Czechoslovak People's Army

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A man in a field uniform for ČSLA Tank Day at the VTM Lešany Museum.

The Czechoslovak People's Army (Czech: Československá lidová armáda, Slovak: Československá ľudová armáda, ČSLA) was the armed forces of the Czechoslovak State from 1951[citation needed] until 1990. On 14 March 1990 the Army's name was reverted to the Czechoslovak Army removing the adjective "People's" from the name. From 1955 it was a member force of the Warsaw Pact.

The force was split into the Army of the Czech Republic and the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia on 1 January 1993.

Transition to Communist rule[edit]

On 25 May 1945 the Provisional organization of the Czechoslovak armed forces was approved, according to which there was a reorganization of the Czechoslovak army. Soldiers who had fought against Nazism on all fronts of World War II gradually returned. The territory of Czechoslovakia was divided into four military areas in which emerged gradually over 16 infantry divisions, which complemented the Tank Corps and Artillery Division. The Czech I Corps which had served under Soviet control became the 1st Czech Army, before becoming the 1st Military Area.[1] Initial optimism about the plans to rebuild the army was replaced by disillusionment, stemming from a broken post-war economy and the lack of human and material resources. The Czechoslovak Army after the war was commissioned to expel Germans and Hungarians, and was also involved in helping the national economy. In addition, units of the National Security Corps participated in the fighting against the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists.

After 1948, when the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia took power, there were significant changes in the military. More than half of the officers began to experience persecution as well as soldiers, and many were forced to leave. The political processes focused mainly on soldiers who fought in World War II in Western Europe, but paradoxically there was also persecution of soldiers fighting the war on the Eastern Front. The army came fully under the power of the Communist Party and in 1950 there was a major reorganization of the Soviet model, and the military areas were disbanded. In 1951 there was signed between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union the Agreement on the manner and terms of settlement for the supplied equipment and material provided by the USSR loan of almost 44 million rubles for the purchase of military equipment, especially aircraft and radars. There has been an increase in proliferation and increasing the number of members of the army, which since 1953 has reached 300,000 people.


The ČSLA was composed of Ground Forces, Air Forces and Air Defence Forces.

Ground Forces[edit]

The 150,000-strong Ground Forces were the largest component of the Army. They contained infantry, supported by tanks, armoured vehicles, and artillery. Czechoslovak military doctrine demanded large tank columns spearheading infantry assaults. While the armoured columns secured objectives, the infantry would provide close support with mortars, snipers, anti-tank guns and medium artillery. The majority of the soldiers in the Ground Forces were recruited through conscription, compulsory military service of 24 months for all males between 18 and 27.

Infantry units could also draw support from engineers, artillery, chemical troops, railway troops and paratroops. Additional services and equipment provided the combat services the necessary technical and material equipment they required.

Engineer troops were equipped with road and earth moving machinery, recovery tanks and equipment for the transportation of troops across rivers and other terrain. Railway troops were able to provide construction and rehabilitation of the railways, including bridges, communication and security equipment and maintenance of rail vehicles. Railway engineers and the Army usually participated in natural disaster emergencies.

"Of the approximately 201,000 personnel on active duty in the ČSLA in 1987, about 145,000, or about 72 percent, served in the ground forces (commonly referred to as the army). About 100,000 of these were conscripts."[2] There were two military districts, Western and Eastern. A 1989 listing of forces shows two Czechoslovak armies in the west, the 1st at Pribram with one tank division and three motor rifle divisions, the 4th at Pisek with two tank divisions and two motor rifle divisions. In the Eastern Military District, there were two tank divisions, the 13th and 14th, with a supervisory headquarters at Trencin in the east of the country.[3] The 14th Tank Division had been established on 1 September 1966.[4] There was also an airborne infantry regiment (brigade-sized prior to 1968), the 22nd, based at Prostějov.[5]

Main battle tanks[edit]

Tanks Origin Type Versions In service Notes
T-72  Soviet Union  Czechoslovakia Main battle tank M, M1 815
T-55  Soviet Union Main battle tank 502

Armoured fighting vehicles[edit]

APC/AFC Origin Type Versions In service Notes
BVP-2  Czechoslovakia IFV 280
BVP-1  Czechoslovakia IFV 1,006
OT-90  Czechoslovakia APC 620
OT-64  Czechoslovakia APC
OT-62 TOPAS  Czechoslovakia APC Czechoslovak version of BTR-50
BRDM-2  Czechoslovakia Reconnaissance/Patrol Vehicle

Air Force[edit]

The Czechoslovak Air Force was fully equipped with supersonic jet fighters, attack helicopters, air defence systems and electronic tracking equipment. Its command formations were the 7th Air Army (air defence, two AD regions) and the tactical 10th Air Army in Hradec Králové.[6]

Model Origin Type Versions In service Notes
MiG-29  Soviet Union Fighter 20 18 Single-Seat, 2 Training
MiG-23  Soviet Union Fighter BN,MF,ML,U 70
MiG-21  Soviet Union Fighter,Ground-Attack <195
Su-25  Soviet Union Ground-Attack K,UBK 38 36 Single-Seat, 2 Training
Su-22  Soviet Union Attack M,UM 57 49 Single-Seat, 8 Training
Mi-24  Soviet Union Attack Helicopter D,V 62 29 Mi-24D,2 Mi-24UD,31 Mi-24V
Mi-17  Soviet Union Transport
L-39  Czechoslovakia Training C,ZA,V 57+ 24 L-39C,27 L-39ZA,6 L-39V

Air Defence Troops[edit]

The Army's air defence (PVOS, Protivzdušná obrana státu) was formed with anti-aircraft missile units, interceptor fighter aircraft and special services radio-technical units (radar and direction-finding).


The final Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Federal Assembly for clarification of events November 17, 1989 was characterized by Czechoslovak People's Army as follows: "... the Czechoslovak Army was next to the SNB and LM understood as one of the direct power tools designed for control over the society and for immediate management of internal political problems; the Communist Party by means of a vast staff of the Main Political Administration (HPS) of ČSLA penetrated as far as into the lowest units and in this way virtually ensured its absolute influence on the Army."[7]

During the Velvet Revolution, Communist Minister of National Defense Milan Václavík proposed to use the army against demonstrators, but his suggestion was not heeded.[7]

Ranks of the Czechoslovak People's Army[edit]

Enlisted and non-commissioned officers[edit]

  • Vojín - Private, Airman
  • Svobodník - Private First Class, Airman First Class
  • Desátník - Corporal, Senior Airman
  • Četař - Sergeant
  • Rotný - Staff Sergeant
  • Staršina - Platoon Sergeant, Flight sergeant (part of the rank system 1948-1959)
  • Rotmistr - Sergeant First Class, Technical Sergeant
  • Nadrotmistr - Master Sergeant
  • Štábní Rotmistr - First Sergeant

Warrant officers[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^, Vojenska-oblast-1 1945-1950, accessed July 2013.
  2. ^ Library of Congress Country Study: Czechoslovakia, Ground Forces, 1987
  3. ^, Warsaw Pact Order of Battle 1989, accessed 2 June 2010. See also
  4. ^
  5. ^ Zaloga and Loop, p. 53
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Final report of the inquiry commission of the Federal Assembly to clarify the events of 17 November 1989, Part IV. - Czechoslovak People's Army, [cit. 28 October 2009]. Available online.
  • Steven J. Zaloga and James Loop, Soviet Bloc Elite Forces, London: Osprey, 1985

External links[edit]