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Communist takeover 1945-1953.

In many ways Czechoslovakia was a exception in Soviet conquered Central and Eastern Europe. Mostly on the same way as with Austria or Finland, was Stalin not absolutely sure, can he really sovietize Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia stayed of-course in the Soviet sphere of influence, but Stalin did not station its troops there. Czechoslovakia was also only country in Central Eastern Europe, where pre-war government had right to return from the exile. After the war, President Beneš still seemed to be in charge of affairs. At the same time, Soviet prestige was high and the Communists were popular. In the elections held in 1946, the Communists polled 38% of the votes and proceeded to build coalitions with other parties in the government. By exercising control in the government, the police and the army, the Communists consolidated their influence within the country. In July 1947, Moscow demanded in the most brutal way that Czechoslovakia change its decision to accept American Marshall Aid. The Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk, the son of the founder of the Czechoslovakian Republic, likened the decision to a second Munich. This decreased the popularity of the Communists, with public polls demonstrating that their popularity had fallen to 25%. The Communists started to arm their supporters, moving in the direction of a full takeover of power. The Soviet deputy minister, Zorin, declared that Moscow would not allow any Western interference, while at the same time Soviet units were concentrated on Czechoslovakia's borders. President Beneš, fearing civil war and Soviet intervention, accepted the Communists' demands for a new administration. The Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk fell to his death from his office window, having almost been certainly pushed by a Communist mob. Beneš resigned and Czechoslovakia was thereafter firmly embedded in the Soviet camp and quickly sovietised, to be more precise, stalinized.
The most obvious sign of Stalinism was the intensification of terror. This was manifested in an ongoing series of public and secret trials that adjudicated allegations of economic sabotage by former underground leaders in Poland and the ‘White Legion' in Czechoslovakia. In the 1950s, for example, 244 people were executed on political charges in Czechoslovakia and a further 8,500 died as a result of torture or in prison. A minimum of 100,000 people were imprisoned for acts against the Communist state between 1948 and 1956. he growing number of arrests throughout the region resulted in the establishment of a system of concentration camps. In the early 1950s, there were 422 concentration camps in Czechoslovakia in which people were held under gruesome conditions. In 1950, the number of prisoners in such camps amounted to 32,638 men and women. Many Central and Eastern European people were arrested by the Soviet authorities, interrogated, sentenced in the Soviet Union and sent to the GULAG. Some Central and Eastern European countries had their own ‘Siberia' as well: in Czechoslovakia, prisoners were sent to work in uranium mines-in December 1953, the number of people working there reached 16,100.

Another typical feature of Stalinism were the purges of the Communist parties in the conquered countries; the most violent of these took place in Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Moscow warned comrades in Czechoslovakia that enemy agents had penetrated high into the party ranks and when the puzzled Czech Communist leaders Rudolf Slánský and Klement Gottwald enquired as to what they could do, Stalin's NKVD agents arrived to help prepare trials. The Czechoslovakian party subsequently arrested Slánský himself, Vladimír Clementis, Ladislav Novomeský and Gustáv Husák. Slánský, and eleven others together with Slansky were convicted of being ‘Trotskyist-Zionist-Titoist-bourgeois-nationalist traitors' in one series of show trials, after which they were executed and their ashes mixed with material being used to fill roads on the outskirts of Prague. After the trials, the property of the victims was sold off cheaply to surviving prominent individuals; the wife of a future leader of the party, Antonin Novotny, bought Clementis' china and bedclothes. As in Moscow in 1937, the trials were ‘shows', with each participant having to learn a script and conduct repeated rehearsals before the performance. In the Slánský trial, when the judge skipped one of the scripted questions, the better-rehearsed Slánský answered the one which should have been asked. Some years earlier, most of the people now on trial had themselves eliminated their political opponents, tortured and killed people, and therefore knew exactly what awaited them. This made them ready to play their ‘roles' in the trials.

The Church was also repressed. Archbishop Josef Beran, one of the leaders of the anti-Nazi resistance who had survived three years in Nazi concentration camps and all the other bishops in the country were interned or imprisoned. Religious seminars were closed and orders banned, the Church's schools were closed and its land holdings confiscated. Important part of sovietisation was collectivisation. In Czechoslovakia, farms started to be collectivised more intensively after the Communist takeover in 1948, mostly under the threat of sanctions. The most obstinate farmers were persecuted and imprisoned. Many early cooperatives collapsed and were recreated again. Their productivity was low because they failed to provide adequate compensation for work, moreover, they failed to create a sense of collective ownership; small-scale pilfering was common, and food became scarce.

All this created growing resistance against the system. The Communist takeover in February 1948 may be seen as the beginning of the anti-Communist resistance. This so-called ‘third resistance' is understood as concrete armed, intelligence or sabotage operations between the years 1948 and 1956. The members of this new resistance were tens of thousands of Czechoslovakian citizens, some of them living abroad. Following the example of the recent past under the Nazi occupation, underground groups were formed to produce and distribute leaflets, gather weapons and obtain information. In many cases, resistance groups formed independently and spontaneously in response to the Communist terror, in others they were directed by several not very tightly coordinated centres abroad working together with the Western intelligence services. As many people needed help to leave what was now a strictly controlled country, couriers were sent to Czechoslovakia with the task of making contact with the underground, bringing fresh information, instructions and technical equipment and leading people over the border. This was not an easy task as Czechoslovakia's border was by now strictly controlled and protected by what was known as engineering-technical border security: for example, landmines and high voltage barbed wire. Overall, the Iron Curtain claimed more than 300 lives in Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, thousands of people were helped to freedom by the couriers. The skies and waterways were also used as a means of escape in the effort to get across the border. The Communist secret police succeeded in capturing about four thousand people who participated in intelligence operations in Czechoslovakia; 250 couriers were sentenced to long-term imprisonment, 19 were executed, at least 7 died on the border and 11 more in prisons. There is also information on partisan activities in Slovakia, in Tatra mountains.

In 1950s the resistance in Czechoslovakia was weakened as it became more and more clear that the West will not effectively help Czechoslovakia to liberate it from the communist yoke.