The first communist president of the Czech and Slovakian Federative Republic was born in 1896 as the illegitimate son of a poor peasant. As a teenager, he entered the Austro-Hungarian Army and fought in the First World War. He deserted and joined the Russian Red Army where he found himself fascinated by Bolshevism and their charismatic leader, Lenin.
When the war ended, he entered the Communist Party in Slovakia and worked as a journalist. He found his meaning of life in politics, his speeches were sharp and he spoke the language of the masses, never being academic himself. In 1926 he moved to Prague and started working at the party’s office quickly forming a group supporting the Kremlin politics. He was quick to criticize Masaryk and even called him a fascist. The state, in Gottwald’s opinion, was artificial and was a product of Versailles conferences, not of people’s wishes.
Munich Pact corresponded with Gottwald’s statements, as the Allies betrayed the Czechs and Slovaks. In 1939, the Nazis banned the Communist Party and Gottwald emigrated to the Soviet Union, coordinating the communist activities with Beneš and his London initiative. This collaboration soon made Gottwald one of the most important political figures outside the protectorate. After the war, he became the head of the Communist Party and later Prime Minister. He initiated the new constitution banning all ultra-rightist parties guaranteeing a clear field to the communists, he emphasized the importance of a social state and openly acknowledged Bolshevism.
After winning the elections in 1946, the Communist Party started directing steps of president Beneš and forced him to turn down the Marshall Plan, just like all other Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. Intellectuals and non-communist politics were trying to form a strong opposition, but a series of scandals, most probably constructed by Gottwald and his party, discredited them. Gottwald and his party took over the state In February 1948, deleting all political competition and issuing a new constitution, based on the ideas of radical Stalinism. They won the parliamentary elections in May and saw Beneš leave the presidential seat to Gottwald.
Klement Gottwald died in 1953, the same year as his big hero Stalin. He was responsible for the direction of the Czech and Slovak politics. People supported him at first, but the manipulated elections and rise to power in 1948 made them question their decision throughout the next forty years.