Alexander Dubček

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Alexander Dubček
Alexander Dubcek.jpg
First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
In office
5 January 1968 17 April 1969
Preceded by Antonín Novotný
Succeeded by Gustáv Husák
Chairman of Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia
In office
28 December 1989 25 June 1992
Preceded by Alois Indra
Succeeded by Michal Kováč
In office
28 April 1969 15 October 1969
Preceded by Peter Colotka
Succeeded by Dalibor Hanes
Personal details
Born(1921-11-27)27 November 1921
Uhrovec, Czechoslovakia
(now Slovakia)
Died7 November 1992(1992-11-07) (aged 70)
Prague, Czechoslovakia
(now Czech Republic)
Political party Communist Party of Slovakia (1939–1948)

Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (1948–1970)
Public Against Violence (1989–1992)


Social Democratic Party of Slovakia (1992)
Signature Signature of Alexander Dubcek.png

Alexander Dubček (Slovak pronunciation:  [ˈalɛksandɛr ˈduptʃɛk] ; 27 November 1921 – 7 November 1992) was a Czechoslovak and Slovak politician who served as the First Secretary of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) (de facto leader of Czechoslovakia) from January 1968 to April 1969. He attempted to reform the communist government during the Prague Spring but was forced to resign following the Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968.

The Slovaks are a nation and West Slavic ethnic group native to Slovakia who share a common ancestry, culture, history and speak the Slovak language.

Communist Party of Czechoslovakia Political party in Czechoslovakia

The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was a Communist and Marxist–Leninist political party in Czechoslovakia that existed between 1921 and 1992. It was a member of the Comintern. Between 1929 and 1953 it was led by Klement Gottwald. After its election victory in 1946 it seized power in the 1948 Czechoslovak coup d'état and established a one-party state allied with the Soviet Union. Nationalization of virtually all private enterprises followed.

Czechoslovak Socialist Republic republic in Central/Eastern Europe between 1960 and 1990

The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the name of Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 23 April 1990, when the country was under communist rule. Formally known as the Fourth Czechoslovak Republic, it has been regarded as a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

During his leadership, under the slogan of " Socialism with a human face ", Czechoslovakia lifted censorship on the media and liberalized Czechoslovak society, fuelling the so-called New Wave in Czechoslovak filmography. However, he was put under pressure by Stalinist voices inside the party as well as the Soviet leadership, who disliked the direction the country was taking and feared that Czechoslovakia could loosen ties with the Soviet Union and become more westernized. As a result, the country was invaded by the other Warsaw Pact countries on 20–21 August 1968, effectively ending the process known as the Prague Spring. Dubček resigned in April 1969 and was succeeded by Gustáv Husák, who initiated normalization . Dubček was then expelled from the Communist Party in 1970.

Socialism with a human face was a political programme announced by Alexander Dubček and his colleagues agreed at the Presidium of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in April 1968, after he became chairman of the Party in January 1968. The first author of this slogan was Radovan Richta. It was a process of mild democratization and political liberalization that sought to build an advanced socialist society that valued democratic Czechoslovakian tradition. It would still enable the Communist Party to maintain real power. It initiated the Prague spring which, on the night of 20-21 August 1968, was stopped by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Censorship The practice of suppressing information

Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institutions, and corporations.

Czechoslovak New Wave Filmmaking movement

The Czechoslovak New Wave is a term used for the 1960s films of Czech directors Miloš Forman, František Vláčil, Věra Chytilová, Ivan Passer, Pavel Juráček, Jaroslav Papoušek, Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Jaromil Jireš, Vojtěch Jasný, Evald Schorm, Elmar Klos and Slovak directors Dušan Hanák, Juraj Herz, Juraj Jakubisko, Štefan Uher, Ján Kadár, Elo Havetta and others. The quality and openness of the films led the genre to be called the Czechoslovak film miracle.

Later, after the overthrow of the communist regime in 1989, he was Chairman of the federal Czechoslovak parliament. Also in 1989, the European Parliament awarded Dubček the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. [1]

Federal Assembly (Czechoslovakia) federal assembly of Czechoslovakia

The Federal Assembly was the federal parliament of Czechoslovakia from January 1, 1969 to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia on December 31, 1992. It was Czechoslovakia's highest legislative institution.

European Parliament Directly elected parliament of the European Union

The European Parliament (EP) is the legislative branch of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Together with the European Commission and the Council of the European Union it exercises the tripartite legislative function of the European Union. The Parliament is composed of 751 members (MEPs), intended to become 705 starting from the 2019–2024 legislature because of specific provisions adopted about Brexit, who represent the second-largest democratic electorate in the world and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world.

Early life

Alexander Dubček was born in Czechoslovakia on 27 November 1921. [2] When he was three, the family moved to the Soviet Union, in part to help build socialism and in part because jobs were scarce in Czechoslovakia; so that he was raised until 12 in the Kirghiz SSR of the Soviet Union (now Kyrgyzstan) as a member of the Esperantist and Idist industrial cooperative Interhelpo. [3] In 1933, the family moved to Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod, and in 1938 returned to Czechoslovakia.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centers were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Kyrgyzstan Sovereign state in Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, and also known as Kirghizia, is a country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country with mountainous terrain. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.

Esperanto culture refers to the shared cultural experience of the Esperantujo, or Esperanto-speaking community. Despite being a constructed language, Esperanto has a history dating back to the late 19th century, and shared cultural social mores have developed among its speakers. Some of these can be traced back to the initial ideas of the language's creator, Ludwig Zamenhof, including the theory that a global second language would foster international communication. Others have developed over time, as the language has allowed different national and linguistic cultures to blend together.

During the Second World War, Alexander Dubček joined the underground resistance against the wartime pro-German Slovak state headed by Jozef Tiso. In August 1944, Dubček fought in the Jan Žižka partisan brigade [4] during the Slovak National Uprising and was wounded twice, while his brother, Július, was killed. [5]

Slovak Republic (1939–1945) republic in Central-Eastern Europe between 1939–1943

The (First) Slovak Republic, otherwise known as the Slovak State, was a client state of Nazi Germany which existed between 14 March 1939 and 4 April 1945. It was created out of the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia one day before of the start of the German occupation. The Slovak Republic controlled the majority of the territory of present-day Slovakia but without its current southern and eastern parts, which had been ceded to Hungary in 1938. The Republic bordered Germany and constituent parts of "Großdeutschland": the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the General Government – along with independent Hungary.

Jozef Tiso Slovak priest and politician, president of the First Slovak Republic

Jozef Tiso was a Slovak politician and Roman Catholic priest who governed the Slovak Republic, a client state of Nazi Germany during World War II, from 1939 to 1945. After the war, he was executed in 1947 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Bratislava.

Jan Žižka partisan brigade

The 1st Czechoslovak Partisan Brigade of Jan Žižka, initially known as Ušiak-Murzin Unit, was the largest partisan unit in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. After its core membership of Soviet-trained paratroopers were dropped into Slovakia in August 1944, the brigade crossed into Moravia and began operations in earnest at the end of 1944. Its focus was guerrilla warfare, especially sabotage and intelligence gathering.

Political career

During the war, Alexander Dubček joined the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS), [6] which had been created after the formation of the Slovak state and in 1948 was transformed into the Slovak branch of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ).

Communist Party of Slovakia (1939) defunct political party in Slovakia (1939–1948)

The Communist Party of Slovakia was a communist party in Slovakia. It was formed in May 1939, when the Slovak Republic was created, as the Slovak branches of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) were separated from the mother party. When Czechoslovakia was again established as a unified state, the KSS was still a separate party for a while (1945–1948). On 29 September 1948, it was reunited with the KSČ and continued to exist as an "organizational territorial unit of the KSČ on the territory of Slovakia". Its main organ was Pravda.

After the war, he steadily rose through the ranks in Communist Czechoslovakia. From 1951 to 1955 he was a member of the National Assembly, the parliament of Czechoslovakia. In 1953, he was sent to the Moscow Political College, where he graduated in 1958. [7] In 1955 he joined the Central Committee of the Slovak branch and in 1962 became a member of the presidium. In 1958 he also joined the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which he served as a secretary from 1960 to 1962 and as a member of the presidium after 1962. From 1960 to 1968 he once more was a member of the federal parliament.

In 1963, a power struggle in the leadership of the Slovak branch unseated Karol Bacílek and Pavol David, hard-line allies of Antonín Novotný, First Secretary of the KSČ and President of Czechoslovakia. In their place, a new generation of Slovak Communists took control of party and state organs in Slovakia, led by Alexander Dubček, who became First Secretary of the Slovak branch of the party. [8]

Under Dubček's leadership, Slovakia began to evolve toward political liberalization. Because Novotný and his Stalinist predecessors had denigrated Slovak "bourgeois nationalists", most notably Gustáv Husák and Vladimír Clementis, in the 1950s, the Slovak branch worked to promote Slovak identity. This mainly took the form of celebrations and commemorations, such as the 150th birthdays of 19th century leaders of the Slovak National Revival Ľudovít Štúr and Jozef Miloslav Hurban, the centenary of the Matica slovenská in 1963, and the twentieth anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising. At the same time, the political and intellectual climate in Slovakia became freer than that in the Czech lands. [9] This was exemplified by the rising readership of Kultúrny život, the weekly newspaper of the Union of Slovak Writers, which published frank discussions of liberalization, federalization and democratization, written by the most progressive or controversial writers – both Slovak and Czech. Kultúrny život consequently became the first Slovak publication to gain a wide following among Czechs.

Prague Spring

Monument to Alexander Dubcek Alexander Dubcek, pamatnik pobliz mista nehody.jpg
Monument to Alexander Dubček

The Czechoslovak planned economy in the 1960s was in serious decline and the imposition of central control from Prague disappointed local Communists, while the destalinization program caused further disquiet. In October 1967, a number of reformers, most notably Ota Šik and Alexander Dubček, took action: they challenged First Secretary Antonín Novotný at a Central Committee meeting. [10] Novotný faced a mutiny in the Central Committee, so he secretly invited Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet leader, to make a whirlwind visit to Prague in December 1967 in order to shore up his own position. When Brezhnev arrived in Prague and met with the Central Committee members, he was stunned to learn of the extent of the opposition to Novotný, leading Brezhnev to opt for non-interference, [11] and paving the way for the Central Committee to force Novotný's resignation. Dubček, with his background and training in Russia, was seen by the USSR as a safe pair of hands. “Our Sasha” [12] became the new First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia on 5 January 1968.

The period following Novotný's downfall became known as the Prague Spring. During this time, Dubček and other reformers sought to liberalize the Communist government—creating "socialism with a human face". [13] Though this loosened the party's influence on the country, Dubček remained a devoted Communist and intended to preserve the party's rule. However, during the Prague Spring, he and other reform-minded Communists sought to win popular support for the Communist government by eliminating its worst, most repressive features, allowing greater freedom of expression and tolerating political and social organizations not under Communist control. [14] "Dubček! Svoboda!" [15] became the popular refrain of student demonstrations during this period,[ citation needed ] while a poll gave him 78% public support. [16] Yet Dubček found himself in an increasingly untenable position. The program of reform gained momentum, leading to pressures for further liberalization and democratization. At the same time, hard-line Communists in Czechoslovakia and the leaders of other Warsaw Pact countries pressured Dubček to rein in the Prague Spring. Though Dubček wanted to oversee the reform movement, he refused to resort to any draconian measures to do so, while still stressing the leading role of the Party and the centrality of the Warsaw Pact. [17]

The Soviet leadership tried to slow down or stop the changes in Czechoslovakia through a series of negotiations. The Soviet Union agreed to bilateral talks with Czechoslovakia in July at Čierna nad Tisou, near the Slovak-Soviet border. [18] At the meeting, Dubček tried to reassure the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact leaders that he was still friendly to Moscow, arguing that the reforms were an internal matter. He thought he had learned an important lesson from the failing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, in which the leaders had gone as far as withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact. Dubček believed that the Kremlin would allow him a free hand in pursuing domestic reform as long as Czechoslovakia remained a faithful member of the Soviet bloc. Despite Dubček's continuing efforts to stress these commitments, Brezhnev and other Warsaw Pact leaders remained wary, seeing a free press as threatening an end to one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and (by extension) elsewhere in Eastern Europe. [19]


On the night of 20–21 August 1968, military forces from every Warsaw Pact member state (except Romania) entered Czechoslovakia. The occupying armies quickly seized control of Prague and the Central Committee's building, taking Dubček and other reformers into Soviet custody. But, before they were arrested, Dubček urged the people not to resist militarily, on the grounds that “presenting a military defence would have meant exposing the Czech and Slovak peoples to a senseless bloodbath”. [20] Later in the day, Dubček and the others were taken to Moscow on a Soviet military transport aircraft.

The inspired non-violent resistance of the Czech and Slovak population, which delayed full loss of control to the Warsaw Pact forces for a full eight months (in contrast to the Soviet military's estimate of four days), became a prime example of civilian-based defense. A latter-day Good Soldier Schweik wrote mockingly of “the comradely pranks of changing street names and road signs, of pretending not to understand Russian, and of putting out a great variety of humorous welcoming posters” [21] Meanwhile, radio stations called for the invaders to return home: “Long live freedom, Svoboda, Dubcek”. [22] Nevertheless, the reformers were forced to accede to Soviet demands, signing the Moscow protocols, (with only František Kriegel refusing to sign): the tanks had crushed Dubcek's Prague Spring. [23]

Dubček and most of the reformers were returned to Prague on 27 August, and Dubček retained his post as the party's first secretary until April 1969; [24] and indeed, the achievements of the Prague Spring were not reversed overnight, but over a period of several months.

In January 1969, Dubček was hospitalized in Bratislava complaining of a cold and had to cancel a speech. Rumours sprang up that his illness was radiation sickness and that it was caused by radioactive strontium being placed in his soup during his stay in Moscow in an attempt to kill him. However, a U.S. intelligence report discounted this for lack of evidence. [25]

Dubček was forced to resign as First Secretary in April 1969, following the Czechoslovak Hockey Riots. He was re-elected to the Federal Assembly (as the federal parliament was now called) and became its chairman. He was later sent as ambassador to Turkey (1969–70), [26] allegedly in the hope that he would defect to the West, which however did not occur. In 1970, he was expelled from the Communist party and lost his seats in the Slovak parliament (which he had held continuously since 1964) and the Federal Assembly.

Private citizen

After his expulsion from the party, Dubček worked in the Forestry Service in Slovakia. He remained a popular figure among the Slovaks and Czechs he encountered on the job, using this reverence to procure scarce and hard-to-find materials for his workplace. Dubček and his wife, Anna, continued to live in a comfortable villa in a nice neighbourhood in Bratislava. In 1988, Dubček was allowed to travel to Italy to accept an honorary doctorate from Bologna University, and, while there, he gave an interview with Italian Communist Party daily newspaper L'Unità , his first public remarks to the press since 1970. Dubček's appearance and interview helped to return him to international prominence.

In 1989, he was awarded the annual Sakharov Prize in its second year of existence. [27]

Velvet Revolution

Alexander Dubcek was elected Chairman of the Czechoslovak Parliament 1989-1992. The Plaques in Prague was made in 2006 by Teodor Banik. It is placed on the wall of the Narodni muzeum - nova budova. Alexander Dubcek 1921-1992.JPG
Alexander Dubček was elected Chairman of the Czechoslovak Parliament 1989–1992. The Plaques in Prague was made in 2006 by Teodor Baník. It is placed on the wall of the Národní muzeum - nová budova.

During the Velvet Revolution of 1989, he supported the Public against Violence (VPN) and the Civic Forum. On the night of 24 November, Dubček appeared with Václav Havel on a balcony overlooking Wenceslas Square, where he was greeted with tremendous applause from the throngs of protesters below and embraced as a symbol of democratic freedom. Several onlookers even chanted, "Dubček na hrad!" ("Dubček to the Castle"—i.e., Dubček for President). He disappointed the crowd somewhat by calling the revolution a chance to continue the work he had started 20 years earlier, and prune out what was wrong with Communism. By that time, the demonstrators in Prague wanted nothing to do with Communism of any sort, even Dubček's humane version. Later that night, Dubček was on stage with Havel at the Laterna Magika theatre, the headquarters of Civic Forum, when the entire leadership of the Communist Party resigned, in effect ending Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. [28]

Dubček was elected Chairman of the Federal Assembly (the Czechoslovak Parliament) on 28 December 1989, and re-elected in 1990 and 1992.

At the time of the overthrow of Communist party rule, Dubček described the Velvet Revolution as a victory for his humanistic socialist outlook. In 1990, he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He also gave the commencement address to the graduates of the Class of 1990 at The American University in Washington, D.C.; it was his first trip to the United States. [29]

In 1992, he became leader of the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia and represented that party in the Federal Assembly. At that time, Dubček passively supported the union between Czechs and Slovaks in a single Czecho-Slovak federation against the (ultimately successful) push towards an independent Slovak state.


Dubcek's grave Alexander Dubcek Grave.JPG
Dubček's grave

Dubček died on 7 November 1992, as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash that took place on 1 September on the Czech D1 highway, near Humpolec. [30] [31] He was buried in Slávičie údolie cemetery in Bratislava, Slovakia.

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  1. European Parliament, Sakharov Prize Network , retrieved 10 September 2013
  2. Dennis Kavanagh (1998). "Dubcek, Alexander". A Dictionary of Political Biography. Oxford: OUP. p. 152. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  3. D. Viney, 'Alexander Dubcek', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 17-19
  4. Kirschbaum, Stanislav J. (2016). A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival. St. Martin's Press. p. 239. ISBN   9781250114754.
  5. D. Viney, 'Alexander Dubcek', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 19-20
  6. B. Wasserstein, Barbarism & Civilization (Oxford 2007) p. 598
  7. D. Viney, 'Alexander Dubcek', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 21
  8. B. Wasserstein, Barbarism & Civilization (Oxford 2007) p. 598
  9. D. Viney, 'Alexander Dubcek', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 23-4
  10. B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 598
  11. D. Viney, 'Alexander Dubcek', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 26
  12. Brezhnev, quoted in B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 598 and p. 603
  13. B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 600
  14. B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 599
  15. Lost World Of Communism (Czechoslovakia), BBC (Documentary)
  16. B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 601
  17. D. Viney, 'Alexander Dubcek', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 31
  18. B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 601
  19. B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 605
  20. Quoted in B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 605
  21. 'Josef Schweik', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 332
  22. Documents, Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 307
  23. Jenny Diski, The Sixties (London 2009) p. 82
  24. D. Viney, 'Alexander Dubcek', Studies in Comparative Communism 1 (1968) p. 36-7
  25. Radiation Sickness or Death Caused by Surreptitious Administration of Ionizing Radiation to an Individual Archived 3 September 2001 at the Wayback Machine . Report No. 4 of The Molecular Biology Working Group to The Biomedical Intelligence Subcommittee of The Scientific Intelligence Committee of USIB, 27 August 1969. Retrieved 5 May 2007.
  26. B. Wasserstein, Civilisation and Barbarism (Oxford 2007) p. 606
  27. "Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought: List of prize winners", European Parliament webpage.
  28. Sebetsyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire . New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN   0-375-42532-2.
  29. "Commencement Address - C-SPAN Video Library". 13 May 1990. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  30. Alexander Dubcek, 70, Dies in Prague (New York Times, 8 November 1992)
  31. Kopanic, Michael J Jr, "Case closed: Dubček's death declared an accident, not murder", Central Europe Review (Vol 2, No 8), 28 February 2000.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Antonín Novotný
First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
5 January 196817 April 1969
Succeeded by
Gustáv Husák
Preceded by
Alois Indra
Chairman of Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia
28 December 1989 – 25 June 1992
Succeeded by
Michal Kováč
Preceded by
Peter Colotka
Chairman of Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia
28 April 1969 – 15 October 1969
Succeeded by
Dalibor Hanes