The Rehabilitation Process in Czechoslovakia: Party and Popular Responses
The release and rehabilitation of political prisoners in Czechoslovakia occurred in a staggered and long drawn-out process beginning in the mid-1950s and culminating only after the collapse of the communist state in 1989–1990. Following Stalin’s death and the first tentative steps towards de-Stalinisation in the USSR, a few high-ranking Czechoslovak communist prisoners were released and several official party commissions were established to examine the trials and purges of the years 1948–1954; however, only the last, operating in the liberalised atmosphere of 1968, gave a reasonably comprehensive and accurate account of Stalinist repression. Following the crushing of the Prague Spring reforms in 1968, rehabilitation became a victim of the pro-Soviet ‘normalisation’ regime. In addition to the party reviews, general amnesties were passed in 1953, 1955, 1957, 1960, 1962 and 1965, the main one of which was the 9 May 1960 presidential decree which freed (albeit conditionally) over 5,000 political prisoners. This chapter, which is based primarily on materials in the Communist Party and Security Services archives, has two broad aims. First, to analyse how and why the Czechoslovak party leaders sought to limit and control the challenges of de-Stalinisation and political rehabilitation via party commissions and amnesties; and second, to explore a crucial issue that has been largely overlooked in existing historiography — the reaction of the party rank-and-file membership and citizenry to the release of political internees, the attitudes of the returnees themselves and the implications of these responses for state-society relations.
KeywordsRehabilitation Process Communist Party Party Leader Communist Regime Popular Opinion
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