Ludvík Svoboda

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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."

Honours and awards

Czechoslovakia (19201939)
Russian Empire
Soviet Union

Cultural references

Ludvík Svoboda has been portrayed, as himself or a character based on him, in a number of films and television series:

See also


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Ludvík Svoboda
Ludvik Svoboda (Author - Stanislav Tereba).JPG
Ludvík Svoboda in 1968
President of Czechoslovakia
In office
30 March 1968 29 May 1975
Government offices
Preceded by
Jan Syrový
(before World War II)
Minister of Defence of Czechoslovakia
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Czechoslovakia
30 March 1968 – 28 May 1975
Succeeded by