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Born Nov. 25, 1895, in Hroznatin, Bohemia. State, political, and military figure of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR). General of the Army (November 1945), Hero of the ČSSR (1965, 1970, 1975) and Hero of the Soviet Union (1965).
The son of a peasant, Svoboda was educated as an agronomist. In 1915 he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army and sent to the Russian front, where he headed a group of Czech patriots. He crossed over the front lines and in 1916 joined the Czechoslovak Legion. In 1920 he returned to his homeland and became a cadre officer in the Czechoslovak army. From 1931 to 1934 he taught at the Military Academy in Hranice, Moravia; he subsequently was the commander of an infantry battalion.
After fascist German troops occupied Czechoslovakia, Svoboda helped organize an underground antifascist military organization. In the summer of 1939 he left for Poland, where he formed a Czechoslovak military unit; in September 1939 he and the unit crossed over into the Soviet Union. In February 1942, at Buzuluk, Svoboda formed the Czechoslovak 1st Independent Infantry Battalion, which in March 1943, at Sokolovo, first joined battle against fascist German troops. In 1943 he headed the Czechoslovak 1st Independent Brigade, which fought at Kiev, Belaia Tserkov’, and Zhashkov. In 1944, as head of the Czechoslovak I Army Corps, he took part in the Dukla Operation and in the fighting in Slovakia.
From 1945 to 1950, Svoboda was minister of defense. Together with other prominent figures in Czechoslovakia, he signed the Košice Program. In 1948 he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) and was elected a deputy to the National Assembly. In 1950 and 1951 he was deputy premier of the Czechoslovak government and chairman of the State Committee on Physical Culture and Sports. From 1955 to 1959 he headed the K. Gottwald Military Academy. From March 1968 to May 1975 he was president of the ČSSR and supreme commander in chief of its armed forces. He was a member of the Central Committee of the CPC both in 1948 and 1949 and from August 1968; he was a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee from August 1968.
Svoboda was awarded two Orders of K. Gottwald (1959, 1970), two Orders of Lenin (1943, 1965), the Order of the October Revolution (1970), the Order of Suvorov Second Class (1943), the Order of Suvorov First Class (1945), the Czechoslovak Peace Prize (1968), and the International Lenin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Nations (1970).