Čepička was born into a poor family. He studied law in Prague. At the age of 19 he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia but was not very politically active. Later, he worked in advocacy. In 1942 he was imprisoned by Gestapo and was held in Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps until the end of World War II.
After his return to Kroměříž Čepička got involved in local administration, dealing brutally, quickly, and effectively with post war chaos. He married the daughter of Klement Gottwald, the leader of the Communist Party, who later became prime minister and President of Czechoslovakia.
As a candidate of the Communist Party, Čepička was voted into parliament in the 1946 elections. In 1947, he was named into the position of minister of interior trade (ministr vnitřního obchodu).
After the Communist takeover of power in 1948, he became Minister of Justice. In this position he let the law system be dominated by the will of the Communist Party; a law prosecuting political opponents was approved and put into full force. In 1950, he was named head of the state commission dealing with churches (Státní úřad pro věci církevní). His task in this position was to suppress any sign of resistance from religious organisations, especially from the Catholic Church.
Minister of Defence
During 1950-56, Čepička served as Minister of Defence. According to historian Karel Kaplan, Čepička was ordered by Joseph Stalin personally to prepare the Czechoslovak Army for incursion into Western Europe area . The preparations included militarisation of the society, purges of those suspected of low loyalty to the new regime, salary rises of army officers, and growth in numbers of army personnel.
After the death of Stalin and Gottwald in 1953 the prospect of immediate war lessened and Čepička's position became precarious. Leaders of the Communist Party were afraid of his political ambitions and rumours of his being homosexual did not help his popularity.
Čepička was selected as a scapegoat for the cult of personality around Gottwald, dismissed from all functions in 1956 and put into low importance position as head of state patent office (1956-59). In 1959 he suffered a heart attack and was sent into comfortable retirement.
Continuing liberalisation of political life made him a symbol of the past wrongs and in 1963 Čepička was expelled from the Communist Party for his role in the "deformations of the 50's".
Čepička spent the rest of his life in retirement, never entered politics again, and died forgotten.
Alexej Čepička is one of the characters in a satirical book written by Miroslav Švandrlík in 1969, published in 1990, after the fall of the Communist Party from power. The book and its sequels became popular and were followed by a film and TV series. Čepička is shown as a comical character, hopelessly trying to turn stupid army officers and bored conscripts into feared warriors, and this image of him as a clown undeservedly became a stereotype of Čepička among most Czechs.
- Karel Kaplan, Dans les Archives du comité central: Trente ans de secrets du bloc soviétique, Paris: Michel, 1978, pp. 165-66; ISBN 2-226-00711-3
- Jiří Pernes, Jaroslav Pospíšil, Antonín Lukáš: Alexej Čepička - Šedá eminence rudého režimu (Alexej Čepička - the Grey Eminence of the Red regime), Prague, 2008, ISBN 978-80-7243-322-3.
|Minister of Defence of Czechoslovakia