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Czechoslovakia

 
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Czechoslovakia

Soviet Influence

Loyalties

Zdenek Mlynar, secretary of the Central Committee under Dubcek who later emigrated, has written that one of the reasons the military was not ordered to resist the invaders in August 1968 was the questionable loyalty of the armed forces leadership. Mlynar believed that some CSLA units could have been persuaded by their officers to join the "fraternal, international" armies of the Warsaw Pact, which, according to the widely disseminated propaganda, invaded only to help Czechoslovakia preserve its socialist way of life. While the hopelessness of resisting the invasion against overwhelming military forces must have stayed the hands of those charged with organizing the country's defense, they undoubtedly took the question of loyalty into consideration.

The possibility of divided loyalties that worried Mlynar and others in 1968 had its roots in the development of the country since independence. Czechs and Slovaks were among the few peoples of Eastern Europe who did not harbor hatred of or grudges against the Russians. Many, both civilian and military, were openly Russophile in attitude--certainly pro-Soviet if not procommunist. Such attitudes were strengthened when Czechoslovakia was abandoned at Munich in 1938 and again when Soviet armies liberated most of the country in 1945. When the armed forces were rebuilt after World War II, those Czechoslovak fighters who had returned with the Soviets gained the upper hand over those who had fought in the West, ensuring that Soviet influence would be paramount (see Historical Background and Traditions , this ch.).

The armed forces stood aside in 1948 during the communist coup d'etat. After the coup, Svoboda and other high-ranking officers joined the KSC and, with assistance and advice from large numbers of Soviet military advisers, began to reform the CSLA along Soviet lines. Many officers and NCOs--particularly the veterans of service with American, British, and French forces--were discharged and replaced by less experienced but politically reliable personnel. Combat readiness was low for several years after the coup as forces were restructured to conform to the Soviet pattern. Weapons and equipment of German design were eventually replaced by items of Soviet manufacture or design. As personnel were trained and educated according to Soviet programs and curricula, which included heavy doses of political indoctrination, the strategy and tactics of warfare devised by the Soviet high command became the doctrine of the Czechoslovak forces. By the time of the founding of the Warsaw Pact in 1955, the CSLA was already achieving a reputation as a well-trained, efficient organization.

By the early 1960s, the CSLA was considered one of the most loyal and modern of the Warsaw Pact forces; it was, in effect, a satellite of the Soviet military establishment. In following the Soviet lead, the Czechoslovak military simply mirrored the country's communist hierarchy, which tried to be more communist than the Soviet Union by retaining its rigid Stalinist approach long after de-Stalinization had occurred in the Soviet Union and other areas of Eastern Europe. Soviet equipment and weapons were delivered in quantity and periodically updated; Soviet methods of military education and training were adopted; many officers were sent to the Soviet Union for advanced schooling; and field training included multinational exercises usually under Soviet direction. The thought that this military clone might be lost through the actions of political and military reformers, even though they were communist reformers, apparently frightened the Soviet leadership. Undoubtedly, this factor weighed heavily in the decision to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Data as of August 1987

Czechoslovakia - TABLE OF CONTENTS

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