1948 Czechoslovak Coup

And Its Implications in the West

Big image
The democratic ministers of Czechoslovakia resign in February of 1948


The 1948 Czechoslovak coup d'etat took place in late February and involved the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which had the support of the Soviet Union, as it took control over the government of Czechoslovakia. This would mark the onset of forty years of Communist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovak coup with Communists coming to power; anti-Communist demonstrations ...HD Stock Footage

Allied Issues

Many important issues were discussed by the Allied leaders following World War II. However, many of the agreements made in these conferences would be broken in the years after the war. This is underscored in the way the Czechoslovak coup came about in 1948. Many issues and proposals arose when the Soviet army began to occupy Eastern Europe in 1944. The proposals regarded how these states would be administered

Winston Churchill

Churchill called for the region to be divided by spheres of influence, similar to how Germany was divided. Another part of his proposal was to allow the governments-in-exile of these states to return to power once the war was over.

Joseph Stalin

Stalin was in opposition to Churchill's plans. He had Czech and Polish nationals in Moscow whom he was training to lead their nations after the war. They were intended to lead a communist government and have the support of the Soviet army. Stalin also said that it was in the interest of the Soviet Union to have a major presence in the region so that Eastern Europe would be a buffer zone.
  • The Allies allowed the Soviet Union to occupy the Baltic states and part of Poland. Stalin promised that there would be free elections in Poland.
  • However, these promises would not be kept
  • Communist government installed in Romania
  • Polish elections canceled
  • Elected Prime Minister of Bulgaria was forced out of the country

Czechoslovakia: Recovery and Steps to the Coup

  • Czechoslovakia was working to recover economically after WWII, and was looking to accept the US Marshall Plan
  • Soviets would not let this happen
  • Stalin told the Czech leaders to not accept the Marshall Plan and made the Cominform to work against it
  • Eventually, supported by the Soviet Army and Soviet influence, the communists carried out a coup in Prague in February of 1948.
  • This coup was bloodless but the democratic leaders were arrested and imprisoned.
  • Klement Gottwald, the leader of the communist party took power.

Impact on Western Countries

United States

  • Prior to the coup, opposition to the Marshall Plan had been developing
  • However, afterwards, the public and Congress approved over $5 billion for the first year of the European Recovery Program
  • Until the coup, emphasis was placed on economic containment of Communism through the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan
  • The coup exposed limitations of US forces and its over-reliance on atomic power
  • It sparked a rise in the military budget
  • Fear of war reached a peak after the coup
  • However, some calming perspectives remained


  • In Italy, elections were scheduled for April 18th, and the communists had a good chance at winning
  • There was fear that the coup could inspire similar action to occur in Italy, resulting in a victory once again for Communism
  • However, despite these fears, the coup was in fact a factor that pushed more voters to side with the Christian democracy
  • Communism was not able to take control of Italy like it had in Czechoslovakia
  • Stalin was pleased the America had not moved militarily after the Czechoslovak coup and was willing to respect the results of the Italian election
  • Italy would not be considered a western country


  • In France, political currents were also set in motion by the results of the Czechoslovak coup
  • The US was aiding the French government in recovering after the war
  • Foreign minister Georges Bidault became afraid that the anti-German sentiment of the French Communist Party (PCF) would be able to spark a coup of its own
  • The coup had also forced the leader of the PCF, Maurice Thorez, to declare his support foe the Soviet Army if a Soviet invasion were to occur
  • However, the coup, the PCF's failed sabotage, and the Marshall Plan all began to bring more voters to the side that the US would help France more so than any other country
  • 70% trusted the US support compared to 7% for the Soviet Union
  • However, the coup did reveal to France that the Soviet threat was far greater than that of Germany


  • The Czech coup also inspired action from Western countries as a whole, not just individually
  • Previously, British Foreign, Minister Ernest Bevin, had called for a Western defense association, but was unable to sway many countries, especially the US
  • On February 26th, Bevin once again reiterated that the best way to prevent another coup from occurring, was to create a joint Western military strategy
  • This time, he received more support, especially from the US
  • That spring, European leaders met with US defense, military, and diplomatic officers in the Pentagon to explore the framework for a new unprecedented association for mutual defense
  • One year later, NATO would be formed as a result