Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Fierlinger, Zdeněk (1891–1976)

Czech politician, diplomat, and premier (1945–1946). Born on 11 July 1891 in Olomouc, Moravia, Zdeněk Fierlinger graduated from the School of Economics in 1910 and became a colonel in the Czechoslovak Legion raised by expatriate Czechs and Slovaks that fought on the Allied side during World War I. After the war and the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakia, Fierlinger served as the Czechoslovak ambassador to several countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union. He was serving in the latter post in March 1939 when the German Army occupied Czechoslovakia. He resumed this position in 1942 for the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. While ambassador in Moscow, he helped persuade President Edvard Beneš to cooperate closely with the Soviets.

A member of the Social Democratic Party since 1924, Fierlinger returned to Czechoslovakia in April 1945 as premier of the provisional government. After the communists won a plurality in the May 1946 elections, Communist Party leader Klement Gottwald replaced him as premier. As leader of the Social Democrats, Fierlinger cooperated with Gottwald; however, in late 1947 the Social Democratic Party ousted Fierlinger as party leader when they decided to end cooperation with the communists.

Following the February 1948 communist coup, Fierlinger, who supported Gottwald, was named minister of industry in the new government and was reinstated as head of the Social Democratic Party until it merged with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPCz). In 1948 Fierlinger became a member of both the Politburo and the Central Committee of the CPCz until 1966 and 1971, respectively. In 1953 he was elected president of the National Assembly, retiring in 1964. He also served as a deputy to the Federal Assembly from 1969 to 1971. Fierlinger died in Prague on 2 May 1976.

Gregory C. Ference


Further Reading
Rothschild, Joseph, and Nancy Merriweather Wingfield. Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe since World War II. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
 

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