During 1955–1958 Jakeš attended the Communist Party Higher School in Moscow, after which he became a member of the CPCz Central Committee. He served in a number of Czechoslovakian government posts, including deputy chair of local economic development and deputy minister of the interior. During the 1968 Prague Spring, he remained staunchly pro-Soviet and resisted reforms. According to some reports, which Jakeš would deny, he was in the Soviet embassy trying to rally Czech supporters for intervention when the Warsaw Pact armies invaded in August 1968. He was among a small number of CPCz members who immediately embraced the Soviet actions.
After the invasion, Jakeš became chairman of the CPCz Central Control and Auditing Commission. During his tenure (1968–1977), he purged about 500,000 party members who had backed the 1968 reforms. In 1977 he assumed a leadership role in the Central Committee and became chair of its agriculture and food committee, which, under his guidance, increased productivity and the export of agricultural products. Consequently, he became an economic specialist for the Central Committee and, in 1981, chair of the Central Committee's National Economic Commission. That same year he became a full member of the Presidium.
Seen as an economic pragmatist who could introduce Gorbachev-style reforms in Czechoslovakia, Jakeš was elected general secretary of the CPCz on 17 December 1987, replacing Gustáv Husák, who remained president of Czechoslovakia. Despite having implemented a few minor economic reforms, Jakeš essentially maintained strict communist control of the country.
In October 1988 Jakeš forced the resignation of Prime Minister Lubomír Štrougal and other officials who advocated the quick introduction of Gorbachev-style reforms. Jakeš replaced Štrougal with Ladislav Adamec, who favored gradual change. In November 1989 police brutally beat student demonstrators in Prague who were demanding free elections and democracy. This precipitated further mass prodemocracy demonstrations throughout Czechoslovakia, leading ultimately to the Velvet Revolution. A group of pragmatic communists, hoping to remain in control of the country, forced Jakeš to resign his post on 24 November 1989, which brought about the end of communism in Czechoslovakia.
The CPCz held an emergency session that expelled Jakeš from its ranks in early December 1989. He subsequently resigned from the Federal Assembly and retired from public life. During the summer of 1995, he was arrested on charges of treason for collaborating with Soviet invaders in 1968. After several trials, he was acquitted in 2001 for lack of evidence. Jakeš currently lives in seclusion in Prague.
Gregory C. Ference
Jakeš, Miloš. Dva roky generalmin tajemniken. Prague: Nakl Regulus, 1996.