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LN: Czechs face no Jaruzelski dilemma, enjoy position of victim

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Prague, Dec 14 (CTK) – Czechs do not face dilemmas similar to Poland’s internal dispute over the Wojciech Jaruzelski coup 35 years ago, and unlike Poles, they cherish their feeling of a victim permanently hurt from the outside, Zbynek Petracek writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) on Wednesday.

The Poles are disputing on how to assess former prime minister and defence minister general Jaruzelski’s imposition of the martial law in Poland on December 13, 1981. Was it a crime against Polish society, because it firmed up the communist totalitarianism and resulted in the death of dozens of protesters, the arrest and persecution of thousands and a wave of emigration? Or was it a decision of [the Kremlin’s] servant that prevented something far worse – a Russian military invasion? Petracek writes.

Czechs have been spared of such dilemmas, but they can hardly consider this their triumph, he continues.

Former Czechoslovakia’s military never made any political intervention. In January 1933, General Radola Gajda’s unsuccessful fascist coup was rather reminiscent of an operetta, Petracek writes.

In December 1967, deputy defence minister Vladimir Janko considered initiating a military coup to prevent Alexander Dubcek’s reform wing from taking up leading posts in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC), Petracek writes.

After the start of the November 17, 1989 Velvet Revolution, soldiers’ help was offered [to the declining communist regime] by Colonel Zdenek Zbytek, commander of a division based in Slany, west of Prague, Petracek writes.

Could any of the three be “a Czech Jaruzelski”? he asks.

Gajda could not, evidently. Nor could Zbytek, whose offer of help was a mere ritual step after the Berlin Wall’s fall, Petracek writes.

However, General Janko aspired for the role. How would we assess Janko now if he had succeeded with a coup that would keep [the conservative communist wing of] Antonin Novotny in power and thereby prevent the August 21, 1968 Soviet invasion and the subsequent normalisation, i.e. the arrival of a hardline communist regime, and if we knew how repugnant the normalisation era was compared with the Novotny era, though no normalisation would have taken place thanks to Janko’s timely coup? Petracek asks.

Would Czechs assess Janko as a criminal or an officer who prevented a Soviet military invasion of Czechoslovakia? Petracek writes.

General Janko shot himself dead then, and it is hard to estimate the result of his coup, if really triggered, Petracek writes.

By killing himself, Janko spared Czechs of the dilemma that Poles have been facing for 35 years. Instead, Czechs enjoy their role of a permanent victim, or someone on whom wrongs have always been inflicted from outside. They feel wronged by events such as the September 1938 Munich Agreement, which Germany, Italy, Britain and France struck on Czechoslovakia, and also the August 1968 Soviet occupation, without discussing how the Dubcek leadership could have prevented it, Petracek writes.

This approach belongs to the modern Czech tradition, he adds in conclusion.

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