Rudolf Slansky, former Czech dissident and diplomat, dies

Reply Fri 21 Apr, 2006 07:15 pm
I didn't actually know of this man (only of his father, of course, through the history books) - but he sounds like an interesting man, whose life brought a lot of interesting themes together. Dag might have more to add (after she's rested from the shock and awe of her premiere night ;-)).

Rudolf Slansky: Former Czech diplomat and Communist era dissident dies aged 71

Radio Praha
Chris Jarrett

The former Czech diplomat and Communist dissident, Rudolf Slansky junior, passed away on Monday after a serious illness. He was 71. As the son of the famous Czechoslovak Communist Party General Secretary who was executed after a show trial in 1952, Rudolf Slansky junior's participation in the dissident movement after 1968 and his subsequent work in the diplomatic service earned him the respect of many senior figures in Czech politics. [..]

Renowned for his firm principles and tolerance, Rudolf Slansky had a profound impression on all those who he knew, as much through politics and diplomatic work, as in his everyday life. Born in Prague in 1935, he lived in exile between 1938 and 1945 with his family in the USSR, after his father along with much of the Communist leadership of the time, fled to the Soviet Union when German troops occupied the Sudetenland in 1938. He knew a young Cyril Svoboda as a child, whose family had a country cottage in the same village as the Slanskys, and who would become today's Foreign Minister. Pavel Rychetsky is Constitutional Court Chairman and was also a close family friend of Rudolf Slansky.

"I have to say that everyone who knew him knew him as a person who was extraordinarily tolerant as well as kind. I got to know Rudolf Slansky during the period known as the Prague Spring at the beginning of 1968. I was twenty-five at the time, teaching at Prague's Faculty of Law. He was older and represented people who were pushing for basic democratisation and reforms. His strongest personal attribute was empathy and understanding for people and he always tried to find the good in others. At the same time, he was very firm in his beliefs."

Pavel RychetskyAs a school pupil, he studied communist economics and planning, but had to leave school at the time of his father's execution. Rudolf Slansky senior was Secretary General of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and was sentenced to death by hanging by his own party in 1952 when his son was just 17. Pavel Rychetsky describes the effect these events had on Slansky.

"I think he was influenced by a fairly tragic past: as a child he was imprisoned with his mother and sister and his father was executed. All the same, he didn't react with ill-will or lean towards hatred. Even though we were close friends, we never spoke about the execution of his father together. I think it was a great lifelong weight on his shoulders. He knew his father was a victim of various processes, which he himself helped set-off. At the same time, his father was the only intellectual in the Communist leadership before and after the Second World War."

In the 1960s Slansky himself became a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, but was expelled in 1969 due to his active participation in the Prague Spring Communist Reform movement in 1968. During the 20 years that followed, the "normalisation" period, he participated in dissident groups and was a signatory of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto. He became the permanent representative of Czechoslovakia at the UN in New York after 1989, before serving as ambassador in Moscow for 6 years. In 1997 he was appointed ambassador to Slovakia, a position which he occupied until 2004. But aside from the mark he made on the political world, he is fondly remembered by those he knew personally. Sociologist Jirina Siklova was a close friend of Rudolf Slansky Jr. and describes her memories of him:

"The best name for him would be a gentleman. Really, the most important thing was that he was gentle. I know that he had perfect contact with people. He never accused anyone. He had a great ability to understand what pain is, what political orientation is, and how important it is to accept other people."

Such warm sentiments remain with many who knew Rudolf Slansky, both professionally and personally. But those by whom he will be missed most sorely are his wife and two sons, for whom the memory of this figure of great political prominence and influence will always remain as a loving and devoted husband and father.
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Reply Fri 21 Apr, 2006 07:24 pm

To earn an obituary like that would be a goal worth working for....principles with great compassion.

Sounds like someone to emulate.
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Reply Fri 21 Apr, 2006 10:38 pm
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Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 12:22 pm
The connection is tenuous I know, but this item about communism in Czechoslovakia on Radio Prague yesterday:

1950s trial of "Czech kulak" subject of new radio documentary

Show trials featuring trumped up charges and fabricated confessions remain one of the strongest symbols of Communist state repression throughout the former Eastern Bloc. Czechoslovakia's most infamous show trials involved senior Communist Rudolf Slansky and resistance leader Milada Horakova, both of whom were given the death penalty. But not all defendants were so high-profile: a newly discovered recording reflects Communist Party efforts to use the courts to crush a whole class - relatively wealthy farmers.

As the Communist government attempted to subdue the Czech equivalent of Russian kulaks in the 1950s one of their main tools was the court system. One particular trial, of farmer Josef Pazout in 1954, is the subject of a new documentary to be broadcast on Czech Radio on Thursday. It was made by Marek Janac, who outlines Pazout's "crimes".

"He didn't hand in the amount of foodstuffs he had been ordered to. In those days they gave farmers, especially private farmers, quotas so high that they couldn't be filled. That gave them a pretext for prosecution. And Pazout was also accused of reading but not handing in a Western propaganda leaflet he found in a field - millions of them were dropped by balloon here."

Thousands of propertied farmers were tried in the 1950s, but this recently discovered recording is the only known document of its kind. Marek Janac says at the time the trial was broadcast on local radio - and by loud speaker in the streets - to vilify farmers as a class and Josef Pazout as the richest farmer in the district of Bystrice, central Bohemia.

Pazout got six months in prison, plus one more for refusing to pay a fine. Historian Petr Blazek says that punishment only seems to be light.

"You have to realise that even a few months in jail basically meant liquidation for private farmers, if they didn't have anyone to look after the farm. They couldn't tend to their crops or look after their animals. What's more in the period 1951 to '53 those found guilty were forced to leave the area where in some cases their families had lived for several centuries. They had to start again elsewhere with whatever they were allowed to take with them."

Josef Pazout's daughter Ruzena Tomasova was 19 when her father was sentenced. How did his imprisonment impact the family?

"Badly. Because we were three women,my mother, my sister and myself. My brother was only 12 or 13. I must say the neighbours helped us. It wasn't until harvest time that they let my dad out. The local agricultural committee went to Bloch, the state prosecutor, and pleaded with him to release him. But Bloch just said, you take care of it."

Prosecutor Lev Bloch had, like his counterpart in the notorious Milada Horakova trial, no legal experience apart from a nine-month "workers' law school" course. The new radio documentary reports that he killed himself within a year of the Pazout trial; some believe because of a guilty conscience, the makers say.
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Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 12:30 pm
I'd missed the report about Slansky back in April, glad to read it now.
This latest bit is interesting too.
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Reply Sun 15 Jul, 2007 07:38 pm
Oh, i missed this entirely. Yes, i did know him very well. My father was his good friend. He was at my house many times, especially when he was the Ambassador to Slovakia. He was a very thoughtful, kind and warm man. Very funny too, in his quiet way.
They are all dying one by one and it always squeezes my heart. It is an end of an era and there are too few witnesses of that era left, and too few people care to remember (especially in Slovakia). I also immediately have to think of my father, who's so far away and in the same age and it kills me I cannot get to know him the way I would like to.
Reply Fri 22 Jul, 2016 11:40 pm
I met him once when I traveled to Praha the first time in 1975. I was an American student but in school in London. I brought with me hidden magazines depicting the dissidents in Praha.

It was a dream to be the first of my family to travel to Czechoslovakia to see relatives face to face after many letters and an International call in 19 70.

Rudolf was at the dinner given by close friends - the Hasekovas. Anna Slanska was there. Rudolf told me a story about working for a newspaper. He had found out that several people were corrupt at the newspaper. he reported this to his supervisor who turned out to be part of the corruption as well. They tried to fire Rudolf but were too afraid of all the powerful people he knew. He laughed.
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