The Soviet Invasion
of Czechoslovakia:
August 1968

Materials from
the Labadie Collection
of Social Protest Material


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Occupation
   
  DOCUMENTS
AND PHOTOGRAPHS
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  The 14th Party Congress
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  Soviet Propoganda
  Czech Resistance Materials in Russian
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List of Newspapers


Special Collections Library
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Occupation

 

At the same time, a careful reading of the documents reveals some curiosities. Proclamations and declarations from Communist party organs opposing the invasion employed all the standard jargon of Communist ideology, appealing in characteristically clunky syntax to the international workers' movement and the country's workers - a linguistic affinity underlining the fact that the reforms had, after all, been carried out in a socialist framework. Above all, these materials illustrate a central paradox of the invasion: both occupiers and resisters consistently called for calm, peace, and quiet, echoing Dubcek's and Svoboda's appeals to maintain order. The call for "calm and level-headedness" (klid a rozvaha) was repeated over and over, and the demand for a "normalization" of the tense situation would become a mantra of both sides. Many Czechoslovaks, facing a far superior military force, did not want to provide the occupying forces with a pretext for violent crackdowns; much of the popular resistance to the invasion would be passive and dignified (documents 3A and 3E). The invaders themselves wanted to forestall violent opposition (document 4B). In the aftermath of August 21, both Czechoslovakia's legitimate leaders and the occupiers aimed at the same goal, however differently they understood it: securing the normal functioning of daily life in the country.

The country persisted in this strange state of tentative resistance for months. The reform leaders who had been interned and brought to Moscow for negotiations were more or less forced to sign the so-called Moscow Protocol, which declared the 14th Congress invalid, re-instituted controls over the media, and rolled back the reforms in other ways - all topped off with a promise by the Czechoslovak and Soviet governments to "intensify . . . their fraternal friendship for time everlasting." The only person not to sign the Protocol, Chairman of the National Front Frantisek Kriegel, was subsequently stripped of all his functions and finally expelled from the party in 1969 (document 7B, a transcription of his speech upon his departure). Other reform leaders, including Dubcek, were allowed to maintain their functions and even some power, but they tended to discourage public displays of discontent for fear of provoking their Soviet overseers. At the end of March 1969, the Czechoslovak ice hockey team defeated the Soviets, a victory that sparked mass demonstrations throughout the country and finally provided the pretext for a full-scale crackdown (document 7A). Dubcek was ousted as Party Secretary by the opportunistic, brutally colorless functionary Gustav Husak, who presided over an ever-strengthening purge of the party and society. Protests on August 21, 1969 were brutally suppressed and turned out to be the last mass demonstrations against the invasion, as the country settled down into the gray years of bureaucratic oppression known as "normalization."

 

 

 

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