Antonín Novotný
Antonín Novotný was General Secretary
General Secretary
The office of general secretary is staffed by the chief officer of:*The General Secretariat for Macedonia and Thrace, a government agency for the Greek regions of Macedonia and Thrace...

 of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, in Czech and in Slovak: Komunistická strana Československa was a Communist and Marxist-Leninist political party in Czechoslovakia that existed between 1921 and 1992....

 from 1953 to 1968, and also held the post of President of Czechoslovakia from 1957 to 1968. He was born in Letňany, now part of Prague.

Antonín Novotný became a member of the Communist party in 1921. He later worked as a delegate to the 7th congress of Comintern (1935). Due to his involvement in the party's underground struggle, he was arrested in 1941 and imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp
Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp
Mauthausen Concentration Camp grew to become a large group of Nazi concentration camps that was built around the villages of Mauthausen and Gusen in Upper Austria, roughly east of the city of Linz.Initially a single camp at Mauthausen, it expanded over time and by the summer of 1940, the...

 where he served as Kapo
Kapo (concentration camp)
A kapo was a prisoner who worked inside German Nazi concentration camps during World War II in any of certain lower administrative positions. The official Nazi word was Funktionshäftling, or "prisoner functionary", but the Nazis commonly referred to them as kapos.- Etymology :The origin of "kapo"...

. He was liberated by American troops on 5 May 1945.

After the war, Novotný became an important member of the communist party and was appointed as First Secretary in 1951, but a short time later resigned. However, when Rudolf Slánský
Rudolf Slánský
Rudolf Slánský was a Czech Communist politician. Holding the post of the party's General Secretary after World War II, he was one of the leading creators and organizers of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia...

 was ousted from the post in 1953, Novotný succeeded him and thus became the de facto leader of Czechoslovakia when Klement Gottwald
Klement Gottwald
Klement Gottwald was a Czechoslovakian Communist politician, longtime leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia , prime minister and president of Czechoslovakia.-Early life:...

 died later that year. He was reelected in 1958 and 1964.

While President Antonín Zápotocký
Antonín Zápotocký
Antonín Zápotocký was communist Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1953 and President of Czechoslovakia from 1953 to 1957....

 and Prime Minister Viliam Široký
Viliam Široký
Viliam Široký was a prominent Communist politician of Czechoslovakia, the Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963, and briefly serving as the acting President of Czechoslovakia following the death of Antonín Zápotocký from 13 November to 19 November 1957. He also served as the leader of the Communist...

 wanted a less repressive way of governing, Novotný was able to outflank them because he had the backing of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. In late 1953, at a meeting in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, Zápotocký and Široký were told to adhere to the principles of "collective leadership"--in other words, abandon power to Novotný. After Zápotocký's death in 1957, Novotný succeeded him as president.

In the Czechoslovakia of Novotný, people continued to face strict government regulations in the arts and media, although they had loosened dramatically since Stalin's death in 1953 and the subsequent De-Stalinisation programmes of 1956. His quasi-authoritarian practices led to mounting calls for a new form of socialism over the unsatisfactory pace of change that would include the accountability, proper elections, and responsibility of leaders to society. Novotný's administration, however, still remained centralised for 10 years. While he was forced to adopt some reforms in the 1960s, these efforts were half-hearted at best.

But growing public unpopularity caused Novotný to lose his grip on power. He was forced to resign as party leader in January 1968 and was replaced by a reformer, Alexander Dubček
Alexander Dubcek
Alexander Dubček , also known as Dikita, was a Slovak politician and briefly leader of Czechoslovakia , famous for his attempt to reform the communist regime during the Prague Spring...

. In March 1968, he was ousted as president and in May he resigned from the Central Committee of KSC.

In 1971, during the period of normalization
Normalization (Czechoslovakia)
In the history of Czechoslovakia, normalization is a name commonly given to the period 1969 to about 1987. It was characterized by initial restoration of the conditions prevailing before the reform period led by Alexander Dubček , first of all, the firm rule of the Communist Party of...

, he was reelected to the Central Committee. However, his political influence was minimal and he was too ill to be a strong force in the more moderate Gustáv Husák
Gustáv Husák
Gustáv Husák was a Slovak politician, president of Czechoslovakia and a long-term Communist leader of Czechoslovakia and of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia...


He died on 28 January 1975 in Prague.



  • George Shaw Wheeler, The Human Face of Socialism: The Political Economy of Change in Czechoslovakia. Lawrence Hill and Company, Publishers, Inc.: U.S.A, May 1973.
  • Milan Čechvala: Dejinné zadosťučinenie. In Slovenské národné noviny 7/2006 (4 April 2006).

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