, also Sejna
in English, (12 May 1927
, Radhostice CSR
– 23 August 1997
, New York
) has risen in communist
Czechoslovakia to the highest political army post of General of the Czechoslovak Army
. After losing political power and influence in the beginning of the Prague Spring
, he emigrated to the United States
Rise to power
During the 50s and 60s, Šejna rose through the ranks of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ)
thanks to his political contacts and friends – like with Antonín Novotný Jr., the son of President Antonín Novotný
and General Lomský at the Ministry of National Defence (Ministerstvo národní obrany, MNO)
– built up a privileged position in the Czechoslovak People's Army ''(Československá lidová armáda, ČSLA).
In 1956, he became Chief of the Secretariat of the MNO, in 1963 the Chief Secretary of the Main Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) at the MNO. In October 1967 he was promoted to the rank of General. He fully supported Stalinist practices of suppression and intimidation.
Before the Prague Spring of 1968 began, the Czechoslovak Communist Party and affiliated members of the Soviet regime sought change through new leadership. Novotný's position as First Secretary (since 1953) and President (since 1957) weakened.
Soon, there were speculations about Šejna personal participation in the planned military action of the army to support Novotný in the first weeks of 1968. Expecting backlash from reformers, "… General Jan Šejna convinced the presidium of the Main Party Committee in the Ministry of Defense to send to the Central Committee a petition … insisting on Novotný’s retention as first secretary". When Šejna failed at Novotný’s reinstatement through politics, he began plotting a military coup. This effort failed to gain the support it needed.
Novotný was finally replaced by Alexander Dubček, a reform minded member of the Czechoslovak party presidium, as leader of the party.
Losing power, changing sides
Losing his political influence, Šejna was under investigation for corruption: "… the official case against General Šejna was limited to charges that he had allegedly misappropriated 300,000 crowns ($20,000) worth of state-owned alfalfa and clover seed". However, before he could be arrested he emigrated in February 1968 with his son and 22-year-old girlfriend to the USA.
News of Šejna’s indictment and defection quickly spread through Czechoslovakia’s increasingly open press. He soon came to be known as "Clover Seed General" for his alleged massive embezzlement of clover. Soon after he was completely removed from power.
Šejna was granted asylum in the United States, much to the dismay of Soviet authorities, and became an intelligence source for American agencies and policy makers. According to Czechoslovak Ambassador Duda, it was ironic that, "Šejna, who represented the worst elements of the conservative clique in Prague, should find haven in the United States".
In 1970, Šejna was sentenced by Czechoslovak courts in absentia to ten years in prison, to the forfeiture of his property and loss of all of his official titles and decorations. ČSSR unsuccessfully requested the USA to extradite him.
Life in the United States
In the following three decades in the United States, Šejna worked as a counterintelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency
and later as a consultant to the Defense Intelligence Agency
until his death in 1997. He spoke out in interviews and appeared before U.S. Congressional committees
Facts and fiction
He claimed, "that the Soviet intelligence agency directed terrorist training camps in Czechoslovakia in the mid-60s … the Soviet Union
collaborated with North Korea
in the capture of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo
from Pacific waters in 1968 and that Cuba
worked together to establish drug-trafficking networks throughout Latin America and to infiltrate those in existence … the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia tested drugs on U.S. prisoners of war
during the Korean and Vietnam wars".
In his book We Will Bury You, Sejna gave an insight into Soviet Cold War strategies, quoting Konstantin Katushev, secretary of the Soviet Central Committee: "If we can impose on the U.S.A. the external restraints proposed in our Plan, and seriously disrupt the American economy, the working and the lower middle classes will suffer the consequences and they will turn on the society that has failed them. They will be ready for revolution".
He provided a lot of interesting facts about the communist power system and its protagonists. However, he also fabricated some mere speculations. Along with the information he provided concerning covert Soviet strategy, he also gave the West an otherwise shrouded picture of political strife and reform in the Communist state of Czechoslovakia.
Šejna is remembered as "one of the highest ranking Communists ever to defect to the West".
- (some of them)
- He died "under suspicious circumstances"
- Hruby, Peter: Fools and Heroes: The Changing Role of Communist Intellectuals in Czechoslovakia, Peramom Press (Aust.), Potts Point, Australia, 1980 (pg. 171)
- Bradley, J.F.N.: Politics in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1971, University Press of America, Washington, D.C., 1989 (pg. 122)
- Skoug, Kenneth: Czechoslovakia’s Lost Fight for Freedom 1967-1969: An American Embassy Perspective, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT, 1999 (pg. 55)
- Randal, Jonathan: Czech General Who Fled to U.S. Is Linked to Plot to Aid Novotný, New York Times, New York, NY,: March 7, 1968 (pg. 2)
- Memorandum of Conservation with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Walter J. Stoessel, Jr. March 21, 1968
- Estrada, Louie: Gen. Jan Sejna, Czech Defector, Dies, The Washington Post, Washington D.C.: August 27, 1997
- Sejna, Jan: We Will Bury You, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, England,1982 (pg. 154)
- Unna, Warren: Key Czech General Asks U.S. Asylum, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.: March 7, 1968 (pg. A1)
- Šejna should be judged as a prototype of an opportunist and a schemer brought up by the Communist party.
–Jan Kalous: General Šejna – An Object of Interest of the Military Counter-Intelligence (English summary)