The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism

The fourth book in the series, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism, 1945-1948 by Bradley Abrams, was published in late May 2004.  Editorial and production work on the book was funded by a grant from the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.  Abrams focuses on the role of Czech intellectuals in the establishment of a Soviet-style Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.  The review in Choice lauded the book’s “riveting account of this landmark event in the Cold War.”  In Czechoslovakia as elsewhere in Europe, the trauma and upheavals of World War II caused a general leftward shift in political orientation, a trend that, as Abrams shows, was especially pronounced in the Czech lands.  The Czechs’ sense of having been betrayed by the West at Munich was still acute, and most Czechs (unlike the Poles) did not harbor animosity toward the Soviet Union. Abrams meticulously analyzes the weaknesses in Czech political and intellectual thought that enabled the Communist Party to obtain surprisingly wide support in the Czech lands (with 40 percent of the vote), a factor that substantially eased its path to dictatorial power.  He also highlights aspects of the intellectual milieu in Czechoslovakia that aided the Communist Party during its seizure of power in February 1948. In his concluding chapter he shifts focus to Eastern Europe as a whole, offering hypotheses about similar developments outside Czechoslovakia and suggesting further avenues for research on the domestic factors that contributed to the rise of Communist dictatorships and the coming of the Cold War.