Czechoslovak and Czech Post’s history
The formation of the Czechoslovak state in late October and early November 1918 led to changes of not only political and legal but also economic and administration nature. The latter directly affected the way of organising and controlling of postal services. All postal, telegraph, telephone and radio communication services were transferred under the Czechoslovak Ministry of Post and Telegraph Offices set up on 13 November 1918. The establishment of an independent ministry for communication services that used to be controlled by the Austrian (Cisleithanian) Ministry of Trade was intended to underline their growing social and economic importance and improve their quality.
The Ministry of Post and Telegraph Offices was not only an independent body administering postal and telecommunication affairs with respect to the government and public interests but also had a businessmaking role since its very beginning. The growing share of businessmaking activities soon led to the formation of the state-owned enterprise Czechoslovak Post as an organisational unit of the ministry. The economic management of the Post, set up on 1 January 1925, followed similar rules to those applied to private businesses. The efforts to reform the postal service soon made the enterprise profitable, and the profitability era lasted until the global economic crisis.
The subsequent Munich Agreement, annexation of Czechoslovakia’s areas along the country’s borders, and formation of so-called Second Republic dealt a much heavier blow to the successful development of Czechoslovak Post. The following events gained up speed. Already on 13 October 1938 the control over the Slovak affairs in the competence of the Ministry of Post and Telegraph Offices passed onto the Ministry of Transport for Slovakia in Bratislava, and on 4 November 1938 the independent Czechoslovak Ministry of Post and Telegraph Offices was cancelled, i.e. merged together with the Ministry of Railways to create a ministry of transport. The history of the interwar Czechoslovak Post was finally over when the postal administrations of individual autonomous units began to operate independently and on their own account on 1 January 1939. On that day, the enterprises Czechoslovak State Railways and Czechoslovak Post for the Bohemian and Moravian-Silesian Land merged into Czechoslovak Railways and Post Offices in the Czech Lands. After the occupation of the rest of the country on 15 March 1939 the postal service became completely economically, politically and militarily subordinated to German interests. Postal affairs remained part of the agenda of the protectorate Ministry of Transport until November 1942 when they were transferred under the newly set up Ministry of Transport and Technology.
The Ministry of Post Offices formed after the war as part of so-called Košice government more or less resumed the activities of the prewar Ministry of Post and Telegraph Offices although the conditions in which it operated were completely different, especially in terms of geographical competences. The so-called “poverenictvo pošt” (postal services commission), a body overseeing postal services in Slovakia, had no counterpart in the Czech lands. This non-systematic and illogical division lasted up until 1960 when it was cancelled as part of the process of constitutional changes. The state-owned enterprise Czechoslovak Post also resumed its activities shortly after the liberation but due to internal as well as external circumstances it did not last long.
February 1948 marked a crucial milestone for future orientation of the postal service. Already the next year (1 July 1949), the state-owned enterprise Czechoslovak Post was nationalized and shortly afterwards the Ministry of Post Offices was reorganized. But it was only a temporary solution. The Central Committee of the Communist Party cancelled the national enterprise Czechoslovak Post as part of the process of creation of the Ministry of Communications and Communications Commission as of 1 May 1952. This decision was to create the false impression that the ministry with its subordinated agencies regained the role it had after 1925. In reality, the businessmaking enterprise was turned into a state agency controlled by the state after the Soviet model, with all the related negative consequences.
The process of sovietization was accomplished in 1960 with centralization of the supreme postal, telecommunication and transport bodies. This meant that the communications commission in Bratislava was cancelled and the previously autonomous ministries of communications and transport were merged into a single Ministry of Transport and Communications. The merger soon proved to be dysfunctional, and so in 1963 the communications part became autonomous again as the Central Administration of Communications, replaced by the Federal Committee for Post Offices and Telecommunications as of 1 January 1969. At the state level, two ministries were set up, i.e. the Ministry of Post Offices and Telecommunications of the Czech Socialist Republic in Prague and the Ministry of Transport, Post Offices and Telecommunications of the Slovak Socialist Republic in Bratislava. Individual communications organisations were renamed as organisations of post offices and telecommunications as part of the process.
Further constitutional changes which were due to the influence of the forthcoming normalization led to the formation of the Federal Ministry of Communications of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic on 1 January 1971. This replaced not only the Federal Committee for Post Offices and Telecommunications but also both state ministries. In 1988, the communications sector again merged with the transport sector into the Federal Ministry of Transport and Communications for a short period of time after which the system returned back to the principle of enterprise with the establishment of the state-owned enteprise Administration of Post Offices and Telecommunications Prague in July 1989.
A revolutionary change came with the fall of the communist regime in the early 1990s. Already in July 1990, as part of the process of transformation of the state administration system, the communications sector was transferred under the newly established Ministry for Economic Policy and Development. In October 1992, the entire communications sector was transferred from under the cancelled Ministry of Communications to the Ministry of Economy of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic and the Ministry of Economy of the Czech Republic. The creation of the division “Czech Post” as of 1 January 1992, followed by the creation of two separate accounting systems for postal services and for telecommunication services and building up of own management for each of the sectors, was the first clear step towards the separation of the postal part of the enterprise. Discussions about the future shape of the postal services continued over the following months.
The final decision was made at the top government level: Czech Post became a state-owned enterprise as of 1 January 1993, together with the formation of an independent Czech Republic. This allowed the Post to further develop the tradition of the interwar state-owned enterprise Czechoslovak Post and to prove the viability and sense of its existence in the conditions of market economy.
Author: PhDr. Jan Kramář