|President of Czechoslovakia|
14 June 1948 – 14 March 1953
|Preceded by||Edvard Beneš|
|Succeeded by||Antonín Zápotocký|
|Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia|
2 July 1946 – 15 June 1948
|Preceded by||Zdenek Fierlinger|
|Succeeded by||Antonín Zápotocký|
23 November 1896|
Dědice, Vyškov, Moravia
|Died||14 March 1953
|Political party||Communist Party of Czechoslovakia|
Klement Gottwald (23 November 1896 – 14 March 1953) was a Czechoslovakian Communist politician, longtime leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ or CPCz or CPC), prime minister and president of Czechoslovakia.
A cabinet maker by training, he joined the Social Democratic Party in 1912. He was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, but along with many Czech soldiers defected to the Russians late in the war.
A charter member of the KSČ in 1921, he edited the party's newspaper in Bratislava from 1921 to 1926. From 1925 onward he was a member of the KSČ Central Committee. In 1927, he became secretary-general of the KSČ, and two years later he was elected to the National Assembly. He became a secretary of the Comintern in 1935, a post he held until its dissolution in 1943.
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. As part of the deal, Gottwald became deputy premier under Zdeněk Fierlinger.
In 1946, Gottwald gave up the secretary-general's post to Rudolf Slánský and was elected to the new position of party chairman. That March, he led the party to an astonishing 38% of the votes. This was easily the KSČ's best performance in an election. As it turned out, it would be the best showing by a European Communist party in a free election.
By the summer of 1947, however, the KSČ's popularity had significantly dwindled, and most observers believed Gottwald would be turned out of office at the elections due for May 1948. When Joseph Stalin got wind of the Communists' dwindling popularity, he directed Gottwald to drop all pretense of democracy. The endgame began in February 1948, when a majority of the Cabinet directed the Communist interior minister, Václav Nosek, to stop packing the police force with Communists. Nosek ignored this directive, with Gottwald's support. In response, 12 non-Communist ministers resigned. They believed that without their support, Gottwald would be unable to govern and be forced to either give way or resign himself. Beneš initially supported their position, and refused to accept their resignations.
Gottwald not only refused to resign, but demanded the appointment of a Communist-dominated government under threat of a general strike. His Communist colleagues occupied the offices of the non-Communist ministers. On 25 February, Beneš, fearing Soviet intervention, gave in. He accepted the resignations of the non-Communist ministers and appointed a new Communist-dominated government in accordance with Gottwald's specifications. From this date forward, Gottwald was de facto the most powerful man in Czechoslovakia.
On 9 May, the National Assembly approved the so-called Ninth-of-May Constitution. While it was not a completely Communist document, its Communist imprint was strong enough that Beneš refused to sign it. He resigned on 2 June. In accordance with the 1920 Constitution, Gottwald took over most presidential functions until 14 June, when he was formally elected president.
A Stalinist, Gottwald nationalized the country's industry and collectivised its farms. There was considerable resistance within the government to Soviet influence on Czechoslovak politics. In response, 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". Slánský and Clementis were executed in December 1952, and hundreds of other government officials were sent to prison. Husák was rehabilitated in 1960s and became the leader of Czechoslovakia in 1969.
In the famous photograph from 21 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 department.
Gottwald died on 14 March 1953, just five days after attending Stalin's funeral in Moscow on 9 March. His death, due to a burst artery brought about by prolonged heart disease, was heavily affected by other factors: syphilis and alcoholism.
His body was initially displayed in a mausoleum at the site of the Jan Žižka monument in the district of Žižkov, Prague. In 1962 the personality cult ended and it was no longer possible to show Gottwald's body. So that year his body was cremated, the ashes returned to the Žižka Monument and placed in a sarcophagus. After the end of the communist period, Gottwald's ashes were removed from the Žižka Monument and placed in a common grave at Prague's Olšany Cemetery, together with the ashes of about 20 other communist leaders which had also originally been placed in the Žižka Monument. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is now maintaining that common grave. There are accounts that in 1962 Gottwald's body had blackened and was decomposing due to a botched embalming, although other witnesses have disputed this.
He was succeeded by Antonín Zápotocký, the Premier of Czechoslovakia from 1948–1953.
In tribute, Zlín, a city in Moravia, now the Czech Republic, was renamed Gottwaldov after him from 1949-1990. Zmiiv, a city in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, was named Gotvald after him during the years 1976 to 1990.
Námestie Slobody (Freedom square) in Bratislava, Slovakia had formerly been named Gottwaldovo námestie after him. A bridge that is now called Nuselský Most in Prague was once called Gottwaldův Most and the abbuting metro station now called Vyšehrad was called Gottwaldova.
A Czechoslovakian 100 Koruna banknote issued (1 October 1989) within the last banknote series (1985 – 1989) included a portrait of Klement Gottwald. This note was so poorly received by Czechoslovakians, that it was removed from official circulation on 31 December 1990 and promptly replaced with the previous banknote issue of the same denomination. All Czechoslovakian banknotes were removed from circulation in 1993 and replaced by separate Czech and Slovakian notes.
- H. Gordon Skilling, "Gottwald and the Bolshevization of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (1929-1939)," Slavic Review, vol. 20, no. 4 (Dec. 1961), pp. 641–655. In JSTOR.
- Jean-Baptiste Duroselle: Histoire Diplomatique de 1919 à nos jours, pt.3, ch.2, par.5, pag 256. Dalloz 1993, Paris.
- Photograph of Gottwald and Clementis from 21 February 1948, Prague, Czechoslovakia, Czech News Agency, ctk.cz.
- Retouched photograph of Gottwald and Clementis from 21 February 1948, Prague, Czechoslovakia, Czech News Agency, ctk.cz.
- Radio Prague: Exhibition at Vitkov Memorial highlights the Klement Gottwald personality cult, 08-03-2012, accessed 19-09-2012
- 10 Worst Czechs, in Czech
|Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
1946 – 1948
|President of Czechoslovakia
1948 – 1953
|Party political offices|
|General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
1927 – 1945
|Chairman of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
1945 – 1953
as First Secretary