Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1985

The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic is a centralized Communist
state in which the Communist Party leadership decides all
important political, economic, and social questions and limits
the scope of individual human rights. There has been
virtually no change in the state and party leadership during
the last 15 years.
Czechoslovakia has a large, well-funded security apparatus,
directed by the Ministry of the Interior and the Communist
Party hierarchy. It includes the uniformed police force
(public security) which is similar to a Western police force,
and the secret police (state security), which deals with
people it judges to be past, present, or future opponents of
the regime. This powerful internal security force — backed by
the Czechoslovak Army and the 80,000 Soviet troops stationed
in Czechoslovakia since 1968 — is the main pillar of the
Government's control.
The Czechoslovak centrally planned economy allows little or no
private enterprise or ownership in manufacturing, retail
operations, agriculture, or services. In the 17 years since
the suppression of the Prague Spring, the words "economic
reform" have been banished from the official lexicon. When
the Communists took power in 1948, Czechoslovakia had one of
the most advanced economies in Europe, one that had escaped
much of the destruction of World War II. In recent years,
however, the economy has stagnated, burdened by excessive
central planning, obsolete equipment, and infrastructure, and
by a lack of incentives for innovation and initiative.
The human rights situation in Czechoslovakia changed little in
1985. There have been no major trials of well-known figures
which would attract unfavorable publicity in the West. The
authorities have, however, made free use of more subtle forms
of repression, including: frequent house searches,
detentions, and interrogations; suspended prison sentences and
"protective supervision;" intrusive surveillance and other
forms of psychological pressure; discrimination in employment;
and denial of education opportunities to the children of
"dissidents." As in previous years, the harshest repression
has been directed at religious activists and at those
individuals and groups who monitor human rights abuses in
Czechoslovakia .
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
Every year a number of Czechoslovak citizens are shot by
Czechoslovak border guards while trying to cross the border
without official permission. These incidents rarely come to
public attention unless the victims reach the West, so it is
impossible to estimate the number of fatalities that result.
There have been no reports of political killings by the police
in 1985. However, one political activist has reported a
"warning" by the police that he was likely to "suffer a car
accident" or "fall off a bridge" if he persisted in his
b. Disappearance
There have been no reports of disappearances in 1985.
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
There have been no reports of systematic torture in
Czechoslovak prisons since the early 1960 's. Many former
prisoners credit this to the influence of President Husak, who
himself suffered long years of imprisonment and mistreatment
in the 1950 's. However, there have been reports of beatings,
threats, and intimidation during interrogation. Reports of
mistreatment have been most frequent in political cases.
Prison conditions are poor and sometimes approach a level of
cruel and inhuman treatment, especially under the "third
category" of imprisonment (harshest regime), which is often
applied to political prisoners. In general, cells are small
and iinheated; family visits are strictly limited; and
prisoners report that they receive such punishments as
reduction in pay and limitations on free time, bathing, and
exercise periods for failing to meet unrealistically high work
standards. Diet and medical facilities are reliably reported
to be deficient. Former prisoners have reported that prison
guards sometimes encourage hardened criminals to prey on
prisoners serving sentences for political offenses. Prisoners
or former prisoners who complaint publicly of mistreatment
have been severely punished.
In its July 1983 meeting, the World Psychiatric Association
accused Czechoslovakia of misusing psychiatry for political
purposes, causing Czechoslovakia to resign its membership in
the organization. Several cases of misuse have been
documented in recent years, most notably that of the Korineks,
a Christian Advent ist family which has been struggling to
avoid involuntary incarceration and regain custody of their
children for more than a decade. However, this appears to be
an isolated instance, and the misuse of psychiatry does not
appear to be a widespread practice.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Persons in Czechoslovakia are frequently arrested, detained,
or subjected to searches and interrogations for expression of
views contrary to those of the regime. Such actions by the
police and judicial authorities are often explained in legal
terms and performed with warrants, but in many instances they
have been carried out without warrants. Under the law a
person may be detained for up to 48 hours without being
charged, although in practice this limit is often exceeded.
It is normal for political activists to be detained repeatedly
for 48 hours at a time and then released without being
charged. Searches, detentions, and frequent interrogations
are among the tactics used by the regime when it has decided
to harass rather than prosecute.
According to law, a detainee may be held in investigative
detention for 60 days if the authorities decide to press
charges. A detainee does not have the right to visits by
family members until after the trial is over. Investigative
detention may be and often is extended at the request of the
prosecution, a|id detainees are occasionally held for long
periods without being brought to trial. Miklos Duray, the
best known activist for the Hungarian minority in
Czechoslovakia, was arrested in Bratislava on May 10, 1984
and released 12 months later without ever having been brought
to trial.
People arrested for expressing views opposed by the regime are
generally charged with "subversion," "incitement," "defamation
of the republic," or "damaging the interests of the republic
abroad." Persons who have unauthorized contacts with foreign
diplomats or frequent embassy libraries have on occasion been
charged with "espionage." People arrested for religious
activities are usually charged with "obstructing state
supervision over churches and religious societies." Many of
these articles of the Criminal Code are so elastic that they
could encompass almost any activity. In certain instances,
the authorities have also resorted to trumped-up criminal
charges (e.g., "hooliganism," or "stealing socialist
property") to punish those whose real offense was to engage in
unauthorized political activity.
Internal exile and house arrest have not been imposed formally
in Czechoslovakia since the 1950 's. In 1984, though, for the
first time, the Government introduced a regime of "protective
supervision" which combines features of both. Five former
political prisoners are currently being subjected to this
regime: Ladislav Lis, Jan Litomisky, Jiri Gruntorad,
Frantisek Starek, and Ivan Jirous. Protective supervision
includes travel restrictions; curfews; frequent searches of
their persons, homes, and guests; and the obligation to report
to the police on a regular basis. Ladislav Lis, for example,
has been obliged to report to the police 10 times a week; has
been subjected to lengthy house searches 3 to 5 times a week;
and has had many of his visitors detained, taken away for
questioning, and otherwise harassed. The imposition of such a
regime, intended for habitual violent offenders, against
persons who have never committed or advocated an act of
violence is clearly aimed at isolating them from contact with,
the outside world.
The Government has also used forced exile to rid itself of
critics. In some cases people who had been working or
visiting abroad with official permission were stripped of
citizenship and refused the right to return.
Forced exile is often aimed against people who have already
served a jail sentence. Upon their release, or while still in
prison, they are pressured to emigrate. If they refuse, they
and their families are harassed, denied jobs and schooling,
and threatened with rearrest. Frequently, after a year or
more of this treatment, these ex-prisoners apply to emigrate.
Forced labor is not practiced in Czechoslovakia, but "work
education" is required of prisoners. Former prisoners report
that convicts face higher norms, lower pay, and poorer working
conditions than normal workers.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
According to Czechoslovak law, people charged with criminal
offenses are entitled to a fair and open public trial. The
law provides that the accused has a right to be informed of
the charges against him, to have counsel, and to present a
defense. However, the practice is quite different, especially
where political offenses are concerned.
For the most part, friends of the defendant, representatives
of the press, and diplomats are barred from attending trials
with political content, and the courtroom is filled with
"representatives of the public," who work for the security
forces .
Defendants are allowed to choose their lawyers, and
court-appointed lawyers are provided if necessary. However,
lawyers, like judges, are subject to direct and indirect
pressure from the political authorities and do not always
vigorously represent their clients. Defense attorneys who
have defended their clients with vigor have in some cases been
disbarred and occasionally prosecuted. Defendants do exercise
their right to defend themselves in court and occasionally
have the charges dismissed or reduced at the original trial or
appeal. But an appeal may also result in an increase in the
sentence or in additional charges.
The judiciary is not independent of the Government and
Communist Party. In theory, judges can be removed only by the
Federal Assembly (Parliament) or by the Czech or Slovak
National Council. In practice, they are subject to direct
control and supervision by the Communist Party, to which most
judges and lawyers must belong.
The number of political prisoners in Czechoslovakia is
difficult to estimate. The Czechoslovak Government does not
recognize political prisoners as a separate category, and does
not release figures on its prison population. The only
figures available are from VONS, the Committee in the Defense
of the Unjustly Persecuted, which to the best of its ability
documents individual cases. Fewer than a dozen of the cases
that VONS has been following since 1978 are currently in
prison. However, VONS does not document certain categories of
political prisoners, such as those sentenced for attempts to
leave Czechoslovakia without official permission. The number
of such prisoners — most of whom serve terms of 1 to 2
years — has been variously estimated between 300 and 1,000.
f . Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Government believes it has the right to monitor and
control the leisure-time activities of its citizens. As such,
it also asserts the right to interfere with privacy of
communications .
Those who are considered opponents of the regime bear the
brunt of heavily intrusive surveillance. They, their
families, and friends are routinely subjected to such measures
as electronic surveillance, tapping of telephones, and
interceptions and destruction of mail. Discrimination in
education and employment is regularly practiced against the
families of dissidents and religious activists. Fear that
their children will be denied higher education is a major
factor in preventing even more open dissent among
intellectuals and white-collar workers.
A special problem exists for religious believers who wish to
raise their children in their faith. Organization of
religious instruction or ceremonies in private homes is
forbidden. Parents must seek the permission of local
authorities for their children to receive religious education
at school . Such requests are discouraged by school
authorities who warn parents that participation in religious
classes could be damaging to a child's future education and
career prospects.
Contacts with individuals and receipt of information from the
West are discouraged. Czechoslovaks in many professions are
required to file a report each time they have a conversation
with a Westerner . Broadcasts of Radio Free Europe in Czech
and Slovak are jammed in Prague and other major cities,
although they can often be heard in rural areas. Other
Western radio broadcasts are not jammed. Many people who live
near the country's western or southern borders can receive
West German or Austrian television broadcasts.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Rights, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and
press, it also states that they must be exercised "in
accordance with the interests of the working class." In
effect, individuals may not voice opinions publicly that
differ from party policy or question the legitimacy of party
rule, the fundamental principles of the "Socialist" state, or
the regime's relationship with the Soviet Union. Likewise,
academic freedom is severely limited by political directives.
In order to publish, writers must belong to the
state-controlled Union of Writers. All newspapers and
magazines are published by political parties or mass
organizations (e.g.. The Youth League, Revolutionary Trade
Union Movement, or Sports Federation) which are controlled by
the Communist Party. Legal religious literature and
periodicals come under strict censorship and are published in
limited editions. Publishing houses and the news media, all
state-owned, are self-censored under Communist Party
guidelines. In cases where insufficient care is exercised,
fines are imposed, or editors may be fired.
Only a limited number of Western non-Communist periodicals are
allowed into the country, and they are beyond the reach of
ordinary citizens. Since the early 1970 's, libraries have
restricted access to Western publications of a political
character to those individuals who have obtained special
permission from their employers, documenting their need for
the material for official purposes. Periodicals such as Time
eind Newsweek are locked in cabinets controlled by special
personnel. Books and periodicals published during the 1968-69
period or other publications considered ideologically
"harmful" are subject to similar controls.
Printing and photocopying ec[uipment, except typewriters, are
controlled by the Ministry of Interior and cannot be legally
obtained by individuals. Despite these restrictions, a lively
underground "samizdat" (self-published) press publishes a
variety of fiction and nonfiction, usually in very small
editions. Some of it is sent abroad where it is reprinted in
emigre publishing houses and then brought back to
Czechoslovakia in larger editions. Those arrested for
literary activities in 1985 include Lenka Mareckova, who was
sentenced after reading her poetry at a literary evening to a
6-month prison term for "incitement;" Petr Kozanek and Zdenek
Kotrly, who were given suspended sentences for trying to take
some of Mrs. Kotrly' s writings to Austria; and a group of five
Catholics in Prague who were believed to have organized an
underground printing press for religious materials.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although freedom of assembly is protected in theory by the
Constitution, it does not exist in practice. Public meetings
may be held only with permission of the police, and this
permission is given only when the meeting supports state
objectives. When the authorities wish to have a large rally
(May Day or "peace" demonstrations), people are often
pressured to attend.
Lectures and film showings in private homes may also be
subject to dispersal, if the authorities object to their
contents or to the participants. In March 1985, 48 people
were taken to a police station from a private home where they
had gathered to watch some historical films. Most were
released after a few hours, but several were detained for 48
hours without charges. Similar disruptions have plagued
philosophical seminars organized by Dr. Ladislav Hejdanek, a
Charter 77 signatory and former professor of philosophy.
Despite the harassment, the seminar series has survived since
the late 1970 's.
Independent associations are not permitted in Czechoslovakia.
All labor unions, professional associations, and even amateur
groups are controlled by the Communist Party and subordinated
to it. The Government's unwillingness to tolerate independent
initiatives by these organizations is evident from its
treatment of the Jazz Section of the Musicians Union, a
legally constituted association of 6,000 jazz fans throughout
Czechoslovakia, which organized jazz festivals and sponsored
publications on music and the arts for its members. In March
1985 the Jazz Section was dissolved under a 1968 statute
banning "counterrevolutionary activity." Leaders of the
section protested and addressed a series of letters and
petitions to the authorities. The result was surveillance,
interrogations, loss of their jobs, and other forms of
harassment. In September the Jazz Section's offices and
leaders' apartments were raided by the police, and the
section's financial and legal records and membership lists
were confiscated. Despite official pressure, the Jazz
Section, has thus far, refused to acquiesce in its
dissolution. Petr Cibulka, a Jazz Section member and Charter
77 activist, was sentenced on September 27 to 7 months in
prison for "insulting the nation" during an alleged incident
in a restaurant .
Czechoslovak workers do not have the right to establish and
join organizations of their own choosing without previous
authorization. An attempt to establish an independent trade
union in the early 1980 's was suppressed. Membership in the
official trade unions or professional associations is
virtually obligatory for workers and those seeking to practice
a profession. Communist Party membership is an unwritten, but
commonly acknowledged, prerequisite for nearly all
higher-level jobs.
The Czechoslovak union organization, the "Revolutionary
Workers' Movement" (ROH), is a mass organization strictly
controlled by the Communist Party. Strikes, independent
organizing efforts, and collective bargaining are not
permitted under the Czechoslovak system. The ROH is
affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions whose
headquarters are in Prague.
The Constitution guarantees the right and duty to work. In
practice, individuals who are considered politically
unreliable are barred from professional positions and forced
into menial, low-paid jobs such as coal stokers and
nightwatchmen . This practice has been condemned by the
International Labor Organization.
c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution but
strictly limited in practice. "Scientific atheism" is the
official ideology, and the Government actively discourages
religious activity, especially among the young. Teachers,
policemen. Communist Party officials, and certain other
professionals encounter problems in their careers if they are
seen in church. Higher education is often denied to active
believers and their children.
A church must be officially registered in order to function
legally in Czechoslovakia. Proselytizing groups, such as
Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, are banned outright, and
their members suffer frecjuent harassment and arrest.
Jehovah's Witnesses have been reported in several prisons, but
there are no reliable estimates of their number.
Organized religious practice is hampered by both written and
xinwritten restrictions. Clergymen are paid by the State and
must receive a state license in order to practice. Such
licenses can be — and are — withdrawn without explanation.
Estimates of the number of clergymen who have lost their
licenses vary, but they are known to include several bishops.
Those who continue to practice despite revocation of their
licenses are liable to criminal prosecution.
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest of Czechoslovakia's
18 officially registered religious bodies. There are
estimated to be 8 to 11 million Roman Catholics in
Czechoslovakia, and up to 450,000 members of the affiliated
Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church. The Greek Catholic Church was
reestablished in 1968 after having been forcibly united with
the much smaller Orthodox Church in 1950. However, the Greek
Catholics have been unable to reclaim their property which
remains in the possession of the Orthodox Church.
Students in Czechoslovakia's two remaining Catholic seminaries
(out of a prewar total of 13) need state approval to be
admitted and ordained. In addition, the State must approve
each priest's assignment to a parish or higher office. As a
result of these restrictions, many priests have to cover more
than one parish, and only 3 of 13 dioceses have resident
In 1950 all male religious orders were dissolved. A few
female religious orders were allowed to continue functioning,
but they were prevented from accepting new members, except
during a brief interlude in 1968. Despite these limitations,
some Catholic monastic orders have continued to operate
clandestinely. In November 1984 seven Catholics were detained
and interrogated on suspicion of being affiliated with the
Franciscan order. All were released without trial within
2 months, but charges remain pending against them.
"Pacem in Terris," the state-sponsored "peace association" of
clergy, has been a major instrument of state control over the
Catholic Church since it was founded in 1970. The association
has been losing ground since 1982 when the Vatican banned
clergy participation in political organizations worldwide.
Although Cardinal Tomasek and the overwhelming majority of the
clergy in Czechoslovakia have disassociated themselves from
"Pacem in Terris," priests associated with the organization
have retained control of Katolicke Noviny (Catholic News), the
only legally published Catholic newspaper.
The year 1985 witnessed the largest religious gathering in
Czechoslovakia's postwar history, when 150,000 Czech and
Slovak Catholics gathered in a small Moravian village to
celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the death of St.
Methodius. Although the authorities did not prevent people
from gathering at Velehrad, they refused to allow the Pope and
Catholic leaders from Western European countries to attend the
ceremonies. The crowds in attendance made their views on
government religious policies clear by booing the Czech
Minister of Culture and chanting slogans for religious
freedom, a papal visit, more priests and bishops, and an end
to "Pacem in Terris."
The printing of religious literature is severely restricted,
and Bibles are in short supply. There has been some progress
in this area of late: the Czech Ecumenical Council of
Churches reportedly imported 122,000 Czech Bibles and New
Testaments in 1984-85, and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation
provided Jewish communities 2,000 copies of the Pentateuch in
1985. Still, the demand for religious literature exceeds the
supply, and Bibles are smuggled in from abroad and produced by
underground "samizdat" (self-published) methods.
Protestant denominations registered by the Government operate
under similar constraints as the Catholic Church.
Proselytizing is forbidden; religious education is strictly
regulated and may not be organized in private homes; religious
ceremonies are restricted for the most part to church
premises, and education of clergymen is closely controlled.
Clergymen who are popular with young people or associated with
Charter 77 soon find themselves barred from preaching.
The Jewish community of several thousand has a central
religious organization, financially supported and controlled
by the Government. There are synagogues and prayer houses
open for worship and two rabbis, one in Prague and one in
Kosice. In Prague, there is a Jewish Museum operated by the
State. There are no Jewish schools or rabbinical seminaries.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
For most Czechoslovaks freedom of movement within the country
is not restricted, except near military installations and the
borders with Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany.
However, the Government has increasingly restricted the
movements of Charter 77 activists and other "suspect" persons
by preventing them from leaving their homes or meeting with
foreigners. Leading Prague-based dissidents were kept under
virtual house arrest for several days or weeks during the
spring and summer of 1985, when Western dignataries were
visiting Prague, in an effort to prevent them from meeting
with delegation members and the accompanying press. Likewise,
several religious activists were picked up by the police and
driven back to Prague each time they went to visit friends or
colleagues outside the city.
Travel to Western countries is difficult since travelers must
obtain permission and, unless visiting close relatives, a hard
currency authorization. The number of such authorizations
issued each year is far below the demand. Travelers to the
West must usually leave some member of the immediate family at
home to ensure their return. These restrictions are often
relaxed for retired persons.
Travel by citizens of Czechoslovakia to other East European
countries has become more difficult in recent years. A
special passport is now required for trips to Yugoslavia, and
travel to Poland has been restricted since 1981. Travel to
Hungary has been made more difficult by limiting the amount of
currency which may be exchanged and the number of trips which
may be made in 1 year. Citizens deemed politically
"unreliable" may find that they are denied permission to
travel to either Eastern or Western Europe.
The right to emigrate is extremely limited. It is generally
enjoyed only by those wishing to join a foreign citizen
spouse, or, in the case of retired persons, foreign citizen
children abroad. Those caught while seeking to leave
Czechoslovakia without official permission are usually
sentenced to 1 or 2 years in prison. The number of such
prisoners has been variously estimated between 300 and 1,000.
Czechoslovakia occasionally denies the right of repatriation
by stripping the citizenship of those citizens it wishes to
keep out. Emigration passports are not valid for return
without special endorsement, and in some cases permanent exile
is a condition for emigration or study abroad. Many former
Czechoslovak citizens who wish to visit their former homeland
are denied visas.
There is a moderate outflow of refugees from Czechoslovakia,
primarily persons who leave the country legally on vacation to
non-Warsaw Pact countries and do not return. This may amount
to about 10,000 people annually, but precise statistics are
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
All significant decisions regarding the Government, the
economy, and society are made exclusively by the leadership of
the Communist Party. Through its apparatus, the party
leadership determines who will be placed in decisionmaking
positions not only within its own ranks but also throughout
the structures of state authority, the economy, the media, and
mass organizations. Real power is enjoyed by only a few
top-level officials in the party Presidium and Secretariat.
Ordinary citizens, especially those who are not party members,
have no role in selecting their leaders or in making important
political or economic decisions. Four minor political parties
are permitted to organize and publish their own newspapers but
must conform their activities to Communist Party directives.
All parties and mass organizations are represented in the
National Front which is completely controlled by the Communist
Party. Among its tasks is the nomination of a single slate of
candidates to stand unopposed at all elections.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Czechoslovak Government reacts negatively to expressions
of concern about human rights violations in Czechoslovakia
either by other governments or by nongovernmental
institutions. It has delayed or denied visas to members of
international human rights organizations such as the Helsinki
Watch Committee and Amnesty International.
Two groups within Czechoslovakia concern themselves with human
rights. One is Charter 77, a group of individuals who signed
a document first issued in January 1977 calling on the
Government to honor its commitment to international
arrangements on human rights, including the Final Act of the
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as
human rights guarantees in the Czechoslovak Constitution. The
second group, the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly
Persecuted (known by its Czech intials VONS), uses public
records and reports from friends and relatives of the accused
to issue communiques in cases where it believes the police,
the courts, or the prisons have abused citizens' human
rights. These communiques are distributed to the Czechoslovak
authorities. Members of both of these groups, are targets of
harassment by the regime.
Amnesty International, in its 1985 Report (covering the year
1984), was concerned about the continued detention of
prisoners of conscience and the application of the Law on
Protective Surveillance to some prisoners of conscience who
had been released. It also noted that many people were
sentenced to short prison terms and harassed in various ways
for exercising their human rights. Freedom House rated
Czechoslovakia "not free."
Czechoslovakia is a highly industrialized country of
approximately 15.5 million inhabitants. It has had a rising
standard of living since the end of World War II, but recent
figures show a slowing down in the rate of growth. The
stable, largely urbanized population enjoys an adecjuate
material existence.
The basic needs of food and health care are met. Food
supplies are adec[uate and the average daily caloric intake in
1984 was 3,100 calories. Health care is universally available
through a national system administered and financed by the
Government and paid for in part by employee deductions. There
are reports, however, that prompt treatment is only secured
through payment of bribes, and many standard drugs are
available only if paid for in hard currency. In 1984 average
life expectancy at birth was 66.7 years for men, and 74.0 for
women. The infant mortality rate was 14.9 per 1,000 live
The retirement age is 57 years for women and 60 years for
men. The average pension is 55 percent of the average wage,
and many retirees supplement their pension payments by working.
Education is compulsory to 16 years of age. Literacy is
nearly universal. Secondary and university education are free
of charge, and opportunities exist for evening study at the
advanced secondary and technical levels. However, the
selection of students for courses and schools, particularly
those leading to more desirable careers, is reportedly based
on their parents' political standing and reliability.
Official policies also deliberately favor children from
workers' families in the admissions process. There has been
criticism of the insertion of political criteria ip. admission
to higher education.
The minimum age for full-time employment is 16, although
part-time employment is permitted at an earlier age. The
average workweek is 42.5 hours. Beyond 46 hours workers are
paid overtime, and there are additional bonuses for some shift
and weekend work. There is a labor shortage, especially for
unskilled and semiskilled labor, which is filled in part by
workers from other Communist countries. Working conditions
appear generally adequate, although less attention is paid to
occupational safety and pollution than in the West. When
problems do arise, the workers have little recourse, since
strikes and independent labor organizations are prohibited,
and the major preoccupation of the state-controlled labor
union is to ensure that production plans are fulfilled.
Women form 46.5 percent of the work force, but they tend to be
concentrated in lower-paying, less skilled jobs. They do,
however, receive ec[ual pay to their male colleagues if they
hold the same job. There are inconsistencies in the
responsibilities women are asked to assume: they are
encouraged to join the work force, but they are also offered
incentives to have children. According to Czechoslovak
figures, the population growth rate was 0.3 percent in 1984.
Women are ec[ual under the law, and there are small numbers of
women in the professions and in higher ranking party,
government, and managerial positions. There is only one woman
in the party Secretariat, and she holds her position by virtue
of being Chairman of the Women's League. There are no female
ministers or ambassadors.
Czechoslovakia has two major nationalities — Czechs and
Slovaks — and two substantial minorities — Hungarians and
Gypsies. Interethnic relations are still colored by historic
animosities, but the Czechoslovak system provides certain
guarantees for minorities.
Hungarians who are concentrated in southern Slovakia form the
country's largest minority (555,000 according to official
statistics). They are proportionately represented in federal
and local legislative bodies but are under represented in
high-level jobs in industry, government, and the party
apparatus. The State provides some primary and secondary
education in Hungarian and permits a limited number of ethnic
Hungarians to pursue higher education in Hungary. Ethnic
Hungarians complain, however, that Hungarian-language
instruction at the elementary and secondary levels is being
reduced, and that the lack of opportunities for higher
education in Hungarian is creating a growing shortage of
qualified Hungarian- language teachers. Miklos Duray, a
leading Hungarian minority activist, spent a year in prison
without trial for addressing these issues in open letters to
Czechoslovak officials. He was amnestied in May 1985 and has
reportedly been permitted to return to his job as a geologist
in Bratislava.
The Gypsies, who number about 250,000, are the only other
sizable minority in Czechoslovakia. As elsewhere in Europe,
they tend to suffer disproportionately high rates of poverty,
crime, and disease. However, their problems appear to result
more from traditions and popular prejudice than from
government policies.
Approximatley 30,000 Vietnamese laborers are temporarily
residing in Czechoslovakia. Reportedly, they are allowed to
retain two-thirds of their salary. The remainder is shared by
the Czechoslovak and Vietnamese Governments.