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Czechoslovakia Government and Party Control
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
    << Back to Czechoslovakia National Security

    The Constitution of 1960, which replaced the original communist constitution of 1948, converted the Czechoslovak Republic into the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. According to the Constitution, "defense of the country and its socialist social order" was the "supreme duty and a matter of honor for every citizen." Citizens were "duty bound" to serve in the armed forces as prescribed by law. The law provided for a system of universal male conscription.

    The president of the federal republic is titular head of the armed forces by virtue of his constitutional designation as commander in chief. In that capacity, he has the power to appoint and promote general officers, but real power is wielded by the State Defense Council (Rada obrany statu), which alone has the authority to formulate policy and budget the resources deemed necessary. The council, in turn, is dominated by the KSC, which Article 4 of the Constitution asserts is "the guiding force in society."

    In 1985 the Czechoslovak government allocated 7.6 percent of its annual budget to defense spending. This percentage included expenses for police, militia, and border guards. Some Western analysts believe that this figure was quite large for a country the size of Czechoslovakia, even if the considerable sums devoted to internal security are taken into account. Other observers, however, have pointed out that defense spending has never recovered its pre-1968 levels. In any case, defense spending as a percentage of the total budget has been gradually increasing since 1974, when it stood at 5.7 percent.

    Policy making in the armed forces since 1969 has been a function of the State Defense Council, which was established by law in January of that year. Although the council is a governmental body, the interlocking nature of top governmental and party organs ensures that the KSC controls it. Because of official secrecy laws, little has been published concerning the council, its meetings, or its functions. When established in 1969, the State Defense Council consisted of the first secretary of the KSC as chairman and the premier of Czechoslovakia as vice chairman. Members were the minister of national defense, the chief of the General Staff, the minister of interior, the chairman of the Czech National Front, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Slovakia (Komunisticka strana Slovenska--KSS), the premier of the Czech Socialist Republic, and the premier of the Slovak Socialist Republic. In 1987 officials holding these positions were members of the KSC Secretariat, Presidium, Central Committee, or a combination of these bodies. Ostensibly the council was responsible to the Federal Assembly, but the political power of its membership made it responsible only to itself (see The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia , ch. 4).

    According to its establishing statute, the State Defense Council was intended to be the governmental agency charged with evaluating the country's international obligations and threats to national security. Based upon such evaluation, determinations would be made concerning basic concepts of defense and the configuration of the armed forces. The council also is responsible for determining the proportion of the annual budget that will be used for the support of the defense establishment, and it has final approval of operational planning. During wartime, it would oversee mobilization of the economy as well as the population, direct civil defense measures, and act as the supreme decision-making body for the military forces. The council also is charged with internal security matters.

    Defense councils were also established in the governments of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic, which together constituted the federation that was one of the few legacies of the ill-fated Action Program of Dubcek (see The Prague Spring, 1968 , ch. 1). The legislation creating the federal structure, the Constitutional Law of Federation of October 27, 1968, survived the period of so-called normalization under Husak and continued in force in late 1987. Both national republics established operating governments, but defense was among the responsibilities retained by federal authorities (see Government Structure , ch. 4). The purpose and function of the defense councils in the constituent republics was not revealed. It was known, however, that their members were appointed and subject to recall by the chairman of the State Defense Council.

    The Ministry of National Defense is the government agency responsible for the administration and operation of the armed forces. As is true in most Warsaw Pact countries, this ministry is patterned on its Soviet counterpart. Under the direction of the State Defense Council, as of 1987 the defense ministry organized, equipped, and trained the combat and support elements of the military services. The ministry also planned peacetime operations and training, as well as formulating the necessary plans for wartime operation. Additionally, the ministry allocated the funds that have been designated for defense in the national budget. The minister of national defense customarily has been a serving officer, the only four-star general on active duty. Defense ministers have usually ranked high in the KSC (membership in the Central Committee, for example), but as of 1987 no defense minister had served concurrently in the Presidium.

    When the military was restructured to fit the communist mold in the late 1940s, a political network similar to that of the Soviet forces was superimposed on Czechoslovak military organization at every level. Political officers, assigned to all units down to and including battalion, were subordinate to the armed forces' Main Political Directorate, which was linked directly to the KSC Central Committee. The chief of the Main Political Directorate in early 1987, Lieutenant General Jaroslav Klicha, was a member of the KSC Central Committee, as was his first deputy. Despite their separate channels of communication and their political subordination, political officers were subject to normal command and could not countermand orders of their military commanders, as had sometimes been true in the Soviet armed forces in earlier years.

    Party domination was ensured by the interlocking of party and government positions, that is, by the practice of filling top positions in the government with key party officials. Husak, for example, occupied the top position in the party--general secretary--and the top position in the government--president. In the military, he was the commander in chief and the chairman of the State Defense Council. In effect, all lines led to Husak, but party control was not dependent solely on a single individual. For example, most officers and many senior NCOs were party members, many others aspired to membership, and young officers and NCOs were members of party-sponsored youth organizations. Conscripts were proselytized by unit activists, and political orientation made up a significant part of the routine training programs of military units. Party indoctrination courses were part of the curricula at military schools and academies.

    General Dzur, who had been appointed minister of national defense by Dubcek in April 1968, was co-opted into the KSC Central Committee in August of that year and continued in both capacities until his death. Dzur's highest command position on active duty had been as a battalion commander from 1946 until 1948, but, as evidenced by his party activity since 1943, he was very much a politician. In addition to becoming minister of national defense and the highest ranking member of the armed forces, Dzur displayed unusual political acumen not only by surviving the Dubcek debacle but also by retaining his military and party positions. His successor, General Milan Vaclavik, was likewise elected to the Central Committee, but only after his appointment as minister of national defense in 1985. General Karel Rusov, first deputy minister of national defense and second in rank and importance to Vaclavik in the military hierarchy, had been a member of the party since 1946 and was elected to the Central Committee in 1981, as was General Miloslav Blahnik, the chief of staff. Czechoslovakia had fewer high-ranking military officers in the party hierarchy than was generally the case in other Warsaw Pact countries.

    Data as of August 1987

    NOTE: The information regarding Czechoslovakia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Czechoslovakia Government and Party Control information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Czechoslovakia Government and Party Control should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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