Mlynar, Zdenek 1930-1997
MLYNAR, Zdenek 1930-1997
PERSONAL: Original name, Zedenek Muller; name legally changed, 1945; born June 6, 1930, in Vysoke Myto, Czechoslovakia; immigrated to Austria, 1977; died April 15, 1997. Education: Studied law at Lomonosov University, Moscow.
CAREER: Lawyer, professor, and writer. Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, 1964-70; head, Institute of State and Law, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences Interdisciplinary Research Team, Prague, 1967-68; etymologist, National Museum in Prague, 1968-77; University of Innsbruck, Austria, professor, 1989-93.
Nightfrost in Prague: The End of Humane Socialism, translated by Paul Wilson, Karz Publishers (New York, NY), 1980.
(With Wlodzimierz Brus and Pierre Kende) "Normalization" Processes in Soviet-dominated Central Europe: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Index, (Cologne, Germany), 1982.
Relative Stabilization of the Soviet Systems in the 1970s, Index (Cologne, Germany), 1983.
(With Wlodzimierz Brus and Pierre Kende) The Soviet Systems after Brezhnev, Index (Cologne, Germany), 1984.
Can Gorbachev Change the Soviet Union?: The International Dimensions of Political Reform, translated by Marian Sling and Ruth Tosek, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1990.
ADAPTATIONS: Nightfrost in Prague: The End of Humane Socialism was adapted as a television docudrama, Invasion, produced by Granada Television.
SIDELIGHTS: Zdenek Mlynar, a noted Czech liberal while his homeland was under communist rule, has written several books on politics in eastern Europe. He is best known as a close associate of Alexander Dubcek, the driving force behind the Prague Spring. This movement was an attempt at political reform characterized by an effort to put a humane face on socialism. The movement, however, was suppressed after the Soviet government's occupation of Czechoslovakia in August, 1968. The Soviets compelled the Czechs to repudiate their reforms, and in November of 1968, Mlynar resigned from his leadership positions in the Communist Party. The Communist Party formalized his expulsion in 1970. This alienation from authorized political activity found him working in the National Museum of Prague as an etymologist. Disenfranchised as he was, he nevertheless continued his efforts on behalf of reform and in 1977 he lent his name to Charter 77, a document that described the Czech government's human rights violations. Public criticism of the regime resulted in the loss of his position at the museum and house arrest. Mlynar went into exile in Austria in June, 1977.
Mlynar's best known work, Nightfrost in Prague: The End of Humane Socialism, is a political memoir. Mlynar recounts his involvement with the Communist Party that began in his adolescence and continued until his formal expulsion in 1970. He also describes the events and ideas that led up to the Prague Spring and its dissolution. A Choice reviewer considered it a "valuable contribution to understanding the Prague Spring of 1968." Archie Brown in Times Literary Supplement lauded the book as "certainly the most important memoirs of a former communist politician to appear since Krushchev's." The critic also praised the book for its insight into political psychology, calling it "a significant contribution to political analysis, a work of genuine psychological insight, and one which provides stimulus to thought and useful knowledge in equal measure."
Two of Mlynar's books consider the question of political change in the Soviet Union. Can Gorbachev Change the Soviet Union?: The International Dimensions of Political Reform addresses issues raised by Gorbachev's liberalizing policies. Conversations with Gorbachev: On Perestroika, the Prague Spring, and the Crossroads of Socialism is the transcription of three long conversations between Mikhail Gorbachev and Mlynar—who had been friends during law school in the 1950s but later lost touch with each other—in the early 1990s.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Europe since 1945: An Encyclopedia, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 2001.
Choice, October, 1980, review of Nightfrost in Prague: The End of Humane Socialism, p. 306.
Nation, January 3, 1981, Charles Sawyer, review of Nightfrost in Prague, pp. 21-22.
Publishers Weekly, May 20, 2002, review of Conversations with Gorbachev: On Perestroika, the Prague Spring, and the Crossroads of Socialism, p. 57.
Times Literary Supplement, January 23, 1981, Archie Brown, review of Nightfrost in Prague, p. 74.*