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Czechoslovakia: Intelligentsia
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Social Groups > Intelligentsia


By convention, Marxist theorists subdivide the intelligentsia into the creative (writers, artists, and journalists), the professional (lawyers, educators, physicians, civil servants, and party bureaucrats), and the technical (engineers). Insofar as one might speak of the intelligentsia as an elite, they are the group that has undergone the most drastic change since 1945. Capitalist entrepreneurs and the clergy were obvious and early victims of shifts in the political spectrum. Although their individual fates varied, party membership was a prerequisite for civil servants, the police, military officers, and educators who wished to continue in their chosen fields.

The typical professional career under party rule has turned out to be anything but secure. The year 1948 saw a turnover in civil service personnel (especially the police) and a substantial influx of workers into political and managerial positions. The 1950s purges struck hardest at the party faithful, i.e., the most direct beneficiaries of the 1948 takeover. The upheaval of nationalization and collectivization efforts that went further than anywhere else in Eastern Europe, coupled with two currency reforms, signaled a flux in economic fortunes during the first decade of communist rule. A Czech, for example, who was a chief executive in industry in 1948, worked as a carpenter for several years thereafter, served a number of years in prison, and then retrained for a career in law was not exceptional.

Change continued to be a defining characteristic of many professional occupations through the 1970s: in 1968 about 60 percent of all army officers under thirty years of age had resigned; by 1971 half of all school supervisors had been replaced; and by 1972 approximately 40 percent of all journalists had been purged. The magnitudes involved were simply staggering, the more so because the victims of the 1970s purges were overwhelmingly Czech. During normalization, over 25,000 government and trade union officials were replaced. All told, perhaps 150,000 professionals were unable to work in their fields by the end of the decade. The purges included technical and managerial personnel, as well as writers, artists, and KSC members active in the reform movement. Estimates at the high end suggested that, from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, some 400,000 members of the intelligentsia joined the ranks of manual laborers.

In the mid-1980s, the technical intelligentsia -- directors and deputy directors of socialist enterprises, chairmen of agricultural cooperatives, and managers of retail shops, hotels, restaurants, services, and housing -- occupied an ambiguous position in the decision-making hierarchy. On the one hand, their jobs often demanded considerable technical expertise; on the other hand, decision making in all sectors had a political component under communist rule. The technical intelligentsia had to reconcile the requirements of technical efficiency with those of political orthodoxy. From the KSC's perspective, the problem was to ensure a politically reliable corps of technical experts. Throughout the 1970s, those selected for political compliance (versus training or expertise) predominated among the technical intelligentsia. When a party functionary was unable to meet the demands of his or her position, the custom was to call in a technical expert (even if not a party member) for assistance. KSC hard-liners consistently blocked efforts to reinstate reformist managers deposed after 1968.

Calls for more efficient management and periodic "reassessments" of managerial personnel accompanied changes in the ranks of the technical intelligentsia. In 1980 Federal Finance Minister Leopold Ler suggested that failure to meet production goals would be reflected in bonuses given to management and went so far as to intimate that managers might be dismissed for ineptitude. There was a concerted effort on the part of officialdom to make clear to managers that simple political compliance -- adequate to ensure one's employment in the early 1970s -- would have to be accompanied by efficiency in production in the 1980s.

Czechoslovak party officials have had a long history of suspicion of higher education, blaming it for ills as diverse as labor unrest and youth's lack of socialist idealism. Research scientists, to judge from the remarks of D.R. Prochazka, director of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in the early 1970s ("I would purge even Einstein if he were a reformist"), have not fared much better.

Data as of August 1987

Last Updated: August 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Czechoslovakia was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 80 of 170


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