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Prague Spring's Late Architect Still Topping Polls

Alexander Dubeck, the reform Communist who was the architect of Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring in 1968, was a Slovak. The country he led no longer exists, and Mr. Dubcek died six years ago. But his memory is alive and well in Slovakia, formed when Czechoslovakia split up in 1993.

In fact, Dubcek has become somewhat of a cult figure. He consistently leads polls here as the most popular personality in recent Slovak history.

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Politicians are fond of promising that they will follow in Dubcek's footsteps - as did Otto Tomecek, who failed in the fifth attempt to elect a president by the gridlocked parliament earlier this summer.

Now, there is a new book suggesting - not for the first time - that Dubcek's death following a car crash in 1992 may not have been an accident.

Slovak lawyer Liboslav Leksa has assembled all the documentation connected with the crash and speculates that Dubcek may have been done in because he had been due to testify at a trial in Moscow against the KGB.

The book is called "Tragedy at 88 Kilometers," a reference to the distance his car was from Prague when it crashed.

Mr. Leksa plans to use the proceeds from the book to reopen an inquiry into his death.

Slovakia is the lesser known of the two former Czechoslovak republics, and people are fond of saying that had Dubcek lived he would have helped establish the country's identity - just as the humanist and playwright President Vaclav Havel has done for the Czech Republic.

After Dubcek was deposed under Soviet pressure in 1969, he spent his years in an obscure job until 1989, when he became a member of the federal parliament.

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Federal elections are scheduled in Slovakia for Sept. 25 and 26, when the bombastic and authoritarian premier, Vladimir Meciar, will seek reelection against an opposition coalition.

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