Czechoslovakia Table of Contents
The Ministry of Interior is responsible for public order and internal security. The ministry controls the armed security organizations in the country except for the regular armed forces and some prison guards. It is also responsible, inter alia, for fire prevention, government archives, and passport and visa control. In theory the interior ministries that exist at the Czech and Slovak Socialist republic levels have similar responsibilities and functions, but the real power rests in the federal ministry in Prague. The federal Ministry of Interior is considered one of the key posts because of the power inherent in the control of the country's security agencies. In mid-1987, the minister of interior was Vratislav Vajnar, who had held the post since 1983. Vajnar was concurrently a deputy in the Chamber of the People in the Federal Assembly and a member of the KSC Central Committee.
At the end of World War II, when President Benes established the first postwar government at Kosice, control of the Ministry of Interior was sought and obtained by the KSC. Party member Vaclav Nosek was appointed minister and began the process of converting the security forces into arms of the party. Anticommunist police officers and officials were fired, noncommunist personnel were encouraged to join the party or its youth organization, and all were subjected to heavy doses of communist propaganda. It was Nosek's packing of the police hierarchy with communists that caused the protest resignation of anticommunist government ministers in February 1948, leading to the coup d'etat. When the coup took place, Nosek's communist-dominated security forces ensured an easy takeover.
During the purges of the early 1950s, the security agencies aided the Klement Gottwald faction against those communists accused of antistate crimes. Police participation in the purges, their arrogance and lack of scruples in dealing with ordinary citizens, and their brutal methods of interrogation were typical of the Stalinist model that they emulated. The term Secret Police as an official appellation was dropped in 1953, but the public, almost thirty years later, still used the title in referring to State Security.
As was the case in the military, but to a lesser extent, some members of the security forces were weeded out for having supported the Dubcek reforms. Stability returned to the security forces early in the 1970s--during normalization--and the forces have kept a tight rein on Czechoslovaks ever since. The repressive measures have led to discontent and dissidence, but never to a degree that was beyond control. Many Western observers and most expatriates of the era reported that the public became apathetic after the Warsaw Pact invasion and the return to rigid communist orthodoxy. The dissent movement known as Charter 77 that took form in 1977 was certainly a rebuke to the government and to the KSC, but it was far from being a mass movement and was rather easily contained by the security police (see Police Repression , this ch.; Charter 77 , ch. 4). Ten years after its inception, the Charter 77 group remained small; security forces had ensured that it would not attract mass support.
Data as of August 1987