(b. 23 Nov. 1896, d. 14 Mar. 1953).
President of Czechoslovakia 1948–53 Born in Dedice (Moravia), he fought in the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I. He became a founder member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1921. A proponent of its radical wing, he joined its Central Committee in 1925, and became its General Secretary in 1929. He made the party more amenable to Stalin, but lost a lot of popular support for the party as a result. He spent World War II in Moscow, and returned in 1945 to form a national front government, whose leader he became in 1946. Though initially dominant, the Communists lost support following Soviet refusal to allow Czechoslovak acceptance of Marshall Aid. Gottwald thus led a coup in February 1948, which firmly entrenched Communist power. Unable to stand up to Stalin, he agreed to wide-scale purges culminating in the Slánski trial, which vastly increased Soviet control over the Czechoslovak Communist Party.