Gustáv Husák

(1913—1991) Czechoslovak statesman

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(b. 10 Jan. 1913, d. 18 Nov. 1991).

First Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party 1968–88; President of Czechoslovakia 1975–89 Born in Dúbravka (near Bratislava), he joined the Communist Party in 1932, when he was a law student at the University of Bratislava. He practised as a lawyer until 1942, when he started to work for the underground party full‐time, and became a pivotal figure in the Slovak uprising of 1944. He rose quickly in the party ranks, became Minister for Agriculture (1948–9), and a member of the national party's Central Committee in 1949. In 1951 he became a victim of Gottwald's Stalinist purges, and was sentenced to life imprisonment for the heinous crime of ‘Slovak bourgeois nationalism’. He was released in 1960, and rehabilitated in 1963. Husák worked in the Slovak Academy of Sciences and on various committees, until in 1968 he became Deputy Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia. He supported the Warsaw Pact invasion to end the Prague Spring on 20 August 1968, whereupon he became the effective state leader, even though he did not officially replace Dubček until 1969.

His rule was marked by economic, ideological, and political orthodoxy, which anaesthetized the vast majority of the population, whose hopes had been so raised by the Prague Spring, into passive submission. Old age did not create a taste for adventurism, and he stubbornly resisted the reformist impulses of Gorbachev. This attitude was shared by the party high command, which replaced him as party leader in 1988 with another hardliner, Milos Jakes. In one of the more gratifying ironies of history, he was replaced as President by his complete intellectual and ideological opposite, Havel, whom he had tried so hard to silence through incarceration and discrimination.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Politics.

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