The First Czechoslovak Republic History Collections

The  Posta Czechoslovak Overprint 1919


History Collections

Created By

Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA




I have just find an rare auctions stamps with Posta Ceskoslovenka 1919 occupation on Austria and Hungary stamps, I know tha5t info before and I have one stamps from that era.


In order to now more informations about the stamps of Checks at that area after World Ward I, I have made a study,this are the report of the study.


I now this imnformations nor complete,that is why I hope comment and more info,

Jakarta March 2012

Dr iwan suwandy,MHa













Philately. Pof.35a, Crown 6h orange, black Opt, T. II., exp. by Leseticky., Mrnak, Karasek, Tri, certificate Federation of Czech Philatelists with signature Karasek, cat. 75.000Kc US$ 3,103.00


Philately. Pof.59, Newspaper stamp – Mercury R 10h red, T. III., exp. by Mrnak., certificate Mikulski, cat. 58000Kc

…US$ 2,087.00


Philately. Pof.65, Postage due stmp – big numerals 2h red, overprint T. I., fine centered stmp also Opt, at the back bigger hinge mark and 2 owner’s mark, exp. by Leseticky., Tri, Hirsch, Diena, Mikulski + photo-certificate Mikulski, cat. 90000Kc US$ 3,852.00


Philately. Pof.71, Postage due stmp – big numerals 50h, T. II., exp. by Mrnak., Gilbert, Be, cat. 28.000CZK

US$ 1,017.00


Philately. Pof.89, Turul 1f grey, overprint T. I., wmk z, totally centered stmp also Opt, exp. Wallner, Karasek, Stupka + photo-certificate Stupka from y 2011, mint, cat. 58000Kc US$ 2,408.00



Philately. Pof.100, Reaper – white numerals 15f violet, exp. by Gilbert., Mrnak, cat. 5800 US$ 204.00


Philately. Pof.129, Postage due stmp – black numerals 12f, overprint T. III., nice piece, only gently off center (by/on/at Hungarian stmp. usual), nice perf, from the front small light horiz. fold, exp. by Gilbert., Mrnak, Karasek, cat. 110000CZK US$ 2,247.00




The postal history


Flags on posters (Czechoslovakia)

recruiting posters used in the USA (WW1 – prob. 1917)



The Pošta Československá 1919 stamp issue was valid only few months and because of surcharge paid to face values it was not widely used in postal operations. Majority existing covers franked with the issue was produced by stamp collectors



Fig. 1 – philatelic cover franked with Hradcany stamp and with one Austrian and one Hungarian stamp overprinted with Pošta Československá 1919 overprint

(correct postage of 25 Heller for domestic letter)


There is no wonder, that the stamp collectors of that time hated the stamp issue and some of them stopped collecting of Czechoslovak stamps, because they were sure, that they can never get all issued stamps and their collection will be never complete. Very hard for collecting of stamp country, which first stamps were issued only one year before the stamp set … .

Sometimes we can find a cover really went through postal system franked with the stamp issue. I don´t talk about rare covers being sold now at leading international auctions houses for many thousands of dollars, but about “normal” covers being franked with usual values of the set and being really sent for postal purposes. Example of such covers you can see at fig. 2.


Fig. 2

This is original Austrian field post card being franked with 15 Heller Pošta Československá 1919 stamp and mailed in Jan. 1920 as confirms not very clear machine cancel of Prague. The franking is correct, 15 Heller was standard postal rate for domestic postcards.  This card was sent without any philatelic interest, the sender remembers his friend, that he has not return him a book and strongly asked him to do it immediately.

The other example is yet more interesting, however this card is situated on the edge of philatelic and non-philatelic covers. But because it has not been returned to sender and the message seems like normal correspondence between two collectors of postcards, we can believe, that main purpose for its mailing was the message and not the stamp (fig. 3a+b).

The card was sent from Prague to Beyrouth in Syria (today in Lebanon). Covers franked with the issue mailed abroad are very unusual. In addition, this card was prepared in way very popular at that time – with postage stamp being affixed on picture side. The postal cancel belongs to Praha – Hrad post office (Prague-Castle), which nicely accompanies the picture side showing Charles Bridge being situated below the castle. The postage rate of 20 Heller corresponds to the international postcard rate of that time.



Fig. 3a + b


Around the first Czechoslovakian stamps often flourish unbelievable tall stories and vague information. It’s more than 90 years ago the first Hradčany stamps were issued, so let’s try to sum the information: The first initiator of the new Czechoslovakian stamps probably wasJaroslav Šula. By that time he was the president of the Czech philately club. It is said, that he already on October 20th 1918 in a letter asked Alfons Muchato prepare drafts of new stamps. In KČF’s (Czech philately club) registration we can read that on November 8th 1918 the KČF’s leading asked Alfons Mucha to prepare drafts of new Czechoslovakian stamps…Beyond that, it says in

Jaroslav Lešetický’s memoirs that on October 29th 1918, the post director Maximilián Fatka gave him a task to provide a temporary overprint to Austrian stamps. (“Zatímní vláda 28. 10. 1918” – “Provisory governance 28. 10. 1918”). This proposition wasn’t accepted by the postal presidency, so the next day Lešetický got a new task, to fix drafts to temporary stamps. This time he contacted Alfons Mucha.

On November 1st 1918, Jaroslav Lešetický took a walk together with counsel Mr. Viliam Elias.

Mr. Viliam Elias suggested Hradčany as the motive of the first Czechoslovakian stamp. This proposition was approved by the postal presidency and the next day Alfons Mucha got a subcontract to draw a stamp with Hradčany motive.

The printing house “
Česká grafická unie”, gets a contract to release the very first Czechoslovakian stamps. “Česká grafické unie” was founded in 1903 by a coalition of the graphic printing house Unie and Mr. Jan Vilím’s reproduction manufactory



Jaroslav Šula

By profession he was a chemical engineer and owner of a brewery laboratory. Among Czech philatelists he was the most scientifically educated. 
Already before WW1 ended, Šula together with Lešetický prepared to ask Alfons Mucha to present a proposal on the new Czechoslovakian stamp.

As an expert in Czechoslovakian stamps,

he was without comparison.


First of all in “Pošta Československá 1919” overprint. Šula’s expert mark is even today a guarantee of solidity.

J. Šula was the president of the Czech philatelist club, K.č.f., between 1901 – 1903, 1905 – 1921.

Later Lešetický became Šula’s competitor. Unfortunately Lešetický often made mistakes and many of them Šula “repaired”. Šula well knew the ignorance of Lešetický’s expertizing, and tried inconspicuously to beware the public of this expert. Later on it proved, that Lešetický was no expert at all.


* 1866 – † 6. 10. 1936


Mr. J. Lešetický was in 1918 first secretary of the postal establishment. Already before WW1 ended, Lešetický together with Jaroslav Šula prepared to ask Alfons Mucha to present a proposal on the new Czechoslovakian stamp.


As a delegate of the post office board, together with the post director Maxmilián Fatka he made a proposition to overprint a stock of Austrian stamps in Prague and its suburbs.

The text of the overprint was to be: “Zatímní vláda 28. 10. 1918”, (Provisory government 28. 10. 1918). The official overprint was not realized. Despite this, so called private revolutionary overprints were created.

Instead of the overprints,



 Jaroslav Lešetický got a commission, from the post office board, to acquire a proposal of new stamps.

The proposal was made by academic painter Alfons Mucha, in November 1918. This way the first Czechoslovak post stamp was created, by the name of Hradčany.




Hradcany Castle-Stamp by Mucha


First postage stamp issue of Czechoslovakia (issued in October 1918). The stamp illustrate the Hrad?any Castle (in Prague) with the sun behind as the symbol of the birth of the new state. (In the real world , the sun does not actually rise behind the castle) Tho white pigeons can be seen in the bottom. Those stamps were designed by Alphones Mucha, who was born in Prague and was an important Art Nouveau artist. More about the postal history of Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic:

In 1919 the Czechoslovakian post had a large stock of void Austrian and Hungarian stamps to disposition. Simultaneously there was enough of new printed stamps, Hradčany, so there was  no acute need to require new provisory overprints. The influence of Mr. J. Lešetický, the first secretary of the postal establishment, and a philatelist since many years, was conclusive. With help of different arguments, he forced his way through, to distribute the edition of the provisory overprint emission “Pošta Československá 1919“!






The paper “Czech philatelist” was since 1914 printed in the printing-office Vlast.

The editor was J. Šula and one of the cooperators was J. Lešetický. From the same printing-office was in 1920 distributed a 40 pages “Monograph of old Austrian and Hungarian stamps with the overprint Pošta Československá 1919”. 



The editor was J. Lešetický. There are widespread legends about Lešetický, Šula and other philatelists, that they brought their own stamps to the printing-office, for overprinting!

Soon there appeared advertisements in which Lešetický offered expertising of stamps.
The advertisements were always signed : Jaroslav Lešeticky jurisprudential expert in philately, the public court of law, Prague. The first expert had appeared!

All respect to Mr. J. Lešetický and to his undeniable merit in ČSR philately, but he made no success as a philatelist expert. Due to many incorrect estimates, foremost in the geniuses of the overprint Pošta Československá 1919, he made himself impossible. Already in 1947 the paper Czech philatelist wrote: “Today nobody gives any importance to the expert mark of Lešetický. The philatelists of today know, that despite he was there by the time, despite that he wrote the Monograph and hundreds of philatelic articles, he was worthless as a philatelic expert”!

Jaroslav Lešetický’s expert mark

Source: The journal Filatelie F1/1971, F9/2000,





The end @ co


Professor Matěj Wagner


Professor Matěj Wagner was one of the founders of the organized philately in Czechoslovakia. By profession he was a professor. Since 1919 he worked at the academy of music in Brno, he got his education  at the academy of music in Munich.



In 1919 he was one of the founders of the philately club in Brno, one of the oldest clubs in Czech republic. In 1922 he was nominated a jurisprudential expert in philately and elected a member of the expert committee ÚČSF. He was a jury member at many national and international exhibitions. Thanks to him, the first Czechoslovakian stamp exhibition was organised in Brno, in 1923.

Professor Matěj Wagner was a collector of Greece, Finland, Austria, Old Germany states, America, but his most popular stamp country was the Cape of Good Hope!

Professor Matěj Wagner was a collector of Greece, Finland, Austria, Old Germany states, America, but his most popular stamp country was the Cape of Good Hope!




the foundation of Czechoslovak Republic 1918

The Parliament of the Czech Republic – The Chamber of Deputies

Constitution of the Czech Republic
from December 16, 1992


We, the citizens of the Czech Republic in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia,
at this time of the reconstitution of an independent Czech state,
true to all the sound traditions of the ancient statehood of the Lands of the Crown of Bohemia as well as of Czechoslovak statehood,
resolute to build, protect and develop the Czech Republic in the spirit of the inalienable values of human dignity and freedom,
as the home of equal and free citizens who are aware of their obligations towards others and of their responsibility to the community,
as a free and democratic State founded on respect for human rights and on principles of civil society,
as a member of the family of European and World democracies,
resolute to protect and develop their natural, cultural, material and spiritual heritage,
resolute to take heed to all the well-proven tenets of law-abiding state,
have adopted this Constitution of the Czech Republic through our freely elected representatives.

The Political system of the Czech Republic


The political system of the Czech Republic has free and voluntary origins and is based on the competition of political parties. It respects basic democratic principles and rejects coercion as a means of implementing its interests. Political decisions flow from the will of majority expressed through the freedom of voting. Decisions of majority respect minorities´rights. The Czech Republic is bound by the ratification and declaration of international treaties on human rights and basic freedoms; they are immediately effective and have precedence over the law.

Legislative power in the Czech Republic resides in the parliament. The parliament is divided into two chambers, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 200 members, who are elected for four-year terms. The Senate has 81 members who are elected every six years, one third of them every two years. Parliamentary elections are conducted by secret ballot, and voting is universal, equal, and direct. Members are elected to the Chamber of Deputies under the proportional system, and to the Senate under the majority system. Every citizen who has reached the age of 21 may stand for election to the Chamber of Deputies, while it is necessary to be at least 40 to stand for the position of a senator. No one may be a member of both chambers simultaneously. The office of the president or a judgeship is incompatible with the position of deputy or senator. Meetings of chambers are continuing.


The Chamber of Deputies appoints and dismisses its Chair and Vice-chair, and likewise, the Senate the Chair and Vice-chair of the Senate. A deputy or senator who is a member of the government may be neither the Chair nor Vice-chair of the Chamber of Deputies or Senate, nor a member of a parliamentary committee or a commission.


The chambers are able to vote when at least one third of the members are present. To pass a bill, a simple majority of the senators or deputies present is necessary. To ratify a constitutional law, a three-fifths majority of all deputies is necessary, and a three-fifths majority of those senators present. A bill may be introduced by a deputy, a group of deputies, the Senate, the government or representative bodies of the higher territorial self-governing units. Bills go to the Chamber of Deputies. International agreements, which require approval of the Parliament, the Parliament approves in the same manner as bills.

Copies of Several Historical Documents on the Origin of the Czech State


The document commonly called the “Golden Bulla of Sicily”, issued in Basle on 26 September 1212. In the document the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, the King of Sicily, , declares Přemysl I and his successors the rightful kings with the statutory rights and duties of the Bohemian Sovereign.


On 7 April1348, Charles IV is crowned in Prague the Holy Roman Emperor with all the rights and privileges granted to the Czech King by the Roman Kings and Emperors.


On 31 July1619, the estates of the Czech Crown, gathered at the General Assembly, approve the constitution of the Czech State, which establishes a confederation of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Upper and Lower Lusatia.


The State Records of the Czech Kingdom, kept by the regional high courts. The oldest one dates from the middle of the 13th century, the last State Record was written in the middle of the 19th century.

Buildings of The Parliament of the Czech Republic


The history of one of the oldest parliamentary buildings in Europe, the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic, begins somewhere near the end of the 17th century or at the beginning of the 18th century. We know that by the year 1720 the Thuns, a rich, artistic and important noble family, had finished building the palace on this piece of land. Approximately 80 years later, the palace became the seat of the Assembly of the Czech Estates, and in 1918, almost 200 years after the building’s completion, its representatives met in the historic Assembly hall shortly after the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the First World War in order to unseat the Habsburg-Lothringian Dynasty from the Czech Throne and to declare an independent state – the Czechoslovak Republic. After the federalization of that state in 1968, the former regional assembly building was consigned to the legislative Czech National Council, and after the break-up of the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993, it became the seat of one of the two chambers of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Chamber of Deputies.


As early as the Romanesque period, the street which is today called Sněmovní street / Assembly street, was one of the two main roads along which guests and merchants travelled from the ford on the Vltava River to Prague Castle. The street’s importance continued into the Gothic and Renaissance periods in spite of being crossed by several wars and natural disasters, which often resulted in its complete devastation. The remains of the original medieval building can be seen in its massive cellars, gothic portals and thick walls on the ground floor of the buildings. The arches and vaulting on the ground floor of the central part of the Palace, nowadays the Chamber of Deputies, originated in Renaissance when the Czech nobility began to build their residences in the vicinity of the rulers´seat, Prague Castle.


Sněmovní street reached its architectural peak in the Baroque period, when the Thun family gradually bought up the surrounding real estate, tore down the old buildings and built in their place a palace in the present form. Two portals, belonging to the high Baroque period, opened to the street. The portals recall the work of Santini, although the actual architect of the Thun Palace remains unknown due to a lack of historical sources.


The palace was converted into a theatre in 1779, frequently visited by the Emperor Joseph II, the son of Maria Teresa. It is said that the Emperor preferred it to all others. In the summer of 1794 the theatre burned down. That is why, in 1801, the Thun Palace was sold to the Estates of the Czech Kingdom, who decided to convert it into offices, an assembly hall and estate archives. At the same time the regional committee bought a further piece of land which was added to the premises of the building, and began to reconstruct and embellish the building with ornaments. An oval symbol with the crown of St. Wenceslas was placed in the centre over the classicist pediment: leaning diagonally against the pediment are two horns of plenty, to the right of one of them sits Apollo, the protector of the wealth of spirit, and to the left of the other one sits Athena, the patroness of material wealth. They are symbols of the might of the Czech Lands, which the seat of its Assembly should recall.


In 1861, after the fall of Bach´s absolutism, it was necessary to find a new representative premises for the once-again revived regional assembly previously abolished in 1848. A special committee visited the Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle but the Hall did not meet the new demands. The former Assembly building seemed to meet the demands more satisfactorily.. The Assembly hall was thus lengthened and widened and there were red upholstered seats for 241 people installed, each with its own desk and drawer. On five columns opposite the entrance, a gallery for 130 to 150 people was built.


In 1895 a chandelier in the neo-Renaissance style was added during the installation of electrical lighting and the modernisation of technical equipment.


In 1902 and 1903 the Regional Committee of the Czech Kingdom received new premises and buildings, primarily the connected block in Tomášská street beginning at the Auersperg Palace, and also the connected block in Lesser Town Square (the Sternberg and Smiřický Palaces) for its regional offices. In 1903 an arched bridge with a covered walkway was built across the narrow Thunovská Lane, connecting the Assembly hall with the back wing of the Sternberg Palace.


After the year 1918, with the foundation of the independent Czechoslovakia, the character and function of Prague’s Mala Strana (Lesser Town) palaces changed. Many of them began to serve as the institutions of the new state, or alternatively, as diplomatic offices for foreign governments. In the twenties, the building of the former Regional Assembly of the Czech Kingdom was designated as the Senate of the National Council of the Czechoslovak Republic, while the Rudolfinum was converted into the deputies´Assembly hall.


The first year independent




Philatelic Exhibit



This exhibit refers to the auxiliary Scout Post Service that was created in Prague to assist the National Committee during the first days of the Independence of the Czechoslovak Republic.  It is divided in three main parts:

(1)  The Scout Postal Service Stamps
(2)  The Scout Incoming Mail Delivery Service
(3)  The Scout Official Mail Delivery Service

[An introduction and a sample from the material contained in the exhibit are shown here]




During the first days of Independence of the Czechoslovak Republic (at the evening of 28th October 1918) an auxiliary Scout Post Service was created in Prague to assist the National Committee.  The then Deputy Chief Scout and Member of the Government J.Rössler Orovsky offered in organizing this Service as well as in designing and printing suitable stamps and cancellations.

Between the 7th (official start of mail delivery) and the 25th November 1918 (last day), official correspondence from and to the Members of the National Committee, the Police, different organizations and government stations, as well as individual personalities was guaranteed a rapid, secure and discrete delivery made on foot or with a bicycle by the Sea Scouts having their Headquarters at the Czech Yacht Club, on Streletsky Island in the centre of Prague.  Main destinations, apart of the National Committee’s Headquarters at Harrachovsky Palace, were the Ministry of Justice, the Prague Fortress, the Parliament and the Telegraph Office at the west bank of the Vltava river and the Rail Station, the Post and Telegraph Office and other places in the east bank.

The idea of printing Scout stamps was first put in September that year.  On October 20th a design depicting the national character of the Service was adopted and 30000 stamps of the blue 10 H and 50000 of the red 20 H values plus 1000 pieces of a blue 10 H stationary forming all colours of the Czechoslovak flag were printed.  They were engraved by J.Panenka and printed by Kolmar House, while the relevant postmarks and marks were made by Karnet & Kysely.  All stamps were printed one by one, so there is no block or sheet in existence whatsoever.  Both stamps (600 pieces each) were also overprinted “Arrival of President Masaryk” for that occasion.


The Scout Postal Service Stamps



The Sea Scouts of Prague provided postal service (Nov. 7-25, 1918) for the National Committee of Liberation of their country.
Each cover was signed by the messenger Sea Scout upon delivery.



Two values (10h and 20h) were issued.
They are the first scouts on stamps following the foundation of Scouting.


“Arrival of President Massaryk” Overprint was later (Dec. 21, 1918) introduced.
It was used for only that day.


Perforation error reducing the size of the stamp


10h Blue stamp colour proofs


20h Red stamp colour proofs


20h Red stamp colour proof forgery


The Scout Incoming Mail Delivery Service


10h Blue stamps colour shade variety on cover mixed with a 5h overprinted (2nd Prague overprint) Austrian stamp.
Tied with the N.V. and franked with both the c.d.s. and the delivery Scout handstamps.




20h mixed with an Austrian stamp on cover.


Registered cover delivered to the National Committee bearing no Scout stamp (the service had already ended) but franked with the Scout c.d.s. and the Committee’s oval incoming mail handstamp.


The Scout Official Mail Delivery Service


Cover delivered to the then newly founded Czechoslovak News Agency.
The 10h Scout stamp is tied with the N.V. and franked with both the c.d.s. and the delivery handstamps.


Cover bearing a 20h Scout stamp tied with the N.V. and franked with both the c.d.s. and the delivery handstamps.







Because of the expanding needs of the new representative bodies, the old assembly building was substantially repaired, adapted and reconstructed in the thirties. In 1933, on the 15th anniversary of the creation of independent Czechoslovakia, a granite memorial tablet was set in the wall south of the portal to Sněmovní street.. It was created by L. Šaloun and F. Foit; the tablet is styled in the spirit of late Cubism, especially the large state symbol.


The most fundamental reconstruction took place from 1935 to 1940, when the palace was brought to its present form, although it was never used for the Senate as originally intended.

In the fifties and sixties the building in turns served as the seat of some institutions, for example the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of National Defence. However, from the first day of 1969 the Czech National Council began to work in Sněmovní Street, as one of the three parliaments of the newly federalized Czechoslovakia, the legislative mouthpiece of the Czech Republic.


Understandably, the varied use of the building had not improved its condition. Several rooms could not be used for any purpose and the technical equipment was falling apart. Therefore, from 1985 to 1989, the historical building was completely rebuilt. The reconstruction was one of the biggest makeovers of a historically protected building in Prague.


At the completion of the reconstruction work in all the connecting palaces, which were under a law from 1992 returned to their original purpose from the beginning of the century, the Czech Republic received a respectable seat for its legislative body. The seat, which is able to meet the most modern needs of the parliament of a country with an unfolding democracy, while simultaneously preserving the historical picturesqueness and purpose of the buildings




After foundation of the Czech Republic, all schools for lace-makers and embroiders controlled still by the Vienna Central Lace-making Course, were in 1919 transferred under control of a newly established State School Institute for Home Industry with the seat in Prague. (Later on it was a School Institute of Art Production (Skolsky ustav umelecke vyroby SUUV. Thus a new epoch of working on original Czech patterns, which had been created by famous artists of Prague institution were made for the school in Vamberk as well as for the remaining outlets


The History

First Czechoslovak Republic




Czechoslovak Republic
Československá republika



1918 — 1938






Coat of arms

Czech: Pravda vítězí
(“Truth prevails”)

Kde domov můj, Nad Tatrou sa blýska and Podkarpatskiji Rusíny





Czech and Slovak




– 1918–1935

Tomáš G. Masaryk

– 1935–1938

Edvard Beneš

Prime Minister

– 1918–1919

Karel Kramář

– 1938

Jan Syrový



– Independence from Austria-Hungary

28 October 1918

– Munich Agreement

30 September 1938


– 1938

140,800 km2 (54,363 sq mi)


– 1938 est.



105.1 /km2  (272.2 /sq mi)


Czechoslovak koruna

The German, Hungarian, Polish, Romani, Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian and Yiddish languages had “regional” status

The First Czechoslovak Republic (Czech první Československá republika or colloquially první republika, Slovak prvá Československá republika or colloquially Prvá republika), refers to the first Czechoslovak state that existed from 1918 to 1938. The state was commonly called Czechoslovakia (Československo). It was composed of Bohemia, Moravia, Czech Silesia, Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia.

After 1933

Czechoslovakia remained the only functioning democracy in central and eastern Europe as the other states had authoritarian or autocratic regimes leading them. Under enormous pressure from Nazi Germany and the Sudeten German minority living in the country, Czechoslovakia was forced to cede the German-populated Sudetenland region to Germany on October 1, 1938, as agreed in the Munich Agreement as well as southern parts of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia to Hungary and the Zaolzie region in Silesia to Poland. This effectively ended the First Czechoslovak Republic, which was succeeded by the Second Czechoslovak Republic.


Main article: History of Czechoslovakia (1918–1938)

The independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on October 28, 1918,



by the Czechoslovak National Council in Prague. Several ethnic groups and territories with different historical, political, and economic traditions had to be blended into a new state structure.

The origin of the First Republic lies in Point 10 of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points: “The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.”

The full boundaries of the country and the organization of its government was finally established in the Czechoslovak Constitution of 1920.



Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk had been recognized by WWI Allies as the leader of the Provisional Czechoslovak Government, and in 1920 he was elected the country’s first president. He was re-elected in 1925 and 1929, serving as President until December 14, 1935 when he resigned due to poor health. He was succeeded by Edvard Beneš.

Following the Anschluss of Nazi Germany and Austria in March 1938, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler‘s next target for annexation was Czechoslovakia. His pretext was the privations suffered by ethnic German populations living in Czechoslovakia’s northern and western border regions, known collectively as the Sudetenland. Their incorporation into Nazi Germany would leave the rest of Czechoslovakia powerless to resist subsequent occupation.[1]


To a large extent, Czechoslovak democracy was held together by the country’s first president, Tomáš Masaryk. As the principal founding father of the republic, Masaryk was regarded similar to the way George Washington is regarded in the United States. Such universal respect enabled Masaryk to overcome seemingly irresolvable political problems. Even to this day, Masaryk is regarded as the symbol of Czechoslovak democracy.

The Constitution of 1920 approved the provisional constitution of 1918 in its basic features. The Czechoslovak state was conceived as a parliamentary democracy, guided primarily by the National Assembly, consisting of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, whose members were to be elected on the basis of universal suffrage. The National Assembly was responsible for legislative initiative and was given supervisory control over the executive and judiciary as well. Every seven years it elected the president and confirmed the cabinet appointed by him. Executive power was to be shared by the president and the cabinet; the latter, responsible to the National Assembly, was to prevail. The reality differed somewhat from this ideal, however, during the strong presidencies of Masaryk and his successor, Beneš. The constitution of 1920 provided for the central government to have a high degree of control over local government. From 1928 and 1940, Czechoslovakia was divided into the four “lands” (Czech: “země”, Slovak: “krajiny”); Bohemia, Moravia-Silesia, Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia. Although in 1927 assemblies were provided for Bohemia, Slovakia, and Ruthenia, their jurisdiction was limited to adjusting laws and regulations of the central government to local needs. The central government appointed one third of the members of these assemblies. The constitution identified the “Czechoslovak nation” as the creator and principal constituent of the Czechoslovak state and established Czech and Slovak as official languages. The concept of the Czechoslovak nation was necessary in order to justify the establishment of Czechoslovakia towards the world, because otherwise the statistical majority of the Czechs as compared to Germans would have been rather weak, and there would have been more Germans in the state than Slovaks. National minorities were assured special protection; in districts where they constituted 20% of the population, members of minority groups were granted full freedom to use their language in everyday life, in schools, and in matters dealing with authorities.



Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president and the founding father of the Czechoslovak Republic

The operation of the new Czechoslovak government was distinguished by stability. Largely responsible for this were the well-organized political parties that emerged as the real centers of power. Excluding the period from March 1926 to November 1929, when the coalition did not hold, a coalition of five Czechoslovak parties constituted the backbone of the government: Republican Party of Agricultural and Smallholder People, Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, Czechoslovak National Socialist Party, Czechoslovak People’s Party, and Czechoslovak National Democratic Party. The leaders of these parties became known as the “Pětka” (pron. pyetka) (The Five). The Pětka was headed by Antonín Švehla, who held the office of prime minister for most of the 1920s and designed a pattern of coalition politics that survived until 1938. The coalition’s policy was expressed in the slogan “We have agreed that we will agree.” German parties also participated in the government in the beginning of 1926. Hungarian parties, influenced by irredentist propaganda from Hungary, never joined the Czechoslovak government but were not openly hostile:

History of Czechoslovakia

With the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy at the end of World War I, the independent country of Czechoslovakia[1] (Czech, Slovak: Československo) was formed, encouraged by, among others, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. The Czechs and Slovaks were not at the same level of economic and technological development, but the freedom and opportunity found in an independent Czechoslovakia enabled them to make strides toward overcoming these inequalities. However, the gap between cultures was never fully bridged, and the discrepancy played a continuing role throughout the seventy-five years of the union. [edit] Political history

[edit] Historical settings to 1918



Czechoslovak lands within the Austro-Hungarian Empire according to the controversial 1910 census of the Kingdom of Hungary.








Main article: Origins of Czechoslovakia

The creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 was the culmination of the 19th-century struggle of identity and ethnicity politics. The Czechs, as one subject group of a multi-ethnic, multi-linguisitic empire, lived primarily in Bohemia. With the rise of national revival movements (Czech National Revival, Slovak National Revival instigated by Ľudovít Štúr), mounting tensions combined with religious and ethnic policies (such as the Slovaks’ resistance to Magyarization by their Hungarian rulers as Slovakia was largely part of the Hungarian controlled region of the empire) to push the empire to the breaking point.[2] Subject peoples all over the empire wanted to be free from the rule of the old aristocracy and imperial family. This was partly solved by the introduction of local ethnic representation and language rights, however, the First World War put a stop to further reform, and ultimately caused the internal collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the liberation of subject peoples such as the Czechs and Slovaks. Although the Czechs and Slovaks have similar languages, at the end of the 19th century, the situation of the Czechs and Slovaks was very different, because of the different stages of development of their overlords – the Austrians in Bohemia and Moravia, and the Hungarians in Slovakia – within Austria-Hungary. Bohemia was the most industrialized part of Austria and Slovakia that of Hungary – however at a different level.[1] At the turn of the century, the idea of a “Czecho-Slovak” entity began to be advocated by some Czech and Slovak leaders. In the 1890s, contacts between Czech and Slovak intellectuals intensified. Despite cultural differences, the Slovaks shared with the Czechs similar aspirations for independence from the Habsburg state and voluntarily united with the Czechs.[3][4]

During World War I, in 1916, together with Edvard Beneš and Milan Štefánik (a Slovak astronomer and war hero), Tomáš Masaryk created the Czechoslovak National Council. Masaryk in the United States, Štefánik in France, and Beneš in France and Britain worked tirelessly to gain Allied recognition. Around 1.4 million Czech soldiers fought in in World War I, 150,000 of them died. More than 90,000 Czech volunteers formed the Czechoslovak Legions in Russia, France and Italy, where they fought against the Central Powers and later with White Russian forces against Bolshevik troops.[5] At times controlling much of the Trans-Siberian railway and being indirectly involved in the hasty execution of the Tsar and his family. Their goal was to win the Allies’ support for the independence of Czechoslovakia. They succeeded on all counts. When secret talks between the Allies and Austrian emperor Charles I (1916–18) collapsed, the Allies recognized, in the summer of 1918, the Czechoslovak National Council would be the main contributor to the future Czechoslovak government.

[edit] The First Republic (1918-1938)



Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, first president of Czechoslovakia.

Main article: History of Czechoslovakia (1918–1938)

The independence of Czechoslovakia was officially proclaimed in Prague on October 28, 1918[6] in Smetana Hall of the Municipal House, a physical setting strongly associated with nationalist feeling. The Slovaks officially joined the state two days later in the town of Martin. A temporary constitution was adopted and Tomáš Masaryk declared president on November 14.[1] The Treaty of St. Germain, signed in September 1919 formally recognized the new republic.[7] Ruthenia was later added to the Czech lands and Slovakia by the Treaty of Trianon[8] (June, 1920). There were also various border conflicts between Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The new state was characterized by problems with its ethnic diversity, the separate histories and greatly differing religious, cultural, and social traditions of the Czechs and Slovaks. The Germans and Magyars (Hungarians) of Czechoslovakia openly agitated against the territorial settlements.

The new nation had a population of over 13.5 million. It had inherited 70 to 80% of all the industry of the Austro-Hungarian Empire[citation needed]. Czechoslovakia was one of the world’s ten most industrialized countries[citation needed]. The Czech lands were far more industrialized than Slovakia. Most light and heavy industry were located in the Sudetenland and were owned by Germans and controlled by German-owned banks[citation needed]. The very backward Subcarpathian Ruthenia was essentially without industry[citation needed].



Czechoslovakia in 1928.

The Czechoslovak state was conceived as a parliamentary democracy.[1] The constitution identified the “Czechoslovak nation” as the creator and principal constituent of the Czechoslovak state and established Czech and Slovak as official languages. The concept of the Czechoslovak nation was necessary in order to justify the establishment of Czechoslovakia towards the world, because otherwise the statistical majority of the Czechs as compared to Germans would be rather weak. The operation of the new Czechoslovak government was distinguished by stability. Largely responsible for this were the well-organized political parties that emerged as the real centers of power.

[edit] The Second Republic (1938–1939)

Main article: German occupation of Czechoslovakia

Although Czechoslovakia was the only central European country to remain a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938,[9] it faced problems with ethnic minorities, the most important of which concerned the country’s large German population. The Sudeten Germans constituted 3[10] to 3.5[11] million out of 14 million of the interwar state’s population[10] and were largely concentrated in the Bohemian and Moravian border regions, called the Sudetenland in German. Some members of this minority, which were predominantly sympathetic to Germany, undermined the new Czechoslovak state.

Adolf Hitler‘s rise in Nazi Germany, the German annexation (Anschluss) of Austria, the resulting revival of revisionism in Hungary and of agitation for autonomy in Slovakia, and the appeasement policy of the Western powers (France and the United Kingdom) left Czechoslovakia without allies,[12] exposed to hostile Germany and Hungary on three sides and to unsympathetic Poland on the north.

After the Austrian Anschluss, Czechoslovakia was to become Hitler’s next target.[11][12] The German nationalist minority, led by Konrad Henlein[13] and vehemently backed by Hitler, demanded the union of the predominantly German districts with Germany. Threatening war, Hitler extorted through the Munich Agreement in September 1938[13] the cession of the Bohemian, Moravian and Czech Silesian borderlands – Sudetenland where all Czech population were forcibly expelled. On September 29, the Munich Agreement was signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain.[14] The Czechoslovak government agreed to abide by the agreement. The Munich Agreement stipulated that Czechoslovakia must cede Sudetenland territory to Germany. Beneš resigned as president of the Czechoslovak Republic on October 5, 1938, fled to London and was succeeded by Emil Hácha. In early November 1938, under the First Vienna Award, which was a result of the Munich agreement, Czechoslovakia (and later Slovakia) was forced by Germany and Italy to cede southern Slovakia (one third of Slovak territory) to Hungary. After an 30 September ultimatum (but without consulting with any other countries), Poland obtained the disputed Zaolzie region as a territorial cession shortly after the Munich Agreement, on 2 October.

The Czechs in the greatly weakened Czechoslovak Republic were forced to grant major concessions to the non-Czechs. The executive committee of the Slovak People’s Party met at Žilina on October 5, 1938, and with the acquiescence of all Slovak parties except the Social Democrats formed an autonomous Slovak government under Jozef Tiso. Similarly, the two major factions in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the Russophiles and Ukrainophiles, agreed on the establishment of an autonomous government, which was constituted on October 8, 1938. In late November 1938, the truncated state, renamed Czecho-Slovakia (the so-called Second Republic), was reconstituted in three autonomous units: Czechia (i.e. Bohemia and Moravia), Slovakia, and Ruthenia.

On March 12, 1939 the Slovak State declared its independence as a satellite state under Jozef Tiso.[15] Hitler forced Hácha to surrender what remained of Bohemia and Moravia to German control on 15 March 1939, establishing the German protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia,[16] which was created on March 15. On the same day, the Carpatho-Ukraine (Subcarpathian Ruthenia) declared its independence and was immediately invaded and annexed by Hungary. Finally, on March 23 Hungary invaded and occupied from the Carpatho-Ukraine some further parts of Slovakia (eastern Slovakia).

[edit] World War II



A woman acknowledges incoming German troops with tears and the Nazi salute, Sudetenland, 1938.

Main articles: German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and First Slovak Republic

Beneš and other Czechoslovak exiles in London organized a Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile and negotiated to obtain international recognition for the government and a renunciation of the Munich Agreement and its consequences. The government was recognized by government of United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax on July 18, 1940. In July and December 1941, the Soviet Union[17] and United States also recognized the exiled government, respectively. Czechoslovak military units fought alongside Allied forces. In December Carpatho-Ukraine1943, Beneš’s government concluded a treaty with the Soviet Union. Beneš worked to bring Czechoslovak communist exiles in Britain into active cooperation with his government, offering far-reaching concessions, including nationalization of heavy industry and the creation of local people’s committees at the war’s end (which then indeed happened). In March 1945, he gave key cabinet positions to Czechoslovak communist exiles in Moscow.

The assassination of Reichsprotector Reinhard Heydrich[18] in 1942 by a group of British-trained Czech and Slovak commandos led by Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík led to reprisals, including the annihilation of the village Lidice.[18][19] All adult male inhabitants were executed, while females and children were transported to concentration camps.[20] A similar fate met the villages Ležáky and later, at the end of war, Javoříčko too.

On May 8, 1944, Beneš signed an agreement with Soviet leaders stipulating that Czechoslovak territory liberated by Soviet armies would be placed under Czechoslovak civilian control.

From September 21, 1944, Czechoslovakia was liberated by Soviet troops (the Red Army),[21] supported by Czech and Slovak resistance[citation needed] , from the east to the west; only southwestern Bohemia was liberated by other Allied troops (U.S. Army) from the west.[21] In May 1945, American forces liberated the city of Plzeň. A civilian uprising against the Nazi garrison took place in Prague in May 1945. The resistance was assisted by heavily-armed Russian Liberation Army, i.e., Gen. Vlasov’s army, a force composed of Soviet POWs organised by the Germans, now turning again against them. Except for the brutalities of the German occupation in Protectorate (and, after the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, also in Slovakia), Czechoslovakia suffered relatively little from the war. Bratislava was taken over on April 4, 1945, and Prague on May 9, 1945 by Soviet troops. Both Soviet and Allied troops were withdrawn in the same year.[21]

A treaty ceding Carpatho-Ukraine to the Soviet Union was signed in June 1945 between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, following an apparently rigged Soviet-run referendum in Carpatho-Ukraine (Ruthenia). The Potsdam Agreement provided for the expulsion of Sudeten Germans to Germany under the supervision of the Allied Control Council. Decisions regarding the Hungarian minority reverted to the Czechoslovak government. In February 1946, the Hungarian government agreed that Czechoslovakia could expatriate as many Hungarians as there were Slovaks in Hungary wishing to return to Czechoslovakia.[22]

[edit] The Third Republic (1945-1948) and the Communist takeover (1948)

Main articles: Czechoslovakia: 1945-1948 and Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948

See also: Expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia



Germans being deported from Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of World War II

The Third Republic came into being in April 1945. Its government, installed at Košice on April 4 and moved to Prague in May, was a National Front coalition in which three socialist parties—Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), Czechoslovak Social democratic Party, and Czechoslovak National Socialist Party—predominated. Certain nonsocialist parties were included in the coalition; among them were the Catholic People’s Party (in Moravia) and the Democratic Party (Slovakia).

Following Nazi Germany’s surrender, some 2.9 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia[23] with Allied approval, their property and rights declared void by the Beneš decrees. Czechoslovakia soon came to fall within the Soviet sphere of influence.

The popular enthusiasm evoked by the Soviet armies of liberation (which was decided by compromise of Allies and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta conference in 1944) benefited the KSČ. Czechoslovaks, bitterly disappointed by the West at the Munich Agreement (1938), responded favorably to both the KSČ and the Soviet alliance. Reunited into one state after the war, the Czechs and Slovaks set national elections for the spring of 1946. The democratic elements, led by President Edvard Beneš, hoped the Soviet Union would allow Czechoslovakia the freedom to choose its own form of government and aspired to a Czechoslovakia that would act as a bridge between East and West. Communists secured strong representation in the popularly elected National Committees, the new organs of local administration. In the May 1946 election, the KSČ won most of the popular vote in the Czech part of the bi-ethnic country (40.17%), and the more or less anti-Communist Democratic Party won in Slovakia (62%). In sum, however, the KSČ won a plurality of 38 percent of the vote at countrywide level. Edvard Beneš continued as president of the republic. The Communist leader Klement Gottwald became prime minister. Most important, although the communists held only a minority of portfolios, they were able to gain control over all key ministries (Ministry of the Interior, etc.)

Although the communist-led government initially intended to participate in the Marshall Plan, it was forced by the Kremlin to back out.[24]

In 1947, Stalin summoned Gottwald to Moscow; upon his return to Prague, the KSČ demonstrated a significant radicalization of its tactics. On February 20, 1948, the twelve non-communist ministers resigned, in part, to induce Beneš to call for early elections: Beneš refused to accept the cabinet resignations and did not call for elections. In the meantime, the KSČ garnered its forces for the coup d’état of 1948. The communist-controlled Ministry of Interior deployed police regiments to sensitive areas and equipped a workers’ militia. On February 25, Beneš, perhaps fearing Soviet intervention, capitulated. He accepted the resignations of the dissident ministers and received a new cabinet list from Gottwald, thus completing, under the cover of superficial legality, the communist takeover.

On March 10, 1948 the moderate foreign minister of the government, Jan Masaryk, was found dead in an apparent suicide, although the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death have led some to believe that it was a political assassination.

[edit] The Communist era (1948-1989)

Main article: Czechoslovakia: 1948-1989

In February 1948, when the Communists took power,[25] Czechoslovakia was declared a “people’s democracy” (until 1960) – a preliminary step toward socialism and, ultimately, communism. Bureaucratic centralism under the direction of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) leadership was introduced. Dissident elements were purged from all levels of society, including the Roman Catholic Church. The ideological principles of Marxism-Leninism and socialist realism pervaded cultural and intellectual life. The economy was committed to comprehensive central planning and abolition of private ownership of capital. Czechoslovakia became a satellite state of the Soviet Union; it was a founding member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) in 1949 and of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The attainment of Soviet-style command socialism became the government’s avowed policy. Slovak autonomy was constrained; the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) was reunited with the KSČ (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) but retained its own identity. Following the Soviet example, Czechoslovakia began emphasizing the rapid development of heavy industry. Although Czechoslovakia’s industrial growth of 170 percent between 1948 and 1957 was impressive, it was far exceeded by that of Japan (300 percent) and the Federal Republic of Germany (almost 300 percent) and more than equaled by Austria and Greece.

Beneš refused to sign the Communist Constitution of 1948 (Ninth-of-May Constitution) and resigned from the presidency; he was succeeded by Klement Gottwald. Gottwald died in 1953. He was succeeded by Antonín Zápotocký as president and by Antonín Novotný as head of the KSČ. After extensive purges modeled on the Stalinist pattern in other east European states, the Communist Party tried 14 of its former leaders in November 1952 and sentenced 11 to death. For more than a decade thereafter, the Czechoslovak communist political structure was characterized by the orthodoxy of the leadership of party chief Antonín Novotný. Novotný became president in 1957 when Zápotocký died.

In the 1950s, the Stalinists accused their opponents of “conspiracy against the people’s democratic order” and “high treason” in order to oust them from positions of power. Large-scale arrests of Communists with an “international” background, i.e., those with a wartime connection with the West, veterans of the Spanish Civil War, Jews, and Slovak “bourgeois nationalists,” were followed by show trials. The outcome of these trials, serving the communist propaganda, was often known in advance and the penalties were extremely heavy, such as in the case of Milada Horáková, who was sentenced to death together with Jan Buchal, Záviš Kalandra and Oldřich Pecl.

The 1960 Constitution declared the victory of socialism and proclaimed the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

De-Stalinization had a late start in Czechoslovakia. In the early 1960s, the Czechoslovak economy became severely stagnant. The industrial growth rate was the lowest in Eastern Europe. As a result, in 1965, the party approved the New Economic Model, introducing free market elements into the economy. The KSČ “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 KSČ was reaffirmed but limited. Slovaks pressed for federalization. On January 5, 1968, the KSČ Central Committee elected Alexander Dubček, a Slovak reformer, to replace Novotný as first secretary of the KSČ. On March 22, 1968, Novotný resigned from the presidency and was succeeded by General Ludvík Svoboda.

[edit] The Prague Spring (1968)

Main article: Prague Spring



Czechoslovakia in 1969

Dubček carried the reform movement a step further in the direction of liberalism. After Novotný’s fall, censorship was lifted. The 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 (the “Prague Spring“). 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 Dubček counseled moderation and reemphasized KSČ leadership. In addition, the Dubček leadership called for politico-military changes in the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact and Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. The leadership affirmed its loyalty to socialism and the Warsaw Pact but also expressed the desire to improve relations with all countries of the world regardless of their social systems.

A program adopted in April 1968 set guidelines for a modern, humanistic socialist democracy that would guarantee, among other things, freedom of religion, press, assembly, speech, and travel; a program that, in Dubček’s words, would give socialism “a human face.” After 20 years of little public participation, the population gradually started to take interest in the government, and Dubček became a truly popular national figure.

The internal reforms and foreign policy statements of the Dubček leadership created great concern among some other Warsaw Pact governments. KSČ conservatives had misinformed Moscow regarding the strength of the reform movement. As a result, the troops of Warsaw Pact countries (except Romania) invaded Czechoslovakia during the night of August 20–21. Two-thirds of the KSČ Central Committee opposed the Soviet intervention. 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. The Czechoslovak Government declared that the troops had not been invited into the country and that their invasion was a violation of socialist principles, international law, and the UN Charter. Dubček, 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 KSČ, strict party control of the media, and the suppression of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party.

On January 19, 1969, the student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968.

The principal Czechoslovak reformers were forcibly and secretly taken to the Soviet Union where they signed a treaty that provided for the “temporary stationing” of an unspecified number of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia. Dubček was removed as party First Secretary on 17 April 1969, and replaced by another Slovak, Gustáv Husák. Later, Dubček and many of his allies within the party were stripped of their party positions in a purge that lasted until 1971 and reduced party membership by almost one-third.

[edit] Aftermath

The Slovak part of Czechoslovakia made major gains in industrial production in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1970s, its industrial production was near parity with that of the Czech lands. Slovakia’s portion of per capita national income rose from slightly more than 60 percent of that of Bohemia and Moravia in 1948 to nearly 80 percent in 1968, and Slovak per capita earning power equaled that of the Czechs in 1971. The pace of Slovak economic growth has continued to exceed that of Czech growth to the present day (2003).

Dubcek remained in office only until April 1969. Gustáv Husák (a centrist, and interestingly one of the Slovak “bourgeois nationalists” imprisoned by his own KSČ in the 1950s) was named first secretary (title changed to general secretary in 1971). A program of “Normalization” — the restoration of continuity with the prereform period—was initiated. Normalization entailed thoroughgoing political repression and the return to ideological conformity. A new purge cleansed the Czechoslovak leadership of all reformist elements.

Anti-Soviet demonstrations in August 1969 ushered in a period of harsh repression. The 1970s and 1980s became known as the period of “normalization,” in which the apologists for the 1968 Soviet invasion prevented, as best they could, any opposition to their conservative regime. Political, social, and economic life stagnated. The population, cowed by the “normalization,” was quiet. The only point required during the Prague spring that was achieved was the federalization of the country (as of 1969), which however was more or less only formal under the normalization. The newly created Federal Assembly (i.e., federal parliament), which replaced the National Assembly, was to work in close cooperation with the Czech National Council and the Slovak National Council (i.e., national parliaments).

In 1975, Gustáv Husák added the position of president to his post as party chief. The Husák regime required conformity and obedience in all aspects of life. Husák also tried to obtain acquiescence to his rule by providing an improved standard of living. He returned Czechoslovakia to an orthodox command economy with a heavy emphasis on central planning and continued to extend industrialization. For a while the policy seemed successful; the 1980s, however, were more or less a period of economic stagnation. Another feature of Husák’s rule was a continued dependence on the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, approximately 50 percent of Czechoslovakia’s foreign trade was with the Soviet Union, and almost 80 percent was with communist countries.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, the regime was challenged by individuals and organized groups aspiring to independent thinking and activity. The first organized opposition emerged under the umbrella of Charter 77. On January 6, 1977, a manifesto called Charter 77 appeared in West German newspapers. The original manifesto reportedly was signed by 243 persons; among them were artists, former public officials, and other prominent figures. The Charter had over 800 signatures by the end of 1977, including workers and youth. It criticized the government for failing to implement human rights provisions of documents it had signed, including the state’s own constitution; international covenants on political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights; and the Final Act of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Although not organized in any real sense, the signatories of Charter 77 constituted a citizens’ initiative aimed at inducing the Czechoslovak Government to observe formal obligations to respect the human rights of its citizens. Signatories were arrested and interrogated; dismissal from employment often followed. Because religion offered possibilities for thought and activities independent of the state, it too was severely restricted and controlled. Clergymen were required to be licensed. Unlike in Poland, dissent and independent activity were limited in Czechoslovakia to a fairly small segment of the populace. Many Czechs and Slovaks emigrated to the West.

[edit] The end of the Communist era (1989) and the Velvet Revolution 1989

Further information: History of Czechoslovakia (1989–1992) and Velvet Revolution

Although, in March 1987, Husák nominally committed Czechoslovakia to follow the program of Mikhail Gorbachev‘s perestroika, it did not happen much in reality. On December 17, 1987, Husák, who was one month away from his seventy-fifth birthday, had resigned as head of the KSČ. He retained, however, his post of president of Czechoslovakia and his full membership on the Presidium of the KSČ. Miloš Jakeš, who replaced Husák as first secretary of the KSČ, did not change anything. The slow pace of the Czechoslovak reform movement was an irritant to the Soviet leadership.

The first anti-Communist demonstration took place on March 25, 1988 in Bratislava (the Candle demonstration in Bratislava). It was an unauthorized peaceful gathering of some 2,000 (other sources 10,000) Roman Catholics. Demonstrations also occurred on August 21, 1988 (the anniversary of the Soviet intervention in 1968) in Prague, on October 28, 1988 (establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918) in Prague, Bratislava and some other towns, in January 1989 (death of Jan Palach on January 16, 1969), on August 21, 1989 (see above) and on October 28, 1989 (see above).

The anti-Communist revolution started on November 16, 1989 in Bratislava, with a demonstration of Slovak university students for democracy, and continued with the well-known similar demonstration of Czech students in Prague on November 17.

[edit] Democratic Czechoslovakia (1989-1992)

Main article: Dissolution of Czechoslovakia



A gathering in Stare Mesto in November 1989 during Velvet Revolution

On 17 November 1989, the communist police violently broke up a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration,[26] brutally beating many student participants. In the days which followed, Charter 77 and other groups united to become the Civic Forum, an umbrella group championing bureaucratic reform and civil liberties. Its leader was the dissident playwright Václav Havel. Intentionally eschewing the label “party”, a word given a negative connotation during the previous regime, Civic Forum quickly gained the support of millions of Czechs, as did its Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence.

Faced with an overwhelming popular repudiation, the Communist Party all but collapsed. Its leaders, Husák and party chief Miloš Jakeš, resigned in December 1989, and Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia on 29 December. The astonishing quickness of these events was in part due to the unpopularity of the communist regime and changes in the policies of its Soviet guarantor as well as to the rapid, effective organization of these public initiatives into a viable opposition.

A coalition government, in which the Communist Party had a minority of ministerial positions, was formed in December 1989. The first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1946 took place in June 1990 without incident and with more than 95% of the population voting. As anticipated, Civic Forum and Public Against Violence won landslide victories in their respective republics and gained a comfortable majority in the federal parliament. The parliament undertook substantial steps toward securing the democratic evolution of Czechoslovakia. It successfully moved toward fair local elections in November 1990, ensuring fundamental change at the county and town level.

Civic Forum found, however, that although it had successfully completed its primary objective—the overthrow of the communist regime—it was ineffectual as a governing party. The demise of Civic Forum was viewed by most as necessary and inevitable.

By the end of 1990, unofficial parliamentary “clubs” had evolved with distinct political agendas. Most influential was the Civic Democratic Party, headed by Václav Klaus. Other notable parties that came into being after the split were the Czech Social Democratic Party, Civic Movement, and Civic Democratic Alliance.

By 1992, Slovak calls for greater autonomy effectively blocked the daily functioning of the federal government. In the election of June 1992, Klaus’s Civic Democratic Party won handily in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform. Vladimír Mečiar‘s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia emerged as the leading party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on fairness to Slovak demands for autonomy. Federalists, like Havel, were unable to contain the trend toward the split. In July 1992, President Havel resigned. In the latter half of 1992, Klaus and Mečiar hammered out an agreement that the two republics would go their separate ways by the end of the year.

Members of Czechoslovakia’s parliament (the Federal Assembly), divided along national lines, barely cooperated enough to pass the law officially separating the two nations in late 1992. On 1 January 1993, the Czech Republic (Czechia) and the Slovak Republic (Slovakia) were simultaneously and peacefully founded.

Relationships between the two states, despite occasional disputes about the division of federal property and the governing of the border, have been peaceful. Both states attained immediate recognition from the USA and their European neighbors.

[edit] Economic history

Main article: Economy of Communist Czechoslovakia

At the time of the communist takeover, Czechoslovakia was devastated by WWII. Almost 1 million people, out of a prewar population of 15 million, had been killed. An additional 3 million Germans were expelled in 1946. In 1948, the government began to stress heavy industry over agricultural and consumer goods and services. Many basic industries and foreign trade, as well as domestic wholesale trade, had been nationalized before the communists took power. Nationalization of most of the retail trade was completed in 1950-51[citation needed].

Heavy industry received major economic support during the 1950s, but central planning resulted in waste and inefficient use of industrial resources[citation needed]. Although the labor force was traditionally skilled and efficient, inadequate incentives for labor and management contributed to high labor turnover, low productivity, and poor product quality. Economic failures reached a critical stage in the 1960s, after which various reform measures were sought with no satisfactory results.

Hope for wide-ranging economic reform came with Alexander Dubcek’s rise in January 1968. Despite renewed efforts, however, Czechoslovakia could not come to grips with inflationary forces, much less begin the immense task of correcting the economy’s basic problems.

The economy saw growth during the 1970s but then stagnated between 1978-82[citation needed]. Attempts at revitalizing it in the 1980s with management and worker incentive programs were largely unsuccessful. The economy grew after 1982, achieving an annual average output growth of more than 3% between 1983-85[citation needed]. Imports from the West were curtailed, exports boosted, and hard currency debt reduced substantially. New investment was made in the electronic, chemical, and pharmaceutical sectors, which were industry leaders in eastern Europe in the mid-1980s. [edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d Edited by Keith Sword The Times Guide to Eastern Europe Times Book, 1990 ISBN 0-7230-0348-3 Page 53
  2. ^ Scotus Viator (pseudonym of R.W. Seton-Watson), Racial Problems in Hungary (London, 1908
  3. ^ Judit Hamberger, “The Debate over Slovak Historiography with Respect to Czechoslovakia (1990s),” Studia Historica Slovenica 2004 4(1): 165-191
  4. ^ Igor Lukes, “Strangers in One House: Czechs and Slovaks (1918-1992),” Canadian Review Of Studies In Nationalism 2000 27(1-2): 33-43
  5. ^ Radio Praha – zprávy (Czech)
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  8. ^ Stuart Hughes Contemporary Europe: a History Prentice-Hall, 1961 Page 129
  9. ^ Timothy Garton Ash The Uses of Adversity Granta Books, 1991 ISBN 0-14-014038-7 Page 60
  10. ^ a b Philip Warner World War II: The Untold Story Coronet, 1990 ISBN 0-340-51595-3 Page 25
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  13. ^ a b Editor Igor Lukes The Munich Crisis, 1938 Frank Cass,2006 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7
  14. ^ Jozef Garlinski Poland in the Second World War Macmillan, 1985 ISBN0-333-39258-2 Page 2
  15. ^ Liddell Hart History of the Second World War Pan Book, 1973 ISBN 0-330-23770-5 Page 10
  16. ^ Liddell Hart History of the Second World War Pan Book, 1973 ISBN 0-330-23770-5 Page 10-11
  17. ^ Norman Davies Europe at War Pan Books, 2007 ISBN 978-0-330-35212-3 Page 179
  18. ^ a b Edited by Keith Sword The Times Guide to Eastern Europe Times Book, 1990 ISBN 0-7230-0348-3 Page 55
  19. ^ Philip Warner World War II: The Untold Story Coronet, 1990 ISBN 0-340-51595-3 Page 135
  20. ^ William Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich Pan Books, 1973 ISBN 0 330 70001 4 Pages 1178-1181
  21. ^ a b c Edited by Keith Sword The Times Guide to Eastern Europe Times Book, 1990 ISBN 0-7230-0348-3 Page 56
  22. ^ See main article for details
  23. ^ Norman Davies Europe at War Pan Books, 2007 ISBN 978-0-330-35212-3 Page 69
  24. ^ Jacques Rupnik The Other Europe Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1988 ISBN 0-297-79804-9 Page 96>
  25. ^ Norman Davies Europe at War Pan Books, 2007 ISBN 978-0-330-35212-3 Page 200
  26. ^ Misha Glenny The Rebirth of History Penguin Books, 1990 ISBN 0-14-014394-7 Page 22

[edit] Foreign policy



President Masaryk receives Dutch envoy Dr. Hendrik Muller in audience, January 1924

Edvard Beneš, Czechoslovak foreign minister from 1918 to 1935, created the system of alliances that determined the republic’s international stance until 1938. A democratic statesman of Western orientation, Beneš relied heavily on the League of Nations as guarantor of the post war status quo and the security of newly formed states. He negotiated the Little Entente (an alliance with Yugoslavia and Romania) in 1921 to counter Hungarian revanchism and Habsburg restoration. He attempted further to negotiate treaties with Britain and France, seeking their promises of assistance in the event of aggression against the small, democratic Czechoslovak Republic. Britain remained intransigent in its isolationist policy, and in 1924 Beneš concluded a separate alliance with France. Beneš’s Western policy received a serious blow as early as 1925. The Locarno Pact, which paved the way for Germany‘s admission to the League of Nations, guaranteed Germany‘s western border. French troops were thus left immobilized on the Rhine, making French assistance to Czechoslovakia difficult. In addition, the treaty stipulated that Germany’s eastern frontier would remain subject to negotiation. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, fear of German aggression became widespread in eastern Central Europe. Beneš ignored the possibility of a stronger Central European alliance system, remaining faithful to his Western policy. He did, however, seek the participation of the Soviet Union in an alliance to include France. (Beneš’s earlier attitude towards the Soviet regime had been one of caution.) In 1935 the Soviet Union signed treaties with France and Czechoslovakia. In essence, the treaties provided that the Soviet Union would come to Czechoslovakia’s aid only if French assistance came first.

In 1935, when Beneš succeeded Masaryk as president, and Prime Minister Milan Hodža took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hodža’s efforts to strengthen alliances in Central Europe came too late. In February 1936 the foreign ministry came under the direction of Kamil Krofta, an adherent of Beneš’s line.

[edit] Economy

The new nation had a population of over 13.5 million. It had inherited 70 to 80% of all the industry of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the porcelain and glass industries and the sugar refineries; more than 40% of all its distilleries and breweries; the Škoda Works of Pilsen (Plzeň), which produced armaments, locomotives, automobiles, and machinery; and the chemical industry of northern Bohemia. Seventeen percent of all Hungarian industry that had developed in Slovakia during the late 19th century also fell to the republic. Czechoslovakia was one of the world’s 10 most industrialized states.



Czechoslovakia 1920-1938

The Czech lands were far more industrialized than Slovakia. In Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, 39% of the population was employed in industry and 31% in agriculture and forestry. Most light and heavy industry was located in the Sudetenland and was owned by Germans and controlled by German-owned banks.[citation needed] Czechs controlled only 20 to 30% of all industry.[citation needed] In Slovakia 17.1% of the population was employed in industry, and 60.4% worked in agriculture and forestry.[citation needed] Only 5% of all industry in Slovakia was in Slovak hands. Carpathian Ruthenia was essentially without industry.

In the agricultural sector, a program of reform introduced soon after the establishment of the republic was intended to rectify the unequal distribution of land. One-third of all agricultural land and forests belonged to a few aristocratic landowners—mostly Germans (or Germanized Czechs – e.g. Kinsky, Czernin or Kaunitz) and Hungarians—and the Roman Catholic Church. Half of all holdings were under 20,000 m². The Land Control Act of April 1919 called for the expropriation of all estates exceeding 1.5 square kilometres of arable land or 2.5 square kilometres of land in general (5 square kilometres to be the absolute maximum). Redistribution was to proceed on a gradual basis; owners would continue in possession in the interim, and compensation was offered.

[edit] Ethnic groups

Table. 1921 ethnonational census[2]


Czechs and Slovaks)






Total population


4 382 788

2 173 239

5 476

2 007

11 251

93 757

6 668 518


2 048 426

547 604



15 335

46 448

2 649 323


296 194

252 365



3 681

49 530

602 202


2 013 792

139 900

637 183

85 644

70 529

42 313

2 989 361

Carpathian Ruthenia

19 737

10 460

102 144

372 884

80 059

6 760

592 044

Czechoslovak Republic

8 760 937

3 123 568

745 431

461 849

180 855

238 080

13 410 750

National disputes arose due to the fact that the more numerous Czechs dominated the central government and other national institutions, all of which had their seats in the Bohemian capital Prague. The Slovak middle class had been extremely small in 1919 because Hungarians, Germans and Jews had previously filled most administrative, professional and commercial positions in, and as a result, the Czechs had to be posted to the more backward Slovakia to take up the administrative and professional posts. The position of the Jewish community, especially in Slovakia was ambiguous and, increasingly, a significant part looked towards Zionism. [4]

Furthermore, most of Czechoslovakia’s industry was as well located in Bohemia and Moravia, while most of Slovakia’s economy came from agriculture. In Carpatho-Ukraine, the situation was even worse, with basically no industry at all.

Due to Czechoslovakia’s centralized political structure, nationalism arose in the non-Czech nationalities, and several parties and movements were formed with the aim of broader political autonomy, like the Sudeten German Party led by Konrad Henlein and the Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party led by Andrej Hlinka.

The German minority living in Sudetenland demanded autonomy from the Czech government, claiming they were suppressed and repressed by the Czech government. In the 1935 Parliamentary elections, the newly founded Sudeten German Party under leadership of Konrad Henlein, financed with Nazi money, won an upset victory, securing over 2/3 of the Sudeten German vote, which worsened the diplomatic relations between the Germans and the Czechs.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. 1.     ^ Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts (2005). World War II: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576079996.
  2. 2.     ^ Slovenský náučný slovník, I. zväzok, Bratislava-Český Těšín, 1932
  3. 3.     ^ The 1921 and 1930 census numbers are not accurate since nationality depended on self-declaration and many Poles declared Czech nationality mainly as a result of fear of the new authorities and as compensation for some benefits. cf.Zahradnik, Stanisław; and Marek Ryczkowski (1992). Korzenie Zaolzia. Warszawa – Praga – Trzyniec: PAI-press. OCLC 177389723.
  4. 4.     ^

[edit] Bibliography


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