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The communist regime

At the end of the Second World War, the Communist Party shared in the work of the Czechoslovak government for the first time, which signalized a clear move to the left after the experience of Nazism. Competition among political parties was restricted by a ban on re-establishing pre-war right-wing parties, which had been accused of collaborating with the Germans. All the permitted parties were grouped into a National Front and were all governing parties.

The Communist Party won elections in 1946 on a national scale. Further elections were supposed to be held two years later. The Communist Party, however, endeavored to gain complete power. By installing their own followers in important positions, they infiltrated the armed forces and security bodies of the state. Not even the other governing parties were safe from infiltration by communist agents.

In February 1948, a group of democratic ministers from three parties submitted their resignation in protest against the communists strengthening their position in the security apparatus. The communists exploited the situation to seize power in a formally legal manner in the guise of reconstructing the government. Subsequent elections were only elections in name, as only one candidate ballot was permitted and this was compiled by the Communist Party.

After assuming power, the communists initiated political trials of their political opponents: democratically oriented soldiers, Zionists and even people from their own ranks. Death sentences were handed down, as were long sentences in concentration camps.

An Iron Curtain literally descended along the southern and western borders of Czechoslovakia with Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany, which separated the totalitarian world from the democratic world. Czechoslovakia was part of the Soviet Empire, as a vassal state. The Soviet Union reacted with force to any attempt at defection (in the German Democratic Republic in 1953, in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968). According to the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, the Soviet Union had the right to defend the socialist system in any state of the Soviet bloc regardless of the sovereignty of the given country.

On August 21, 1968, forces from five Warsaw Pact countries (the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria) invaded Czechoslovakia with the aim of ending the so-called Prague Spring, which had been an attempt at reforming the communist system. The interventionists hauled the representatives of the Czechoslovak state and the Communist Party to Moscow, where, with the exception of Frantisek Kriegl, they signed the Moscow Protocol, in which they agreed to Soviet forces "temporarily" staying on the territory of the Czechoslovak Republic.

The establishment that took power after the Warsaw Pact invasion remained at the helm for 21 years. The Communist Party underwent a purge of its unreliable and wayward members. People who made the regime uncomfortable were locked up and otherwise persecuted, but unlike in the 1950s, no death sentences were meted out.

The opposition group gathered around the Charter 77 movement, who spoke out for the defense and observance of human rights. The state itself had undertaken to observe these at the Helsinki Conference, but naturally didn't do so. The most important figures of the Charter 77 movement were Jan Patocka and future President Václav Havel. The fate of the Communist bloc was firmly tied to the development of the Soviet Union. After the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 and the growing economic problems of the entire Soviet bloc, the position of the empire began to wobble.

On November 17, 1989, the regime led by the Communist Party harshly intervened against demonstrations organized by students on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the closure of Czech schools by the Nazis. People came out on the streets to protest the brutality of the intervention and organized demonstrations and strikes. The communists relinquished political power during the Velvet Revolution. The regime had exhausted itself and didn't have the strength to engage in a power struggle with the whole of society. Political parties were reinstated and the first free elections were held in 1990. Vaclav Havel, who had led the negotiations with the communist government, became president. Future political parties were established by people with the same opinions - the Czech Civic Forum (Obcanské fórum) and Slovak Public Against Violence (Verejnost proti násiliu).

The Czech and Slovak political representatives were unsuccessful in finding a suitable bilateral model for the coexistence of the Czech and Slovak nations. This resulted in the organized and orderly split of the joint state. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have existed separately since January 1, 1993. Integration with the European community and European security structures became an objective of both states. Mutual relations were kept above-standard due to the immixture of citizens after almost 90 years of coexistence in one state.

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