Gustáv Husák

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Gustáv Husák
Gustáv Husák.jpg
Full Name: Gustáv Husák
Origin: Pozsonyhidegkút, Pozsony County, Austria-Hungary
Occupation: First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (1969 - 1987)
President of Czechoslovakia (1975 - 1989)
Goals: Overturn Alexander Dubček's reforms (successful)
Become President of Czechoslovakia (successful)
Retain communist rule over Czechoslovakia (successful until 1989)
Crimes: Mass repression
Human rights violations
War crimes
Unlawful imprisonment
Type of Villain: Communist Tyrant

The protection of the socialist system is the concern of each socialist state but also the joint concern of the states of the socialist community, which are determined to defend their interests and the socialist achievements of all their people.
~ Gustáv Husák

Gustáv Husák (10 January 1913 – 18 November 1991) was a Slovak communist politician, who served as the long-time First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia from 1969 to 1987 and the president of Czechoslovakia from 1975 to 1989. His rule is known as the period of the "Normalization" after the Prague Spring.


Gustáv Husák was born as a son of an unemployed worker in Pozsonyhidegkút, Pozsony County, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary (now part of Bratislava, Slovakia as Dúbravka). He joined the Communist Youth Union at the age of sixteen while studying at the grammar school in Bratislava. In 1933, when he started his studies at the Law Faculty of the Comenius University in Bratislava, he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) which was banned from 1938 to 1945.

During World War II he was periodically jailed by the Jozef Tiso government for illegal Communist activities, and he was one of the leaders of the 1944 Slovak National Uprising against the Nazi Party and Tiso. Husák was a member of the Presidium of the Slovak National Council from 1 September to 5 September 1944.

After the war, he began a career as a government official in Slovakia and party functionary in Czechoslovakia. From 1946 to 1950, he was the head of the devolved administration of Slovakia, and as such he strongly contributed to the liquidation of the anti-communist Christian democratic Democratic Party of Slovakia. That party had taken 62% in the 1946 elections in Slovakia (whereas in the Czech part of the republic, the clear winner were the Communists), thus complicating the Communist ambitions for a swift taking of power.

Husák's loyalty to the central organs of the Czechoslovak Communist party as well as his considerable talent for body politics and a ruthless approach to political opponents contributed largely to the crushing of the Democratic dissent in Slovakia and subjugating the popular opinion in the country to the prevailing political currents.

In 1950, he fell victim to a Stalinist purge of the party leadership, and was sentenced to life imprisonment, spending the years from 1954 to 1960 in the Leopoldov Prison. A convinced Communist, he always viewed his imprisonment as a gross misunderstanding, which he periodically stressed in several letters of appeal addressed to the party leadership. It is generally acknowledged that the then party leader and president Antonín Novotný repeatedly declined to pardon Husák, assuring his comrades that "you do not know what he is capable of if he comes to power".

As part of Nikita Khrushchev's De-Stalinization process, Husák's conviction was overturned and his party membership restored in 1963. By 1967 he had become a critic of Novotný and the KSČ's neo-Stalinist leadership. In April 1968, during the Prague Spring under new party leader and fellow Slovak Alexander Dubček, Husák became a vice-premier of Czechoslovakia, responsible for overseeing reforms in Slovakia.

As the Soviet Union grew increasingly alarmed by Dubček's liberal reforms in 1968 (Prague Spring), Husák, originally Dubček's ally and a moderate supporter of the reform programme, began calling for caution. After the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August, Husák participated in the Czechoslovak-Soviet negotiations between the kidnapped Dubček and Leonid Brezhnev in Moscow. Husák changed course and became a leader among those party members calling for the reversal of Dubček's reforms. An account for his pragmatism was given in one of his official speeches in Slovakia after the 1968 events, during which he ventured a rhetorical question, asking where the opponents of the Soviet Union wished to find allies of Czechoslovakia that might come to support the country against Soviet troops.

Supported by Moscow, he was appointed leader of the Communist Party of Slovakia in as early as August 1968, and he succeeded Dubček as first secretary (title changed to general secretary in 1971) of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in April 1969. He reversed Dubček's reforms and purged the party of its liberal members in 1969–1971. In 1975, Husák was elected President of Czechoslovakia. During the two decades of Husák's leadership, Czechoslovakia became one of Moscow's most loyal allies.

In the first years following the invasion, Husák managed to appease the outraged civil population by providing a relatively satisfactory living standard and avoiding any overt reprisals like was the case in the 1950s.

His regime was not a complete return to the heavy-handed Stalinism that prevailed during the first 20 years of Communist rule in the country. At the same time, the people's rights were somewhat more restricted than was the case in János Kádár's Hungary and Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia. Indeed, on the cultural level the level of repression approached that seen in Erich Honecker's East Germany and even Nicolae Ceauşescu's Romania. There was a campaign of repression by the secret police (StB) targeting dissidents represented later by Charter 77 as well as hundreds of unknown individuals who happened to be targets of the StB's pre-emptive strikes. The repression intensified over the years as Husák grew more conservative.

Starting in the early 1970s, Husák allowed those who had been purged in the aftermath of Prague Spring to rejoin the party. However, they were required to publicly distance themselves from their past actions.

The latter part of Husák's tenure saw a struggle within the Politburo over whether to adopt Gorbachev-style reforms. While the hardliners, led by Vasiľ Biľak, opposed any restructuring, moderates led by Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal strongly favoured reform. Husák himself stayed neutral until April 1987, when he announced a somewhat half-hearted reform program scheduled to start in 1991.

Later that year, however, Husák yielded his post as general secretary to Miloš Jakeš in response to a desire for younger leaders (Jakeš and Ladislav Adamec) to share in power.

On November 24, 1989, the entire Presidum of the Communist Party, including Husák, resigned in the wake of the Velvet Revolution. The party officially abandoned power four days later. On 10 December, Husák swore in a new government. Although it was headed by a Communist, Marián Čalfa, it had a non-Communist majority–the first in 41 years that was not dominated by Communists and/or fellow travelers. He resigned later that day, just hours after presiding over the formal end of the regime he had largely created. In a desperate attempt to rehabilitate its image ahead of the first free elections in 44 years, the Communist Party expelled him in February 1990. He died, almost forgotten, on 18 November 1991, at the age of 78.