January 5, 1968 - Prague Spring
By Emily Sullivan
Prague spring was a period of political liberalization in which Soviet-led invasions of Czechoslovakia killed more than 100 people. The mass protests began on January 5th and ended on August 21st of 1968. The invasions occurred with the intention of reforming communist rule by restricting the powers of the hated secret police and easing censorship. These plans were led by Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek. He vowed to create “socialism with a human face” and overcome the disillusionment of the people of Czechoslovakia with the political and economic situation at the time. Socialism had lost all support due to the government policies of the previous two decades (Chapple). These reforms were also protested for in order to decentralize the economy and democratization. However, the reforms angered the Soviets who sent half a million Warsaw Pact Troops and tanks to occupy the country.
After Alexander Dubcek introduced the idea of socialism with a human face a rebirth of political and cultural freedom occurred. This freedom had been “long denied” by party leaders who were loyal to Moscow and hope and optimism began to bloom (Santora, 2018). However, the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia quickly killed the dreams of the reformers and “broke the spirit of a nation and ushered in an era of oppression whose effects are still felt today” (Santora, 2018). Unarmed citizens were met by armed Soviet soldiers who felt that the only way to put the political liberalization to end was to enforce at the point of a gun.
Prague Spring was detrimental to the moral and hope of the people of Czechoslovakia. It was a “defining moment” for the people because there had been an outburst of creative energy and desire for reform. However, as quickly as it began, it was crushed. This crushed the country along with it out and of fear of these reforms spreading, Moscow felt it completely necessary to take over Czechoslovakia. Prague Spring led to the Brezhnev Doctrine which would prohibit countries from rejecting communism even if it meant a third World War. Dubcek was arrested as a result of the protests and invasion and Czechoslovakia remained a communist country. The main worry of the Soviets was that these ideas of political reform would spread, and countries would begin to push against communist rule. In order to suppress these worries, the invasion of Czechoslovakia and all of the detrimental effects occurred.
Applebaum, Rachel. “The Friendship Project: Socialist Internationalism in the Soviet Union And Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s.” Slavic Review, Vol. 74, No. 3, (Fall 2015): 484-507. Cambridge University Press. Accessed September 5, 2018.
Chapple, A. (n.d.). Invasion: The Crushing of The Prague Spring. Retrieved May 24, 2020, from https://www.rferl.org/a/crushing-of-prague-spring-1968/29420107.html
Santora, M. (2018, August 21). 50 Years After Prague Spring, Lessons on Freedom (and a Broken Spirit). Retrieved May 24, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/20/world/europe/prague-spring-communism.html