History shall remember Ludvik Svoboda primarily for his role as Czechoslovakia's president in the eventful year 1968. At the beginning of that year, a new leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party embarked on a series of democratic reforms which have come to be known as the "Prague Spring." In August, the Soviet Union led the Warsaw Pact powers in a military intervention to terminate those reforms. Summoned to Moscow for discussion of the terms of "normalization," Svoboda maintained a defiant posture throughout the negotiations. His action did not spare the ideals of the Prague Spring from being relegated to the political dustbin over the next two years. It did, however, impress the Soviet leaders to spare the lives of other Czechoslovak leaders whom they currently held in captivity. Foremost among them was the Slovak Alexander Dubcek, then first secretary of the Communist Party. Although degraded in society, he lived long enough to aid Czech playwright Vaclav Havel in bringing down the Communist regime in 1989.
GENERAL LUDVIK SVOBODA:
COMMANDER OF THE 1ST CZECHOSLOVAK ARMY CORPS
Svoboda's successful defiance was made possible by the fact that Soviet leaders respected him for a different role, one which is less known in the Western nations. During World War II General Ludvik Svoboda commanded Czechoslovak troops under Soviet military leadership. Those years proved to be controversial ones. Czech (and, to a lesser extent, Slovak) scholars have since that time posed a fundamental question: was Svoboda a patriot or a Communist collaborator? In this writer's opinion, he was both. The war years provided a molding of Svoboda's personal and political character, including some later conspicuous contradictions. He maintained a certain flexibility. Perhaps posterity should treat him as a pragmatist.
Thousands of Czechs and Slovaks left their recently resurrected common homeland at the end of World War II, in the wake of a communist takeover. For those that remained, the question of whether or not to support the new regime was an all-important one. It was particularly critical among officers of the Czechoslovak military. A significant case in point may be found in the difference between Svoboda and General Heliodor Pika, one of Czech president Edvard Benes' military envoys in Moscow. Both cooperated wholeheartedly with the Soviet Union in the prosecution of the war against their common enemy, Nazi Germany. But thereafter their paths diverged. Svoboda became Minister of Defense in 1945. During the events of February 1948 he kept the Army confined to the barracks, thus preventing it from crushing the Communist putsch. Afterwards he became a Communist Party member. Pika opposed the new regime and ended his life on the gallows. Miroslav Kerner, an anticommunist Czech who encountered numerous leading Czechoslovak personalities in the Soviet Union during the war years, pointed out that Webster's dictionary gives two meanings of definition for the term "collaborate:"
1. To cooperate voluntarily, as a nation with another or other nations in international political or economic adjustments.
2. To comply with, cooperate with, or assist willingly the conquerors occupying one's country.
Kerner concludes: "Both Svoboda and Pika collaborated with the Soviets within the first meaning of the word. Pika set for himself stricter personal, political, moral, and patriotic goals than Svoboda and was, therefore, given capital punishment. Svoboda survived in spite of Soviet objections to some of his concepts and actions."(1)
Ludvik Svoboda was born on November 25, 1895, in the Moravian village of Hroznatin. Like other young Czech men of his age group, he was called up for military service in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War. Like thousands among them, he deserted to the other side. Although the Entente (later Allied) powers did not initially sanction the creation of a country called Czechoslovakia, Czech and Slovak leaders who desired a common state were willing to support their war effort against the Central Powers. Foremost among them was Czech professor Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (later president), his protege Edvard Benes (later foreign minister) and a Slovak officer of the French Army, Milan Rastislav Stefanik, who ultimately became minister of defense. Stefanik fostered the creation of a Czechoslovak Legion fighting for the Allies on the Western, Eastern and finally Italian fronts. Among its soldiers, the branch fighting in Russia ultimately proved the most decisive in the Western Allies granting a mandate for Czechoslovakia's independence. Among them was Svoboda.
The Czechoslovak Legion on the Eastern Front had its baptism of fire at the battle of Zborov, in Ukraine, on July 2, 1917. Advancing well ahead of Russian troops, it scored a stunning victory over the Germans.(2) It had been previously chafing under the restrictions imposed upon it by the tsarist regime. Many Czech and Slovak legionnaires, of modest background yet educated, disliked tsarist authority and welcomed the Russian Revolution in its initial phase. After Zborov, the Provisional Government granted the Czechoslovak National Council's demand for an independent army. Yet the Provisional Government was toppled in Petrograd on the night of November 7 by a Bolshevik coup. Since the Bolsheviks were dependent upon peace with Germany to construct communism in Russia, they inherited a serious dilemma regarding a large number of former prisoners of war from Austria-Hungary, many of whom were now armed and roaming at liberty. The Czechoslovak legionnaires among them continued to support the Western Allies, and seized control of the Trans-Siberian Railway when efforts were made to disarm them.(3) On the other hand, many former German and Hungarian prisoners of war had joined the Red Guards. They now controlled large areas of Siberia.
The Allies were inclined to support groups which wanted to overthrow the Bolshevik government--less for ideological reasons than to bring Russia back into the war on their side. Ironically, foremost among them was Japan. The Japanese entered World War I on the Allied side to gain possession of German colonial holdings in the Far East. They also wanted to expand their influence in Siberia. Their intelligence services were much more informed on developments in Siberia than the Western Allies, particularly the United States. The Japanese perceived that the greatest obstacle in their path was posed by those German and Hungarian former p.o.w.s now serving in the International Brigades. Consequently, they supported the Czechoslovak Legion. Japanese forces landed in Vladivostok and began pushing westward along the Trans-Siberian Railway. France followed Japan's lead, and likewise supported the Czechoslovaks. The French moved up to Vladivostok some of their own colonial troops from Indochina (i.e. Vietnamese). At one point the situation was sufficiently complex that a battle of bizarre combination was fought in eastern Siberia. On one side were the Japanese, Czechoslovak legionnaires and Vietnamese troops under French command. On the other side were Bolshevik commissars and the Germans and Hungarians of the International Brigades. The former side prevailed.(4)
The end of the Russian Civil War saw the Bolshevik regime being left intact, but the Allies had by now sanctioned Czechoslovakia's independence. The legionnaires of the Siberian odyssey returned home, indelibly marked by their peculiar experience. Understandably, many of them shifted politically to the right. Rudolf Gajda, the boldest and most successful of the legionnaire commanders, went so far as to become a co-founder of a Czech fascist movement. Fascism held little appeal for a people who had emerged on the winning side of the First World War. Politically, Gajda proved himself such a dilettante that even Nazi Germany refused to take him seriously after its seizure of the Czech lands in March 1939.(5) Ferdinand Catlos, a Slovak legionnaire, chose to support the separate Slovak state which emerged at that time. He became Slovakia's minister of defense. Insofar as the Slovak Republic was bound by a military treaty of alliance with Germany, Catlos dispatched troops to the Eastern Front after the Nazi invasion of Soviet Russia in June 1941.
Svoboda, in contrast to many of his old comrades in arms, had come to the conclusion that this new Soviet Russia was not going to go away. This realization did not prevent him from at first collaborating with another legionnaire veteran who was likewise anti-Communist. Lev Prchala (1892-1963) was, like Svoboda, a Moravian. He distinguished himself during the Czechoslovak Legion's march across Siberia. As an army general in 1935 he commanded the Military Area of Kosice. In January 1939 Prchala was made Minister of Interior and Finance in the autonomous government organized by ukrainophiles in Podkarpatska Rus' (Ruthenia). Svoboda served under him. Prchala was conservative, even somewhat anti-Semitic. He discouraged Jews and Gypsies from enlisting in the military under his command. Kerner, in spite of later criticisms of Svoboda, admitted that the latter was more inclined to view soldiers according to their individual merits.(6)
Throughout the interwar period, Svoboda's career had been that of a mediocre staff officer. Had it not been for World War II, he probably would have ended his life in obscurity. Yet Prchala, in spite of his right wing tendencies, became the first Czech military officer to take up arms against Nazi Germany. In spring 1939 he crossed into Poland to organize a Czechoslovak Legion.(7) Svoboda joined him, serving at the rank of lieutenant colonel. During the Polish September campaign, these Czechs (for there were actually very few Slovaks among them) fought first near the East Prussian border, then at Modlin and Warsaw, and finally retreated towards the southeast. On September 17, as prearranged by the recent Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, Soviet forces entered Poland from the east. Prchala's group found itself surrounded by a Soviet tank column. In spite of his sympathies and his previous track record, Prchala persuaded the Soviets to release him. He took leave of his men, promising to arrange their departure across the Romanian border.(8) He never returned. Instead, he was rejected by the Czechoslovak Army in exile in London and became a bitter opponent of President Benes. In the postwar era, he organized his own exile liberation committee, which stood to the right of the Benes adherents who concentrated around Washington D.C. during American president Harry Truman's administration. There remained to Lieutenant Colonel Svoboda the task of leading those Czechs who found themselves in Soviet internment.
From the very beginning, Svoboda handled himself well. He cultivated the friendship of such powerful Soviet personalities as deputy chief of the Red Army staff General Sergei Mateyevitch Shtemenko and the rising commissar for Western Ukraine Nikita Sergeyevitch Khrushchev. The Soviets treated the Czechs under Svoboda with considerable more deference than they did interned Polish soldiers (many of whose officers were in fact secretly executed in Katyn Forest). Indeed, in spite of the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression treaty, the Soviets even permitted a number of Czechs to exit via the port of Odessa. The latter made their way to the West and rejoined the fight on the Allied side.(9)
Not all Czechs enjoyed the comfortable level of internment as did Svoboda's group. A significant case in point may be found in the experience of Pravomil Raichl. Raichl fled his native Bohemia to escape arrest by the Gestapo. He made his way to Podkarpatska Rus', which had been reannexed by Hungary. Many young Capartho-Rusyns found it impossible to reconcile themselves to Hungarian rule. An estimated 10,000 of them crossed over the mountains to the Soviet-held zone in eastern Poland, expecting to be cordially received by their Slavic brethren. Instead, every single one of them received an 8 to 10 year sentence by the NKVD (Soviet state security) for illegal border crossing. In 1940, aided by two Rusyns, Raichl likewise crossed into this area. It was his intention to move southward again into Romania, from where he could depart for the West and join the Czechoslovak Army. Raichl was likewise arrested by the NKVD and sent to the Gulag.
The fate of Czechoslovak citizens in the Soviet Union improved after the latter was invaded by Nazi Germany. On July 18, 1941, the Soviet Union signed an agreement with the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile for the raising of Czechoslovak troops on Russian soil. General Heliodor Pika was dispatched to Moscow as head of a military mission, and he negotiated the release of those interned. On December 8 the Soviets designated the town of Buzuluk as the training camp for what was then known as the 1st Czech Independent Battalion. Buzuluk was located approximately 180 kilometers from Kuibeshev in the Orenberg region. It stands in the barren steppes east of the Volga River and just west of the Urals. Raichl arrived shortly before Christmas in subzero weather. He was quick to note that many other Czechs just released from the camps were in appalling physical condition. Svoboda's headquarters were in a school building. Raichl later wrote that Svoboda was "at that time a very decent and impressive officer."(10)
Buzuluk had originally been designated as a training center for a Polish military force raised in the Soviet Union under General Wladyslaw Anders. Under an agreement between the Soviet and British military commands, the Anders army was relegated to the jurisdiction of the latter. As these Poles were now departing for Iran, they equipped the Czechs in Buzuluk with their British model uniforms. In early 1942, the 1st Independent Battalion was reinforced by Czechs from the so-called "Orumky group," 95 members of the previous Polish campaign. Czechoslovak Communists made their presence felt as zamopolits, or political advisors. Most of the regular officers, however, remained apolitical. One of them, First Lieutenant Otakar Jaros, criticized the so-called "star gazers" (i.e. Communist Party sympathizers). Ironically, Jaros later became the first foreigner to receive the Order of Hero of the Soviet Union.(11)
Prior to the sovietization of Russia, Kuibeshev had been known as Samara. In this capacity, it had been occupied by Czechoslovak legionnaires during the events of 1918, when they controlled the Trans-Siberian Railway. During the subsequent fighting, a bridge spanning the river was destroyed. It had since that time not been rebuilt. Now, the legionnaires rebuilt the bridge and turned it over to the local authorities as a goodwill gesture.(12)
General Sergei Ingr, overall commander of the Czechoslovak Army for the London government, eventually visited Buzuluk on an inspection tour. Svoboda then accompanied him to Moscow to engage in further negotiations. Raichl later noted: "When he returned, we noticed that he was completely changed."(13)
What transpired in Moscow, and how did it effect Svoboda's subsequent bearing? It seems that on one hand the military mission under Pika demanded his removal, considering him as being less than loyal to the London government. On the other hand, Czechoslovak Communists in Moscow, led by Klement Gottwald, insisted that Svoboda be formally installed as commander. In London, President Benes perceived that the Soviets wanted Svoboda in command, and he did not want to alienate them to the point where Czechoslovak troops in Russia no longer answered to the London government. Benes consequently opted for a compromise solution. He designated General Jaroslav Kratochvil, who had commanded the 1st Infantry Regiment during the French campaign, as overall commander of the 1st Independent Battalion in Russia. Svoboda would serve under Kratochvil as a subordinate.(14) For Svoboda, it marked the beginning of a long-term estrangement from the Western-oriented Czechoslovak military establishment.
The 1st Independent Battalion was committed to the front in March 1943. On April 2, it saw its first major action at Sokolov, near Kharkov. Svoboda's troops were wedged between the Soviet 62nd and 25th Guards Rifle divisions. In the subsequent advance, Lieutenant Jaros was killed. Svoboda's troops nonetheless made a significant breach in the German lines. Benes sent his congratulations from London, and the Soviets awarded Svoboda the Order of Lenin.(15)
On May 29, 1943, the Soviet leaders announced their intention of building a new Polish military force on Russian soil. To mark the occasion, they staged an All-Slav Congress in Moscow. This rather bizarre event was attended by a motley array of collaborationist Poles, Czech and Slovak Communists, high ranking members of the Russian Orthodox Church and members of the Bulgarian embassy. Svoboda was also among the distinguished guests.(16)
By now Soviet military forces were advancing well into Ukraine. Ahead of them, on the river Dnieper, lay Kiev, the Ukrainian metropolis and an important symbol of Slav culture. Svoboda did not take second place in the drive for its liberation. He urged his troops to fight for Kiev as they would "for Prague and Bratislava." According to John Erickson, British military specialist of World War II on the Eastern Front, the Czechoslovaks conducted themselves in "exemplary fashion." Their major contribution consisted of capturing and securing Kiev's major railway station on November 5, one day before the city was formally taken by the Red Army.(17)
The liberation of Kiev was followed by a dramatic increase of status for both Svoboda and his troops. The 1st Czech Independent Battalion, given a swelling of its membership, was henceforth designated as the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. Svoboda was consequently promoted to general's rank. The composition of his troops was currently undergoing a significant change of nationality. There were now many more Slovaks among them. Whether or not they liked the Czechs, the Slovak troops who were dispatched to the Eastern Front under German command felt little empathy for Hitler's struggle against a brother Slav nation.(18) Many of them were alienated by Nazi atrocities in the occupied territories. A number of them, committed to police and antipartisan action in the Pripet Marshes of northern Ukraine and Belarus, deserted under the command of Captain Jan Nalepka, and themselves became partisans.(19) After the destruction of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, Slovak desertions dramatically increased. The most significant desertion occurred in the Melitopol-Kakhava sector on October 30, 1943. Here 2,140 Slovak soldiers and 41 officers and noncommissioned officers crossed over to Soviet lines.(20) The 2nd Czechoslovak Paratrooper Brigade, attached to the 1st Army Corps but later dispatched to aid the Slovak National Uprising of 1944, was largely made up of these deserters.
Ironically, the greatest number of Svoboda's troops came from the least likely element: the Carpatho-Rusyns sent to the Gulag for illegal border crossing. A mere 40 percent of them survived by the time Nazi Germany invaded Russia. In spite of previous russophile or ukrainophile tendencies, any Pan-Slav feeling many of them may have had had been beaten out of them in the Gulag. They merely wished to return home. Getting them out of the camps was a problem Pika encountered with Soviet authorities. The latter argued that the Rusyns were Hungarian rather than Czechoslovak citizens, notwithstanding the fact that the Soviet Union's treaty with the government-in-exile recognized Czechoslovakia's pre-1938 borders. In early 1943, some 2,700 Rusyns were permitted to join. As they were released, so others followed. At one point 60 percent of the 1st Army Corps came from Podkarpatska Rus'.(21)
Svoboda acquired additional recruits in the area of Volynia, located in what could alternately be called eastern Poland or western Ukraine. They consisted of the descendants of a colony of Czech farmers settled there by the tsarist regime in the late nineteenth century. A dispute arose as to whether the Volynian Czechs should be stationed at headquarters or to keep them as reservists for the field units. It contributed to General Svoboda's deepening estrangement from his Western-oriented fellow commanders. He later wrote in his memoirs:
Of course, Gen. Pika complained to London that Gen. Svoboda retained for his brigade, which is in reserve near Rovno, 2,000 Czechs from Volynia. This irked Gen. Ingr, who answered: "Rebuke Gen. Svoboda for his action. He is a field commander and should not be concerned with organizational matters. Remind him again that he must not negotiate with the Soviet authorities and that everything should be done through the Military Mission . . . ." I did not get many such rebukes. I simply disregarded them. We proceeded in the spirit of our treaty of alliance with the Soviet Union, signed on December 12, 1943, which said: Do everything for the early defeat of fascism.(22)
The treaty to which Svoboda referred was concluded following a visit by President Benes to Moscow in November of that year. Soviet leader Iosif Stalin pledged himself to the liberation of Czechoslovakia, and Benes pledged that postwar Czechoslovakia would remain closely aligned with the Soviet Union in foreign policy.(23) The treaty clearly indicated that the Soviet Union favored Czechoslovakia's restoration, a position that the Slovak Communists now had to take into account. Up until this time, the Slovak Communists opposed the pro-German Tiso regime but alternately favored either the continuation of a separate Slovak state or Slovakia's incorporation into the Soviet Union.(24) Now they closed ranks with the underground Slovak Democratic Party, whose members wished to restore Czechoslovakia. Shortly before Christmas representatives of the Democrats and Communists met and formed a Slovak National Council. In the so-called "Christmas Agreement," the Slovak National Council pledged itself to a struggle against the Nazis and their domestic collaborators. It announced its intentions of seizing power until free elections could be held. It pledged itself to coordinate its activities with the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile and the liberation movement abroad. Of course, this meant that the Slovak National Council supported the resurrection of Czechoslovakia. But it was intended that "the errors and mistakes of the past [would] be avoided." Foreign policy would be conducted in conjunction with the Soviet Union. Domestic policy included the notion that "the ideas of democracy are to be applied and extended to the economic and social fields so that the national income would be divided equitably and justly as possible among all the people." Religious freedom would be retained, but "the influence of the churches on policies and leadership of the state [would] be excluded."(25)
The Soviet Union prepared to support the forthcoming uprising by exporting its partisan movement. After its liberation, the city of Kiev was designated as "the Ukrainian Partisan Headquarters." In April 1944 the Ukrainian Communist Party announced its decision to aid the Czechoslovak cause by setting up a special training program for partisans who would be dispatched to Slovakia. The organization was entrusted to the Ukrainian Partisan staff, which was assisted by Rudolf Slansky, special representative of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. About a hundred Czechs attended the first training course, as well as a number of Polish partisans. The initial plan called for ten partisan groups (with ten to twenty men in each group) to be airdropped into eastern Slovakia. The Soviet command meanwhile began bolstering the regular Czechoslovak military units already fighting on the Eastern Front. The 2nd Czechoslovak Parachute Brigade was likewise trained for specialized warfare behind German lines.(26) On the night of July 26, 1944, the first partisan detachment was parachuted into Slovakia in the Ruzomberok area, further to the west than originally anticipated. This unit was commanded by a Red Army captain named Piotr Velitchko, and it immediately began setting up base areas for additional partisan detachments.
The regular Slovak Army would also play a key role in the uprising. Owing to tense relations with Hungary, the Tiso regime was forced to retain the services of military officers who had not shed their old Czechoslovak sympathies. In the central Slovak mining city of Banska Bystrica, a pro-Czech military group became active, establishing radio contact with the government-in-exile in London. This group was led by Lieutenant Colonel Jan Golian. Svoboda's fellow legionnaire veteran, Ferdinand Catlos, was aware of this group's clandestine activities. In view of the widespread Slovak desertions on the Eastern Front, the minister of defense anticipated changing sides. Golian was able to carry on with Catlos' silent approval. One officer among the Military Center in Banska Bystrica, Mikulas Ferjencik, later recounted:
The uprising was to be proclaimed after an agreement for aid from the Soviet Union had been reached and at a time when the Soviet armies would reach the area of Krakow. To avoid provoking the Germans from taking repressive measures in Slovakia due to the ever-increasing activity of partisan groups, it was necessary to request the Soviets to reduce or cease such activities. Should the Germans begin to occupy Slovakia or disarm the Slovak army, it was agreed that the uprising should begin without consideration of help and progress made by the Soviet army.(27)
Here the partisans provided a key obstacle to the entire future of the uprising. The Soviet-led partisans under Velitchko soon discerned that there were no German troops in central Slovakia. They intimidated the local mountain folk with their ceaseless requisitions, and then began terrorizing ethnic Germans of Slovak citizenship in the mining towns. They soon began blowing up vital bridges and tunnels. The Military Center uneasily asked them to refrain from any premature action which might jeopardize the timetable of the uprising. For that matter, so did Slovak Communist leader Gustav Husak.(28) But the partisans only took their orders from Kiev.
A secret session of the Slovak National Council was held in Rocianska Valley on June 27. Here it was resolved to send a delegation to the Soviet Union; the pro-Czech military conspirators would provide the airplane. Ferjencik was designated to represent the Military Center. As he was preparing to board the plane, Golian handed him a note addressed to General Heliodor Pika from Slovak Minister of Defense Catlos.
Catlos' offer to the Soviets (and, since the letter was addressed to General Pika, presumably the Czechs) was a simple one. At the moment when Soviet forces reached Krakow, in southern Poland, the Slovak military would take over the Slovak government. The Carpathian mountain passes (particularly Dukla) would be opened to the Soviet military for a rapid descent onto the plains of Hungary. Slovakia would then declare war on both Germany and Hungary. Presumably, a war against Hungary would be popular among the Slovak people, since it afforded the opportunity to regain Kosice.(29) No mention was made of reunion with the Czechs.
Partisan activity continued to intensify, culminating in the massacre of members of a German military mission passing through the country.(30) Berlin had by now decided that the Tiso government was no longer in control of Slovakia. It resolved to militarily occupy the country and disarm Slovak Army units. Catlos, in the final hours preceding the uprising, lost his nerve. Just before being placed under house arrest, he delivered a radio broadcast to the nation, urging the populace to accept the occupation.(31) His subordinates in Banska Bystrica followed a different course of action. On August 29, Lieutenant Colonel Golian issued the coded order: "Commence transfer."(32)
From the very beginning of the uprising, the insurgents were kept on the defensive. Most tragic of all was the fate of General August Malar, commander of the East Slovak Army Corps. Malar was likewise of Czechoslovak legionnaire background, having served on the Italian Front during the First World War. The East Slovak Army Corps was designated for the key role of opening Dukla Pass to the advancing Soviet forces. But now Malar likewise lost his nerve. He urged his troops not to engage in any premature action. His subordinate, Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Talsky, flew off to Soviet lines with the entire air wing of the East Slovak Army Corps, consisting of 22 aircraft. Reporting to Marshal Ivan Koniev's headquarters, Talsky stoutly maintained that, if the Soviet military thrust in a southwesterly direction, the East Slovak Army Corps would effect a linkup at Krosno, in southern Poland.(33) What Talsky did not know was that the East Slovak Army Corps had already ceased to exist. German armored columns of Army Group Heinrici, advancing southward from Poland through Dukla Pass, disarmed the Slovak units on August 31. Most of the Slovak soldiers were hustled off to internment in Germany. Only small bands were able to break out of encirclement to join the insurgents in the central highlands. The word "premature" cost General Malar his life before a German firing squad.
Writing later of these events, Ludvik Svoboda blamed Malar for the failure of the East Slovak Army Corps to retain its position. He spoke disparagingly of Golian as "the London man." He also ridiculed General Rudolf Viest, a member of Pika's military mission, as "another London hero." The present author shall decline to comment on the first two of Svoboda's allegations. In regard to Viest, he wishes to note that, in spite of Svoboda's apparent sarcasm, the latter was ironically correct in referring to Viest as a hero. Viest, like Svoboda, was a veteran of the legionary odyssey during the Russian Revolution. He also enjoyed the distinction of being the only Slovak general among the Czechoslovak Army during the years of the First Republic. His name headed the list of an appeal by former Slovak legionnaires to the Slovak Diet on March 14, 1939, asking that body to reconsider the consequences of separating completely from the Czechs.(34) Viest, unlike other Slovak military officers, was unwilling to reconcile himself with the Tiso regime. He escaped to the West via Hungary later that year.(35) He occupied the significant cabinet position of deputy minister of defense in the London government. Benes dispatched him to Moscow to serve as part of Pika's military mission.
As a member of this group, Viest did not get along well with Svoboda. Yet he seemed to be the one commander who could keep peace among the competing factions in the Slovak uprising. Golian was promoted to the rank of general by the London government, but he lacked the confidence of many subordinates. The partisans overall refused to cooperate with the regular Slovak military, and the Slovak National Council progressively sided with the former in this dispute. Viest was consequently designated to supersede Golian as overall commander. He arrived at the insurgent-held airfield of Tri Duby on October 7. His first order was that the 2nd Czechoslovak Paratroopers recapture Jalna, a strategic village in the Hron River valley that guarded the approaches to insurgent territory in the central highlands. The brigade was reinforced by the 3rd Tactical Group and the partisan brigade named after the late Captain Jan Nalepka. On October 10, the brigade attacked along a line from Trnava Hora to Jalna, supported by partisans attacking from Kloceny-Pitelna to prevent German units in Ziar nad Hronom from helping the defenders. Jalna was retaken on October 12. It was the last victory of the Slovak insurgents during the uprising. Shortly afterwards (October 27), Banska Bystrica was captured by the advancing Germans. On November 4, both Viest and Golian were captured.(36) Both were executed in Berlin in January 1945.
The objectives of the Soviet military in relation to the uprising have since been hotly debated. Slovak Democratic leader Jozef Lettrich later claimed that the Soviets hoped the freedom fighters would bleed themselves to death, and thus pave the way for a communist takeover.(37) Soviet historiography must be permitted to respond. Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Mateyevitch Shtemenko, writing his memoirs in the 1970s, addressed himself to allegations concerning the Soviet role in Slovakia. He claimed that the Soviets informed the Czechs of the obstacles lying ahead of a Red Army penetration. The Germans enjoyed military command of the northeastern Carpathian rim, particularly along the Arpad Line guarding the approaches to Hungary. Shtemenko stated that the Soviets had the capacity to send no more than 170 transport planes across the Carpathians, each of which could only carry 20 troops apiece and their equipment. Moreover, each plane would have to make five to six trips to put two rifle divisions into Slovakia.(38) Nevertheless, although the Soviets had entertained no notions of entering Slovakia, they were now prepared to do so to support their treaty obligations. Shtemenko noted in his memoirs that Benes was unwilling to distribute arms for a popular insurrection, and claimed the latter feared he would lose control had he done so.(39)
To be certain, it was not the fault of the Soviets that they were not met by friendly Slovak units at the Carpathian mountain passes: the ineptitude or cowardice of certain Slovak military commanders has already been discussed. Armored German units immediately moved up to those mountain passes. Marshal Ivan Koniev was nonetheless ordered by the Soviet High Command to launch a breakthrough to insurgent territory. Dukla Pass was the designated route: it afforded access to partisans in the Presov region, and the opportunity to descend to the plains of Hungary. It was also hoped that the movement would cut off the 1st Panzer Army from Army Group North Ukraine. The task of assaulting the mountain pass was given to Moskalenko's 38th Army and the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. The 1st Guard Cavalry Corps, 25th Tank Corps, and secondary units would then effect a deeper penetration to insurgent territory.(40)
General Svoboda was himself optimistic of an early breakthrough. The battlefield which lay ahead of the Soviet and Czechoslovak forces was, however, an extremely formidable one. Dukla Pass is 15 to 20 kilometers wide and 15 to 20 kilometers deep. In addition to heavily defending it with armor, infantry and artillery, the Germans had planted thousands of land mines. To this day, one will occasionally claim the life of a Slovak farmer in the act of plowing. The initial engagement was extremely bloody. Later, Svoboda would admit that faulty reconnaissance played a role in the high casualties.(41)
At dawn on September 8, a two-hour artillery barrage preluded the advance of Moskalenko's 38th Army through Dukla Pass. The movement was initially successful, although Czechoslovak troops, slogging along waterlogged roads, were not able to come up from the rear in time. By nightfall German resistance began to stiffen. After two days of fighting, Soviet riflemen penetrated Krosno and the second line of German defenses. But Dukla had yet to be cracked. Koniev selected a gap of less than 2,000 yards on Moskalenko's flank east of Dukla, and dispatched the 1st Guard Cavalry to make a breakthrough to the German rear. The 1st Guards launched their attack on the night of September 12, but were quickly closed off by German troops in their rear.(42) Again, the Red Army was in no position to reach insurgent territory. Two Czechoslovak brigades--the 1st and the 3rd--suffered losses of up to sixty percent. Theoretically, Presov could be reached in six days; in fact, it remained beyond the Czechoslovaks' grasp for four months.(43)
The situation was further complicated by the presence of zamopolits at the front. Major Adam Novak, a London Czech temporarily assigned to the 1st Army Corps, found himself charged with insubordination. After the initial setback, Novak requested a meeting with Marshal Koniev to ask for a postponement of a second attack. A criminal complaint was lodged against him by the NKVD liaison officer. It was supported by Major Jaroslav Prochaza, the principal zamopolit assigned to the 1st Army Corps and a fanatical Communist. Prochaza had made himself something of a "grand inquisitor" among the corps in the past two years. Fortunately, the charge against Novak was dismissed, and he returned to England.(44)
Svoboda did not intervene in the Novak affair one way or another. Later, he was inclined to view the matter as an unfortunate but unavoidable administrative misanthropy which occurs during wartime. As far as his personal courage was concerned, his Soviet superiors found no fault with him. If anything, they considered him too zealous. Looking ahead of the story, it is worth quoting Shtemenko's memoirs in reference to a vacation spent in postwar Czechoslovakia:(45)
In the autumn of 1971 I chanced to spend my vacation in Karlovy Vary. I stayed at the Bristol, where I met up with Marshal Ivan Stepanovitch Koniev, who had also come to the spa to improve his health. As it happened, both of us were invited by Ludvik Svoboda, then President of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, to have lunch with him at the old hunting lodge of Lana near Prague. (This lodge has long been used by presidents of Czechoslovakia as a place to relax and entertain friends.)
We set out in plenty of time, and soon noticed that at the rate we were going, we would get there a bit early. As a punctual man, Koniev had given the estimated time of his arrival with military precision. So when we drew near to Lana, he slowed down our car, then stopped altogether in the shade of the trees along the road.
When we pulled up at the gates at 1200, we met squarely up with the President's car. It turned out that he, being an equally punctual man, had done the same thing enroute that we had done.
The woods were filled with silence and the fragrance of fading flowers and grass. Our host suggested we visit a part of the forest where a herd of reindeer wandered freely among the ancient oaks. After some roving through the woods, we came to the hunting lodge. It was almost one o'clock, which is lunchtime according to the Czech custom. The President invited us to the table.
When comrades-in-arms meet up with one another, regardless of what their rank is, the talk is always free and unconstrained. There is always something to recall, something to mention with approval, or something to keep silent about--which is sometimes more eloquent and effective than words. Such was the case this time, too.
The President turned to Marshal Koniev. "Do you remember, Ivan Stepanovitch, how you got angry at me when I was already a corps commander?"
"How could I fail to remember? That was not the kind of occasion a man forgets. The going was very hard for the Czechoslovak soldiers right then. They were advancing toward Dukla. The enemy had brought all the roads under his fire, and tank attacks were frequent. But there was almost no command control of the corps. General Kratochvil, the corps commander, was twenty-five kilometers behind the front lines. What kind of command control is that?"
For once, if only for once, the Soviets were right about something and the West was wrong. However popular Kratochvil may have been among Czechoslovak troops on the Western Front, he was no field commander. Shtemenko claimed that he remained safely behind the lines, "ingesting excessive amounts of the English whiskey he had brought with him." The Soviets wanted him removed in favor of Svoboda, but this involved obtaining the permission of the London government. Koniev exerted himself in this matter, and the permission was granted. Under Svoboda's command, both discipline and morale in the corps was improved. Shtemenko continued to reminisce:
"At the time," Svoboda said, "I had to see the battle zone with my own eyes. I don't understand how you can command forces without having an idea of the terrain along the line of advance. So I went directly through the forward units to the attacking forces. And there I saw that it was essential to inspire the troops--to set a personal example in combat. And it was just then, Ivan Stepanovitch, that you called me to the field telephone."
"As for me." Koniev said with a smile, "I had to know exactly what the situation was in Dukla Pass. Moscow had demanded it. I tried to find you, but I was told the commander was in the forward positions. 'Exactly where?' I asked. Finally they found you. I was in a fit of temper, so I said, 'Gospodin General, I forbid you to be a rifleman. We need a corps commander, not a soldier.'"
To which our hospitable host replied, "And I took offense at your 'Gospodin General,' and asked why not 'Comrade General'?"
"Yes, I remember that. But then I cooled down a bit and answered: 'Remember, Comrade Svoboda, that you are valuable to us, and you mustn't risk your life like that. Besides, a corps commander shouldn't do that.' And that was the end of it."
At the end of the month, through fog and heavy rain, the 1st Army Corps resumed its advance. On October 6, it cleared the south end of the pass. Its entrance into Slovakia came at a staggering cost. General Vedral, commander of the 1st Brigade, was killed by a mine less than one kilometer after crossing the border.(46) An estimated 6,500 men of the 1st Army Corps had been killed, almost half of its original strength. Overall, the Soviets and Czechoslovaks sustained an approximate 80,000 casualties, with almost 20,000 killed in action. German casualties are estimated roughly at 20,000.
Among the casualties was Pravomil Raichl. He assumed command of the 1st Infantry Battalion, which had been decimated to the level of 37 men. Raichl rallied them and advanced. He was wounded three times. He was later decorated by Svoboda. Yet Raichl declined to join the Communist Party in the postwar era, and never rose above the rank of second lieutenant.(47)
October 6 was thereafter designated as Czechoslovak Army Day. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, it was still remembered in Slovakia as Liberation Day. Yet the battle for control of this key region in Eastern Slovakia did not end with the capture of the pass. Between Dukla Pass and the town of Svidnik lies an area which has come to be known as "the Valley of Death." In the vicinity of the village of Ladimirova, just north of Svidnik, there occurred a miniature reenactment of the great tank battle of Kursk (July 1943). Once again, Soviet armor outgunned and outmaneuvered its German counterpart. Meanwhile, on the other side of Svidnik, in the hill country between that town and the city of Presov, there was considerable partisan activity underway in the German rear.
Here a few words on the native resistance in Eastern Slovakia are pertinent. There was a sizable revolutionary movement in the region on the merit of it being both poor and religiously conservative. On the side of being poor, Eastern Slovakia was a traditional bastion of the Slovak Communist Party, at least in the urban centers.(48) On the side of being religiously conservative, the predominate faith was that of the Greek Catholic Church, which claimed the allegiance of the Carpatho-Rusyns inhabiting the northeast area. The Rusyns were targeted for Slovakization by the regime of Roman Catholic priest-president Jozef Tiso, which regarded them as "Slovaks of the Greek Catholic faith." Greek Catholic priests were discouraged from engaging in political activity, in striking contrast to their Roman Catholic counterparts. Tiso snubbed Archbishop Pavel Gojdic of Presov during an official state visit, and made efforts to transfer him to the remote village of Medzilaborce.(49) Through the intervention of Slovak ambassador to the Vatican Karol Sidor,(50) the papacy confirmed Gojdic's episcopal privileges. Tiso's government had to yield on this point, and the Greek Catholic Church maintained control of its school system. Rusyn culture in the region continued to flourish.
Yet both the Rusyn National Committee and the Carpatho-Rusyn National Council had been banned early in 1939, while the activity of cultural societies was restricted. When it became obvious that the Slovak Republic was on the losing side of the war in 1943, some Rusyns began to organize. The first partisan unit was formed in the Presov Region that year, and eventually the movement encompassed some 37 villages in the northeast. In September the Carpatho-Russian Autonomous Union (Karpatorusskii Autonomnyi Soiuz Natsional'nogo Osvolozhdennia--KRASNO) was organized. It maintained contact with both the Slovak resistance movement and the Czechoslovak liberation movement abroad. KRASNO consequently welcomed a declaration by the Slovak National Council in October 1944, which stated that the resurrected Czechoslovakia should consist of three equal nations--Czechs, Slovaks and Carpatho-Rusyns.(51)
Hammered by the onslaught of the Soviets and 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps in front of them and the activity of KRASNO partisans in the rear, the Germans began retreating. Svidnik was heavily damaged in the fighting, and the Germans torched much of the area as they withdrew. Svoboda was nonetheless hailed as a liberator when he entered the town, and was declared an honorary citizen of Svidnik.
The composition of the 1st Army Corps again underwent a significant change during its westward advance. Its Slovak element had been considerably depleted by the detachment of the 2nd Czechoslovak Paratroopers to aid the uprising. Many Carpatho-Rusyns had been killed in the battle for Dukla Pass, although their numbers were easily replaced by new recruits in northeastern Slovakia. Yet, as Svoboda's army pushed westward, the majority of the 1st Army Corps became Slovak. Partisans who had survived the suppression of the uprising flooded the ranks of the 1st Army Corps. On February 25, 1945, the Soviets granted permission for the mobilization of 1,000 officers, 2,000 NCOs and 9,000 men between the ages of 20 and 35 in Eastern Slovakia. New Slovak recruits accounted for more than 50 percent of the strength of the 2nd and 4th Infantry Brigades. A 4th Tank Battalion, recruited in Poprad, was overwhelmingly Slovak.(52)
On March 26, 1945, the 1st Army Corps liberated the industrial city of Moravska Ostrava in northern Moravia. By the time Prague was liberated on May 9,(53) its brigades had been awarded numerous honors by the Soviets. The 1st Infantry Brigade gained the Order of Suvorov Second Class, the 3rd Infantry Brigade was awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky, and the 4th Infantry bore the Order of Bohdan Khmelynitsky Second Class. The parachutists of the 2nd Brigade did not receive the same degree of acclamation since, following the uprising, its members were largely assigned to special operations which were normally rewarded behind closed doors. A victory parade was held in Prague in June. Here the Czech people exhibited a certain resentment towards the Slovaks for the separation of March 1939. A British military attache assigned to Prague was pleased to report to London that the 1st Czechoslovak Armored Brigade--consisting overwhelmingly of Czechs and equipped by the British--was much better received than the 1st Army Corps, largely Slovak and supplied by the Russians.(54)
This may have been another factor in Svoboda's estrangement from the pro-Western elements among the Czechoslovak military establishment. Now, designated as Minister of Defense in the new government, Svoboda had to confront an additional issue concerning both his Soviet masters and his favorite soldiers, the Carpatho-Rusyns. In spite of the brutalities they had experienced at the hands of the NKVD in the Gulag, they fought bravely and well under him. The Rusyns of the 1st Army Corps hoped to be the liberating vanguard of their homeland. Instead, they had been transferred further north and west, and committed to the meatgrinder of Dukla Pass. Behind them, Soviet troops marched into Podkarpatska Rus'. Since that time, under Soviet auspices, local "national committees" had been calling for the merger of the region to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In fairness to these committees, they overall enjoyed an enthusiastic response.(55) In June 1945, Czechoslovakia ceded the area to the U.S.S.R.
For Svoboda, the bottom line was that he would not oppose the Soviet Union. He had already made this plain to a special prosecutor assigned to his army by the London government. A young Rusyn officer of the Czechoslovak Army, Ivan Turjanica, had written a proclamation calling for the merger. Turjanica had also organized meetings. The young Czech military prosecutor had approached Svoboda, calling upon the latter to sign a warrant for Turjanica's arrest on the charge of treason. Svoboda invited the young Czech prosecutor to sign such a warrant himself, but cautioned the latter that he (Svoboda) could not guarantee his safety as long as he remained with the 1st Czechoslovak Army.(56)
There was nonetheless an "exemption" clause in the treaty ceding Podkarpatska Rus' to Soviet Ukraine. Those Rusyns with a military service record in the Czechoslovak Army had the option of retaining Czechoslovak citizenship and moving westward. Approximately half of them did so. Svoboda redressed the balance for them as much as was humanly possible. Through his patronage many of them obtained well-placed jobs in the Czechoslovak military and the ministry of the interior (i.e. police and security services).(57) KRASNO partisans likewise gained good jobs. This gesture of goodwill on the part of Svoboda would later have unfortunate side effects, which shall be discussed in due course.
Svoboda did not become a Communist Party member until after the February 1948 takeover. By now, however, he was firmly in Moscow's camp during the deepening estrangement between East and West which marked the beginnings of the Cold War. In the early part of that year, noncommunist members of the Czechoslovak cabinet announced their pending resignation over the Communist takeover of the police and the People's Militia. It was their intention to present President Benes with a fait accompli. With a majority in the government resigning, they hoped to place Communist Prime Minister Gottwald's government in a minority position, which would likewise be forced to resign if free elections favoring noncommunists provided the opposition with a majority. But Gottwald mobilized the same police and security organs in demonstrations which were designed to force Benes to accept Gottwald's slate of candidates for cabinet. During this crisis, Benes asked Svoboda if the Army would support the government (in this case meaning the President) in the event of a clash with the People's Militia and police. Svoboda replied that he would comply in the event Benes issued written orders.(58) In fairness to Svoboda, it must be noted that President Benes issued no such orders to the Army. Instead, he caved in and accepted Gottwald's slate of new candidates. The Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia was thus completed.
It has been stated as an axiom that revolutions devour their own children. While this is not always necessarily the case, it certainly applied to the Communist revolution in postwar Czechoslovakia. Gottwald's regime was strongly influenced by new trends in the international arena. In addition to there existing a conflict between capitalism and socialism, there was now conflict among socialist countries as well. Yugoslavia's leader Josip Brotz Tito had risen to challenge Stalin's supremacy in East Central Europe. The tough, independent-minded Yugoslavs were proud of their own revolution, and were not about to sacrifice it Stalin's whims. Throughout this area of Europe, there was a definite line of division among Communists. Some had spent the war years in Moscow, and were inclined to serve as willing executors of Soviet policy. Yet others had spent the war years in prison or had served in the resistance movements in their native countries. Although they too wished to construct socialism, they wished to do so according to conditions in their native nations. Following Tito's split with the Kremlin in June 1948, Stalin ordered a massive purge of these nationalist elements throughout East Central Europe.
Zionism was now targeted as an enemy ideology as well. Although both the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia had endorsed the creation of Israel, with the British departing from Palestine the Soviets began courting the Arabs. Moreover, Stalin had always held a personal distrust of Jews since the time of his conflict with the so-called "Old Bolsheviks," many of whom were Jewish. This realignment was particularly felt in Czechoslovakia, where many of the Jews who had survived the holocaust of World War II joined the Communist Party. The Secretary General of the Party, Rudolf Slansky, was himself Jewish, although he had never considered himself a Jew or a Czech or anything other than a Communist. He had also spent the war years in the Soviet Union. As the Czechoslovak Communist Party took on an increasingly militant approach to domestic affairs, Slansky ordered a wholesale inquisition against suspected dissidents. He created a machine of police terror which ultimately destroyed him as well. As those who were arrested were tortured to name other "conspirators," Slansky's name became prominent. In the subsequent purge which followed, thousands of innocent lives were destroyed.(59)
The purge extended to the Czechoslovak military. Bedrich Reicin, Slansky's appointee as deputy defense minister, was executed. A number of respected generals were imprisoned. More fortunate than most, General Julius Nosko, who had been chief of staff to Golian, was dismissed from the Army without the right of pension on January 31, 1953.(60) Svoboda also found himself placed in jeopardy. He was arrested on the merit of the unfounded rumor that Stalin did not trust him. Years later, the old general recounted:
While they had me locked up and I sat in Ruzyn on November 23, 1952 . . . at our embassy in Moscow a reception took place in honor of Comrade Gottwald. My son-in-law was a secretary in the embassy, and my daughter studied in Moscow at that time . . . . toasts were drunk to all sorts of things and a high officer of the Soviet army, General Kozlovski, suddenly lifted his glass and said, "I drink to the health of General Svoboda." Our people at the embassy knew the truth concerning me, that I had been in jail . . . and therefore there was silence after the toast. Then, when someone rose in this silence and explained my situation as it really was, Kozlovski told my daughter to call home . . . and tell my wife that the Soviets trust me and that Svoboda is innocent. And a real telegram by Stalin was sent to Prague: "Please set General Svoboda free." I found out about this discussion while I was in prison. And you can imagine how I felt even as a prisoner, when my wife told me that my Soviet comrades trusted me.
But if you think getting out of prison was easy, then you're wrong. Karol Bacilek [the then head of State Security] came to visit me . . . and passed on me greetings from Gottwald, telling me that my imprisonment was more or less a mistake. So I asked Bacilek, "Why am I sitting here?" "We are afraid that you will escape or that you will commit suicide," was his response.
Understandably, I didn't like these excuses, so I spoke quite directly and said that if I were guilty then Bacilek, Zapotocky, and also Gottwald would be sitting here too.
Bacilek then asked me about six questions, wanting to know how and with whom I worked, and then went away. About a week later they let me out of Ruzyn. So actually Stalin, who as you know wasn't in any way softhearted, indirectly saved my life. I must say their behavior toward me in prison was quite decent.(61)
The death of Stalin early in 1953 was accompanied by an ironic twist of fate which had direct consequence for Czechoslovakia. Gottwald was accorded the honor of being a pallbearer at Stalin's funeral, and the Czech Party boss contracted a severe cold while in Moscow. The cold developed into pneumonia by the time Gottwald returned to Prague, and he died on March 14. The new Party secretary was Antonin Novotny, and the president was Antonin Zapotocky, neither of whom was predisposed towards a more liberal course. Economic unrest hit Czechoslovakia once Soviet leader Georgii Malenkov promised the Soviet peoples more consumer goods; a corresponding "currency reform" in Czechoslovakia on May 30 devaluated the crown and wiped out private savings. Two days later, some 5,000 workers rioted in Plzen, taking over factories and public buildings until they were suppressed by the militia. Zapotocky did permit farmers to leave the collectives, but warned that new collective farms would be formed. There were definite limits as to how far destalinization was permitted to proceed in Czechoslovakia. Novotny proved himself a dry, humorless leader, who consistently resisted the demands for reform by more liberal Communists. His regime may be characterized as "tyranny of the middle way." On one hand, he was a Stalinist at heart, and was unwilling to initiate change. On the other hand, the times themselves were changing, and opposition could not be silenced as ruthlessly as in the past.
Svoboda was not permitted to resume his career in the military at this time. He found work as a bookkeeper on an agricultural cooperative, and might have lived out his life in rural obscurity had it not been for the 10th Congress of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, held in June 1954. Newly emerging Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited Prague for the occasion. He had worked with Svoboda through the war years, and he inquired about his old friend. State security agents were frantically dispatched to bring Svoboda in from his farm, and the two wartime comrades enjoyed an agreeable reunion. Yet Novotny resented Soviet interest in Svoboda, saying that "he will only make complications." October 6 of that year marked the 10th anniversary of the storming of Dukla Pass. Novotny informed Svoboda bluntly: "You will talk at the Dukla memorial, but we are not going to publicize the fact you have been rehabilitated."(62) Svoboda was nonetheless elected to the National Assembly that month, and two months later was elected to the Assembly' Presidium. He finally regained his general's rank in 1956.
On November 13, 1957, President Zapotocky died of a heart attack, and was replaced in the executive office by Novotny. For the next ten years Svoboda remained quiescent while Novotny made a public spectacle of himself. In addition to resisting demands for reform by liberal Communists, he antagonized the Slovak people by resisting their demands for federal status as well. The Slovak Communist Party, led by Alexander Dubcek, now emerged as a major source of opposition. Reform-minded Czech Communists now looked at their Slovak comrades as allies in ousting Novotny. On the night of January 4-5, 1968, Novotny relinquished his post as First Secretary of the Communist Party. Dubcek, as the linchpin between the Czech liberals and Slovak nationalists, was prevailed upon to become First Secretary. At the end of March, Novotny relinquished the presidency as well. He was replaced in this capacity by General Svoboda.
For eight months Czechoslovakia experienced an exhilarating experiment with democracy which has come to be known as the Prague Spring. Dubcek concerned himself with the democratization of Czechoslovakia as a whole, while Slovak Communist leader Husak worked actively to implement federalization. Svoboda benignly oversaw the proceedings as an elder statesman. Yet during the night of August 20-21, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies--East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria--sent troops into Czechoslovakia to terminate the Prague Spring. The reasons for the intervention were varied. Czechoslovakia bordered both West Germany and the U.S.S.R., and could not be allowed to serve as a weak link in the Warsaw Pact alliance. The shift to market socialism was setting a bad example in the Soviet bloc, and the investigation of Stalinist police crimes was yielding information which was compromising to the Soviet Union. In regard to federalization, the Soviets feared that the Slovak example would spark dissent in Ukraine.(63)
The incoming Soviet troops seized Dubcek and other Czechoslovak Communist leaders and carried them away to a secret place of internment in Ukraine. But they failed to reckon with the Czech and Slovak peoples, who conducted massive demonstrations and sabotaged the occupiers' every move. A 14th Party Congress was secretly convened in Prague, and it passed a resolution which declared the occupation illegal. At this point the normally passive Svoboda emerged to play a public role in his country's history at this critical moment. The Soviets planned to install a new government headed by conservative Communists who supported the intervention. At 11:30 a.m. on August 22--just as the 14th Party Congress was being convened--Soviet General Pavlovsky and Ambassador Chervonenko called on the President at Hradcany Palace. They demanded in no uncertain terms that he accept the government of their choosing. Otherwise, they threatened, they would force him to resign and impose a regime based on martial law. Tad Szulc, an American journalist of Polish extraction who was in Prague covering the democratic experiment, wrote what followed:
President Svoboda stood his ground. To do so was brinkmanship of the first order, but the old man had evidently decided that Pavlovsky and Chervonenko were bluffing. He knew the Soviet Union and the Russians well enough to realize that a military government was not what Moscow desired. He was also aware that sentiment against the Russians was running so high that a bloody revolt could erupt at any moment. He staked his position on the assumption that the Soviet Union could not really afford a repetition of the 1956 Budapest slaughter. And, furthermore, the extraordinary unity of his nation had given him a negotiating position that was stronger than perhaps he realized. He told the general and the ambassador . . . that no discussions could be pursued as long as Dubcek and the other leaders remained imprisoned. He could not control his people much longer unless they were released, Svoboda said. Besides, he added, the situation had reached the point where he could no longer negotiate with Pavlovsky and Chervonenko, who, after all, had no power of decision; it was urgent, he said, that a meeting be arranged with the top Warsaw Pact leaders. After three hours of inclusive talks, the Soviet emissaries left, telling Svoboda they would communicate his views to Moscow.(64)
In this manner President Svoboda flew to Moscow to negotiate directly with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Once he arrived, he informed Brezhnev that he could not negotiate until Dubcek and his associates had been set free. By now the Soviet leaders were in an embarrassed position. The intervention had not gone according to plan, and their own Czechoslovak allies, publically identified as collaborators, were now unwilling to assume the responsibility of forming a new government. The Soviets nonetheless insisted on "a way out:" the 14th Party Congress had to be declared "illegal." Svoboda answered that nothing could be done as long as his fellow leaders were imprisoned. Szulc wrote afterwards:
One report, published so insistently as to have acquired the appearance of a confirmed fact, is that Svoboda threatened to commit suicide in the Kremlin if the four men were not freed at once. A participant in the discussion said that at one point Svoboda drew his service revolver to show his determination. I am personally inclined to believe in this suicide threat. Despite his benign appearance, Svoboda is a stubborn and emotional man--it is sometimes forgotten that the pragmatic Czechs are also, down deep, sentimental Slavs--and he has a high sense of honor. And at this stage the issue for him had become one of honor.(65)
While the Soviet leaders continued arguing with this shouting, red-faced old man (Svoboda suffered from high blood pressure), their security agents brought Dubcek and his colleagues to Moscow. The negotiations could now begin on more equitable, if not amicable, terms. It was obvious to the Czechoslovaks that concessions had to be made. New measures of censorship were approved, and several progressives would be dropped from the government. The proceedings of the 14th Party Congress would be declared "invalid," but only after the leaders returned home. When they ultimately returned to Prague, they received a heros' welcome. It was the best of a bad deal, and they had salvaged the maximum that Czechoslovakia could expect.
If the Soviets intended to exploit Czecho-Slovak differences during the invasion, they were sorely disappointed. Physical resistance to the invaders was actually greater in Bratislava than in Prague. The invasion created a new sense of solidarity between the two peoples. Assured of the Slovaks' loyalty, many Czechs began taking the federal issue more seriously. Even while Dubcek and other leaders were being forced to retreat from many of the liberal reforms during the negotiations in Moscow, federalization was still being pursued. On August 26, the National Assembly declared that "the anniversary of the Slovak National Rising reminds us that the freedom of our two nations is the main supporting pillar of Czechoslovak statehood."(66)
Husak had been engaged in negotiations with the Soviets, but still had not forgotten his nationalist aspirations. He criticized those who said federalization was out of place, given Czechoslovakia's situation, and stated: "I want to say that we shall go on to realize this idea so that a constitutional law will be enacted late in October."(67) Now elected as First Secretary of the Slovak Communist Party, Husak accepted the Soviet presence as a fact and urged his countrymen to do likewise. He instituted new measures of censorship, and refused to participate in the anti-Soviet Czechoslovak Presidium elected on August 23. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev greatly appreciated Husak's service, and gave him the go-ahead to implement federalization.
Anti-Soviet sentiment in Czechoslovakia nonetheless prevailed, and the populace was in no mood to heed Dubcek's pleas for order. On March 28, 1969, the Czechoslovak hockey team scored a stunning victory over the Soviet team at the world championship in Stockholm. In Prague, a jubilant mob stoned and broke into the Soviet Aeroflot bureau, and set fire to machinery. This was the death-knell for Dubcek's government. The Soviets demanded stern measures, and Husak denounced the outburst as having an "evidently terrorist and counterrevolutionary character."(68) President Svoboda himself now advised Dubcek to resign in favor of Husak. This was done on April 17.
Svoboda thereafter receded to his traditional role of elder statesman and grandfather figure. Real power, in any case, now lay in the hands of Husak, a one-time Slovak nationalist who was now political leader of all Czechoslovakia and enforcer of Soviet policy in that hapless land. The psychology of Gustav Husak is a difficult phenomenon for the noncommunist mind to understand. He may be compared to Hungarian Communist leader Janos Kadar. Like Husak, Kadar had been imprisoned by a Stalinist regime in the early 1950s. Like Husak also, Kadar emerged from prison to support reform-minded communists in his country, When the Soviets intervened militarily to crush the Hungarian revolution in autumn 1956, Kadar (again like Husak) performed an about-face and accepted their control. Kadar consequently took power as the most hated man in Hungary. But he mellowed with the passing of years, and his liberal measures earned him a measure of genuine popularity by the 1980s. Husak, by contrast, became increasingly cantankerous. He did not solicit popular support, feeling secure in enjoying Soviet patronage. Indeed, he was awarded the Order of Lenin by Brezhnev in 1973, and, when Svoboda retired from the presidency owing to failing health (i.e. cancer) late in May 1975, Husak succeeded him in that position as well.
Ludvik Svoboda died in Prague on September 20, 1979. Compared to Husak, the political choices he made throughout his career are understandable. Svoboda had long enjoyed Soviet patronage. Correspondingly, the Soviets felt obligated to accommodate him on certain critical occasions. Far more difficult to understand is the option chosen by many Rusyns from the 1st Army Corps. After their experience in the Gulag with the NKVD, one would be tempted to suppose they would be adverse to serving as agents of repression. Instead, thanks to Svoboda's generous patronage, they became overrepresented in the secret police, not only in Eastern Slovakia, but in Bratislava and Prague as well. Such an occupation made them unpopular among their fellow citizens.
To complicate matters further, they received a new ethnic identity by administrative fiat: Ukrainian. The Rusyn intelligentsia had long been divided on the question of whether they were Russian, Ukrainian or their own distinct nationality. In December 1925, the 9th Congress of the Ukrainian Communist Party recognized the Carpatho-Rusyns as Ukrainian. At the end of World War II, leaders of KRASNO (including a number of former russophiles) followed suit. In March 1945 they formed the Ukrainian National Council of the Presov Region.(69) This body advocated union with Soviet Ukraine. Insofar as the area west of the Uzh River was left out of the territorial transfer, they settled for advocating that Czechoslovakia should constitute three equal nationalities--Czechs, Slovaks and Ukrainians.(70) The Slovak National Council, it may be remembered, had recently been willing to recognize the Rusyns as a nationality within Slovakia's borders. Now, in light of Ukrainian irredentism, the Slovak National Council declared its Ukrainian counterpart as invalid. Yet the Czechoslovak government, for reasons of expediency, followed the Soviet lead in classifying Rusyns as Ukrainian.
Animosities smoldered beneath the surface for a full generation. During the Prague Spring, the Slovak press suddenly became articulate in its denunciations: " . . . this 15 year anti-Slovak movement in Eastern Slovakia . . . must be liquidated."(71) Slovak nationalists particularly resented the fact that the city of Presov served as a bastion for ukrainophile activity. Slogans appeared on a number of buildings: "Presov was and will be only--and only--a Slovak city" and "Ukrainians, get out of Presov!"(72)
The Slovak element in Eastern Slovakia was not the only one which opposed the Ukrainian movement. Passive opposition was expressed by many Rusyns themselves. The Ukrainian movement had never really quite caught on west of the Uzh River. If they could not be themselves, the Rusyns opted for the next best thing, and voluntarily assimilated into the Slovak nationality.(73) The local dialect spoken was not foreign to them, unlike that of the Ukrainian textbooks imported from Kiev. Whenever local citizens were questioned by the police, they declared themselves Slovaks, fearing deportation to the Soviet Union. Finally, the relatively more advanced Slovak economy drew many to the industrial valleys further south, where the process was completed.
For those Rusyns who continued to consider themselves Ukrainian, yet another shock awaited them in the following generation. After the 1989 revolutions and the collapse of communism in East Central Europe, first the Slovak and then the Polish government recognized the Carpatho-Rusyns as a distinct nationality. Many young Rusyns eagerly embraced the new orientation.(74) On a local level, these differences are frequently minimized. In Svidnik, for example, the Museum of Ukrainian-Rusyn Culture emphasizes the regional identity of the latter while continuing to acknowledge its ethnic kinship with the former.(75)
It seems fittingly ironic that, among all of former Czechoslovakia, the one statue dedicated to General Svoboda should stand in Svidnik. It was erected by local citizens in the year of the old man's death. Owing to the reconstruction which followed the damage of autumn 1944, Svidnik is a modern town. It lacks the grandeur of Prague or the quaint Gothic charm of Banska Bystrica. Svoboda's statue, cut in the so-called "social realist" mold, looks quite at home among the imposing, if unattractive, highrise concrete structures.
The present author happened to be in Svidnik on October 6, 2002--the anniversary of the storming of Dukla Pass. He visited both the Military Museum and the Museum of Ukrainian-Rusyn Culture. It was a cold and rainy day. The author paused for a brief moment before Svoboda's statue, appropriately decorated with wreaths and flowers for the anniversary occasion. One other individual was present, an aging man who gazed at the statue pensively. Wishing to say something positive or at least comforting, the author conveyed that he was the descendant of Czechoslovak legionnaires. The latter nodded silently and sadly, then walked away down the windswept street.
Even in the present millennium, there are times in which silence is more eloquent than words.
1. Miroslav Kerner, "General Ludvik Svoboda: Czechoslovak Patriot or Communist Collaborator," in Lewis M. White, ed., On All Fronts: Czechoslovaks in World War II Part 1 (Washington DC, 1991), p.243.
2. See Zdenek Kordina, "Zborov: The Battle in Which the Czechoslovak Army Was Born," in Lewis M. White, ed., On All Fronts: Czechoslovaks in World War II Part 2 (Washington DC, 1995), pp.15-21.
3. The experience of the Czechoslovak Legion in Russia boasts of a sizable amount of literature. The best English-language studies are authored by Victor M. Fic, an emigre Czech historian alternating between Canada and the Far East. See Victor M. Fic, The Revolutionary War for Independence and the Russian Question: The Czechoslovak Army in Russia 1914-1918 (New Delhi, 1977) and The Bolsheviks and the Czechoslovak Legion. The Origins of Their Armed Conflict: March to May, 1918 (New Delhi, 1978).
4. Victor M. Fic, The Rise of the Constitutional Alternative to Soviet Rule in 1918. Provisional Governments of Siberia and All-Russia: Their Quest for Allied Intervention (Boulder, 1998), pp.428-431.
5. Report of March 29, 1939, on the new regime in Bohemia and Moravia, in George F. Kennan, From Prague After Munich: Diplomatic Papers 1938-1940 (Princeton, 1968), p.100. During the interwar period, Gajda joined with former Czech National Socialist leader Jiri Stribny and Charles Pergler, an American businessman of Czech origin, to form the National League. The National League opposed what it perceived as "special interest groups" which had gained disproportionate political influence under President Masaryk's administration. Eventually Masaryk's government moved against the National League. Pergler was discovered to have never acquired Czechoslovak citizenship and was deported. Stribny was indicted for corruption. Although the charge was eventually dropped, his political career was terminated. Gajda was sentenced to 90 days in jail for libelling a public official, and was dismissed from the army. For further particulars on Gajda, see Joseph Zacek, "Radola Gajda of Czechoslovakia", in Bela Kiraly and Albert Nofi, eds., East Central European War Leaders: Civilian and Military (Boulder, 1988), pp.319-330.
6. Kerner, p.240.
7. See Lev Prchala, "Report on the Resistance in Poland," in White, ed., On All Fronts Part 2, pp.47-52.
8. Miloslav F. Kaspar, "Polish Campaign, 1939: Final Days in Poland," in White, ed., On All Fronts Part 1, pp.13, 21.
9. Ibid, pp.16-17.
10. Pravomil Raichl, "At the Beginning There Was Buzuluk," in White, ed., On All Fronts Part 2, 189.
11. Ibid, p.190.
12. Ibid, p.191.
13. Ibid, p.192.
14. Frantisek Zak, "Round Trip to the USSR," in White, ed., On All Fronts Part 2, p.193.
15. Alexander Werth, Russia At War (New York, 1964), pp. 644-645.
16. Ibid, p.653.
17. John Erickson, The Road to Berlin: Continuing the History of Stalin's War with Germany (Boulder, 1983), p.142.
18. Mark W. A. Axworthy, Axis Slovakia: Hitler's Slavic Wedge 1938-1945 (Bayside, NY, 2002), p.188.
19. See Jozef Nalepka, ed., Ini o kapitanovi Janovi Nalepkovi (Spisska Nova Ves, 2002). This biographical study, edited by his brother, includes samples of Captain Nalepka's wartime correspondence, and the accounts of people who remembered him--teachers, students, fellow soldiers and Soviet military commanders. Soviet partisan commander (and Red Army general) A. N. Saburov found Nalepka to be a competent subordinate, who retained command of the Slovaks. The nature of partisan warfare in the swamps dictated that Nalepka frequently travelled on horseback, carrying an automatic weapon. A photograph of this legendary pose later inspired a plastic equestrian sculpture of him by Slovak authoress Anna Kisakova. This activity also contributed to his demise. Captain Jan Nalepka was killed in an encounter with a German patrol outside the village of Ovruc on the night of November 17, 1943.
20. Anna Josko, "The Slovak Resistance Movement," in Victor Mamatey and Radomir Luza, eds., A History of the Czechoslovak Republic 1918-1948 (Princeton, 1968), p.370.
21. Paul Robert Magocsi, The Shaping of a National Identity: Subcarpathian Rus' 1848-1948 (Cambridge and London, 1978), p,252.
22. General Ludvik Svoboda, Z Buzuluku do Prahy (Prague, 1960), p.181.
23. For a detailed description of the Soviet-Czechoslovak agreement, see Edvard Benes, Memoirs (London, 1954), pp.168-190 and Edward Taborsky, President Edward Benes Between East and West 1938-1948 (Stanford, 1981), pp.159-174.
24. Slovak Communist leader Gustav Husak wrote in the early part of the war: "If this state were of another orientation and governed by another regime, not to say anything of a change of ally, then from the Slovak point of view there would be nothing to say against it." See Gustav Husak, "O vyvoji a situaci na Slovensku" Svedectvi XV (58) 1979, p.377.
25. The Christmas Agreement of 1943, in Joseph Mikus, Slovakia: A Political History 1918-1955 (Milwaukee, 1963), Appendix VI, pp.346-347.
26. Erickson, p.292.
27. Mikulas Ferjencik, "The Slovak National Uprising and Mission to USSR," in White, ed., On All Fronts Part 2, pp.221-222.
28. Michael Kraus, "The Kremlin and the Slovak National Uprising" Slovakia Volume XXXIV (1989,1990) No.62, 63, p.54.
29. General Sergei Mateyevitch Shtemenko, The Last Six Months (New York, 1977), p.297.
30. This military mission was originally dispatched to Romania to keep the latter in the war on the Axis side. Since the Antonescu regime had been overthrown, its efforts were futile. As the German military mission passed through Slovakia, its members were intercepted in the vicinity of Turcansky Svaty Martin by Velitchko's partisans, disguised as Slovak soldiers. They convinced the Germans that a bridge further ahead had been destroyed, and that they should be escorted to the barracks for their own protection. It was Velitchko's intention that the Germans should be disarmed at the barracks and then sent to Partisan Headquarters in Kiev; if this failed, they would be executed. Lieutenant Colonel Emil Perko, garrison commander at Turcansky Svaty Martin and a member of the Slovak National Council, feared for the lives of the German military mission. He was inclined to treat them as guests until the Military Center in Banska Bystrica took them off his hands. But Perko's subordinate, Lieutenant Cyril Kuchta, was more inclined to follow Velitchko's orders, and Kuchta was the officer in charge on the fateful night of August 27-28. For an account of what followed, see Jozef Jablonicky, Povstanie bez legiend (Bratislava, 1990), pp.170-173.
31. Mikus, p.143.
32. Erickson, p.297.
33. Ibid, p.298.
34. Protest of the Slovak Legionnaires. March 14, 1939, in documents appendixed to Jozef Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (New York, 1955), no.14, p.297.
35. Viest owed his escape to Count Janos Esterhazy, leader of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and its principal representative in the Slovak Diet. Although Viest and Esterhazy had been on opposing sides on certain political issues during the interwar period, they remained personal friends. Both recognized the expansion of Nazi Germany as a threat to Czechs, Slovaks and Magyars alike. Esterhazy arranged for Viest to visit relatives in Budapest, from where escape to the West was then possible. Esterhazy also made possible the escape of other Czechs and Slovaks to the West. Ironically--and unjustly--he was condemned as a fascist collaborator. After the liberation, Husak ordered his arrest. Then the NKVD seized Esterhazy and deported him to the Gulag. He was condemned to death in absentia by a Communist-dominated tribunal in Bratislava. Suffering from tuberculosis as a result of his experience in the Gulag, Esterhazy was returned to Czechoslovakia in 1948. Now Vavro Srobar, a pro-Czech Slovak patriot noted for his traditionally anti-Magyar sentiments, pleaded for pardon. Czechoslovak Communist leader Gottwald commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Esterhazy died in the Moravian prison of Mirov on March 8, 1957. For his interactions with Viest, see Gabor Szent-Ivanyi, Count Janos Esterhazy (Astor Park, FL, 1989), p.210.
36. Erickson, p.306. Embittered Slovak soldiers burned the airplane intended for the escape of Viest and Golian. The SS discovered them hiding in a barn. They were captured after a brief gunfight, during which their chief of staff Karol Peknik was killed.
37. Lettrich, pp.211-212.
38. Shtemenko, p.289
39. Ibid, p.287.
40. Erickson, p.301
41. Svoboda, p.252.
43. Kerner, p.234.
44. Ibid, pp.233-234.
45. Shtemenko, pp.295-298.
46. Erickson, p.307.
47. See the biographies appendixed to White, ed., On All Fronts Part 2, pp.298-299.
48. The Slovak Communist movement was originally an offshoot of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, which controlled the labor unions in Hungary and was more flexible than the government party on issues of nationality. A Bolshevik government was in power in Hungary for six months in 1919. The Hungarian Red Army invaded Eastern Slovakia, where sympathizers proclaimed the birth of a Slovak Soviet Republic. This little state existed all of two weeks. What remained was a legacy of pro-Russian sentiment. American charge d'affaires to Prague George Kennan later wrote that the Communist sentiment in the region was a "bird of a different color" which in former circumstances would have had little chance of success. He added, however, that owing to guidance from Moscow, the Slovak Communists could become the most formidable opposition group of all to the Tiso government. See Report, written about May 1, 1939, on conditions in Slovakia, in Kennan, From Prague After Munich, pp.139-140.
49. Athanasius Pekar, The History of the Church in Carpathian Rus' (New York, 1992), pp.130-133.
50. Karol Sidor (1901-1953) shall remain for posterity a controversial figure in Slovak history. As a young student he embraced Slovak nationalism even before the collapse of Austria-Hungary, unlike his future rival Tiso. Sidor was for a time considered the heir apparent for leadership of Monsignor Andrej Hlinka's Slovak People's Party. When Hlinka took to his deathbed in August 1938, he called for both Sidor and Alexander Mach, head of the paramilitary Hlinka Guard. Sidor was pro-Polish, while Mach was an admirer of Nazi Germany. Yet Tiso, considered less radical and still hoping to reach accommodation with the Czechs, controlled the key votes in the People's Party and was consequently designated as prime minister of the autonomous Slovak government. Sidor and Tiso underwent a certain role reversal over the next six months. When the crisis culminating in the breakup of Czecho-Slovakia came in March 1939, the Prague government replaced Tiso with Sidor as prime minister. He held out against efforts to sever the last remaining links with the Czechs. Tiso accepted the dissolution as an accomplished fact and became president of the Slovak Republic. Sidor felt that Tiso's government had sold out to Germany too far, and began gathering a faction of his own within the Hlinka Guard. Tiso and the more radical fascists had common ground in wishing to disarm him. Sidor was given the choice of being placed under house arrest or going into exile. He then accepted appointment as ambassador to the Vatican. Here he underwent another about-face. In spring 1942 Tiso's government went along with a German plan to "resettle" Slovak Jews in occupied Poland. Sidor, previously noted for his inflammatory anti-Semitic pronouncements, now warned of the moral consequences of deporting the Slovak Jews. His reports, supplied by information from the Vatican on the true nature of the "resettlement," made a significant impact insofar as the deportations were halted later that year. Sidor enjoyed the honor of being the last active functionary of the Slovak republic. He headed a Slovak liberation movement which existed on paper until the time of his death. For an account of his ambassadorship, see Karol Sidor, Sest rokov pri Vatikane (Scranton, PA, 1947).
51. Quoted from Edo Fric, Myslienka a cin: uhavy o Ceskoslovensku 1938-1948 (Bratislava, 1968), p.104. For individual accounts of the activity of KRASNO partisans, see the collected writings of Stepan Pazhur, Vasyl' Horkovych and Andrii Kovach, Shliakh do volu, in Novkovyi zbirnyk Muzeiu ukrains'koi kul'tury II (Svidnik, Presov and Bratislava, 1966).
52. Axworthy, p.325.
53. The liberation of Prague was reserved for the Red Army, although its entrance into the city was somewhat anticlimactic. The U.S. 3rd Army of General George Patton swept into Czechoslovakia during the final week of the war, and the people of Prague expected liberation by American soldiers. The Nazi SS responded to their peaceful demonstrations by firing into the crowds, thus precipitating an uprising. Ironically, the people of Prague were aided in their uprising by Russians wearing German uniforms. These soldiers were part of the Russian liberation movement headed by General Andrei Vlasov, a Soviet commander who, believing Hitler was the lesser of two evils over Stalin, had changed sides. In May 1945 the Vlasovites changed sides again, in the anticipation that World War II would be followed by World War III, at which point the Western allies would have use of their services against the Soviets. The Vlasovites effectively suppressed the SS in Prague while rescuing many ordinary Germans from Czech vengeance. When they received word that the Soviets were approaching the city, they evacuated Prague. The Red Army thus entered the Czech capital without firing a shot on May 9. For further particulars on this bizarre incident in the final week of the war, see Vladimir Baumgarten, "Patriotic Traitors: Germany's Soviet Allies in the War Against Stalin" Axis Europa Issue No.18 Summer, 1999, pp.13-15.
54. Axworthy, pp.325-326.
55. For a well-documented account of the territorial transfer, see Frantisek Nemec, The Soviet Seizure of Subcarpathian Ruthenia (Toronto, 1955). Nemec was appointed Czechoslovak plenipotentiary for the region, but Soviet military authorities did not permit him to exercise his function during his tenure in this position.
56. Jaroslav Nemec, "General Svoboda from a Different Angle," in White, ed., On All Fronts Part 2, p.252.
57. Paul Robert Magocsi, "Magyars and Carpatho-Rusyns in Czechoslovakia," in Paul Robert Magocsi, Of the Making of Nationalities There is No End Volume I (New York, 1999), p.176.
58. Tad Szulc, Czechoslovakia Since World War II (New York, 1972), p.40.
59. For the most comprehensive study of what has come to be known as the "Slansky Affair," see Jiri Pelikan, ed., The Czechoslovak Political Trials 1950-1954. The Suppressed Report of the Dubcek Government's Commission of Inquiry, 1986 (London, 1971).
60. Prior to being called up for military service, Julius Nosko (1907-1986) had been educated at an agricultural college, where his interest in horsemanship assured his posting to the advanced cavalry school of the Czechoslovak Army in Pardubice. Deprived of his military career, he returned to his original vocation as instructor at an agricultural college. In this capacity he designed a model agricultural community which earned him a state award in the following decade. His general's rank was restored in 1968. In the final years of his life Nosko was noted as a major promoter of Slovak sports events.
61. Szulc, pp.113-114.
62. Ibid, p.114.
63. The Ukrainian language radio station in Presov had a wide listening audience in Ukrainian S.S.R. during the Prague Spring.
64. Szulc, pp.411-412.
65. Ibid, p.416.
66. Robert Littell, The Czech Black Book (New York, 1969), p.205.
67. Eastern Europe October 1968, Volume 17, No.10, p.46.
68. Pavel Tigrid, Why Dubcek Fell (London, 1970), p.163.
69. See Andrej Kovac, "Slovenski Rusini-Ukrajinci v rokoch 1943-1945," in Valerian Bystricky and Stefan Fano, eds., Slovensko na konci druhej svetovej vojny (Bratislava, 1994), pp.227-232.
70. Magocsi, "Magyars and Carpatho-Rusyns in Czechoslovakia," in Magocsi, Of the Making of Nationalities Volume I, pp.176-177.
71. Cited from Kulturny zivot (Bratislava), April 19, 1968 and Vychod (Kosice), November 29, 1968.
72. Paul Robert Magocsi, "National Assimilation: The Case of the Rusyn-Ukrainians of Czechoslovakia," in Magocsi, Of the Making of Nationalities Volume I, p.283. This detailed essay was first published under the pseudonym Pavel Micu in East Central Europe II, 2 (Pittsburgh, 1975), pp.101-132.
73. Ibid, p.276.
74. The new orientation is not universally accepted, and at the time of this writing its future remains an open-ended question. A status report on the Rusyn question, with accompanying commentaries, may be found in the essay Paul Robert Magocsi, "Carpatho-Rusyns: Their Current Status and Future Perspectives," in Paul Robert Magocsi, Of the Making of Nationalities There is No End Volume II (New York, 1999), pp.138-193.
75. See the entry "Museum of Ukrainian-Rus' Culture in Svidnik," in Paul Robert Magocsi and Ivan Popp, eds., Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture (Toronto, Buffalo and London, 2002), p.323.
E-mail: Vladimir Baumgarten
Return to Lemko Home Page
Page prepared by Walter Maksimovich
Copyright © LV Productions, Ltd
Originally Composed: April 23rd, 2003
Date last modified: November 11th, 2013