Author Archives: ninayichenwei

Communism in Czechoslovakia-Part II |Nina Wei

Continuing my research on the communist development in Czechoslovakia, I explored the deterioration of the national economy under Communism, emergence of reform movements, and a period of democratization that led to the final dissolution of the Czechoslovak Confederation.

A Deteriorating Economy and The Prague Spring

Acute economic problems emerged from fields of industry and agriculture by the 1960s. Industrially, the prices of goods remained high, while the supply fell short and the quality of goods declined. In addition, production from the collectivized farms started to fall, producing less in 1960 than that was produced even in the prewar era (“Czech”).

This deterioration in the 1960s led to some limited reforms.

  • A group of reformers promoted for economic reforms
    • Attempted to replace the command economy with a mixed economy (“Czechoslovakia”).
    • Introduced marketing principles to agriculture
    • But most of these reforms stayed as vague aspirations and lacked implementation (“Czech”).

As these reforms failed, leadership was passed to the Slovak first secretary Alexander Dubček, in January 1968.


President Alexander Dubček

  • Dubček took on the role of the nation’s chief reformer, yet himself we not well qualified for this role. He was a Slovak and raised outside of the party apparatus (“Czech”).
  • This period of liberation was known as the Prague Spring.
    • One of the most influential reform emerged with the achievements of the Action Program adopted by this new reformist government, which was adopted in April of 1968.
    • This program promoted ideas from preceding years that were unrealized, including overdue economic and agricultural reforms, the democratization of Czechoslovak political life, the transformation of Slovakia into a full parity within the Czechoslovak federation, a revised constitution that would ensure a complete rehabilitation of citizens’ rights that had been infringed in the past years.
    • In addition, the program also aimed for a division of powers. The National Assembly, rather than solely the Communist Party would be in control of the government, courts were aimed to become independent and act as mediators between the legislative and executive branches. Although the shared powers between the government and other non-governmental organizations (Political pluralism) was not recommended, the Communist Party would still have to justify its role and compete for authority with these organizations (“Czech”).
  • Dubček instituted program was known as “socialism with a human face” and encouraged non-Communists to also participate in the government and restored a number of civil liberties (“Czechoslovakia”).
  • The results of this liberalization movement were viewed as unprecedented by the international community. Many Christian churches, national minority associations, and groups advocating for human rights re-emerged as active components of the nation’s society.

Leaders Meeting in Poland for The Warsaw Pact

  • But the Soviet Union and other allies in the Warsaw Pact were more alarmed of Czechoslovakia’s shift to democracy. (The Warsaw Pact established a mutual-defense organization during Cold War that mainly involved the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania; and ensured the maintenance of Soviet military forces on these territories.)
    • After Dubček refused to participate in the meeting of the Warsaw Pact powers, the allies sent a letter to Dubček warning that Czechoslovakia was on the verge of counterrevolution. But Dubček remained confident that he would be able to negotiate with the Soviets and resolve the conflicts.
    • However, Soviet armed forces invaded Czechoslovakia in August of 1968 and sent Dubček and several of the nation’s leaders to Moscow (“Czech”).

       Soviet tanks arrive to crush the Prague Spring

      • Dubček witnessed his reforms to regress as the country was restored with “Soviet-bloc norms” under the reign of the communists (“Czechoslovakia”).
      • Dubček returned to Prague and noted the people of the prices they had to pay for his reformist program, and agreed with the Soviets to tighten controls over activities within the political and cultural spheres (“Czech”).
      • The communist leaders dominating the state focused on improving the productivity of the state-run economy and stifling internal opposition.
  • Husák replaced Dubček, became the nation’s first secretary and then the nation’s president, and promoted his program of “Normalization” (“Czechoslovakia”).
    • Husák at first wanted to persuade the Soviets that Czechoslovakia would still remain a loyal member, allowing the Soviets to intervene if socialism seemed to be at threat in Czechoslovakia, and repudiating the emergence of Prague Spring.
    • Under Husák’s program, purges were carried out an important infrastructure improvement projects (“Czech”).
    • Therefore Czechoslovakia during the 70s and 80s became one of the more prosperous yet repressive countries in eastern Europe.

I also found an article that offers us with detailed accounts from young Czechoslovakians on the aftermath of the Prague Spring and their understanding of freedom based on their experience during this era of reform. According to this piece, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia brought forth a repressive era against supporters of the 1968 reforms. For instance, many of those who participated in the reforms lost their jobs and worked under the stringent supervision of the Communist Party.

Democratization and Dissolution


The Velvet Divorce

1989, a wave of democratization “swept across eastern Europe”, encouraged by the leader of Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

  • The Polish Solidarity movement, the enactment of a democratic constitution in Hungary, and an exodus of East Germans who desired freedom spurred a series of movements against communist rule.
  • This caused the communist leadership and policies in Czechoslovakia to be challenged by mass demonstrations in Prague, this nationwide movement later became to be known as the Velvet Revolution.
  • In December, the Communists established a coalition government with non-Communists opposition groups.
  • This shaped Czechoslovakia to adopt a multiparty political system and Václav Havel became the country’s new president, who promoted free elections to the Federal Assembly in June 1990, with non-Communists winning resounding majorities (“Czechoslovakia”).
  • Havel’s government became vital in the transition of Czechoslovakia’s government from communism to democracy.
    • He privatized businesses, adjusted the nation’s foreign policy, and wrote a new constitution.
    • Soviet troops were removed in June of 1991, and the Warsaw Pact was disbanded a month later (“Czech”).
    • This “reemergence of” a multiparty democracy was later known as the Velvet Revolution.

As the communist rule gradually ended and democracy began to surface, the tension between the two portions of Czechoslovakia intensified.

  • Slovaks opposed Czechs’ preference of state-run industries and the privatization of the nation’s goods (“Czechoslovakia”).
  • The re-writing of the constitution was hindered by the differences between political parties of each side, an agreement was hard to be achieved on a federal level. In addition, as minorities, the Slovak deputies were granted a disproportionate veto power (“Czech”).
  • The election in June of 1992 highlighted the tension and disagreements among them(“Czechoslovakia”).
    • The Czechoslovak federation began to appear as fragile and separatism rose as an important issue (“Czech”)
    • Talks later in the year of 1992 between leaders from both sides “resulted in the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
    • This was also part of the “Velvet Divorce” as two new countries were created the Czech Republic and Slovakia on Jan.1.1993, ending the 74-year of joint existence (“Czechoslovakia”).

As the national economy began to regress under the communist rule, a period of reforms emerged. It is interesting to learn the development of the reform movements and understand how repercussions of earlier reforms influenced the scheme of the following reform programs. It also surprised me that Czechoslovakia endured so many subversive changes within only 50 years, experiencing the Prague Spring, the invasion of the Soviets, a challenging transformation back into an oppressive communist rule, a wave of democratization, and the dissolution. Communism in Czechoslovakia also altered and adapted different forms as the nation developed.


Works Cited


“Czech and Slovak History.” Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, edited by Lorraine Murray, Chicago, Britannica Educational Publishing with Rosen Educational Services, 2014, pp. [283]-347. The Britannica Guide to Countries of the European Union. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.

“Czechoslovakia.” Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 26 Sep. 2018. Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.

“Life in Communist Czechoslovakia: Voices of Youth: A USCSAR Symposium.” Eurasiacenter, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.


Getty Images. Leaders Meeting in Poland for The Warsaw Pact. 1955. Independent, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.

—. President Alexander Dubcek. Otago Daily Times, Copyright Allied Press Limited 2019, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.

—. Soviet tanks arrive to crush the Prague Spring. Independent, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.

The Velvet Divorce. Worldatlas, 2019, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.


Communism in Czechoslovakia-Part I|Nina Wei

In this post, I plan to share part one of my research on the emergence of Communism in Czechoslovakia, covering the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918 to the rise of communist ideals and policies in the 1960s.

“Political union” of Czechs and Slovaks after WWI was feasible because the two ethnic groups were very much related in their language, religion, and general culture. Continue reading

Exploring Modern Cambodia–Nina

After discussing my research progress with T.Margaret over the last week, I decided to first explore modern Cambodia in the wake of the Khmer Rouge Movement before jumping straight into the unit on Czechoslovakia. So in this blog post, I will discuss some of my findings on the lasting impact of the Khmer Rouge Movement on aspects of Cambodian society today. Continue reading

Seeking “The Missing Picture” –Nina

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The Opening Scene, “The Missing Picture”

In the past semester, I completed my research on the development of Communism in Cuba and began to study the Cambodian Communist Revolution. Within the Cuba unit, I have had opportunities to understand the impact of the Cuban Revolution on various parties involved: Cuban-Americans, local Cubans, and the U.S. government. My analyses from reference articles, an interview, and a documentary helped me construct my own understanding of the revolution. Similarly, I have gathered information on the Khmer Rouge Movement in Cambodian from reading newspapers published during the revolution, statistical reports on the development of the Cambodian economy, examining case studies of the Cambodian education system, and viewing the last interview with Pol Pot. Continue reading

Tracing The Khmer Rouge Movement in Cambodia–Nina Wei


The Khmer Rouge Movement

As promised in my last post, this week’s blog begins exploring the second unit: Communism in Cambodia. My interest in Cambodia’s Communist regime was sparked by my trip to Cambodia in 6th grade. Having Angkor Wat as the sole impression of the country before traveling, I was absorbed in learning more about Cambodian history during the visit. Our tour guide’s horrific accounts of the Khmer Rouge first introduced me to its violent communist era, and made me question historical backgrounds inducing such an appalling chapter in Cambodian history. In this unit of my independent, I will trace the origins of Cambodian Communism and examine the contexts that shaped the Khmer Rouge’s radicalized interpretation of Communist ideologies. Continue reading

Fleeing the Cuban Revolution|Part II–Nina Wei


Cubamerican Poster

Over the past week, I successfully incorporated an interview and a documentary, Cubamerican, into my analysis of the Cuban Revolution’s impact on Cuban Americans. Inspired by my last post examining the history of Cuban immigrants to the U.S. and the diverse social and political affiliations within Cuban American communities, I decided to interview T. Maria, who came to the U.S. from Cuba with her family at the age of two, and gain second-hand understanding of Cuban refugees’ experience during the Revolution. Cubamerican also offered me insights into specific Cuban Americans’ interpretations of their identity as an emigrant in the U.S. This post will be less informational than previous ones, centering on my reflections while serving as a conclusion to the unit on Cuba. Continue reading

Fleeing the Cuban Revolution|Part I–Nina Wei

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Getty Images, Cuban and American Flags

To capture a firm understanding of the effects of Cuba’s Revolution on Cuban Americans, I decided to first explore the history of Cuban migration to the U.S. and the dynamics within Cuban American communities established in the U.S.. In the last three weeks, I focused my research on specific historical conditions that induced waves of Cubans to leave their country, the social makeup of the Cuban population involved in different migration movements, and potential factors that caused divisions within Cuban American communities.  This blog post and the following one will be devoted to sharing my interpretation of the Cuban Revolution and Castro’s Communist rule through the lens of Cuban Americans. Continue reading

Adoption of Communism in the Revolutionary Cuba–Nina

As mentioned in my last blog post, this week I will be sharing my research on the development of Communism in the context of Cuba. Over the last two weeks, I learned the overall historical background of the introduction, proliferation, and application of Communist ideals in Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Similar to my last post, I will first discuss in-depth my findings and then offer my reflection and a snapshot of my upcoming plan. Continue reading

Fundamental Theories of Communism–Nina


In last week’s blog post, I introduced the main topic of my independent seminar “Comparative Research on Development of Communism” and briefly explained my passion for understanding reasons behind varying interpretations of Communism in three countries. A theme of my research will be analyzing historical narratives of those people who experienced Communist rule, with consideration of people living under the systems and those outside of the systems. But before starting to examine Cuba, I believe exploring the basics of the Marxist Theory and different Communist ideologies will prepare me for in-depth research on the three countries. This week, therefore, I began to learn the fundamental theories of Marxism, Communism in Europe, Communism in Latin America, and Maoism.

marx-eng5The founder of Marxism is the German Philosopher, Karl Marx, who belonged to the larger group of Western thinkers that brought new, secularized solutions to questions regarding the human prospects. Inspired to initiate progressive changes pertaining to issues within institutions in Germany, Marx was determined to pursue his path in the field of philosophy. While working as a journalist in Paris, a center of European radicalism,  Marx began his critique on the revolutionary history of France. He soon discovered the “agent” of revolutionary change that was subjected to economic oppression at the time–the proletariat(working class). Due to the private-property-based economy, workers were unable to achieve satisfaction or attain self-development. Marx criticized this alienation of workers’ products and their producers(estrangement)and integrated this theory to later writings with Friedrich Engels. The video in the link above further explains the working conditions in which the more workers worked, the less they gained. This situation propelled Marx’s desire to unite the laborers for a revolution. Marx and Engels asserted in The Communist Manifesto that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” According to them, historical process is propelled by class struggles through the evolution of modes of production. They together shaped an ideology of a socialist society and fundamentals of a communist society: devoid of a political state, private property, exchange, and an industrial middle class. But, this theory lacked practical accounts of actual operations in such a system.

The establishment of the Soviet regime in 1917 sparked the spread of communism across the European political sphere, forcing nations to decide whether to accept communism. Communism in Europe began to shift away from Marx’s and Engel’s original theory as the German Communist League collapsed in 1850. Non-Marxists include Peter Kropotkin, a Russian revolutionist who advocated for anarchism and elimination of state and Alexander Herzen, a Russian writer who suggested an agrarian form of socialism and galvanized the peasantry.


The rise of Leninism was also a prominent aspect of the development of Communism in Europe. Vladimir Ilich Lenin offered his interpretation of Marxism, considered social circumstances in Russia, and proposed the necessity of a centrally organized party to evoke revolutionary consciousness among the uneducated workers and dedication to promoting active efforts to overturn the capitalist society.


Different from the European historical context, the adaptations of Communist systems in Latin America were caused by severe exploitation of the peasant population and an influx of European immigrants. 1890s Latin America instituted a sharply divided two-class structure, increasing productivity, attracting foreign investment and foreign immigrants. Ideas of Marxism also spread through the continent with the arrival of Italian, German, and Spanish immigrants. Starting from the 1930s, leftists parties that supported anti-American nationalism prospered, leading to U.S. intervention in Guatemala to overthrow lefist rule. 

338-0418221405-fidel-obamalikeAs Cuba successfully became the first socialist country in Latin America following the Cuban Revolution, a “Cuban Model” of Communism was born. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, the government forbade any political dissidence, endorsed improvement policies in areas of health, education, and social mobilization, and employed Guerrilla warfare techniques. However, it is important to note that diverse forms of Communism existed in Latin America, differing largely because of the various historical backgrounds and level of development in the countries themselves.

MaoAnother expression of Marxist ideology is Maoism, which is a broad term that includes Mao Zedong’s  ideologies, political philosophy, and vision towards party leadership in China. Born in a peasant family, Mao was intrigued by tales of rebelling peasants against exploitative middle class and bureaucracy. He became a leading force in rejecting the old Confucian norms of the society which were based on set of social relationships that placed high value on age and order. As Mao witnessed the deterioration of Chinese society under Japanese incursions, he joined the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) during his time in Peking University. His northern expedition and defeat of militarist leaders earned Mao a prominent role in the party. Ambitious Mao adopted series of strategies such as mass mobilization, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. Mao’s emphasis on upholding the peasant class as the driving force of revolution distinguished Maoism from ideologies of Marxism-Leninism that believed in the strength of the urban proletariat. His personal background, China’s historical context, and Mao’s charisma with his tactics of promoting his theory shaped Maoism.

I discovered through my research last week that various socialists and communist leaders around the world all strived to achieve the “perfect” society proposed by Marx and Engels, but the nature of the societies these political leaders lived under and strategies they adopted were distinct from Marxist communism. For example, Lenin applied the fundamentals of Marxist ideology to Russia and brought forth a system ruled by an active, organized party; Castro utilized his understanding of Marxism in developing his Cuban Model based on a central government against the U.S. and directing movements against a divided class structure; Mao implemented his experience in the peasant class into constructing an ideology mobilizing a revolution. The Marxist ideology is indeed only posed as a general formula and a visionary theory that requires other countries’ own adaptations based on their circumstances. Reading overviews of Communism in different areas this week strengthened my understanding of the reasons behind varying applications of Marxist Theory. I also learned to be more aware of the danger of overgeneralizing the term “Communism” because of the underlying diversity that is often overlooked. With this realization in mind, I would begin my research this week on Cuban Communism and its expression of the Marxist Theory in depth!



Agastia, Dharma. Managing communist-phobia in Indonesia. The Jarkata Post, 3 Feb. 2017, Accessed 10 Sept. 2018.

Berry, Sam. Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels – The Communist Manifesto. 22 July 2015.Communist Leaders. 2 June 2017. Steam Artwork, Valve Corporation,

Vladimir Lenin. 31 Aug. 2017. marinaamaral, MARINA AMARAL, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.

Rott, Ivan. Cuban communists approve landmark econ reforms. Freedom, Ernest Hancock, 18 Apr. 2011, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.

Mao Zedong. Liberapedia, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.


Karl Marx on Alienation. Produced by BBC Radio 4, 2015. Youtube, 2018 YouTube, Accessed 23 Sept. 2018.


Jian, Chen. “Maoism.” New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, edited by Maryanne Cline Horowitz, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005, pp. 1335-1341. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.

Megill, Allan. “Marxism: Overview.” New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, edited by Maryanne Cline Horowitz, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005, pp. 1357-1364. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.

Rees, Tim. “Communism: Europe.” New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, edited by Maryanne Cline Horowitz, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005, pp. 414-421. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.

Wiarda, Howard J., and Esther M. Skelley. “Communism: Latin America.” New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, edited by Maryanne Cline Horowitz, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005, pp. 421-424. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.

Comparative Research on Development of Communism–Project Introduction-Nina

2017_02_03_20745_1486084902._largeMy inspiration for this independent study came from my last year’s classes. In the first semester of Hiroshima to 911, I dived into the Communism unit by examining development Communism in several countries and completing a thorough research paper on the Communist system in Nicaragua. When our class engaged in a harkness discussion on our findings, I was fascinated by the varying expressions of Communist ideology in different countries. In the second semester, I explored the North Korea Nuclear Crisis and the Israel-Palestine Conflict by analyzing each side’s narratives. From watching a documentary accounting The Mass Games in North Korea, comparing a timeline of the nuclear crisis produced by North Korea and the U.S., to understanding the discrepancy of historical narratives in the book Side by Side, I had the opportunity to deliberately assess both sides’ reasoning in depth and draft potential compromises to mediate the conflict through my work on Model Diplomacy. It was through the analysis of merits to claims suggested by both sides that I realized the importance of having an “open mind” when it comes to learning history. Continue reading