Photo: Juraj Bartoš

The life was safer during the socialist era and crime rates and theft rates were lower

The life during the socialist era was safer and violent crime rates were lower

According to 79% of respondents participating in the April 2018 poll carried out by the FOCUS agency,

Facts and disproval of the myth ↓

The totalitarian socialist regime in Czechoslovakia represented a permanent security threat for its citizens due to its systematic arousing fear and enforcement tools and institutions. In the absence of independent judiciary and compliance with human rights, anyone could become an enemy of the regime and be persecuted following arbitrary decisions of the communist party. 

The regime had a machinery of security forces within the repressive state administration that was built to persecute, punish, suppress, and eliminate the citizens unwanted for it. The communist regime applied this approach in various forms with varying intensity throughout the entire socialist era. The State Security was the basis of that machinery dominated by the communist party. It had a developed system of informers who did not hesitate to inform about their own relatives, neighbours, and friends in exchange for minor benefits. 

People lived in constant fear, worrying that they could become unwanted for the regime, fall out of favour, and be punished along with their families. This fact is confirmed by the number of people who were sentenced within political processes, executed, imprisoned, or resettled and a number of others who were persecuted by the regime. Although anyone could become a victim of the regime, the regime focused on special “class enemies” – intellectuals, Jews, and churches after elimination of entrepreneurs. Moreover, it focused on the “imperialist” West and the NATO. It disseminated massive propaganda based on various myths and conspirations against those domestic and external “enemies”. 

The subordination of Czechoslovakia to the decisions of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union´s interpretation of the cold war, and maintenance of the Kremlin´s control over its satellites represented another security problem. The 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia and subsequent more than twenty years lasting presence of occupation forces serve as an example. 

During the cold war, Czechoslovakia was militarized to a significant extent. In addition to the army, there were frontier police and railway police, paramilitary people´s militia acting as “the fist of the working class”, police forces called Verejná Bezpečnosť (VB) that were a part of the National Security Forces (Zbor národnej bezpečnosti – ZNB), and the State Security – Štátna bezpečnosť – ŠtB that functioned as a secret service). 

While systematically committing crimes, the regime applied a selective approach to crime and criminalised many innocent people and distorted or concealed related statistical data. The data available today also show that current crime rates and the crime rates during the socialist era are comparable. According to that data, there were more homicide cases in 1984 when compared to the year 2014, a slightly lower number of robberies, and a significantly lower number of theft cases. But the reality of the socialist era was worse, particularly when it comes to theft. The regime tolerated the widespread criminality that was excluded from statistical data and defined by the period motto “if you do not steal, you rob your family”. Since it used to be a common social phenomenon, it created opportunities for accusing anybody of stealing from the state and undermining the dictatorship of the proletariat. During the socialist era, there was a double standard for those faithful to the regime and those who became unwanted or stood up publicly against it (more in chapter 3.2 Security).