Building and Testing Trust Within a Socialist Dictatorship: The Case of Czechoslovak Experts in Africa Pre- and Post-1968


This article explores the foundations of trust between Czechoslovak state bodies and experts selected for foreign service in Africa. The focus is on the means through which this trust was challenged during long periods of separation from socialist ways of life, ways which were reinvented after the systemic political changeover in Czechoslovak administration after August 1968. Drawing on the concept of “navigation”, it examines the strategies experts developed to earn and restore credibility in the eyes of party authorities after the total disintegration of prior networks of trust following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. During their tenure abroad, experts established trust networks on various levels – not only with Czechoslovak political representatives, but also with other experts in common agencies and even officers of the Czechoslovak Intelligence Service. These personal ties proved to be instrumental for negotiating future career prospects after the stormy years of 1968-1969. However, contrary to popular belief, this article demonstrates that it was less political attitude and more the economic potential of the experts’ international positions that determined their ongoing credibility as “honoured” citizens.