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Czechoslovakia Table of Contents


The National Security Corps

The police in Czechoslovakia are not called police, but rather security. The National Security Corps (Sbor Narodni Bezpecnosti--SNB) comprises Public Security (Verejna Bezpecnost--VB) and State Security (Statni Bezpecnost--StB). Public Security is a uniformed force that performs routine police duties throughout the country. State Security, the former Secret Police, is a plainclothes force, also nationwide, that is at once an investigative agency, an intelligence agency, and a counterintelligence agency. Any activity that could possibly be considered antistate falls under the purview of State Security. In mid-1987, strength figures for the SNB were not available. A 1982 article in the Czechoslovak press indicated that 75 percent of the SNB members were either members or candidate members of the KSC and that 60 percent were under 30 years of age. In 1986 about 80 percent of the SNB members in Slovakia came from worker or farmer families.

The SNB is an armed force, organized and trained as such but equipped to perform police rather than military functions. Its members are subject to military discipline and are under the jurisdiction of military courts. Ranks in the SNB correspond to equivalent levels in the CSLA. As of 1987 the SNB was a volunteer service, although the conscription system was apparently used to rebuild the force after the loss of personnel at the end of the Dubcek period. Citizens having the requisite physical and educational qualifications could apply for direct appointment to the SNB. Qualifications included completion of the compulsory nine years of schooling and of the basic conscript tour in the armed forces; higher education was required of those seeking appointment to higher level positions, for example, scientific, technical, and investigative positions. The Ministry of Interior operated its own higher level educational institute, which trained security personnel at different stages of their careers. The Advanced School of the National Security Corps, which occupied a large complex of buildings in Prague, granted academic degrees to the SNB and the Border Guard, also under the Ministry of Interior.

Public Security performs routine police functions at all levels from federal to local. In 1987 it was reported to be a relatively small force for the extent of its responsibility, but it was augmented by volunteer auxiliary units. Articles in the Slovak press in the mid-1980s referred to 27,000 auxiliary guards in 3,372 units assisting Public Security in Slovakia alone. No figure was available for the number of auxiliary guards and the number of guard units in the Czech lands, but it is reasonable to assume that these numbers would be at least double that reported for Slovakia. The federal minister of interior controlled other forces that could be ordered to assist Public Security if needed, and he could also request further help from the military.

In mid-1987, the olive-drab uniform of Public Security was almost identical to the CSLA uniform, but red shoulder boards and red trimming on hats distinguished Public Security personnel from military. Public Security vehicles were yellow and white. The initials VB appeared on the sides, front, and rear of police vehicles.

Public Security and State Security units were deployed throughout the country and had headquarters at regional and district levels; there were 10 kraje and 114 districts in 1987. Public Security forces also established sections in rural areas. Both forces were under the ostensible supervision of the ministries of interior of the Czech and Slovak socialists republics. However, there seemed to be no question that operational direction of the security forces emanated from the Ministry of Interior at the federal level and that the two ministries of the component republics had administrative rather than supervisory functions.

Data as of August 1987