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|8th President of Czechoslovakia|
30 March 1968 –28 May 1975
|Preceded by||Antonín Novotný|
|Succeeded by||Gustáv Husák|
|Born||25 November 1895|
Hroznatín, Moravia, Austria Hungary
|Died||20 September 1979 83) (aged|
(now Czech Republic)
|Political party||Communist Party of Czechoslovakia|
|Spouse(s)||Irena Svobodová (1901–1980)|
|Years of service||1915 (Austria-Hungary)|
1916 – 1950 (Czechoslovakia)
|Commands||1st Czechoslovak Army Corps in the USSR|
|Battles/wars|| World War I |
Russian Civil War
Ludvík Svoboda (25 November 1895 – 20 September 1979) was a Czechoslovak general and politician. He fought in both World Wars, for which he was regarded as a national hero, and he later served as President of Czechoslovakia from 1968 to 1975.
Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.
Svoboda was born in Hroznatín, Moravia to family of Jan Svoboda. His father died when he was one year old and he was raised by his mother Františka who remarried to František Nejedlý. Ludvík Svoboda attended Agricultural school at Velké Meziříčí and worked at Vineyard. In 1915, he had to join the Austro-Hungarian Army.
Hroznatín is a village in the Vysočina Region, Czech Republic. It is the birthplace of General Ludvík Svoboda.
Moravia is a historical region in the Czech Republic and one of the historical Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Czech Silesia. The medieval and early modern Margraviate of Moravia was a crown land of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire, later a crown land of the Austrian Empire and briefly also one of 17 former crown lands of the Cisleithanian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918. During the early 20th century, Moravia was one of the five lands of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1928; it was then merged with Czech Silesia, and eventually dissolved by abolition of the land system in 1949.
Velké Meziříčí is a town in the Vysočina Region, Czech Republic. It is situated under the original Gothic castle in a valley framed by the hills of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands.
Ludvík was sent to Eastern Front was captured on 18 September 1915 at Tarnopol. He joined Czechoslovak Legion and took part in battles of Zborov and Bakhmach. He returned home through "Siberian anabasis".
The Eastern Front or Eastern Theater of World War I was a theatre of operations that encompassed at its greatest extent the entire frontier between the Russian Empire and Romania on one side and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire on the other. It stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, involved most of Eastern Europe and stretched deep into Central Europe as well. The term contrasts with "Western Front", which was being fought in Belgium and France.
The Czechoslovak Legion were volunteer armed forces composed predominantly of Czechs with a small number of Slovaks fighting on the side of the Entente powers during World War I. Their goal was to win the support of the Allied Powers for the independence of Bohemia and Moravia from the Austrian Empire and of Slovak territories from the Kingdom of Hungary, which were then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With the help of émigré intellectuals and politicians such as the Czech Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and the Slovak Milan Rastislav Štefánik, they grew into a force of over 100,000 strong.
The Battle of Zborov was a part of the Kerensky Offensive,. The battle was the first significant action of the Czechoslovak Legions on the Eastern Front and the only successful engagement of the failed Russian offensive.
He worked at his father's estate before launching his military career in the Czechoslovak Army in 1921. He married Irena Stratilová, afterwards named Irena Svobodová. In 1923 and in the early 1930s Svoboda taught at a military academy.
The Czechoslovak Army was the name of the armed forces of Czechoslovakia. It was established in 1918 following Czechoslovakia's independence from Austria-Hungary.
A military academy or service academy is an educational institution which prepares candidates for service in the officer corps. It normally provides education in a military environment, the exact definition depending on the country concerned.
After the German occupation in spring 1939 he became a member of a secret underground organization Obrana národa meaning "National Defense". It is supposed that at the same time he established connection with Soviet intelligence. In June 1939 he fled to Poland, forming a Czechoslovak military unit in Kraków, before falling into Soviet captivity during the Soviet invasion of Poland. As he related it after the war, he escaped certain death after asking his captors to call a phone number in Moscow where they could obtain personal information about him; this worked.[ citation needed ] After the outbreak of the German offensive against the Soviet Union, Svoboda became head of the Czechoslovak military units on the Eastern Front.[ citation needed ] The Czechoslovak units fought the Germans for the first time in March 1943 at the Battle of Sokolovo in Ukraine. As a commander he also led troops of the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps in the Battle of the Dukla Pass in the fall of 1944 when, after a very heavy fighting, this unit managed to cross the Czechoslovak state border for the first time. Svoboda's charismatic leadership and personal bravery was highly valued by his commanding officer at the time, Soviet marshal Ivan Konev.[ citation needed ] Trusted by Klement Gottwald's exile leadership[ citation needed ] and Soviet functionaries,[ citation needed ] he quickly climbed the military ranks, becoming army general in August 1945.
The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was a protectorate of Nazi Germany established on 16 March 1939 following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939. Earlier, following the Munich Agreement of September 1938, Nazi Germany had incorporated the Czech Sudetenland territory as a Reichsgau.
Obrana národa (ON) was a Czech resistance organization that fought against the German occupation from 1939 to 1945. It opposed Nazi rule in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The group was founded by General Josef Bílý in April 1939.
Czechoslovak Legion of 1939 was the military unit formed in the Second Polish Republic after Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939. The unit took symbolic part in the defence of Poland during the German invasion to Poland in September 1939.
In World War II a substantial part of Czechoslovakia was liberated by the Red Army and the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps under the leadership of Svoboda. Svoboda was appointed Minister of Defense while being welcomed as a hero of the Eastern Front. The Soviet Union enjoyed a great popularity among the population and in the elections of 1946 the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won 38% of the vote nationwide.
On 22 February 1948, nearly all of the non-Communist cabinet ministers resigned in protest of the practices of Gottwald and the other Communists. Svoboda was one of the few who remained in office. The Communist-dominated Revolutionary Trade Union Movement voted unanimously to replace the 12 departed ministers with pro-Communist ministers. As armed workers and the People's Militias took to the streets, Svoboda refused to quell the insurrection with military force, saying "the army will not march against the people". Two days later (and one day after a general strike in which 2.5 million citizens participated), President Edvard Beneš gave in to growing pressure from Gottwald and appointed a government dominated by Communists and pro-Soviet Social Democrats--in effect, giving legal sanction to a Communist coup. The takeover was completely bloodless. Svoboda, whose label had been that of an "apolitical" minister since the first days of his term, then joined the Communist Party whose de facto Trojan horse he had been all the time and was elected as a deputy to the National Assembly at the 1948 election.
Svoboda was forced out of the army (in which he had reached the rank of Army General in November 1945) in 1950 under pressure from the Soviets.[ citation needed ] He was Deputy Prime Minister from 1950 to 1951. In the purges which followed Svoboda was imprisoned and "recommended" to save his image by committing suicide, but eventually released and stripped of all offices. His return to public life took place upon a personal wish of Khrushchev, whom Svoboda had met during the war, and he subsequently headed the Klement Gottwald Military Academy.
In 1946 he was awarded the title People's Hero of Yugoslavia. Svoboda was also awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union (on 24 November 1965), and Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (being awarded the latter title again in 1970 and 1975). He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize (1970).
After the ending of the Antonín Novotný regime, in the period known as the Prague Spring, Svoboda was elected President of Czechoslovakia on 30 March 1968, on the recommendation of Alexander Dubček, the First Secretary. He was an acceptable candidate both for Czechs and Slovaks, and as a war hero and a victim of the purges of the early 1950s, he enjoyed a very high esteem among the population.
Svoboda then gave a mild consent to the reform process of the new Party leadership until the Warsaw Pact intervention in August 1968. Horrified at his experiences in two world wars, he signed an order preventing the Czechoslovak Army from getting involved with the invading Warsaw Pact troops. He traveled to Moscow in order to secure the release of Dubček and the other reform leaders, who had been kidnapped by the invading forces. However, when Svoboda arrived, Leonid Brezhnev demanded that he appoint a "peasant-workers' government" in order to give credence to the planned official line—that hardliners in the KSČ had themselves requested the invasion. Svoboda not only refused, but threatened to put a bullet into his head in the presence of Brezhnev unless Dubček and the other reformists were released.
Nevertheless, Svoboda could do nothing to prevent Brezhnev from forcing the Czechoslovak representatives to sign the notorious Moscow protocols,which meant a factual capitulation as they were kept secret and provided the Warsaw Pact armies with a factual licence to a "temporary stay" (as it was called later at an October parliamentary session) in Czechoslovakia. The protocols also obliged the Party leadership to promote political, cultural and other changes to stop the reform process. Svoboda also supported Minister of Defence Martin Dzúr, who ordered the Czechoslovak army to not show any resistance. Given the public outrage and resistance, Svoboda's arbitrary action was in fact in accord with Brezhnev's intent.
Svoboda survived the removal of reformist Communists in Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Prague Spring, while passively witnessing the purges and the suffocation of the civil liberties that had briefly been restored. He even helped muzzle the press and also contributed to Dubček's replacement with Gustáv Husák in April 1969. To the day he died, he believed and maintained that his submissive conduct before Brezhnev helped save thousands of lives from "immense consequences"; and he defended this policy by invoking his own memories of the horrors of war.
Svoboda resisted Husák's attempts to oust him from the presidency until 1975, when he was forced to retire through a constitutional act (paragraph 64 Nr.143/1968 Sb.). This act stated that if the incumbent president was unable to carry out his office's duties for a year or more, the Federal Assembly had the right to elect a permanent successor. In Svoboda's case, he had been in ill health for some time, making the act relevant.
Despite being misused by politicians for their goals several times, Svoboda still enjoys a limited credit among Czechs and Slovaks, probably due to his brave stance and fortitude on several occasions during crucial moments of Czechoslovak history. Squares and streets in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia continue to bear his name, while those of most other Communist-era leaders were removed after the Velvet Revolution. His attitude can be perhaps explained by his own words: "All I have ever done must be measured by my intention to serve best my people and my country."
Klement Gottwald was a Czechoslovak Communist politician, who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia from 1929 until 1945 and party chairman until his death in 1953. He was the 14th Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia from July 1946 until June 1948, at which point he became the president of the third republic, four months after the 1948 coup d'état in which his party seized power with the backing of the Soviet Union.
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization and mass protest in Czechoslovakia as a Communist state after World War II. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), and continued until 21 August 1968, when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to suppress the reforms.
Alexander Dubček was a Slovak politician who served as the First secretary of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) 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.
From the Communist coup d'état in February 1948 to the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The country belonged to the Eastern Bloc and was a member of the Warsaw Pact and of Comecon. During the era of Communist Party rule, thousands of Czechoslovaks faced political persecution for various offences, such as trying to emigrate across the Iron Curtain.
With the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy at the end of World War I, the independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed as a result of the critical intervention of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, among others.
The title of the Hero of the Czechoslovak Republic was established 1955. The name of the title was changed to Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1960. Awarded 31 times to some Czechoslovak war heroes, to the general and later president Ludvík Svoboda, to the Czechoslovak president Gustáv Husák, to the Czech cosmonaut Vladimír Remek, Soviet generals and marshals and to Leonid Brezhnev. The piece no. 32 has been given to the National Museum.
Andrei Antonovich Grechko was a Soviet general, Marshal of the Soviet Union and Minister of Defense.
Ludvík Vaculík[ˈludviːk ˈvatsuˌliːk] was a Czech writer and journalist. He was born in Brumov, Moravian Wallachia. A prominent samizdat writer, he was best known as the author of the "Two Thousand Words" manifesto of June 1968.
Lieutenant General František Fajtl was a Czech fighter pilot of World War II. He was a British Royal Air Force (RAF) squadron and wing commander and led a group of Czechoslovak fighter pilots who formed an air regiment under Soviet Air Force command, supporting the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. He was dismissed from the Czechoslovakian Air Force and was held in prison for a year and a half without a trial after the Communists came to power in 1948, and was only fully rehabilitated after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. He wrote many autobiographical books about his wartime experiences, and was an inspiration for the 2001 film Tmavomodrý svět.
Otakar Jaroš was a Czech officer in the Czechoslovak forces in the Soviet Union. He was killed in the Battle of Sokolovo and became the first member of a foreign army decorated with the highest Soviet decoration, Hero of the Soviet Union.
Stanislav Gilyarovich Poplavsky was a general in the Soviet and Polish armies.
The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, officially known as Operation Danube, was a joint invasion of Czechoslovakia by five Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, East Germany and Hungary – on the night of 20–21 August 1968. Approximately 250,000 Warsaw pact troops attacked Czechoslovakia that night, with Romania and Albania refusing to participate. East German forces, except for a small number of specialists, did not participate in the invasion because they were ordered from Moscow not to cross the Czechoslovak border just hours before the invasion. 137 Czechoslovakian civilians were killed and 500 seriously wounded during the occupation.
The 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps was a military formation of the Czechoslovak Army in exile fighting on the Eastern Front alongside the Soviet Red Army in World War II.
The Battle of Sokolovo took place on March 8 and 9, 1943, near the town of Sokolovo near Kharkiv in Ukraine when the ongoing attack of the Wehrmacht was delayed by joint Soviet and Czechoslovak forces. It was the first time that a foreign military unit, the First Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion, fought together with the Red Army. Under the command of Ludvík Svoboda, later President of Czechoslovakia, the Czechoslovak soldiers delayed the advance of Germans to the Mzha river. On March 13, the position was abandoned as untenable due to the complete German encirclement of Kharkov.
Jan Sergej Ingr was a Czechoslovak Army four star general and the Minister of National Defense in the Czechoslovak government-in-exile during the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Martin Dzúr was a Slovak military officer and a communist politician, who served as defense minister from 1968 to 1985.
Josef Buršík was a Czech resistance fighter, general, dissident, and political prisoner. During World War II, while fighting with the First Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion, later reorganized as the First Czechoslovak Independent Brigade he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union.
Josef Stehlík (1915–91) was a Czechoslovak fighter ace. In the Second World War he served in the French Air Force and then the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. In 1944 he transferred to the Eastern Front, where he commanded the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Fighter Air Regiment.
Karel Klapálek, CBE, DSO was a Czechoslovak Army general and a veteran of the Czechoslovak Legion in the Russian Empire. He fought in both World Wars and was decorated with numerous national honours.
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(before World War II)
| Minister of Defence of Czechoslovakia|
| President of Czechoslovakia |
30 March 1968–28 May 1975