He was born in Bratislava into a poor family. He joined the Communist Youth Union while still at Grammar school and in 1933 entered the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. During World War II, he was jailed by Josef Tiso, Slovakian politician who collaborated with the Nazis, for illegal Communist activities, because his party was banned at the time. Husák was later one of the leaders of the 1944 Slovak National Uprising that began a wave of discontent with the Nazi occupation.
After the war, he worked for the Slovakian government and strongly contributed to liquidation of other than communist parties. During the political trials in 1950s he was imprisoned and sentenced for life – this was a part of the thorough purge of “suspicious” party members, but after 1956 and Chruschov’s rise to power, he continued his political career. During the Prague Spring, he was the deputy premier of Czechoslovakia and opposed the liberal reforms of Dubček. After Dubček’s fall, he took the Communist party under his wings and started the infamous period of Normalization.
He was a natural leader, intelligent and pragmatic. He purged the party of its liberal members and destroyed the remains of Dubček’s reforms. He managed to gain people’s support by providing a relatively good living standard, on the other hand the permanent presence of secret police and increase of censorship left the public with mixed feelings. He targeted the dissidents and many of them left the country, the rest being imprisoned, including future president, Václav Klaus.
After the fall of Communism in 1989, Husák tried to defend himself by saying that he was only trying to repair the damage that has been done during the Soviet invasion and always stood against the radical Stalinism. Nevertheless, history has punished him and he is viewed as a very negative figure in the process of Normalization. In 1989 he resigned as president, in 1990 was expelled from the Communist Party and died one year later.