The Constitution of 1920
The constitution of 1920 approved the provisional
constitution in its basic features. The Czechoslovak state was
conceived as a parliamentary democracy, guided primarily by the
National Assembly, consisting of the senate and the Chamber of
Deputies, whose members were to be elected on the basis of
universal suffrage. The National Assembly was responsible for
legislative initiative and was given supervisory control over the
executive and judiciary as well. Every seven years it elected the
president and confirmed the cabinet appointed by him. Executive
power was to be shared by the president and the cabinet; the
latter, responsible to the National Assembly, was to prevail. The
reality differed somewhat from this ideal, however, during the
strong presidencies of Masaryk and his successor, Benes.
To a large extent, Czechoslovak democracy was held together
by the country's first president, Masaryk. As the principal
founding father of the republic, Masaryk was regarded similar to
the way George Washington is regarded in the United States. Such
universal respect enabled Masaryk to overcome seemingly
irresolvable political problems. Even to this day, Masaryk is
regarded as the symbol of Czechoslovak democracy.
The constitution of 1920 provided for the central government
to have a high degree of control over local government.
Czechoslovakia was divided into zeme (lands), such as
Czechia, Moravia, and Ruthenia. Although in 1927 assemblies were
provided for Czechia, Slovakia, and Ruthenia, their jurisdiction
was limited to adjusting laws and regulations of the central
government to local needs. The central government appointed onethird of the members of these assemblies. Centralization
prevailed on the next two levels (zupa and okres).
Only on the lowest levels, in local communities (mesto and
obec) was government completely in the hands of and
elected by the local population.
The constitution identified the "Czechoslovak nation" as the
creator and principal constituent of the Czechoslovak state and
established Czech and Slovak as official languages. National
minorities, however, were assured special protection; in
districts where they constituted 20 percent of the population,
members of minority groups were granted full freedom to use their
language in everyday life, in schools, and in dealings with
Data as of August 1987