"Dear Comrade President!" Cover Image

"Vážený soudruhu prezidente"
"Dear Comrade President!"

Complaints of Czechoslovak Citizens Adressed to the President of the Republic Between 1970 and 1989

Author(s): Tomáš Vilímek
Subject(s): Politics / Political Sciences, History, Governance, Public Administration, Political history, Social history, Labor relations, Post-War period (1950 - 1989), History of Communism, Corruption - Transparency - Anti-Corruption
Published by: AV ČR - Akademie věd České republiky - Ústav pro soudobé dějiny
Keywords: Czechoslovakia;Czechoslovak normalization;citizen complaints;Czechoslovak Presidents;President´s Office;communism;Czechoslovak society;housing;social security;labour relations;travelling;education

Summary/Abstract: The study focuses on the hitherto neglected issue of complaints that citizens of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic made to their President and his Office between 1970 and 1989. The author describes the activities of the Complaints Department of the Presidential Office and how the complainants’ agenda evolved both quantitatively and qualitatively during the period of normalization. He presents the social, ethnic, regional and gender profile of the authors of the complaints, their motivation, common themes and the typical linguistic means the writers used. Using archival sources, he then analyses the five most numerous and important problem areas of the registered complaints, which concerned: housing and housing policy, social security, labour relations, travel abroad, education and study. He uses specific cases to illustrate the flow of communication between the complainants, the President’s Office and other bodies that commented on the issues. Additionally, he highlights the chronic social problems that were mirrored in the complaints and which the authorities of the normalization era regime failed to address effectively. Between 1970 and 1989, more than 323,000 complainants, mostly pensioners and workers, wrote to Presidents Ludvík Svoboda (1895–1979, in office 1968–1975) and Gustáv Husák (1913–1991, in office 1975–1989) asking for help in matters relating to poor housing conditions and their futile wait for an apartment, low wages or pension assessments, difficulties with an employer, discrimination in permitting travel abroad and resettlement, or the non-admission of children to secondary or higher education. Most of the writers asserted their personal interest and commented on the societal issues only if it was related to it or they could benefit from them. The President’s Office paid close attention to citizen complaints and in many cases its intervention did indeed help to bring about a redress. In the author’s view, it certainly made sense to write to the President in this regard, even though many requests went unheeded and, in particular, complaints with political overtones remained unanswered.

  • Issue Year: XXIX/2022
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 43-89
  • Page Count: 47
  • Language: Czech