National Geographic : 1968 Feb
KODACHROME(1 NATIO Sturdy as faith itself, a Roman Catholic church 400 crowns a Slovakian knoll above parading geese; eac] worshipers crowd within its mellow walls. The goi tolerates religion but exercises control over the clerg' blood upon these lands; before them Roman legionaries skirmished here. On this rich soil a great Slavic empire flourished briefly until the dawn of the tenth century, then died-and Slovaks chafed for a thousand years under Hungarian rule. Czechs enjoyed their own kingdom, Bohemia, for several centuries, too; then Austria's Habs burgs came to rule for 300 years, until 1918. Then there was that grand and fleeting 154 moment between the two World Wars when the Czech oslovak Republic emerged- to be engulfed by Hitler in 1939. And when that last Germanic wave receded, Czechs and Slovaks found themselves once more inde pendent, but no longer free. "How," I had asked the old Communist, "did you gain control of the country in 1948?" "Organization and disci pline," he hadsaid,not with out pride. "We were only 40 percent, but we kept our peo ple busy with clubs andteams and brigades. We had the Ministry of Interior--that meant the police-and the army and the trade unions. Who was there to oppose us -the rich factory owners? They were discredited;many had worked with the Nazis. The petit bourgeois, the shop keepers? They were afraid. The right-wing students? How long could they stand up to the police and the army? It was easy. .... " Czechoslovakia under Communism, I saw on my travels, continues its long tradition as a little industrial giant. With 14 million peo ple, 1/2 of 1 percent of the world's population, it ac counts for 2 percent of the world's industrial produc tion. I saw coal and ore NALGEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY stream from its mines, and years old steel from its mills. Machin h Sunday ery, arms, chemicals, textiles, iernment shoes, glass, sugar, and beer y. flow from its factories in impressive quantity. But the traditional bad luck dogs the Socialist Republic, too. Plagued by local mis management, hamstrung by monolithic con trol from Prague, drained by harsh demands from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia found itself in 1965 heavily subsidizing many in dustries-and rapidly going broke under clas sical Soviet-style five-year plans. Reluctantly, President Antonin Novotny, an old-line Marx ist (page 165), approved drastic measures.