Communist Czechoslovakia - Formation


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Before the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, in 1943, Czechoslovakian leader in exile Edvard Beneš agreed to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's demands for unconditional agreement with Soviet foreign policy and the Beneš decrees. While Beneš was not a Moscow cadre and several domestic reforms of other Eastern Bloc countries were not part Beneš' plan, Stalin did not object because the plan included property expropriation and he was satisfied with the relative strength of communists in Czechoslovakia compared to other Eastern Bloc countries.

In April 1945, the Third Republic was formed, led by a National Front of six parties. Because of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia's strength (they held 114 of 300 seats) and Beneš' loyalty, unlike in other Eastern Bloc countries, the Kremlin did not require Bloc politics or "reliable" cadres in Czechoslovakian power positions, and the executive and legislative branches retained their traditional structures. The Communists were the big winners in the 1946 elections--one of only two free elections ever held in the Soviet bloc. Klement Gottwald, leader of the KSČ, became Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia.

However, thereafter, the Soviet Union was disappointed that the government failed to eliminate "bourgeois" influence in the army, expropriate industrialists and large landowners and eliminate parties outside of the "National Front". Hope in Moscow was waning for a communist victory in the 1948 elections following a May 1947 Kremlin report concluded that "reactionary elements" praising western democracy had strengthened.

Following Czechoslovakia's brief consideration of taking Marshall Plan funds, and the subsequent scolding of communist parties by the Cominform at Szklarska Poręba in September 1947, Rudolf Slánský returned to Prague with a plan for the final seizure of power, including the StB's elimination of party enemies and purging of dissidents. Thereafter, Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin arranged the Czechoslovak coup d'état, followed by the occupation of non-Communist ministers' ministries, while the army was confined to barracks.

On 25 February 1948, Beneš, fearful of civil war and Soviet intervention, capitulated and appointed a Communist-dominated government who was sworn in two days later. Although members of the other National Front parties still nominally figured, this was, for all intents and purposes, the start of out-and-out Communist rule in the country. Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, the only prominent minister still left who wasn't either a Communist or fellow traveler, was found dead two weeks later. On 30 May, a single list of candidates from the National Front—now an organization dominated by the Communists—was elected to the National Assembly.

After passage of the Ninth-of-May Constitution on 9 June 1948, the country became a People's Republic until 1960. Although it was not a completely Communist document, it was close enough to the Soviet model that Beneš refused to sign it. He'd resigned a week before it was finally ratified, and died in September. The Ninth-of-May Constitution confirmed that the KSČ possessed absolute power, as other Communist parties had in the Eastern Bloc. On 11 July 1960, the 1960 Constitution of Czechoslovakia was promulgated, changing the name of the country from the "Czechoslovak Republic" to the "Czechoslovak Socialist Republic".

Read more about this topic:  Communist Czechoslovakia

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