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Czechoslovakia Table of Contents


Chapter 4. Government and Politics

Czechoslovak coat of arms

IN 1987 CZECHOSLOVAKIA completed its eighteenth year under the leadership of Gustav Husak. Placed in power by the Soviets eight months after the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Husak regime moved quickly to undo the policies of the previous government, led by Alexander Dubcek, and to eliminate what remained of the reform movement known as the Prague Spring. Within two years, Husak's policies of "normalization" succeeded in restoring centralized party control in Czechoslovakia and reestablishing Czechoslovakia's status as a loyal Soviet ally prepared to follow Moscow's directives in both international and domestic affairs.

The normalization process begun after the 1968 invasion set the stage for the emergence in the 1970s of an extremely orthodox political environment. Normalization extended to almost every aspect of Czechoslovak life. Politically, above all else, it meant the reinforcement of the absolute monopoly of power held by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. In the economy, it meant the entrenchment of a command economy that left virtually no room for market forces. In the social sphere, it meant party control of all associational groupings, education, and the printed word. Finally, in the area of national security, it meant increased police powers and the near subordination of the Czechoslovak People's Army to the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact.

Czechoslovakia's political orthodoxy continued in the 1980s. Despite rampant bureaucratization, poor economic performance, inefficient administration, and widespread popular apathy, the Husak government introduced no significant changes in organization, personnel, or policies from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s. Only in early 1987, undoubtedly in response to pressure from the new leadership in Moscow, did the Husak government announce that Czechoslovakia was preparing to introduce Soviet-style reforms aimed at improving Czechoslovakia's faltering economy.

Data as of August 1987