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Czechoslovakia Coup of 1948

After the 1946 election, the communists began to lose some of their popularity, and, as the 1948 election approached, their public support began to decline. Not leaving anything to chance, the communists staged a coup d'etat in February 1948 rather than wait for the scheduled May election. To ensure passivity among military units that might object to such unconstitutional methods, Svoboda confined all noncommunist commanders to quarters. Various units under communist command were placed on alert during the coup, but they were not needed and were not used as the legitimate government was ousted and a Moscow-oriented, communist regime was installed.

Early in the new era, the ranks of officers and NCOs were thinned as the military forces, along with all other institutions, were purged to ensure political reliability. The armed forces--now called the Czechoslovak People's Army (Ceskoslovenska Lidova Armada--CSLA)-- suffered initially from the loss of competent personnel, but as Soviet advisers reorganized units to fit the Soviet pattern and trained the Czechoslovaks to use the Soviet equipment that was arriving in quantity, the forces gradually developed a credible combat capability.

Having cleaned the governmental institutions of opposition elements, the communist rulers conducted another purge in the early 1950s, this time seeking purity within the party. Svoboda, who had joined the KSC in 1948, was among those who fell into disfavor. Charged with treason, he was removed from his post as defense minister and sent to work on a collective farm. Others, however, fared worse. Rudolf Slansky, for example, who was first secretary of the party, was executed. Slansky and Svoboda were both rehabilitated--posthumously in the case of Slansky, but Svoboda regained his army rank in 1955 and became commandant of the Klement Gottwald Military Political Academy, a post he held until his retirement from military service in 1959. Although the morale of the troops suffered from the purges, the size of the military establishment grew rapidly, increasing from 140,000 in 1950 to over 250,000 in 1951. These well-trained and highly disciplined forces were considered to be capable and competent in 1955 when Czechoslovakia committed its forces to the alliance formed under the terms of the Warsaw Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance--the Warsaw Pact.



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