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Destalinization

We, the working people of Czechoslovakia formally declare: The social establishment, for which whole generations of our labourers and other workers fought, and which had been before their eyes as an example since the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, became a reality in our country under the leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Socialism is victorious in our homeland! We have entered into a new era in our history…

Preamble from the Socialist constitution (1960)

After Stalin’s death in March 1953 and Khrushchev’s speech in February1956 at the XX. Congress of the KSSS there was a period of destalinization in the Soviet bloc. It affected the entire Eastern bloc in several waves, leading to a loosening of conditions and a revision of political processes within the parties. There was criticism of what was known as the cult of personality, but the essence of the regime was not called into question. In Czechoslovakia, destalinization proceeded more cautiously, given that politicians involved in the construction of processes remained in leading party and state positions. The only important representative who initially had to leave as a result of the change in circumstances was Gottwald’s son-in-law and Minister of Defence Alexej Čepička. The Communist Party’s leading role in the management of society was sealed in the fourth article of the 1960 Constitution, although it had been applying it since the time of the February coup.

A report on the views of young people obtained by the StB through a secret check of correspondences was submitted to Antonín Novotný, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, in July 1962 (National archive)

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Antonín Novotný (1904-1975) who during the inter war years acted as a Prague regional official. After the second world war he commenced with illegal activities, which led him to end up in a concentration camp. Later, he held senior party positions in Prague and at headquarters. He became head of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and in 1957 he was made president.
He profiled himself as an austere technocrat and an opponent of radical reforms, especially the federalization of Czechoslovakia. He loved to play the card game mariáš. At the beginning of 1968 he was publicly criticized for the accumulation of functions and dismissed. In the picture he is captured during the Mayday parade in 1967 (ČTK / photo: Jiří Rublič)

Demolition of the Stalin monument in Prague’s Letná on the 6th of November 1962 (Wikimedia)

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Also at the time when Antonín Novotný was the head of the Communist Party, a number of opponents of the regime were executed. First page of the top secret directive on the use of the death penalty, 20th of July 1957 (National Archive)

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Students parade with Allen Ginsberg, who was elected King of Majáles (traditional student celebration in May) on the 1st of May 1965 (photo: Miroslav Khol)

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Jiří Kolář, Po zápasu, (After the contest) 1964, collage, cardboard, 100 * 70 cm (Museum Kampa / photo: Oto Palán)