The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968
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Publish Year note: First published December 16th 2009
On August 20, 1968, tens of thousands of Soviet and East European ground and air forces moved into Czechoslovakia and occupied the country in an attempt to end the "Prague Spring" reforms and restore an orthodox Communist regime. The leader of the Soviet Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, was initially reluctant to use military force and tried to pressure his counterpart in Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek, to crack down. But during the summer of 1968, after several months of careful deliberations, the Soviet Politburo finally decided that military force was the only option left. A large invading force of Soviet, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops received final orders to move into Czechoslovakia; within 24 hours they had established complete military control of Czechoslovakia, bringing an end to hopes for "socialism with a human face."
Dubcek and most of the other Czechoslovak reformers were temporarily restored to power, but their role from late August 1968 through April 1969 was to reverse many of the reforms that had been adopted. In April 1969, Dubchek was forced to step down for good, bringing a final end to the Prague Spring. Soviet leaders justified the invasion of Czechoslovakia by claiming that "the fate of any socialist country is the common affair of all socialist countries" and that the Soviet Union had both a "right" and a "sacred duty" to "defend socialism" in Czechoslovakia. The invasion caused some divisions within the Communist world, but overall the use of large-scale force proved remarkably successful in achieving Soviet goals. The United States and its NATO allies protested but refrained from direct military action and covert operations to counter the Soviet-led incursion into Czechoslovakia.
The essays of a dozen leading European and American Cold War historians analyze this turning point in the Cold War in light of new documentary evidence from the archives of two dozen countries and explain what happened behind the scenes. They also reassess the weak response of the United States and consider whether Washington might have given a "green light," if only inadvertently, to the Soviet Union prior to the invasion.
Berlinguer in November 1975, the PCF summit of a few days later with the Spanish Communists (PCE), renewed encounters between the French and Italian leaders in Paris in June of 1976, and, finally, the summit of the three leaders, including Santiago Carillo, in Madrid in March of 1977. The plenary conference of all European Communist parties, held in Berlin in June 1976, gave the three parties the chance to present their autonomous views within the Communist movement. Besides upholding their open
Soviet Union and in face of the two nations’ economic growth, induced the Truman and Eisenhower administrations to refine their own instruments of psychological warfare and also to wage a “cultural cold war” to defuse many of the Western Europeans’ assumptions about the United States’ cultural shallowness. Psywar consisted above all of repressive actions geared to reduce the institutional power and mass appeal of the two Communist parties. Those actions yielded only short-term results. The U.S.
Should Dubček, as expected, not adhere to the agreements, there was now an alternative. A few days later, an SED delegation traveled to Karlsbad for bilateral discussions with Dubček.89 The situation seemed to ease up, but Ulbricht was, in fact, implementing an exploratory mission for the Politburo of the CPSU. He wanted to examine how the agreement of Čierna nad Tisou was put into practice. Two points were particularly important: (1) “[m]easures for controlling the media” (Ulbricht for this
from this point of view into an attack on the dictatorial power of the Communist Party. Only from this perspective can the significance of the “Prague Spring” in the history of the Soviet Empire also be explained. It was no coincidence that the Soviet reformers of 1987–1988 contemplated a “reevaluation” of these Czechoslovakian reforms: the Prague reform Communists were their forerunners. Precisely because of its violent ending, the history of the “Prague Spring” remained politically current and
results of these negotiations as a victory for themselves. This assessment was shared by many western Communist parties. The leader of the Austrian CP, Franz Muri, told the bourgeois weekly Wochenpresse that the negotiations had shown the Austrian Communist Party’s opinion to be correct that the international Communist movement could not be regarded as “a monolithic block.” RGANI, F. 3, op. 68, d. 862, pp. 69–74. 93. RGANI, F. 3, op. 68, d. 862, pp. 16–19. 94. RGANI, F. 3, op. 68, d. 862, pp.