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Russian Invasion of Czechoslovakia
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What were the specific elements of the Prague Spring that the Soviet Union found dangerous?

In the early months of 1968, a progressive faction of the Czechoslovak Communist Party set about liberalizing Czechoslovak life, democratizing the government and loosening the country's association with the USSR. This movement became known as the Prague Spring.
It began in January 1968 when Alexander Dubchek replaced Antonin Novotny as head of the communist party.  Dubchek soon initiated a series of reforms that centered on increased expression, public debate and intellectual freedom (with less press censorship).  Dubchek called this "Socialism with a Human Face."  Czech leaders tried to reassure Soviet leaders that they had no intention of removing Czechoslovakia from the Warsaw Pact. (Allegedly, the mistake made by Hungary in 1956.)
The reform program won mass support in Czechoslovakia, but the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies felt it dangerous and decided to end the Czechoslovak experiment. On 20 August, Warsaw Pact forces (Soviet, East German, Polish, Hungarian and Bulgarian troops) occupied the country.  Czechoslovakia again became a tightly controlled, orthodox Communist state, although clandestine resistance began to developed during the 1970s.  Dubchek was replaced as head of the communist party by Gustav Husak in 1969.

  • 5 January 1968 Stalinist party chief Antonin Novotny voted out of the communist party's central committee, and Alexander Dubchek (1921-), a slovak with a liberal reputation, replaced him as First Secretary of the communist party.
  • April 1968, Novotny removed as president, and General Jan Svoboda installed.
  • Prague Spring, "Socialism with a Human Face," as Dubchek ended censorship and instituted liberal economic reforms.  Dubchek continued to proclaim loyalty to Moscow to avert a replay of 1956 in Hungary, but increasingly Soviet leaders became suspicious.
  • 29 July 1968, Czech and Soviet leaders met at Cierna near the border to "discuss" the situation.
  • June 1968, Warsaw pact maneuvers held in Czechoslovakia.
  • 20/21 August 1968, Warsaw Pact invasion.  The Czech army did not resist; although there were a few isolated outbreaks of fighting.
  • Brezhnev Doctrine (Pravda, 25 September 1968), justified the intervention.
  • 28 October 1968, large protests occurred in Prague against the Soviet occupation.
  • 17 April 1969, Gustav Husak replaced Dubchek as first secretary of the communist party.

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For the principles involved in Czechoslovakia in 1968, see:  Leonid Brezhnev (1906-1982). Alexander Dubcek (1921-), Vaclav Havel (1936-), Gustav Husak (1913-) and Ludvig Svoboda (1895-)
A general, interesting site about Prague's colorful background is the Prague history page (or archiv.radio.cz/history/history02.html).  Radio Prague's home page has a general description of the Prague Spring, and there are some photos of the Warsaw Pact intervention on the web. See also, The Guardian's photos.
Two articles are from Cold War International History Project, both by Mark Kramer: New Sources on the 1968 Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia (*.pdf) and The Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia: New Interpretations. (*.pdf)
Two important documents are the Czech "Request" for Soviet Intervention (on page 35 of the *.pdf) in August 1968 and the Brezhnev Doctrine (Pravda, 25 September 1968), justifying the intervention.
Hale Boggs, Disclosed news of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia.



Recommended Books
There are two good studies of recent Czech history:  J. Korbel, Twentieth Century Czechoslovakia: The Meanings of its History (1977); H. G. Skilling, Czechoslovakia's Interrupted Revolution (1976).
Published documents and sources include:  Ruth Tosek and Mark Kramer, eds., Prague Spring, 1968:  A National Security Archive Documents Reader (1993); Dubcek's Blueprint for Freedom:  His Original Documents Leading to the Invasion of Czechoslovakia (Commentary by Paul Ello, 1969); and Alexander Dubchek's Hope Dies Last:  The Autobiography of Alexander Dubcek (1993), Dubcek Speaks (1990) and Komunisti a národné dedicstvo:  vybrané prejavy k otázkam slovenskej národnej histórie (1968).
For analyses of the Prague Spring, see:  Kieran Williams, The Prague Spring and Its Aftermath:  Czechoslovak Politics, 1968-1970 (1997); Jan Pauer, Prag 1968:  der Einmarsch des Warschauer Paktes Hintergründe-Planung-Durchführung (1995); Rüdiger Wenzke, Die NVA und der Prager Frühling 1968:  die Rolle Ulbrichts und der DDR-Streitkräfte bei der Niederschlagung der tschechoslowakischen Reformbewegung (1995); Eleonora Schneider, Prager Frühling und samtene Revolution:  soziale Bewegungen in Gesellschaften sowjetischen Typs am Beispiel der Tschechoslowakei (1994); Václav Kural, et al, Ceskoslovensko roku 1968 (1993); Jiri Valenta, Soviet Intervention in Czechoslovakia, 1968:  Anatomy of a Decision (with a new foreword by Alexander Dubcek, 1991); Ivan Sviták, The Unbearable Burden of History:  The Sovietization of Czechoslovakia (1990); Carlo Ricchini e Luisa Melograni, Primavera indimenticata:  Alexander Dubcek ieri e oggi  (1988); Karen Dawisha, The Kremlin and the Prague Spring (1984); Vladimir Kusin, The Intellectual Origins of the Prague Spring:  The Development of Reformist Ideas in Czechoslovakia, 1956-1967 (1971); Victor Fic, The Prague Spring, 1968:  A Study in Social Change (1970).

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