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In the history of (see) Czechoslovakia, normalization is the (informal) name of the period 1969 – approx.1987. Initially it was characterized by the restoration of the conditions prevailing before the reform period led by Alexander Dubcek (1963/1967 – 1968) and during the subsequent years by the preservation of this new status quo. In a narrower sense, normalization is used only for the period 1969 – 1971.

Table of contents
1 1969 – 1971 (Removing the reforms and reformers)
2 1971 – 1987 (Preserving the status quo)
3 Persons
4 Objectives
5 Reactions

1969 – 1971 (Removing the reforms and reformers)

When Gustav Husak became the leader of the KSC instead of Alexander Dubcek in April 1969 after the military intervention of Warsaw Pact armies, his regime acted quickly to "normalize" the country's political situation. The chief objectives of Husak's normalization were the restoration of firm party rule and the reestablishment of Czechoslovakia's status as a committed member of the socialist bloc. The normalization process involved five interrelated steps:

Within a week of assuming power, Husak began to consolidate his leadership by ordering extensive purges of reformists still occupying key positions in the mass media, judiciary, social and mass organizations, lower party organs, and, finally, the highest levels of the KSC. In the fall of 1969, twenty-nine liberals on the Central Committee of the KSC were replaced by conservatives. Among the liberals ousted was Dubcek, who was dropped from the Presidium (the following year Dubcek was expelled from the party; he subsequently became a minor functionary in Slovakia, where he still lived in 1987). Husak also consolidated his leadership by appointing potential rivals to the new government positions created as a result of the 1968 Constitutional Law of Federation (which created the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic).

Once it had consolidated power, the Husak regime moved quickly to implement other normalization policies. In the two years following the invasion, the new leadership revoked some reformist laws (such as the National Front Act and the Press Act) and simply did not enforce others. It returned economic enterprises, which had been given substantial independence during the Prague Spring, to centralized control through contracts based on central planning and production quotas. It reinstated extreme police control, a step that was reflected in the harsh treatment of demonstrators marking the first-year anniversary of the August intervention.

Finally, Husak stabilized Czechoslovakia's relations with its allies by arranging frequent intrabloc exchanges and visits and redirecting Czechoslovakia's foreign economic ties toward greater involvement with socialist nations.

By May 1971, party chief Husak could report to the delegates attending the officially sanctioned Fourteenth Party Congress that the process of normalization had been completed satisfactorily and that Czechoslovakia was ready to proceed toward higher forms of socialism.

1971 – 1987 (Preserving the status quo)

The method by which KSC under Husak ruled was commonly summed up as "reluctant terror." It involved careful adherence to the Soviet Union's policy objectives and the use of what was perceived as the minimum amount of repression at home necessary to fulfill these objectives and prevent a return to Dubcek-style reformism. As one result, the membership of the KSC leadership has changed very little since 1971. The Sixteenth Party Congress in 1981 reelected the incumbent members of the Presidium and Secretariat and elevated one candidate member, Jakes, to full membership in the Presidium. The Seventeenth Party Congress in 1986 retained the incumbent Secretariat and Presidium and added three new candidate members to the Presidium. In March 1987, Josef Korcak retired from the Presidium and was replaced by Ladislav Adamec. At the same time, Hoffman, a Presidium member, was also appointed a Central Committee secretary. In December 1987, Husak was replaced by Milos Jakes as the new general secretary of the KSC.

Popular control during this era of orthodoxy was maintained through various means. Repeated arrests and imprisonment of persons opposing the regime, such as members of Charter 77 and religious activists, continued throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s . Less coercive controls, such as punishment through job loss, demotion, denial of employment, denial of educational opportunities, housing restrictions, and refusal to grant travel requests, also prevailed.

Another means by which the Husak regime maintained control was to offer considerable consumer gains as a substitute for the loss of personal freedom. Government policies in the first half of the 1970s resulted in high economic growth and large increases in personal consumption. The widespread availability of material goods placated the general populace and promoted overall acceptance of Husak's stringent political controls. During the late 1970s, however, Czechoslovakia's economy began to stagnate, and the regime's ability to appease the population by providing material benefits diminished.

Although the Husak regime succeeded in preserving the status quo in Czechoslovakia for nearly two decades, it faced in the 1980s both internal and external pressures to reform. Domestically, poor economic performance hindered the government's ability to produce the goods needed to satisfy consumer demands. Pressure for political change continued from activists representing, for example, the Roman Catholic Church and the Charter 77 movement. Externally, Czechoslovakia struggled to find a suitable response to the changes introduced by the new leadership in Moscowunder Mikhail Gorbachev. Czechoslovakia's initial (1985-1987) response to the reformist trends in the Soviet Union focused on voicing public support for Gorbachev's new programs while steadfastly avoiding introducing similar programs within Czechoslovakia.


A remarkable feature of the KSC leadership under Husak has been the absence of significant changes in personnel. The stability of the leadership during the late 1970s and the first half of the 1980s could be attributed not to unanimity in political opinion but rather to practical compromise among different factions vying to retain their leadership positions. Husak's leadership, then, was based not on any ability he may have had to rally opinion but rather on his skill in securing consensuses that were in the mutual interest of a coalition of party leaders. After the 1968 invasion, Husak successfully ruled over what was essentially a coalition of the conservative and hard-line factions within the top party leadership. (see KSC-History for details)


The official objectives of normalization (in the narrower sense) were the restoration of firm KSC rule and the reestablishment of Czechoslovakia's position in the socialist bloc. Its result, however, was a political environment that placed primary emphasis on the maintenance of a stable party leadership and its strict control over the population


Reaction to Normalization The absence of popular support for the Husak leadership was an inevitable reaction to the repressive policies instituted during the normalization process. Early post-invasion efforts to keep alive the spirit of the Prague Spring were quashed through a series of subversion trials in 1972 that led to jail sentences ranging from nine months to six and one-half years for the opposition leaders. Czechoslovak citizens over the age of fifteen were required to carry a small red identification book, containing an array of information about the individual and a number of pages to be stamped by employers, health officials, and other authorities. All citizens also had permanent files at the office of their local KSC neighborhood committee, another at their place of employment, and another at the Ministry of Interior.

The most common attitudes toward political activity since the 1968 Warsae Pact invasion have been apathy, passivity, and escapism. For the most part, citizens of Czechoslovakia retreated from public political concern during the 1970s into the pursuit of the private pleasures of consumerism. Individuals sought the material goods that remained available during the 1970s, such as new automobiles, houses in the country, household appliances, and access to sporting events and entertainment. As long as these consumer demands were met, the populace for the most part tolerated the stagnant political climate.

Another symptom of the political malaise during the 1970s was the appearance of various forms of antisocial behavior. Petty theft and wanton destruction of public property reportedly were widespread. Alcoholism, already at levels that alarmed officials, increased; absenteeism and declining worker discipline affected productivity; and emigration, the ultimate expression of alienation, surpassed 100,000 during the 1970s

See also: History of Czechoslovakia