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Former communist potentate Vasil Biľak dies

FORMER high-ranking functionary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) Vasil Biľak died at the age of 96 at his home in Bratislava during the night of February 5. He was the last of five communist politicians who invited the Warsaw Pact troops to Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in fact stopped the Prague Spring reforms aimed to democratise the regime, the Sme daily reported.

FORMER high-ranking functionary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) Vasil Biľak died at the age of 96 at his home in Bratislava during the night of February 5. He was the last of five communist politicians who invited the Warsaw Pact troops to Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in fact stopped the Prague Spring reforms aimed to democratise the regime, the Sme daily reported.

Biľak, a symbol of dogmatic communism, was born on August 11, 1917 in Krajná Bystrá, Prešov Region. He was a tailor by profession before pursuing studies at the College of Politics of KSČ’s top body, the central committee (ÚV), between 1951 and 1953. He became an ÚV member between 1954 and 1989. As secretary and member of the presidium of the Communist Party of Slovakia’s central committee (ÚV KSS) Biľak went on to hold the post of ÚV KSS first secretary in 1968 and ÚV KSČ secretary between 1968 and 1988. He was stripped of all posts in KSČ and was expelled from the party after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that brought the demise of communism, the TASR newswire wrote.

As a member of the Slovak and Czechoslovak parliaments for a number of years during the communist era, Biľak supported Leonid Brezhnev’s line in KSČ as well as neo-Stalinist dogmatism in the party. He was against any sort of reform and was one of the five communist potentates that signed the infamous invitation letter addressed to Brezhnev.

Biľak was never convicted or officially punished for his pre-1989 actions. While charges of high treason were levelled against him in 2005, the Special Prosecutor’s Office suspended the prosecution in February 2011 after they concluded that the matter could not be clarified properly due to the impossibility of bringing to court witnesses pivotal for the case. Biľak was the last living person involved in the invitation letter. He always rejected allegations of wrongdoing, TASR wrote.

An investigation as such was launched as early as in 1991 but was eventually marred by Russia’s refusal to provide the original letter. The Prague archives contain only a copy of the letter that then Russian president Boris Yeltsin handed to his Czechoslovak counterpart Václav Havel in 1992. Experts examining the copy deemed Bilak’s signature authentic, as reported by TASR.

Source: TASR

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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