Normalization (Czechoslovakia)

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In the history of Czechoslovakia, normalization (Czech: normalizace, Slovak: normalizácia) is a name commonly given to the period following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and up to the glasnost era of liberalization that began in the Soviet Union and its neighboring nations in 1987. It was characterized by the restoration of the conditions prevailing before the Prague Spring reform period led by First Secretary Alexander Dubček of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) earlier in 1968 and the subsequent preservation of the new status quo. Some historians date the period from the signing of the Moscow Protocol by Dubček and the other jailed Czechoslovak leaders on August 26, 1968 [1], while others date it from the replacement of Dubček by Gustáv Husák on April 17, 1969, followed by the official normalization policies referred to as Husakism.

When Husák replaced Dubček as leader of the KSČ in April 1969, his regime acted quickly to "normalize" the country's political situation. The chief objectives of Husák's normalization were the restoration of firm party rule and the reestablishment of Czechoslovakia's status as a committed member of the socialist bloc. The normalization process involved five interrelated steps:

Within a week of assuming power, Husák began to consolidate his leadership by ordering extensive purges of reformists still occupying key positions in the mass media, judiciary, social and mass organizations, lower party organs, and, finally, the highest levels of the KSČ. In the fall of 1969, twenty-nine liberals on the Central Committee of the KSČ were replaced by conservatives. Among the liberals ousted was Dubček, who was dropped from the Presidium (the following year Dubček was expelled from the party; he subsequently became a minor functionary in Slovakia, where he still lived in 1987). Husák also consolidated his leadership by appointing potential rivals to the new government positions created as a result of the 1968 Constitutional Law of Federation (which created the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic).

Once it had consolidated power, the regime moved quickly to implement other normalization policies. In the two years following the invasion, the new leadership revoked some reformist laws (such as the National Front Act and the Press Act) and simply did not enforce others. It returned economic enterprises, which had been given substantial independence during the Prague Spring, to centralized control through contracts based on central planning and production quotas. It reinstated extreme police control, a step that was reflected in the harsh treatment of demonstrators marking the first anniversary of the August intervention.

Finally, Husák stabilized Czechoslovakia's relations with its allies by arranging frequent intrabloc exchanges and visits and redirecting Czechoslovakia's foreign economic ties toward greater involvement with socialist nations.

By May 1971, Husák could report to the delegates attending the officially sanctioned Fourteenth Party Congress that the process of normalization had been completed satisfactorily and that Czechoslovakia was ready to proceed toward higher forms of socialism.

The method by which the KSČ under Husák ruled was commonly summed up as "reluctant terror." It involved careful adherence to the Soviet Union's policy objectives and the use of what was perceived as the minimum amount of repression at home necessary to fulfill these objectives and prevent a return to Dubček-style reformism. The result was a regime that, while not a complete return to Stalinism, was far from being a liberal one either.

This page was last edited on 12 May 2018, at 09:53 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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