Czechoslovakia

Europe 1914 and 1920, maps from Life, 10/3/38


1918 - The independent Republic of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on October 28 by the Czechoslovak National Council in Prague.. The newly created National Assembly began meeting on November 14 and elected Tomas Masaryk president of the First Republic.

1919 - The Paris Peace Conference approved the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic, to encompass the historic Bohemian Kingdom (including Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia), Slovakia, and Ruthenia. The Czech delegation was led by Premier Kramar and Foreign Minister Benes. The new nation had a population of over 13.5 million. It inherited 70 to 80 percent of all the industry of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the Skoda works of Plzen (Pilsen), which produced armaments, locomotives, automobiles, and machinery. Czechoslovakia was one of the world's ten most industrialized states.

1935 - Edvard Benes succeeded Tomas Masaryk as president of the Republic.

1938 - On September 29, the Munich Agreement was signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain. The Czechoslovak government capitulated September 30 and agreed to abide by the agreement. The Munich Agreement stipulated that Czechoslovakia must cede Sudeten territory to Germany. German occupation of the Sudetenland would be completed by October 10. In November 1938, Emil Hacha, succeeding Benes, was elected president of the federated Second Republic, consisting of three parts: Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, and Carpatho-Ukraine.

1939 - The Nazis complete their invasion of Czechoslovakia which became a German protectorate. Slovakia was proclaimed an independent state under fascist leader Jozef Tiso.

1940 - Benes established a government in exile in London.

1945 - Soviet troops entered Prague. Benes returned and issued decrees that expelled over two and a half million Sudeten Germans and more than half a million ethnic Hungarians. The Third Republic came into being at Kosice on April 4 and moved to Prague in May. Benes led a National Front coalition of three socialist parties: the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (Komunisticka strana Ceskoslovenska, or KSC), the Czechoslovak Social democratic Party, and the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party.

1946 - Klement Gottwald of the KSC became prime minister in power-sharing government following national elections.

1948 - A cabinet crisis precipitated the February coup Czechoslovak. National Socialist ministers, backed by all noncommunist parties, demanded a halt to the communists' blatant use of the Ministry of Interior's police and security forces to suppress noncommunists. Prime Minister Gottwald, however, repeatedly forestalled discussion of the police issue. On February 20, National Socialists resigned from the cabinet in protest. The communist-controlled Ministry of Interior deployed police regiments to sensitive areas and equipped a workers' militia. The communist-controlled Ministry of Information refused broadcasting time to noncommunist officials. Ministries held by democratic parties were "secured" by communist "action committees." The action committees also purged all governmental and political party organs of unreliable elements. On February 25, Benes, perhaps fearing Soviet intervention, capitulated. He accepted the resignations of the dissident ministers and received a new cabinet list from Gottwald, thus completing the communist takeover.

1952 - Leading Communist figures, including former party Secretary-General Rudolf Slansky, executed having been convicted of treason and espionage at show trials.

1953 - Gottwald died of pneumonia just days after attending Stalin's funeral. Antonin Novotny succeeded him as KSC leader, Atonin Zapotocky as president.

1956 - The KSC leadership virtually ignored the Soviet thaw announced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956 at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In Czechoslovakia that April, at the Second Writers' Congress, several authors criticized acts of political repression and attempted to gain control of the writers' congress. The writers' rebellion was suppressed, however, and the conservatives retained control. Students in Prague and Bratislava demonstrated on May Day of 1956, demanding freedom of speech and access to the Western press. The Novotny regime condemned these activities and introduced a policy of neo-Stalinism.

1957 - Novotny became president after Zapotocky's death.

1958 - The KSC Party congress formalized the continuation of Stalinism.

1960 - Czechoslovakia became the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic under new constitution.

1963 - Slansky and other victims of Stalinist purges rehabilitated.

1968 - In January, Alexander Dubcek succeeded Novotny as KSC leader, embarked on programme of liberalizing reforms known as Prague Spring with the aim of ushering in "socialism with a human face". However, in August, Soviet-led Warsaw Pact troops invaded. Dubcek was taken to Moscow and forced to make concessions before returning to Prague to make an emotional plea for cooperation in ending the reforms.

1969 January - Student Jan Palach burned himself to death in protest at occupation by Warsaw Pact armies. In April, Gustav Husak replaced Dubcek as KSC leader.

1975 - Husak became president.
Czech Republic 2005, map from CIA


1977 - A group of dissidents including playwright Vaclav Havel published Charter 77 calling for restoration of civil and political rights.

1987 - Milos Jakes replaced Husak as party leader.

1988 - Mass demonstrations in August marked the anniversary of the 1968 invasion.

1989 - Police dispersed numerous mass protests against human and civil rights violations.

1989 - In November, the "Velvet Revolution" began with mass protests and strikes. The Civic Forum, a broad antigovernment coalition, was formed. The KSC leadership resigned. Federal Assembly abolished Communists' constitutional hold on power. In December, Marian Calfa became prime minister in a government in which the majority of members were non-Communists. Husak resigned as president. Dubcek was elected chairman of Federal Assembly. Vaclav Havel was elected president, completing the Velvet r\Revolution.

1990 - The country was renamed Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. First free elections since 1946 led to establishment of coalition government involving all major parties with the exception of the KSC. Havel re-elected president.

1991 - In February, the Civic Forum disbanded. Members form two new parties, the conservative Civic Democratic Party (CDP) and the liberal Civic Movement. Legislation allowing privatization of state-owned enterprises approved. In June, the Soviet forces completed withdrawal.

1992 - The June elections saw Czech voters backing the centre right while their Slovak counterparts supported Slovak separatists and left wing parties. Vladimir Meciar, an ardent supporter of Slovak separatism, became Slovak prime minister. He was strongly opposed to the rapid privatization of the public sector proposed by Czech Prime Minister Vlaclav Klaus. Negotiations between Klaus and Meciar reached deadlock as neither was prepared to compromise. The two agreed to the separation of Slovakia from the Czech Lands, despite the objections of President Havel and a general lack of popular enthusiasm. Havel resigned as president after Slovak separatist parties blocked his re-election. In November, the Federal Assembly adopted legislation enabling the federation to disband.

1993 - On January 1, Czechoslovakia completed its "Velvet Divorce" that resulted in two independent countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Europe 1938 and 2001, maps from Life, 11/14/38, and CIA


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revised 12/15/05 by Steven Schoenherr | Cold War | WWII Timeline | Maps