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Klement Gottwald

Klement Gottwald (November 23, 1896 - March 14, 1953) was a Czechoslovakian Communist politician, longtime leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC or CPCz or CPC) and president of Czechoslovakia.

First cabinet maker, then 1921 one of the founders of the KSC, 1921-1926 newspaper editor and KSC functionary in Slovakia, since 1925 member of the KSC Central Committee, 1926-1929 the leader of the Central Political and Propaganda Committee of the KSC Central Committee, 1929-1948 member of the parliament, 1929-1945 Secretary-General of the KSC, 1935-1943 a secretary of the Comintern, 1939-1945 one of the leaders of Communist resistance (in Moscow), 1945-1953 chairman of the KSC, 1945-1946 vicepremier, 1946-1948 Premier Minister of the Czechoslovak government, 1948-1953 President of Czechoslovakia.

In March 1945 Edvard Benes who had been elected President of Czechoslovakia 1935-38 and head of a Czechoslovakia provisional government in London since 1941, agreed to form a National Front government with Gottwald. Elected to the first Czech post-war government following the 1946 election Gottwald became Premier of Czechoslovakia.

On May 9, 1948, after an effective coup d'etat, parliament (the National Assembly) had passed a new constitution (the Ninth-of-May Constitution) guaranteeing a "leading role" for the Communist Party in political life. President Benes refused to sign the new legislation and he resigned on June 7, 1948 (he died three months later). On June 14, the National Assembly elected Klement Gottwald as the new President of Czechoslovakia.

A slavish Stalinist he nationalized the country's industry and collectivised the farms. There was considerable resistance within the government to the Russian influence on Czechoslovak politics and Gottwald instituated a series of purges to remove non-Communists from the government. Both Vladimir Clementis (the Foreign Minister), and Gustav Husak, the leader of an administrative body responsible for Slovakia, were early targets, dismissed from office for "bourgeois nationalism". Clementis was executed in December 1952 and hundreds of other government officials were sent to concentration camps. Husak was rehabilitated later and became Czechoslovak president.

Gottwald died in 1953, just nine days after attending Stalin's funeral. He was succeeded by Antonin Zapotocky, the Premier of Czechoslovakia from 1948 - 1953.

See also: History of Czechoslovakia