Prague, July 14 (CTK) – Retired high-ranking Czech Communist politician Milouš Jakeš, the last Czechoslovak Communist Party’s (KSČ) secretary general before the fall of the regime in late 1989, has died at the age of 97 years, CNN Prima News TV reported today.
His funeral took place at the Prague-Motol crematorium today, CNN Prima News said.
Josef Skala, from the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), confirmed the information on Jakeš’s death to the public Czech Radio.
KSČM chairman Vojtech Filip told CTK tonight that he cannot verify the information. KSČM spokeswoman Helena Grofova could not confirm it either. Jakes’s family is not communicating, she said.
Jakeš was surprisingly elected to the most influential political post in the Communist Czechoslovakia, as a successor to the normalisation Communists head and president Gustav Husak, in December 1987. He left the post during the Velvet Revolution in November 1989. He was expelled from the KSČ before the end of 1989.
Jakeš, born in Ceske Chalupy village, south Bohemia, on August 12, 1922, studied and worked in the Bata shoe factory (later the Svit Zlín national enterprise) in Zlín, south Moravia. He joined the Communist Party in 1945. He studied at Moscow’s Party’s Higher College and after obtaining his degree in 1958, he gradually entered the KSČ central committee.
During the Prague Spring Communist-led reform movement in 1968, Jakeš sided with the conservative forces. This stance secured him the continuation of his political career after the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968 during the subsequent normalization or the restoration of a hard-core communist rule.
Jakeš’s work at the KSM helm is connected with the agony and subsequent collapse of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
Jakeš won unwanted fame as a “comic star” by his famous speech addressed to local party workers in Červený Hrádek, west Bohemia, in July 1989, in which he spoke in an embarrassingly familiar manner. He compared himself and the party to “a lonely fence-post” being left alone to overcome the hardships. A Czech television reporter secretly recorded the speech and its copy was spread in the public. It amused people and sent a signal that the ruling regime was not as strong as it pretended to be by suppressing demonstrations.
Jakeš considered the November 1989 events a counter-revolution leading to the defeat of socialism. He was of the view that the Communist secret police (StB) officers headed by Alojz Lorenz, in cooperation with some KSČ leaders, abused the students’ rally for their own purposes.
“They did so with the aim to change the KSČ leadership line-up, but instead, they opened the path to the liquidation of socialism,” Jakeš told CTK in November 2018.
Jakeš faced several criminal proceedings since the 1990s.
His treason charges in connection with the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia were first statute-barred. He was charged with treason in this connection once more, this time together with another pre-November 1989 Communist politician Jozef Lenart. The High Court fully acquitted him in 2003.
Besides, Jakeš’s name figured in the case of equipping the People’s Militia, a paramilitary force of the KSČ, with arms, but the prosecution was halted.
Last November, the police Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communism Crimes (UDV) launched prosecution of Jakeš, ex-PM Lubomír Štrougal and former interior minister Vratislav Vajnar on suspicion of abuse of power over shooting at the borders. According to the UDV investigators, nine people were shot dead or killed by dogs when trying to cross the Czechoslovak border and at least another seven were injured from March 1976 till the end of 1989 due to the passivity of the three top officials.