Czech Republic and Slovakia Remember Prague Spring

PeopleOther ♦ Published: August 21, 2022; 22:50 ♦ (Vindobona)

The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic commemorated the Warsaw Pact invasion of the then Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (CSSR) on August 21, 1968. Especially with the background of Russia's current attack on Ukraine, this day is of special significance.

Civil disobedience and various actions occurred to slow down the Warsaw Pact. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons, The Central Intelligence Agency, Public domain

The Czech Republic and Slovakia commemorate the Warsaw Pact invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, when the bloody suppression of the "Prague Spring" democracy movement ended hopes for socialism with a human face.

The Prague Spring is the name given to the efforts of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) under Alexander Dubček in the spring of 1968 to push through a program of liberalization and democratization and, more importantly, the influence and reinforcement of these reform efforts by a rapidly developing critical public.

On 21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact members invaded the country to suppress the reforms. Following the decision of the KPČ, Dubček called for renouncing violent resistance, as it was futile from the outset. Nevertheless, there were isolated clashes between the civilian population and the invaders.

Civil disobedience and various actions to slow down the occupation occurred. The then Czechoslovak Radio also played a major role. Thus, a mobile broadcasting station was used to inform the population. The Austrian ORF also played a big role by informing the Czechoslovakians via shortwave broadcasting stations in Austria. In their own country, they were not informed about the events at all or, in some cases, were misinformed. In addition, pirate radio stations also played an important role, which the Soviet occupation forces were also unable to eliminate.

According to ORF, the invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia claimed 137 lives and injured about 500 people nationwide. The last Soviet occupation soldiers did not leave the CSSR until June 1991, and today both the Czech Republic and Slovakia are in the EU and NATO.

The Prague Spring and the subsequent invasion of the Soviet Union are commemorated this year with the special backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This week marks the seventh month since Russia invaded Ukraine, killing thousands, forcing millions to flee, and causing billions of dollars worth of damage. In remembrance of the 1968 Soviet invasion of then Czechoslovakia, Czech citizens have sent exactly 1,968 crowns ($80) to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia the Ukrainian embassy in Prague said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Commemoration in Prague

In the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the issue of freedom is more relevant today than it has been for a long time, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said at a commemorative ceremony in front of the Radio building in Prague. According to Fiala, Russia still considers Central Eastern Europe its property and the Russian tanks in Ukraine are a kind of echo of the Prague Spring.

"The reason is simple: Russian tanks are again driving through a foreign country today, this time Ukraine, trying to crush dreams of a better future." The liberal-conservative politician accused the Kremlin of treating the states of East-Central Europe as its property to this day. The war in Ukraine, he said, meant the end of the illusion that Russian imperialism had ended with communism. One must continue to support the attacked country militarily, humanitarian and diplomatically, he said.

Commemoration in Bratislava

Prime Minister Eduard Heger also spoke about the parallels with the situation in Ukraine during the commemoration of the anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia in front of Comenius University in Bratislava.

Heger also pointed out the fragility of peace and freedom. "Freedom is under attack today not only in Ukraine. Freedom is under attack here as well. I dare say that Moscow is waging a hybrid war with Europe today," he said. He referred to the consequences of the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis. He stated that the government will not leave citizens without help.

Government of the Czech Republic

Government of the Slovak Republic