Czechoslovakia Table of Contents
In the early, chaotic days after World War II, armed guard units were formed in factories, mines, and other installations to protect private property and prevent sabotage. Most of the personnel assigned to these units were controlled by communist-dominated unions, and although the guard units may have been necessary to prevent lawlessness at the time, they were committed to the ultimate goal of taking over the enterprises they were hired to protect. The importance of the guard units to the communist takeover in 1948 and the extent of their activity seemed to vary widely in different areas of the country; nevertheless, some historians credit them with having paved the way for the coup. Whatever their participation may have been, the guard units were institutionalized when legislation in 1948 created the People's Militia, of which the guards formed the nucleus. The militia's mission was the defense of the socialist society, and militia personnel were given powers of arrest equal to those of the regular police.
Compared with the regular armed forces and the security forces, the People's Militia proved relatively conservative during the Prague Spring. While publicly proclaiming its support for the Dubcek reforms, the militia also warned against departing from Soviet-style socialism. The KSC later reported that some "unfirm" and "fellow traveler" elements of the militia had had to be removed during the period of stabilization, but in the early 1970s the force had been rebuilt and had regained the confidence of the party leadership. Although a membership goal of 250,000 had frequently been discussed by party officials, the total strength had always been shy of that figure; in 1986 membership numbered about 120,000. Specialized militia courses were given at the Ludvik Svoboda Higher Academy of the Ground Forces in Vyskov.
In 1987 President Husak was listed as the supreme commander of the People's Militia, and the chief of staff (who actually directed the organization) was Miroslav Novak, who had held the post since 1973. In February 1981, Novak signed an agreement pledging the cooperation of the militia in a joint effort with SVAZARM to upgrade civil defense throughout the country. According to news releases, both organizations had traditionally been involved in civil defense, and the new agreement was designed to coordinate their endeavors.
Data as of August 1987