Childhood & Early Life
Alexander Dubcek was born on 27 November 1921 in Uhrovec, Czechoslovakia. His father, Stefan Dubček, was a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. His family moved to the Soviet Union when he was three and returned to Czechoslovakia after a few years.
He was politically inclined from a young age, and inspired by his father, he too believed in communist ideals. During the World War II he joined the underground resistance against Nazi occupation and fought in the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. He was wounded in the fight while his brother was killed.
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Alexander Dubcek joined the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) during the war. In 1948, the party was transformed into the Slovak branch of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ).
He found much success in his career during the post war period and steadily rose through the ranks in Communist Czechoslovakia. He became a member of the National Assembly in the parliament of Czechoslovakia in 1951.
He joined the Central Committee of the Slovak branch in 1955 and became a full member of the Central Committee’s Presidium in 1962. Meanwhile, he also continued his education and graduated from the Moscow Political College in 1958.
In 1963, he succeeded Karol Balicek, a Stalinist, as First Secretary of the Slovak Communist Party after a power struggle for the leadership of the Slovak branch. Now a new generation of Slovak Communists took control of party with Dubcek as their leader.
His predecessors had been Stalinists who denigrated Slovak nationalists in the 1950s. In an attempt to reverse the damage caused by actions undertaken by them, Dubcek began the process of promoting Slovak identity.
He also promoted political liberalization and under his leadership, the political climate in Slovakia became freer. He also loosened the restrictions on media. During this time the weekly newspaper ‘Kultúrny život’ which published frank discussions of liberalization, federalization and democratization, written by the most progressive writers grew in terms of readership.
The 1960s was a difficult time for Czechoslovakia and its citizens. The economy of the country was on a steady decline and people were becoming increasingly frustrated with the administration of the President of Czechoslovakia Antonín Novotný, who was also the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
Novotny, a hardcore Stalinist, was forced to resign and Alexander Dubcek became the new First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia on 5 January 1968.
The period following Novotny’s downfall and Dubcek’s rise to power came to be known as the Prague Spring. Along with other like-minded reformers, Dubcek sought to create "socialism with a human face".
He attempted to implement many reforms which aimed at democratization, political liberalization, promoting freedom of speech, and decentralization of certain industries among others.
However, these reforms were not well-received by the Soviet Union who felt threatened by the increasingly liberal climate in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet leadership tried to stop the changes in Czechoslovakia through a series of negotiations.
The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded the country in August 1968 and took him and other reformers into Soviet custody. He was sent back within a few days though the Soviet forces were successful in gradually halting the reforms. He was forced to resign as First Secretary in April 1969.
After his political career ended he started working in the Forestry Service in Slovakia.
Personal Life & Legacy
Alexander Dubcek was married to Anna and they had three sons, Paul, Peter and Milan. His wife died in 1990.
He was traveling by car in September 1992 when the vehicle met with an accident on a highway near Humpolec. He sustained serious injuries in the crash and died two months later on 7 November 1992. He was buried in Slávičie údolie cemetery in Bratislava, Slovakia.