w The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia: Prague Spring

The Soviet Invasion
of Czechoslovakia:
August 1968

Materials from
the Labadie Collection
of Social Protest Material

Exhibit Home

Prague Spring
  Invasion and Resistance
  Political Cartoons
  The 14th Party Congress
  Posters and Pamphlets
  Soviet Propoganda
  Czech Resistance Materials in Russian
  Newspapers and other Publications
  After the Occupation
  Further Reading

List of Newspapers

Special Collections Library
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Prague Spring


In the morning hours of August 21, 1968, the Soviet army invaded Czechoslovakia along with troops from four other Warsaw Pact countries. The occupation was the beginning of the end for the Czechoslovak reform movement known as the Prague Spring. The reform movement had been brewing for years, fed by economic problems as well as growing demands from Communist intellectuals for more freedom and pluralism within a socialist system. But it really gathered steam at the beginning of 1968, in January, when the Communist Party's Central Committee replaced its hard-line First Secretary Antonin Novotny with the moderate reformer Alexander Dubcek, who eventually sided more and more clearly with the forces for change. In March, censorship was loosened and Novotny was relieved of his other function, President of the Republic. He was replaced by a career soldier, Ludvik Svoboda, whose last name in Czech means "freedom"-- a purely linguistic coincidence that countless posters and flyers during the invasion made use of (documents 3B, 3C and 3I), although Svoboda ultimately sided with opponents of reform.

In the following months, censorship was further loosened (document 1A), some political prisoners were freed, and topics that until recently had been taboo--such as the politically motivated show trials of the 1950's--began to be openly discussed (document 1B). The government adopted an "Action Program" that aimed at democratization of the Communist party and pluralism in politics and society. Meanwhile, Communist leaders elsewhere in Central Europe began to express more and more reservations about the reforms; during the spring, Warsaw Pact troops began maneuvers on Czechoslovak territory. Although the Czechoslovak reformers always affirmed their intention of remaining within the bounds of a socialist system led by the Communist party, the reforms eventually began to take on a life of their own.



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