|First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia|
14 March 1953 –5 January 1968
|Preceded by|| Klement Gottwald |
as Party Chairman
|Succeeded by||Alexander Dubček|
|President of Czechoslovakia|
19 November 1957 –22 March 1968
|Preceded by||Antonín Zápotocký|
|Succeeded by||Ludvík Svoboda|
|Born||10 December 1904|
|Died||28 January 1975 70) (aged|
|Political party||Communist Party of Czechoslovakia|
Antonín Josef Novotný (10 December 1904 –28 January 1975) was First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia from 1953 to 1968,and also held the post of president of Czechoslovakia from 1957 to 1968. An ardent hardliner,Novotnýwas forced to yield the reins of power to Alexander Dubček during the short-lived reform movement of 1968.
Antonín Novotnýwas born in Letňany,Austria-Hungary,now part of Prague,Czech Republic. The Novotnýfamily was working class in social origin and he worked from an early age as a blacksmith.
Novotnýwas a charter member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) at its founding in 1921.He became a professional Communist Party functionary in 1929.
In 1935,Novotnýwas selected as a delegate to the 7th World Congress of Comintern.He was made a regional party secretary in Prague in 1937 and made secretary and editor of the CPC's newspaper in the South Moravian Region in 1938.
With the coming of World War II and occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in 1939,the CPC was outlawed and forced into an underground existence.Novotnýserved as one of the leaders of the CPC in the underground movement in Prague. Novotnýwas finally arrested by the German secret police,the Gestapo,in September 1941 and was immediately deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp.
Novotnýmanaged to survive his concentration camp experience and was liberated by American troops on 5 May 1945.
After the war,Novotnýreturned to Czechoslovakia and resumed his activity in the Czech Communist Party. He was elected a member of the governing Central Committee of the KSČin 1946.He was promoted to the Secretariat of the Central Committee in September 1951 and became one of the party's top leaders on the CPC's Politburo following the arrest of Rudolf Slánský for alleged "Titoism" in November of that same year.
Novotnýwas formally appointed as Deputy Prime Minister in February 1953.After the death of party leader Klement Gottwald in March 1953,Novotnýbecame a leading candidate in the succession struggle,ultimately winning out in September 1953 when he was named First Secretary of the party—effectively making him the leader of Czechoslovakia.
While President Antonín Zápotocký and Prime Minister Viliam Široký wanted a less repressive way of governing,the hardliner Novotnýwas able to outflank them because he had the backing of the Soviet Union. In late 1953,at a meeting in Moscow,Zápotockýand Širokýwere told to adhere to the principles of "collective leadership" —in other words,abandon power to Novotný.
In the Czechoslovakia of Novotný,people continued to face strict government regulations in the arts and media,although they had loosened dramatically since Stalin's death in 1953 and the subsequent De-Stalinisation programmes of 1956. His quasi-authoritarian practices led to mounting calls for a new form of socialism over the unsatisfactory pace of change that would include the accountability,proper elections,and responsibility of leaders to society. Novotný's administration,however,still remained centralised for 10 years. During these years society evolved,seen through events such as the Czechoslovak film miracle. Following the death of Zápotockýin 1957,Novotnýwas named as President of the republic,further consolidating his grip on power.Three years later,he replaced the superficially democratic Ninth-of-May Constitution with a new constitution that was a fully Communist document. The new constitution declared that "socialism has won" in Czechoslovakia and declared the country a socialist state under the leadership of the KSČ,thus codifying the actual state of affairs that had prevailed since the Communist takeover in 1948.
In the 1960s,Novotny's attention was turned to the activities of Czech exiles in Western Europe who were seeking to discredit his Party's regime. One example of this was his suggestion to kidnap the exiled journalist,Josef Josten,from London in a specially made box. When this scheme proved impracticable,he proposed assassination,as recorded by the defecting intelligence agent,Josef Frolik.
While Novotnýwas forced to adopt some reforms due to popular pressure in the 1960s,these efforts were half-hearted at best. Growing public dissatisfaction caused Novotnýto lose his grip on power. The reason for this was the excessive imprisoning and killing of innocents who protested against the government. He was forced to resign as party leader in January 1968 and was replaced by a reformer,Alexander Dubček. In March 1968,he was ousted as president and in May he resigned from the Central Committee of CPC.
In 1971,during the period of normalization,he was reelected to the Central Committee. However,his political influence was minimal and he was too ill to be a strong force in the Gustáv Husák administration. He died on 28 January 1975 in Prague.
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