1968 - Prague Spring
Title: 1968 - Prague Spring
About: A period of political liberalization and mass protest in Czechoslovakia prompted Soviet troops to occupy the country. They were met with widespread civilian resistance and defiance.
Under the new leadership of Alexander Dubček, a reform program called "Czechoslovakia’s Road to Socialism" was launched in an attempt to slowly democratize politics but to also revitalize the country's stagnant economy. The press and civilians enjoyed more freedoms while state controls were relaxed and individual rights expanded. Dubček was careful to reassure Czechoslovakia's loyalty to the Soviet bloc, but the speed and depth of the reforms were too much Moscow to tolerate.
In July 1968, after a meeting between the Soviet Union and other satellite states, a letter was sent to Czechoslovakia that warned against the country's continued reforms. Dubček refused to bend, stating in a televised address: "We will keep following the direction that we started pursuing in January of this year."
The Soviet Union responded by launching a military invasion into the country on Aug. 28, 1968, with tanks reaching the streets of Prague the same night. More than 2,000 tanks and hundreds of thousands of troops from Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring.
Soon, the streets of Prague, which had enjoyed at least seven months of liberalization under Dubček's reforms, were riddled with unrest. Unarmed protesters threw their bodies into the paths of the tanks in an attempt to blockade the streets from the Soviet invasion. Over 100 people were killed during the occupation and hundreds more seriously injured.
Dubček remained defiant that the Prague Spring would survive Soviet oppression and declared, "They may crush the flowers, but they cannot stop the Spring." However, Dubček and other party leaders deemed complicit in the reforms were forcibly sent to Moscow. After being interrogated by Soviet Union government heads, Dubček was released and allowed to return to Czechoslovakia. Upon his return to Prague, Dubček gave an emotional address to the public. He could not continue his speech without breaking into tears and then he went silent. Just as the Soviet curtain had broken his country's spirit, so too had Dubček been broken.
By April 1969, following the immolation of Jan Palach and increasing civil unrest, Dubček was ousted as head of the Communist Party. He was replaced by Moscow-backed Gustav Husak, whose reign was far stricter. Czechoslovakia underwent a "normalization" period during which mass purges of supporters of the Prague Spring were implemented and traveling was restricted.
Country: Czechoslovakia + Soviet Union
Conflict: Cold War
Type: Historical Event
Artist: Bryan Willian
Price: 0.7 ETH