Crossing a Bridge of Memory: Historical Memory and Populist Rhetoric in Post-Communist Czechoslovakia

Written by Ben Gardner-Gill

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” — Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting[1]


February 2, 1993 – As Václav Havel crossed the Charles Bridge in Prague to attend his inauguration as President of the Czech Republic at the Prague Castle, he embodied the democratic ideals for which he and his compatriots had tirelessly fought. The Charles Bridge is one of the landmarks of Prague and has seen the ups and downs of the city’s history, from glorious independence to treacherous oppression. Democracy was not new to Prague; the city had served as the capital of a democratic Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1939. After so many years under Nazi and Soviet influence, the memory of democracy, among other motivations, propelled Havel and millions of others to make demands of the communist regime in 1989. From the beginning of the revolution, Havel pushed for a popular democracy, and like the founders of interwar Czechoslovakia, he saw democracy as an aspirational goal. The memories of both democracy and communism remain powerful political tools in the Czech Republic to this day, but are not necessarily used in the positive, motivational way that Havel did. Rather, historical memory has been used across the political spectrum for a wide variety of goals. In this paper, I will examine how historical memory was used in Czechoslovak politics from 1990 to 1992, and how those usages established the framework for populist rhetoric surrounding historical memory, particularly that of the communist era and its abuses of power and societal cohesion. Despite their policy disagreements, parties from across the political spectrum used history and historical memory to build a collective framework, with quintessentially populist rhetoric pitting “the people” against “the elite,” that survives and flourishes to this day.



I define populism as a political ideology in the purest sense, in that it is used by politicians to get elected. To define its scope I will use a version of Cas Mudde’s 2004 definition of populism: “A thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic camps, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite,’ and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people.”[2] I will make only two edits to Mudde’s definition: to remove the adjectives of “pure” and “corrupt” before “people” and “elite,” respectively. While the purity of the people and the corruption of the elite are two prominent themes within populist rhetoric, they do not fully encompass the range of themes that populists employ.

Mudde’s definition has been among the most cited in the field, and much of our contemporary (academic) understanding of populism is influenced by his work and this article in particular. Mudde also brings to the scholarly conversation two important points regarding what counts as populist. First, Mudde concludes “Most mainstream parties mainly use populist rhetoric, but some also call for populist amendments to the liberal democratic system (most notably through the introduction of plebiscitary instruments).” Rhetorical tools do not comprise a full strategy in and of themselves; populism is not a binary, with politicians either being fully populist or not, as many parties and politicians can engage in populist rhetoric. Second, Mudde says, “While charismatic leadership and direct communication between the leader and ‘the people’ are common among populists, these features facilitate rather than define populism.” In other words, populism is not dependent on the method of communication, but on the content of communication. We may think of the typical populist as being brash, outspoken, and male, but a populist can be quiet, technocratic, or female, and any other trait one could ascribe to any politician. In other words, it’s what they’re saying, not how they’re saying it.

Historical Memory

Historical memory is a process wherein people “construct and identify with particular narratives about historical periods or events,” according to Katherine Hite of Vassar College.[3] This paper addresses both historical memory and history, though for use in political rhetoric, the two are practically inseparable, so the distinction is commented upon only when salient.

This paper addresses historical memory in the context of one country, Czechoslovakia, and one use, its role in populist rhetoric. This specificity and interaction have been ignored in the field of memory studies partially because they do not fit within the field’s theoretical debates. This paper will not adjudicate between Western European narratives based on “trauma” and Eastern European narratives based on “mourning,” as described by Uilleam Blacker and Alexander Etkind, because both sorts of memories co-exist.[4] Nor will this paper attempt to classify different sorts of memory in politics, as Michael Bernhard and Jan Kubik do in “Twenty Years after Communism” and Grigore Pop-Eleches and Joshua A. Tucker do in “Communism’s Shadow.”[5] The focus of this paper is what binds memory rhetorics together, in the sense that they contribute to populist rhetoric, rather than what splits them apart. Nor will this paper attempt to put memory in transnational context as with many recent works, including those of Timothy Snyder and Philipp Ther.[6] Instead, this paper only looks at Czechoslovakia.

The work that has been done on the intersection of memory politics and populist rhetoric in Czechoslovakia is limited. James Krapfl’s “Revolution with a Human Face” is a must-read for its depth and care taken to highlight the voice of the common man between the years of 1989 and 1992, the turbulent period that is also covered in this paper.[7] In his 2015 article “Anti-Communism of the Future,” Petr Roubal explores the intellectual rise and fall of the Civic Democratic Alliance (Občanská demokratická aliance, ODA), and while his deft touch makes the article an important addition to the field of Czechoslovak intellectual history, his focus is on the party’s conservatism, not its populist rhetoric or use of history.[8] Finally, in his 2010 book The Unfinished Revolution,James Mark shows that politicians like to ‘write’ themselves into the history of the revolution as a means of elevating their stature in front of voters.[9] While this may be characteristic of populist leaders, it does not define populist rhetoric. This paper thus seeks to fill a gap in the literature on populism and historical memory by examining the two concepts together in a specific place, at a specific time, in a way that has not been done so before.


To examine political rhetoric, this paper investigates documents published by parties and politicians whose audience was the voting public. These documents range from comprehensive party platforms to issue-specific pamphlets to personal manifestos of politicians. Some of the latter type of document likely were aimed at a more limited audience, but were nonetheless publicly distributed. Public documents, unlike internal party communications, display populist rhetoric in the context which is most important for defining “populist:” when politicians were seeking votes.

This paper will focus its analysis on several parties active in the early 1990s, namely the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (Komunistická strana Československa, KSČ), the Christian Democratic Party (Křesťanskodemokratická strana, KDS), the right-conservative-Rally for the Republic – Republican Party of Czechoslovakia (Sdružení pro republiku – Republikánská strana Československa, SPR-RSČ), the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party (Občanská demokratická strana, ODS), and the big tent liberal Civic Forum (Občanské fórum, OF).

This paper will be analyzing the OF and ODS as separate parties, despite the fact that since the ODS is a successor party to the OF, the two parties could be considered one contiguous political party. The OF and ODS shared some members, but former OF members who founded the ODS took the ODS in a decidedly more right-wing direction than its predecessor. On occasion, the ODS recalled and refuted the OF’s rhetoric of a year or two prior, and where relevant this paper notes the dates of these interactions. The two parties also had other salient differences beyond ideology. The OF was the party of the Velvet Revolution that set up a big tent across the political spectrum to include all anti-communists, whereas the ODS defined itself on a distinct portion of the political spectrum and looked to present a policy program that was much less centered around anti-communism. Because of the differences in ideology and goals, these two parties represent fundamentally different perspectives in Czechoslovak politics, and can thus be compared in opposition to each other when analyzing political rhetoric.

Historical Background

The Czech and Slovak peoples were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for years. They had varying degrees of autonomy largely based on the whims of Vienna or Budapest, but nonetheless maintained their culture. Thanks in part to these strong traditions as well as some clever politicking, the victorious Entente of the First World War supported the establishment of a democratic Czechoslovakia, founded on October 28, 1918.[10] The new democracy faced hurdles when establishing a functional, multiethnic democracy, but also had significant advantages in industrial production that allowed it to rebound from the war. While not a perfect state by any reckoning, Czechoslovakia and its internal faults cannot be blamed for its downfall.

After the National Socialists took power in Germany, Adolf Hitler began to pursue Lebensraum for the German people. First on his checklist of territories was the Sudetenland, a thin strip of land in the north and west of then-Czechoslovakia. The majority of the Sudetenland’s residents had ethnic German roots, but the lands had been under Czech control for hundreds of years and many of the Germans had integrated with their Czech neighbors. However, the Western allies feared German aggression and, throwing Czech claims out the window, attempted to appease Hitler by granting him the Sudetenland at the Munich Conference of 1938. Hitler did not stop there, and during the subsequent World War subjugated Czechs under a “Protectorate” with a Nazi Reichsprotektor in charge. For the Czech people, their time under Nazism was a harsh withdrawal from the system of European democracies which they had so treasured in the interwar years.

After the war, hope for a democratic Czechoslovakia returned, but so did a desire to take revenge for the country’s suffering. President Eduard Beneš pursued retributive justice against ethnic Germans in the country through a series of decrees, which remain on the books to this day. However, domestic politics were unstable and the democratic parties proved too weak to maintain their foothold. The Communist Party staged a coup in February 1948, known in Marxist historiography as Victorious February (Vítězný únor). They quickly consolidated their control of state apparatuses, initiating forty-one years of one-party rule.

The communist state was all-encompassing but not all-powerful, as demonstrated by the 1968-1969 period of reform and protests known as the Prague Spring. Responding to public dissatisfaction with the prior twenty years of communist rule, the Central Committee of the KSČ under First Secretary Alexander Dubček adopted a reformist “Action Programme.” The effort was quickly met with backlash from the Soviet Union, which organized a coalition of Warsaw Pact troops to invade Czechoslovakia and extinguish the small light of hope that the Prague Spring had provided the people. The next iteration of the regime, referred to as “normalization,” lasted from late 1969 to late 1989, and was marked by authoritarian, conservative rule under close Soviet supervision.[11] Fed up with their oppression, a growing movement of underground anti-communist activists began building support, and as the communist regimes in the Warsaw Pact states around them fell, these activists took the opportunity to revolt.

This democratic revolution, among the last to occur in the former Warsaw Pact countries, was quick, prompting historian Timothy Garton Ash to quip in its midst, “In Poland it took ten years, in Hungary ten months, in East Germany ten weeks; perhaps in Czechoslovakia it will take ten days!”[12] The revolution was also bloodless, earning it the nickname of the Velvet Revolution. The Czech group which was the dominant ‘party of the revolution,’ the Civic Forum, became a fully-fledged political party and the odds-on favorite to dominate the 1990 Czechoslovak federal elections. They set the tone for Czechoslovak democracy from the outset, but that became complicated over time with ideological and rhetorical disagreements among numerous factions.

Setting Democratic Norms

The Civic Forum focused on the foundation of interwar Czechoslovakia to provide historical context and inspiration for the task of democratization at hand. The 1918 revolution was depicted as a broad-based popular movement, with references to a “rabid crowd” that established “our common house.”[13] This rhetoric helped reinforce the OF’s message of historical justice, that the post-communist movement was merely a restoration of the status quo, rather than the establishment of something new. Politicians were also keen to drawn on the parallels between the two periods, and continued to do so for some time. Two years after the fall of communism, Václav Klaus, leader of the ODS, wrote, “This task stood before our families or grandparents in Czechoslovakia after the First World War, this task facing us after the collapse of the communist regime.”[14] Klaus and others placed the contemporary democratization of Czechoslovakia in the grand arc of history, making themselves historical actors of great importance whose decisions would immediately be written into the history books. When this rhetoric was combined with the reminder of the popular nature of the first revolution, a clear message emerged, encouraging the public to get involved in their democracy, and to strike a new path forward. However, this did not mean the communists were entirely removed from the political discourse.

As the Communist Party began to pick up the pieces of their oppressive regime and try to contend in the 1990 elections, they simultaneously tried to make a range of historical arguments to legitimize their continued presence in a democratic system and to delegitimize the previous communist regime. Among the most prominent of these was the argument that the past state was deeply flawed: “The state of development of the society we have achieved in the past cannot be considered as genuine socialism. The name of the republic as socialist was unwarranted and voluntaristic.”[15] The KSČ argued that genuine socialism is compatible with democracy, whereas the disingenuous socialism of the past regime was naturally autocratic and incompatible with democracy. This was a legitimate rhetorical strategy, as the Czechoslovak people had been relatively welcoming of the liberalizing, yet still communist, reforms of the Prague Spring. The leader of those reforms, Alexander Dubček, said only a few months prior to the publication of this platform, “The idea of socialism with a human face became the idea of the people, the memory of the nation… Its inheritance is in you.”[16] The Communists of 1990 were trying to build upon this memory of the Prague Spring, the memory that communism could be promising and invoke passion for change, uplifting the people rather than crushing them. Perhaps this memory of the Prague Spring weakened under the harsh “normalization” regime that followed it, but the Communist Party, like so many others, believed memories could endure through oppression. However, most parties had a radically different interpretation of history, and historical memory, than the communists did.

There was general consensus amongst non-communist parties established prior to the 1990 elections, and carried from there on, that the KSČ was inherently undemocratic, regardless of the successor party’s declared commitment to reform. A Civic Forum pamphlet in December 1989 declared that “democracy can only be promoted and improved by democrats,” reflecting a cautiousness about allowing undemocratic actors into the newly established system.[17] This cautiousness was widely shared when considering the KSČ’s role in the political system, with a profound sense of distrust driving the rhetoric of other parties. The OF’s Jaroslav Chloupek wrote, “KSČ is likely to be willing again to promise anything in its election program that could bring success to it in the upcoming elections even when it is clear that these promises will not be able to be fulfilled because its unlimited government for the last forty years has left us a sad legacy.”[18] Similarly making no distinction between the past and present Communists, the Christian Democrats invited the public to “vote against totalitarianism.”[19] This rhetoric does not distinguish between the contemporary KSČ, which wanted the voters to believe it had reformed from communist times, and the KSČ which was the ruling party for over forty years. By doing so, the non-communist parties sought to tie the present and past communists in the voters’ minds, and hoped that the voters’ bad memories of the past would motivate them to oppose the KSČ in the election. The OF proclaimed “We must not allow these forces to gain [an advantage] in the forthcoming elections, because that would mean the end of our still weak, yet being born, democracy.”[20] The natural counter, of course, was to vote for a non-communist party. To advocate for themselves as non-communist parties, the KDS campaigned on the martyrdom of its political forefathers who opposed communism during the 1970s, and the OF campaigned on the platform that its leaders were the ones who had overthrown communism in the Velvet Revolution.

However, even these mainstream parties were still dogged by the fact that some of their leaders had held, even briefly at local levels, some affiliation with the Communist Party. In a strike against both the communist regime and their contemporary foes, Miroslav Sladek’s SPR-RSČ proclaimed to voters that “Republicans are not burdened with past and cooperation with the KSČ, they are the only guarantee of freedom and democracy, and they can defend your interests.”[21] Despite other illiberal statements, the SPR-RSČ was still fundamentally a democratic party. Whether or not the mainstream parties would include them among their number is a separate issue, but the SPR-RSČ pushed themselves forward as a truly democratic, committed anti-communist party.[22] Other parties recognized the poor political optics of having members with a communist past involved in a democratic future. The process of preventing said members from taking public office, known as lustration, came up in the debate about the democratic future of Czechoslovakia.[23] In a statement typical of the era, Jan Chudomel of the Civic Movement (Občanské hnutí) argued that both legal and political routes needed to be traversed in order to deal with the issue of lustration: “It is necessary to condemn all individuals to whom we can blame. However, we think it is an illusion to think that we can deal with the past by law or by some administrative decision.”[24] The law, after all, had been monopolized by the communist regime. Under the democratic state, the basic laws were promulgated within a few months. However, it takes time for the legal institutions of any new regime to take root in the minds of the public and of politicians, and Czechoslovakia was no different. There were also invocations of the last, failed effort to establish Czechoslovak democracy after the Second World War, such as an OF pamphlet written by Miloš Zeman: “The Communist Party, after three years, took absolute power and did not intend to deal with any of the other domestic political forces. It follows that [the party] also bears full responsibility for what’s been going on for another forty years in the country.”[25] Zeman is making three points here. First, he implies the law was no barrier to the last communist rise and would be no barrier to another. Second, he makes a point against a political rival. Third, and most importantly, Zeman highlights the monopolization of power by the Communist Party on the political level, subduing dissent and opposition. When viewed in conjunction with the concerns surrounding lustration and individual connections of party members to the past regime, as the OH and SPR-RSČ emphasized, one may ask how these characteristics came to be the defining traits when politicians were denouncing the anti-democratic nature of the prior regime. The answer lies in the same place: the intensely elite nature of the communist regime, in which a small group of individuals wielded the entirety of the party’s power.


Non-communist parties seized upon the prior regime’s elite character as a central point of criticism, and won political points by invoking the memories of the bygone communist structures and the harm they did to the public’s trust of the state and political engagement. Under the communist regime, political power was highly centralized, and the same cadre of people controlled every party and state function. As Miloš Zeman wrote, the regime’s elites did not allow much dissent, especially not during the post-Prague Spring normalization or by any other organized political parties. According to this interpretation of history, the elites were shut off from the rest of society, only debating amongst themselves to make political decisions and only communicating to the outside world when it was politically expedient. Orthodox communists may have disagreed with this interpretation and argued along traditional ideological lines that strong central control was needed in an economically unstable, ethnically fractured state which ideologically required significant central planning. They may have also disagreed with the characterization of the central leaders as elites, and rather cast those leaders as public servants, in the same way that a democrat might.

However, the dominant view amongst non-communist parties was that these Communist political leaders were elites disconnected from their subjects and exercised their power in ways detrimental to Czech society. From the very beginning, the Civic Forum argued that communism was an ideology that inherently promoted elite structures: “The Communists’ objective, as shown by Marx’s teachings, is the violent takeover of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which has always been in fact a dictatorship of a narrow ruling Communist Party, a dictatorship directed against all, including the proletariat.”[26] Marxism-Leninism was grounded in the idea of a vanguard to lead the revolution, but the Civic Forum ultimately overstated the proletarian nature of Marx’s own teachings. Regardless, Czechs and Slovaks recalling their experience under communism would not distinguish between Marxism and Marxism-Leninism, and so the OF had no need to do so, either. The notion of “dictatorship of the proletariat” is relevant because it invokes another negative memory: the Soviet Union’s dictatorship and its dominance over Czechoslovak politics. Another operative concept is a dictatorship “directed against” the proletariat. This “elite” antagonism towards “the people” is a crucial component of populist rhetoric, because it serves the larger populist message that “the people” are not properly represented or listened to. In this manner, the OF cast the communist elites against the people living under the regime, and thus established, in one small way, the “elite” versus “people” paradigm of populist rhetoric.

Some of the OF’s members echoed the overall party line, but others added their own perspectives that strayed from the party’s typical stance. Miloš Zeman took slight turns in his own rhetoric that are suggestive of the populist rhetoric he would later employ as President of the Czech Republic. As he wrote in 1990 for an OF pamphlet, “The system of uncontrolled power without feedback leads to the general degeneration of political culture, to the extinction of political personalities of interest.”[27] Zeman adopted the OF line to the extent that he characterized the past regime as one of “uncontrolled power” that was a “degeneration” of a political culture, meaning interwar Czechoslovak democracy. However, Zeman’s choice of words suggests that the personalities of interest, meaning political figures with ties to both the public and the government, were, in fact, beneficial. As such, Zeman argued the self-sequestration of elites under the communist regime was fundamentally harmful to the people at-large. Since the previous regime’s power had gone unchecked, the subsequent system of government necessitated checking power by creating a “feedback” relationship between the politicians and their constituents in such a way that leaders were bound to serve the people rather than themselves. For the Civic Forum, the only option capable of meeting this criterion was a representative democracy. Thus, Zeman simultaneously advanced the OF’s chief rhetorical goal of promoting a democracy in light of an undemocratic past while also constructing a framework to support “political personalities of interest.” As one of those personalities, Zeman later could and would take advantage of this framework. Regardless of Zeman’s own future ambitions, though, his characterization of the communist regime as lacking “tangled bonds” was resonant for other parties in the early 1990s.

Other politicians critical of the communist regime’s elitism focused their attacks on the lack of engagement with the populace. This lack of “tangled bonds” was a common theme in the context of contemporary political struggles. When discussing the rough first few years of democratic growth in Czechoslovakia, Václav Klaus was particularly keen to link the lagging areas of contemporary development to the harms inflicted by the past regime. In the context of a discussion on political decision-making and the struggle of politicians to balance party and public, he characterized the communist leaders and “intellectuals” as possessing a “‘central’ reasoning” and as “a group of people who have acquired the feeling of total decision-making freedom.”[28] In other words, politicians felt as though they were always right, and did not feel bound in their decision-making capacity by the people they claimed to represent. Klaus’s frequently stated dislike of communist central planning manifested itself in a more generalized anti-elite sentiment in the post-communist period. “Intellectuals” in this context is an anti-elite term because of the implication that intellectuals are removed from the people and popular concerns. Klaus further frames this anti-elite sentiment both in the historical and social context, advocating for a “government for the citizen” and for the restoration of the “most precious social values.”[29] This directly contrasts the model of communist leadership, thus setting Klaus up as a consummate anti-communist democrat. Nevertheless, not every party took the opportunity to portray itself as the sole perfect solution to the democratic ills of the country.

The Christian Democratic Party took a less individual, but still bombastic, approach to the issue. The KDS had a small, devoted base of conservative Christians, and constantly sought to expand its potential electorate without deviating too far from its Christian principles. The party railed against the communist regime, and in its 1992 electoral program referred to the regime’s political and economic system as “absurd” because it was completely self-contained and did not engage in any dialogue with subsidiary components of the system.[30] Their main point of contention similarly targeted the lack of “tangled bonds” which Zeman had referred to two years prior. The lack of bonds between leaders and subjects created a small, elite-centered incentive system, which in turn had deleterious effects on democratization because there were too few people sufficiently equipped to hold the high offices of the country. The KDS thus urged voters to exercise caution when considering the development of a new political elite in post-communist Czechoslovakia. Implicitly, this was a point in favor of the KDS, which consistently portrayed itself as a sensible, honorable party with a long history of opposing communism and many ties to the people.[31] The KDS’s strategy stood in contrast to Klaus and his political vehicle of the ODS, who were more outspoken about their own fitness for a ‘democratic rebuilder’ role. In spite of these differences, both parties spoke the same language regarding the deficiencies of the past.

A range of parties acknowledged that the main task in building a post-communist democratic society was repairing the “tangled bonds” first established between voters and their representatives during the interwar First Republic, but these parties also expressed concerns about potential weaknesses in the rebuilding process. The KDS engaged in a theoretical exposition on the subject, arguing that the institutionalization of “self-governing structures” was ultimately the right path, with a “natural involvement of the individual” in the system serving to “effectively [prevent] the emergence of monopolized structures of power.”[32] The KDS was advocating for a balance between the individual and the structures of power. The rhetoric utilized to describe those structures of power, such as “monopolized,” however, could easily be deployed in more anti-elite rhetoric as well; the elite monopolization of power necessarily means that “the people” do not have that power, which plays into the hands of politicians using populist rhetoric.

Although this may not have been the intention of the program, it certainly left the door open for such applications. So, while parties agreed that the main task of building a democracy was to build confidence, or bonds, between the voters and the representative, they had to confront another rhetorical challenge: what would happen if one of the sides of the “tangled bonds,” either voter or politician, did not trust the other? The answer was that politicians would take advantage of the voters.

In early 1990, the Civic Forum posited that the threat to democratization in Czechoslovakia would come from politicians failing to properly engage with voters, prompting parties across the political spectrum to attempt to engage voters with rhetoric that drew on the memory of communist elitism and its relation to the present danger of contemporary politics. In December 1989, the OF laid out an aspirational goal for what voters should look for in a leader, including the “trust” and “confidence” required to rebuild bonds between voters and leaders, but with provisions for a voter’s “admiration… anger, and annoyance.”[33] Ultimately, though, the OF promulgated a cautious message, saying that while the public and honest politicians (including themselves in this category) were working to build a democracy, “We can be threatened both from the outside and from the inside.”[34] To some extent, this is not a surprise. Emerging from decades of authoritarian leader-driven politics, including Nazism and communism, the Czechoslovak people were naturally skeptical of individuals who claimed political leadership after the fall of communism. Voters in 1990 tangibly felt the weight of their country’s long and complicated history: some harmful leaders had come from outside and imposed themselves, such as Rudolf Heydrich, the Nazi Reichsprotektor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, while others had come from within to betray their people, such as Klement Gottwald, who led the 1948 coup that signaled the beginning of forty years of communist domination. Yet neither case is cut and dry as “outside” or “inside” political players, as Heydrich had domestic collaborators, and Gottwald received significant aid from the Soviet Union. With these grim memories at the forefront of the Czechoslovak voter’s mind, the OF set out an optimistic path, winding through the dark forests of Czech history to a brighter, democratic future. However, this prompts another question: presuming that voters’ memories would lead them to be on the lookout for unscrupulous politicians, why were politicians able to threaten the voters? Wouldn’t the voters be able to pre-empt and monitor such politicians? The answer, according to parties in the first few years of democratization at least, was no: voters did not have the capacity to keep their politicians in check because the communist regime had harmed them and their Czechoslovak society.

Addressing a Broken Society

Parties from across the political spectrum argued that the communist system had broken Czechoslovak society to such an extent that the people could not properly hold their politicians accountable and prevent them from acquiring too much power. The OF argued that the destruction of the Czechoslovak citizen began with the core conceit of the communist regime. In the context of a pamphlet urging laborers to protest on International Workers’ Day, May 1, the party charged that the Communists had abandoned their working-class roots and cared little for the common man, forcing injured workers to the “periphery” of the workforce without compensation.[35] The publishers of this pamphlet wanted to motivate workers to continue their anti-elite fight on International Labor Day, and the best way to do so was through utilizing the past, rather than the present. In a pamphlet written for the OF around the same time, Miloš Zeman cautioned that the present process would be a slow one because the injustices of the past are hard to overcome: “For forty years, we have been trained to behave normally [according to communist rules], and it is not to be expected that adopting new rules of behavior will take place and painlessly.”[36] Together, the two OF arguments say that communism fundamentally changed the way society functioned and the relationships of individuals. Ondřej Matejka of the Prague-based Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes remarked that “the danger for democracy and freedom in our country is more in the habitus we have inherited from the communist regime.”[37] In other words, the common people were so neglected under communism, and so unable to change their disenfranchised status until the Velvet Revolution, that they had retained much of their inherent disposition, or habitus, from the communist era. This theme, that these peripheral laborers, people “trained” to behave normally, would be unable to maintain and defend democratic government from power-hungry politicians, was central to the rhetoric that the Civic Forum set out in early 1990.

The Christian Democrats echoed the Civic Forum’s rhetoric in their own campaigning, though with more provocative wording befitting their electoral base. The main problem as the KDS put it was an “atomized society after 40 years of communist totality.”[38] The KDS viewed its role as bonding those atoms together, a process they initiated through the incorporation of historical rhetoric: “We are obliged to decipher a deeper understanding of how oppression, lies, and fear associated with the communist totality have destroyed everything human.”[39] This dramatic rhetoric was intended to attract the attention of voters, and perhaps to provoke them to consider the injustices of the communist regime. To invoke the voter’s humanity is a strategy to invoke their sense of self-worth, thereby potentially making the voter perceive the party more positively. The KDS hoped that the voters would conclude that drastic change was necessary to handle a drastic situation, and thus would vote for the KDS to accomplish that change. However, the KDS’s approach that distinguished leaders and voters as two separate entities was not a popular approach amongst other parties.

The ODS agreed that the national habitus needed repair, but framed their vision for the rebuilding process in inclusive terms that portrayed the ODS as a party of the common man, which in turn established a template for future populist appeals. Like the KDS, their argument had a historical basis, saying, “Yes, we have to deal with our past,” but the immediate political and legal applications of dealing with the past, such as lustration and releasing prisoners wrongfully convicted under the communist legal system, were of less importance overall.[40] Rather, as Václav Klaus argued on behalf of his party, “The most complex is the eradication of Bolshevism in us, the eradication of the habits and the comfort of communism, collectivism and irresponsibility, a process that is far more difficult than several… processes and laws.”[41] According to Klaus, dealing with the past would only work by engaging society and individuals, and it could not be handled at just the political level. This view informed his politics and led to his use of rhetoric that shifted the emphasis away from political leaders and toward the collective task of the people. Klaus very much saw himself as a part of this collective task, using “we” as the operative subject dealing with “our past” and the “Bolshevism in us.” Klaus’s message reaffirmed that the ODS was a part of the people and shared their experiences and concerns. Thus, even though they said dealing with the past cannot solely be a political process, Klaus and the ODS turned it into one. This was a critical part of the political strategy of the party, which recognized that the average voter was not going to have their voice automatically injected into the national conversation, and so in response the ODS framed itself as the means for the people to have their “own chance.”[42] This positioned Klaus to be the person to carry the voter’s “chance” to the national stage, and for the ODS to be able to stand up and, per their own rhetoric, claim to be speaking truthfully on behalf of the people. This stands in contrast to the KDS’s more provocative rhetoric about both history and the role of leaders, but at the roots  of their rhetoric, the KDS and OF are still similar.

The ODS and KDS both agreed upon the systemic problem at hand set out by the OF in 1990: the people’s spirits have been broken down and that was dangerous not only for them but for the system as a whole. The OF had developed that rhetoric while it was still the big tent, relatively apolitical party of the revolution, but quickly had to come up with a corresponding electoral strategy as it transitioned to being a political party contesting an election. Miloš Zeman described the basis of this new strategy in March 1990: “We therefore appeal to the self-esteem of each of us, not to the humiliation that has long been cultivated in us.”[43] This was a fairly simple strategy: appeal to peoples’ idealized selves, and tell them that the OF values these idealized selves. This is a different type of messaging from the KDS’s separation of leaders and voters and the ODS’s call to collective action; the OF was distinguished from the latter because the ODS framed the process in negative terms, e.g. the “eradication” of Bolshevism, whereas the OF framed it in positive ones, e.g. an “appeal to the self-esteem.” All three parties, though, recognized the need for some sort of popular action. Regardless of the nature of the balance they sought to strike between voter and representative, they agreed a balance needed to exist. But even as their lofty political goals aligned, the question remained how those goals would be achieved and how politicians would take advantage of the fractured society. The answer begins with the “appeal to self-esteem.”

The non-communist political establishment predicted a nationalist incursion into the nascent democratic system because voters’ desires for a sense of purpose and worth could be fulfilled by nationalism. These non-communist parties had established early on that the individual spirit had been bruised and battered under a communist regime that shunted the people off to the side in favor of an elite political system. The KDS came to the conclusion that such a battered individual would be in no position to resist an attractive candidate who would convince the voter to renounce “their individual veil in favor of some personality or in the spirit of skillfully manipulated group interests (local, social, professional, religious, national, etc.)… [There is] only a single functional way: one movement and one leader. Thus, to the corporative, authoritative state of the Franco-Spanish or Mussolini Italy. The process… inevitably leads to the end of democracy.”[44] This call back to two fascist regimes served as a clear reminder; the KDS wanted its voters to understand that the newborn democratic system could slide back to the authoritarian depths from which it came. The logic was that any reasonable voter would hear this appeal and turn up their nose at any politician seeking to “manipulate” group interests. But this logic is not complete, and not fully fleshed out considering the circumstances of the day. As expressed by the ODS, “people are looking for a group to associate them on the basis of shared characteristics – language, customs, traditions, historical experience – and this is a good reason for the rise of nationalism.”[45] This draws yet another contrast with the KDS, as the ODS portrayed the nationalist decision as understandable given the context of forty years of communist rule, whereas the KDS fundamentally believed the people were good liberal, individualistic citizens who has just been harmed, and once recovered, they would reject nationalism. The Communist Party ultimately bet on a nationalist approach similar to that which the ODS had described.

The Communist Party’s support for nationalism provoked other parties to both denounce the Communists and then position themselves as distinctly opposed to the now-tinged nationalist rhetoric. The KSČ attempted to adopt a wide range of strategies in the few years immediately following the fall of the prior regime. One strategy which won the favor of party leadership was the national unity strategy, described as follows: “We are committed to bringing together patriotism, a feeling of national pride, common interest, and a concern for the better future of the country. We are in favor of developing the national identity.”[46] At first glance, this seems to be in opposition to traditional Marxist-Leninist doctrine, which de-emphasizes the role of nations in favor of emphasizing class struggle as the primary driver of society’s ills. In practice, though, there was some leniency during the communist regime for expressions of national goodwill, so the KSČ’s position was not historically baseless. The national strategy was their replacement for communism’s role as a governing ideology in people’s lives; for those voters who felt that communism gave them a sense of unity, the KSČ hoped they would feel the same about national unity in a democratic system.

Referring to the mainstream parties’ predictions of voter behavior, the KDS was proved wrong. Not all voters rejected the KSČ’s nationalist message, whereas the ODS’s position was somewhat validated. Writing in 1992, Václav Klaus struck an assured tone: “people have always tried to get followers by playing on the strings of their national sentiment… Sometimes the left-wing politicians use it, almost at regular intervals, at a time when they feel that national demagogy can get more sympathy than social demagogy.”[47] Klaus criticized not only the communists, but also the left wing, more broadly speaking, as being unprincipled and prone to destructive nationalist thought. He was confident that this “national demagogy” was nothing more than a tactic to be deployed at will. More piercing than just his basic dismissal of nationalist leaders, however, was Klaus’s explanation for why precisely, in his democratic worldview, the communists could not employ nationalist rhetoric:

Different socialist thinkers are trying to redefine socialism and give it a whole new, uncompromising sense, but it seems they will not succeed. They had to make sense of the people to erase the experiences of several decades, they would have to find a new Marx, someone who would… once again convince romantic dreamers among the intellectuals that it is possible for the state to organize our lives better than how we are able to organize ourselves.[48]

Here, Klaus linked the re-establishment of socialism with the erasure of memory. By neglecting to clearly define socialism, Klaus could apply this rhetoric to a wide variety of left-wing parties, ascribing to them a great sin: disrespecting the memory of the Czech people. He also incorporated anti-elite rhetoric by saying that only “romantic dreamers among the intellectuals” would buy the new iterations of socialist thinking and thus ignore the “experiences of several decades,” which were presumably those of “ourselves,” meaning the common man, including Klaus himself. As such, Klaus wielded historical memory as a tool to forward a populist outlook on the present and future of Czech politics. The core of his rejection of the post-Velvet Revolution KSČ lay in his own memory and his belief that many voters felt the same way he did. Not only the political mainstream attacked the KSČ’s newfound nationalism, however, as the far-right Republican Party also took issue with the communist rhetoric of national unity.

The SPR-RSČ attacked the KSČ along similar lines as the ODS, focusing on the history of communist rule and the insincerity of the sudden rhetorical shift. The SPR-RSČ naturally wanted to promote a republican view of government and hung its hat on comparing communism to republicanism. It characterized communism as a fraudulent ideology, going so far as to ask of communist voters, “Are they people who do not want to admit their life misconceptions, or real supporters of fraudulent ideology?”[49] At face value, one might say that the SPR-RSČ believed there was no ‘understandable’ nationalism in the same way that Klaus might posit. In fact, the SPR-RSČ engaged in nationalist rhetoric at many points, so their issue with the KSČ was twofold. First, the SPR-RSČ disdained the lack of respect that KSČ supporters had for their own memories. This is because the SPR-RSČ wanted to communicate to its potential voters that their memories would be respected and elevated in the political discourse. Second, the “fraudulent ideology” of the KSČ was similar to how Klaus derogatorily discussed an attempt to “redefine socialism.” The SPR-RSČ and ODS alike painted the KSČ as swindlers, liars, and opportunists, characteristics which they hoped would send voters into their arms and away from the communists. The SPR-RSČ, ODS, OF, and KDS all firmly opposed the KSČ and its political strategy in the new democratic Czechoslovakia, focusing their criticisms on the KSČ’s lack of respect for the people’s memories and belief that the KSČ policy of national unity was not constructive for rebuilding a strong Czechoslovak democracy. Because the non-communist parties were unified against explicitly nationalist rhetoric, they each had to present their own distinct rhetorical alternative that would simultaneously reach out to the people through an “appeal to self-esteem” and re-establish the “tangled bonds” that would limit the government and thus new elite formation.

Solutions within a Democracy

The non-communist parties sought to promote themselves as honorable and relatable, and emphasized their solidarity with their voter base rather than a broader national unity with all Czechs or Slovaks. Prior to the 1992 elections, Václav Klaus opined that, despite his less-than-stellar confidence in the success of the country’s future democratization, he still trusted that some political actors would be more successful than others: “it will not be ambitious, nationalist slogans of the desperate politicians (ohánějící politikové) who say the last word, but the thoughtful and pragmatic thinkers.”[50] Klaus contrasted “desperate politicians,” a way to disparage elites, with “pragmatic thinkers,” a category in which he implicitly put himself. He thus situated himself as a man of the people ready to fight against the worst tendencies of those politicians. Klaus’s more general sentiment of “thoughtful and pragmatic thinkers” proves to be informative when analyzing other parties’ rhetoric; through their campaign materials, they each answer what it means to be “thoughtful and pragmatic.”

The Civic Forum portrayed itself as a practical party that sought to unite the people under a shared mission to build a better society. They prefaced some of their more negative rhetoric by reminding voters that they were the ones who had “stood at the head” of the revolution.[51] This was a way to remind voters of their leadership credentials and hopefully make the party’s pessimistic program more palatable. The program did not pull punches, saying “the current state of our house is therefore bleak,” but also responded to this harsh truth directly: “the electoral program of the Civic Forum is primarily a rescue program for the house.”[52] Such rhetoric framed the task of democratization as a mutual struggle to be shared by the party and its voters. The OF wanted to emphasize that they, too, lived through communism, and shared the same experiences as the voting public. One experience they highlighted was that of the common laborer under communism: “Millions of people have worked honestly, but their work has often been falsified in absurd jokes, ruining our birthplace.”[53] With this proclamation, the OF sought to capture voters on two counts: the “falsification” of experience, and the invocation of the shared past, as in “our birthplace.” Regarding the falsification of experience, the party recognized that its voters deserved to be acknowledged for their work in a way that they weren’t previously, and by bringing light to this injustice, the OF implied their own ability to correct it. Regarding the shared past, such rhetoric created a strong sense of belonging and togetherness, in addition to the OF’s unique position as being the party of the revolution. Despite all of the historical motivation and popular rhetoric, the OF understood its “rescue program” might not be popular amongst voters, and so pre-empted a backlash: “We are aware that the willingness of the victims is not very popular in the electoral program and that the formulation of this goal can be abused in the electoral struggle by those who have caused our shameful lag behind the advanced world.”[54] This is indicative of a key political point, as the OF characterized its political opponents as opportunists who hindered the country’s democratization. In this sense, the OF appealed to the desire of the Czechoslovak people to move away from communism and back into the community of democratic states. It is simultaneously a popular and anti-elite argument, but in such a way that built off of the OF’s rhetorical strength as the party of the revolution. The OF was thus both thoughtful and pragmatic with this approach, which incorporated an understanding of challenges facing the party on both policy and political fronts, but also was pragmatic for the sake of its own political gains. As the OF predicted, though, other parties would be quick to decry its outlook.

Despite being a successor party of the Civic Forum, the ODS was quick to criticize the OF’s rhetoric as being elitist and insufficiently conscious both of history and of contemporary popular sentiment. Writing in 1992, Václav Klaus remarked that political parties had a duty to fight on behalf of their voters, but some parties were less suited to do so than others: “Elite clubs… can not fulfill this task. They can not get people “down” for such a program.”[55] Klaus attributed this to a chief weakness: “The lack of respect for historical experience, continuity and tradition.”[56] This was a direct repudiation of the Civic Forum’s effort to build support by energizing voters to vote for a program. In the abstract realm, away from policy, Klaus was also setting up an important anti-elite rhetorical construct by describing the former OF politicians as belonging to “elite clubs.” This harkens back to the concern about the “uncontrolled power without tangled bonds,” in other words the elite club of the communist regime. So, when Klaus slammed “the lack of respect for historical experience,” he was attempting to refocus the historical debate away from the OF’s leadership role in the Velvet Revolution, and toward the character of its leadership. Embedded in this was the implication that the ODS was not an elite club, because to be an elite club would be disrespectful of “historical experience, continuity and tradition,” and for Klaus, that disrespect was a most foul crime. He wanted voters to believe the same thing about the ODS that the OF wanted its voters to believe: that our party is comprised of people just like you, who understand your historical experience and who will fight for you. This thoughtful and pragmatic end goal was shared by parties outside of the political mainstream, namely the SPR-RSČ, even if the means to reach that end were different.

The SPR-RSČ used flamboyant rhetoric to emphasize its comprehension of contemporary dynamics between the elite and the people. Underlying most SPR-RSČ rhetoric was a recognition of the importance of the past, and the “honor” of the people to speak openly of their memories.[57] Accompanying this, however, were drastic statements about the harm done to the people under the communist regime, and how it had not ended when the regime left. A few months after the Velvet Revolution, the SPR-RSČ insisted that “The public is perfectly emotionally and intellectually manipulated. All the means of this psychotechnical manipulation are concentrated in the hands of a narrow group of internationals.”[58] The word “internationals” in this context is code for the elite who worked against the people from abroad. This evokes the communist era, when Moscow pulled strings in Prague. Encompassed within this argument are domestic collaborators as well, implied to be the SPR-RSČ’s political opponents. The SPR-RSČ warned voters that the other parties may not be as tame as they seem, and not genuinely concerned with, or ingrained in, the public consciousness. The SPR-RSČ’s positive message, to accompany this doom and gloom, took on a revolutionary, almost philosophical tone: “The only real danger to the government is free and brave citizens, morally autonomous, powerful and independent people… Our people have forgotten that freedom must not be left before life, for living without it is mere shame.”[59] The SPR-RSČ engaged in the “appeal to the self-esteem” that Miloš Zeman set out as the task of all political parties at the time, in advance of the 1990 elections. The SPR-RSČ characterized the people as powerful, and reminded them that their power must be put to good use, lest freedom “be left before life” as it was under the communist regime. “Our people” evoked the sense of camaraderie that other parties also desired, and suggested that the SPR-RSČ also recognized the value of aligning their personage, and thereby their goals, with voters. In this sense, the SPR-RSČ was not much different from the ODS or OF: all portrayed themselves as parties of the people, standing with their voters rather than being aloof leaders. After all, nobody wanted to be accused of being an elite.


In the immediate aftermath of the fall of an oppressive communist regime, Czechoslovak parties and politicians sought to win support by using history and historical memory to construct populist rhetoric. This rhetoric appealed to voters’ dissatisfactions with the communist regime’s elitism and destruction of Czechoslovak society. The post-communist parties responded accordingly, on the former issue deploying anti-elite rhetoric, and on the latter issue advocating for the reconstruction of “the people” as a unit. These two rhetorical tools, “the people” and “the elite,” define populist rhetoric, then and now.

On the basis of painful historical memories, the non-communist parties rejected attempts of the Communist Party both to stake a place in the democratic system, and to introduce explicitly nationalist rhetoric into political debates. The non-communists debated fiercely about what non-nationalist path should be taken, but all converged on the same principle of “thoughtful and pragmatic” popular representation. This was deployed in a variety of fashions, with the Civic Forum proclaiming a big tent to face the practical problems of the era, the Christian Democrats seeking to lead the people based on a shared set of values, the Civic Democrats pushing a policy agenda forward from a place amongst the people, and the Republicans riling up their voters with fervent rhetoric in order to stand out.

Partisan ideological differentiation in the Czech Republic has become richer over the years, and so has the overt presence of populists in Czech politics. These populists include the current President, Miloš Zeman, the very same who was a loyal member of the Civic Forum, and Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, a political outsider. While some analyses seek to explain their success, and the success of other populists in the region, as a new phenomenon, this paper has sought to show that their success is merely building on a long rhetorical tradition. The focus of their messages change, perhaps corruption one year and immigration the next, but the framework that undergirds their appeal has a long history. In order to best understand the present, we must understand the past, and in order to best advocate for the future we want, regardless of ideology or tactics, we ought to educate ourselves on what successful rhetoric looks like.


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Benda, Václav. Public letter. 1992. Czech subject collection, Box 12, Folder 5, Hoover Institution Archives.

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Chudomel, Jan. Interview. 20 May 1992. Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 9, Hoover Institution Archives.

Civic Forum pamphlet. Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 2.

“Co by nás mohlo demoralizovat.” 15 December 1989. Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives.

David, Roman. Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

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Heimann, Mary. Czechoslovakia: The State that Failed. Yale University Press, 2009.

Hite, Katherine. “Historical Memory.” International Encyclopedia of Political Science, edited by Bertrand Badie, Dirk Berg-Schlosser, and Leonardo Morlino. 2011.

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Klaus, Václav. Proč jsem optimista? 1992. Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives.

Klaus, Václav. Interview. První Zprava. Czech subject collection, Box 9, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 68.

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[1] Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), 3.

[2] Cas Mudde, “The populist Zeitgeist,” Government and Opposition 39 (2004), 541-563.

[3] Katherine Hite, “Historical Memory,” International Encyclopedia of Political Science, edited by Bertrand Badie, Dirk Berg-Schlosser, and Leonardo Morlino, 2011.

[4] Uilleam Blacker and Alexander Etkind, “Introduction,” in Memory and Theory in Eastern Europe, eds. Uilleam Blacker, Alexander Etkind, and Julie Fedor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 9.

[5] Michael Bernhard and Jan Kubik, editors, Twenty Years After Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration (Oxford UP, 2014). Grigore Pop-Eleches and Joshua A. Tucker, editors, Communism’s Shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes (Princeton UP, 2017).

[6] Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (London: Basic Books, 2010). Philipp Ther, Die dunkle Seite der Nationalstaaten. “Ethnische Säuberungen” im modernen Europa (Göttingen: Vanderhoek and Ruprecht, 2011).

[7] James Krapfl, Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2013).

[8] Petr Roubal, “Anti-Communism of the Future: Czech Post-Dissident Neoconservatives in Post-Communist Transformation,” in Thinking through Transition, eds. Michal Kopeček and Piotr Wciślik (New York: Central European University Press, 2015), 171-200.

[9] James Mark, The Unfinished Revolution: Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2010).

[10] Mary Heimann, Czechoslovakia: The State that Failed (Yale University Press, 2009).

[11] Mary Heimann, Czechoslovakia: The State that Failed (Yale University Press, 2009).

[12] Timothy Garton Ash, “The Revolution of the Magic Lantern,” The New York Review of Books, January 18, 1990,

[13] Ladislav Šenkyřík, “Od totality k demokracii,” 4 May 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 2, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California. Page 2. Note on archival citations: I follow the requirement of the Hoover Archives to identify the item, collection, and box, and when possible add other information in the format of this footnote. Translations are by the author with the assistance of online machine translation, and by professional translators. Miloš Zeman, “Přijmout Odpovědnost za Vlastní Budoucnost,” 2 March 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 1.

[14] Václav Klaus, Proč jsem optimista?, 1992, Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 5.

[15] “Průvodce: Volebním Programem KSČ,” Czech subject collection, Box 12, Folder 4, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 1.

[16] Ivan Hoffman, “Report of the Soft Revolution,” Czech subject collection, Box 8, Folder 2, Hoover Institution Archives. The speech in question was delivered in Bratislava on November 23, 1989. Page 41.

[17] Civic Forum pamphlet, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 2.

[18] Jaroslav Chloupek, “Člověk a Komunismus, Ideologie a Skutečnost,” Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 2.

[19] Václav Benda, public letter, 1992, Czech subject collection, Box 12, Folder 5, Hoover Institution Archives.

[20] Jaroslav Chloupek, “Člověk a Komunismus, Ideologie a Skutečnost,” Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 2.

[21] Volby 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 15, folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 9.

[22] Smer, the ruling party in Slovakia, was founded on a similar principle: no former communists allowed.

[23] Roman David, Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

[24] Jan Chudomel, Interview, 20 May 1992, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 9, Hoover Institution Archives.

[25] Miloš Zeman, “Přijmout Odpovědnost za Vlastní Budoucnost,” 2 March 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 1.

[26] Jaroslav Chloupek, “Člověk a Komunismus, Ideologie a Skutečnost,” Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 1.

[27] Miloš Zeman, “Přijmout Odpovědnost za Vlastní Budoucnost,” 2 March 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 1.

[28] Václav Klaus, Proč jsem optimista?, 1992, Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 7.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “Žďárský Program,” 1992, Czech subject collection, Box 12, Folder 5, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 14.

[31] Ibid., page 4.

[32] Ibid., page 10.

[33] “Co by nás mohlo demoralizovat,” 15 December 1989, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. The article is on page 3 of a longer pamphlet.

[34] Ibid. The statement also seems incredibly prescient three decades down the road, as in the search for good leaders threats can come from anywhere. This can be interpreted to mean both future populists coming from positions within politics, like Miloš Zeman, and from outside of politics entirely, like Andrej Babiš.

[35] “1. Máj 1990. Jak Dál?,” 6 April 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives.

[36] Miloš Zeman, “Přijmout Odpovědnost za Vlastní Budoucnost,” 2 March 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 3.

[37] Ondřej Matejka, interview with author, July 24, 2018, Prague.

[38] Václav Benda, public letter, 1992, Czech subject collection, Box 12, Folder 5, Hoover Institution Archives.

[39] Ibid., page 11.

[40] Václav Klaus, Interview, První Zprava, Czech subject collection, Box 9, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 68.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Václav Klaus, Proč jsem optimista?, 1992, Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 14.

[43] Miloš Zeman, “Přijmout Odpovědnost za Vlastní Budoucnost,” 2 March 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 6.

[44] “Žďárský Program,” 1992, Czech subject collection, Box 12, Folder 5, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 12.

[45] Václav Klaus, Proč jsem optimista?, 1992, Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 23.

[46] “Průvodce: Volebním Programem KSČ,” Czech subject collection, Box 12, Folder 4, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 2.

[47] Václav Klaus, Proč jsem optimista?, 1992, Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 30.

[48] Ibid., page 11.

[49] “Dnešek: pravicový opoziční list,” July 1991, Czech subject collection, Box 8, Folder 4, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 14.

[50] Václav Klaus, Proč jsem optimista?, 1992, Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 14.

[51] Miloš Zeman, “Přijmout Odpovědnost za Vlastní Budoucnost,” 2 March 1990, Czech subject collection, Box 13, Folder 1, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 3.

[52] Ibid., page 2.

[53] Ibid., page 1.

[54] Ibid., page 3.

[55] Václav Klaus, Proč jsem optimista?, 1992, Václav Klaus miscellany, Box 1, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 32.

[56] Ibid.

[57] “Dnešek: pravicový opoziční list,” July 1991, Czech subject collection, Box 8, Folder 4, Hoover Institution Archives. Page 14.

[58] Ibid., page 6.

[59] Ibid.