Antonín Novotny

(1904—1975) Czechoslovak communist statesman, President 1957–68

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(b. 10 Dec. 1904, d. 28 Jan. 1975).

First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia 1953–68 Born in Letnany (near Prague), he was trained as a locksmith and worked in an arms factory near Prague. In 1921 he joined the Communist Party and worked for it throughout the interwar years. As a result of his political activities, he was incarcerated in the Mauthausen concentration camp (1941–5). After the war, he rose quickly within the ranks of the Communist Party owing to his friendship with Gottwald, whom he succeeded as First Secretary, and de facto leader of the country. He also became State President in 1957. A hardline Stalinist throughout his life, he was completely out of sympathy with Khrushchev's reversals of Stalinist repression. Instead, he refused to condemn the repressive Communist policies during the late 1940s and early 1950s, which culminated in the Slánski trial, and for which he was partly responsible. His adherence to Comecon policies of concentrating on heavy industry led to a severe economic recession (1961–3) and to student unrest. His complete ignorance of Slovakian concerns and distinctiveness cost him the support of the Slovakian Communist Party, which conspired to replace him with its leader, Dubček, in early 1968.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Politics.

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