05 February, 2009

Klement Gottwald

Klement Gottwald was a Czechoslovakian Communist politician, longtime leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, prime minister and president of Czechoslovakia.

His first career was as a cabinet maker. Subsequently, he was (1921) one of the founders of the KSČ, 1921-1926 newspaper editor and KSČ functionary in Slovakia, since 1925 member of the KSČ Central Committee, 1926 - 1929 the leader of the Central Political and Propaganda Committee of the KSČ Central Committee, 1929 - 1948 member of the parliament, 1929 - 1945 Secretary-General of the KSČ, 1935 - 1943 a secretary of the Comintern, 1939 - 1945 one of the leaders of Communist resistance (in Moscow), 1945 - 1953 chairman of the KSČ, 1945 - 1946 Vice Premier, 1946 - 1948 Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak government, 1948 - 1953 President of Czechoslovakia.

In March 1945, Edvard Beneš, who had been elected President of Czechoslovakia 1935-38 and who had been head of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile 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.

In May 1946 Klement Gottwald, leader of the communist party, managed to win the elections with an astonishing success: 38% of the votes. This has been the widest electoral success of the communist party ever recorded in a free election.

On 9 May, 1948, after the February coup d'état, parliament (the National Assembly) passed a new constitution (the Ninth-of-May Constitution). President Beneš refused to sign the new legislation and he resigned on 7 June, 1948 (he died three months later). On June 14, the National Assembly elected Klement Gottwald as the new President of Czechoslovakia.

Klement Gottwald on a 100 Kčs banknote released right before the Velvet Revolution in 1989A Stalinist, he nationalized the country's industry and collectivised its farms. There was considerable resistance within the government to Russian influence on Czechoslovak politics and Gottwald instigated a series of purges, first to remove non-communists, later to remove some communists as well. Prominent Communists who became victims of these purges and were defendants in the Prague Trials included Rudolf Slánský, the party's general secretary, Vlado Clementis (the Foreign Minister) and Gustáv Husák (the leader of an administrative body responsible for Slovakia), who was dismissed from office for "bourgeois nationalism". Clementis was executed in December 1952 and hundreds of other government officials were sent to prison. Husák was rehabilitated in 1960s and became Czechoslovak president in 1975.

In the famous photograph from 21st of February 1948, described also in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, Vladimír Clementis stands next to Klement Gottwald. When Vladimír Clementis was charged in 1950, he was erased from the photograph (along with the photographer Karel Hájek) by the state propaganda.

Gottwald died in 1953, just five days after attending Stalin's funeral in Moscow on 9th of March, due to a burst artery brought about by prolonged heart disease, heavily affected by syphilis and strong alcoholism. In 1953, a mausoleum was initially erected for Gottwald at the site of Jan Žižka monument in the district of Žižkov, Prague. However in 1962 the body was removed and cremated at the behest of his family. He was succeeded by Antonín Zápotocký, the Premier of Czechoslovakia from 1948 - 1953.

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