Once under the totalitarian regime of Soviet Communism, the Czech Republic, like its many neighbors, still harbors the legacy of pain and oppression that has not only stunted growth on several occasions, but has also brought about a backwards mentality that has been growing increasingly prominent in recent years. To fully understand the current political situation in the Czech Republic, it is imperative to have a basic understanding of its historical context. While it is impossible to provide a detailed analysis within the frameworks of a simple blogpost, I will proceed to provide a few historical facts that will allow a clearer perspective on its current situation.
In 1948, the Communist party was elected into the prime minister position and led what became known as the “Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948”. This action alarmed the countries of the West and exacerbated their movements towards westernization and democratization. Two decades later, the Czechoslovak government attempted to fix their slowly deteriorating system through a period of liberalization, also known as “Prague Spring”, by implementing a new system under communism that would diverge from the one support by the Soviets, allowing a certain degree of individual control and democratization.
In an act to suppress such counterrevolution, the Soviets dominated the nation with military might. Under soviet rule, the government became increasingly corrupt and oppression became even more prominent. Dissidents and opposition forces were hunted and executed, leaving many in fear and learned defeat. This regime lasted until 1989 when the “Velvet Revolution”, a non-violent demonstration that ultimately led to the resignation of the entire top leadership of the Communist Party, had taken place. From that point on, the Czech Republic has enjoyed the peace and tranquility of its democratic system.
However, there has been a shift in attitude as of recent. Due to what can be understood as nostalgia and selective memory on top of the increasingly nationalistic sentiment present in the Czech Republic, communism has been picking up positive momentum in the political arena. In his piece “Return of the Czech Communists”, James Kirchick provides statistics and proof of the current democracy’s precipitating popularity. Amidst corruption scandals and a mismanaged budget, a poll provided has shown an approximated 26% satisfaction rate with the current democracy. Joakim Ekman and Jonas Linde in “Communist Nostalgia and the Consolidation of Democracy In Central and Eastern Europe” has provided an explanation for the growing affection towards communism, referring to selective memory and modern consumerism.
Following the fall of communism, many had lost jobs and security that were provided by the state. Health care, aspects of education, social security, and jobs were previously guaranteed and a right of society rather than a privilege. With the introduction of capitalism, individuals were expected to work for their own wages in unfamiliar ways and often found themselves perpetually trapped within a system of unemployment. As such, those that were unemployed often recalled the times of communism as a time of security and relative happiness. Their dependence on the state only grew and were not able to innovate on their own. In a desire for the old security once provided, many have sought the return of the communist ways, despite the totalitarian method of rule that they were once under.