific Czechoslovak way to call communism was extremely popular so this was the root of the popularity of the idea of communism in the post war time.  The Czechs do not want to remember that they were the only ones who voted for communism in contrast to Hungarians, Polish, Romanians or East Germans who did not choose this way.”

Marina Gogeanu