The State That Failed
Yale University Press, 9780300172423, 432pp.
Publication Date: March 29, 2011
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This book, the most thoroughly researched and accurate history of Czechoslovakia to appear in English, tells the story of the country from its founding in 1918 to partition in 1992—from fledgling democracy through Nazi occupation, Communist rule, and invasion by the Soviet Union to, at last, democracy again.
The common Western view of Czechoslovakia has been that of a small nation that was sacrificed at Munich in 1938 and betrayed to the Soviets in 1948, and which rebelled heroically against the repression of the Soviet Union during the Prague Spring of 1968. Mary Heimann dispels these myths and shows how intolerant nationalism and an unhelpful sense of victimhood led Czech and Slovak authorities to discriminate against minorities, compete with the Nazis to persecute Jews and Gypsies, and pave the way for the Communist police state. She also reveals Alexander Dubcek, held to be a national hero and standard-bearer for democracy, to be an unprincipled apparatchik. Well written, revisionist, and accessible, this groundbreaking book should become the standard history of Czechoslovakia for years to come.