After the events of World War II, the state of Czechoslovakia came under the influence of the Soviet Union and communist ideals. This culminated in 1968 when the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) saw Alexander Dubček, a communist reformer, elected as their First Secretary 1. Once in power, he began to promote his political agenda with a slogan of “Socialism With a Human Face.” According to historian Lewis Sigelbaum, Dubček wished to promote “… cultural freedom, economic reform based on the ‘socialist market,’ and restrictions on the secret police.” All of these promises seemed allowed him to gain the support of the majority of Czechoslovakia, however, his Soviet allies didn’t see this in the same light.
These reforms infuriated the Soviets and, after several failed negotiations, caused them to send upwards to half a million Warsaw Pact troops to Czechoslovakia to occupy the country. These troops were said to have been equipped with the most sophisticated weaponry that the Soviets had in their arsenal 2. According to one Soviet news article,” The measures taken by the Soviet Union … to defend the socialist gains of the Czechoslovak people are of enormous significance.” This intervention wasn’t well received by Czech nationals who sought for political reform promoted by Dubček. Inevitably, a resistance movement was formed across the entirety of Czechoslovakia – curfews were ignored, violent and non-violent forms of protest were utilized, Soviet weapons and vehicles were stolen, etc 3. Due to their actions, the resistance movement of the Czechs all received global coverage as the Western world looked down upon the actions of the Warsaw Pact.
The Soviet invasion was caught on camera and broadcast across the globe – this had some very significant repercussions in the public sphere for the USSR 3. In an attempt to persuade others of their concerns for the actions taken in Czechoslovakia, the Soviets issued a memorandum know as the Brezhnev Doctrine that stated that it was the right and responsibility of the Soviet Union to protect their communist allies 5. Regardless of their intentions, the Soviets won out and the country remained under Soviet control until 1989 with the events of the Velvet Revolution. By that point though, the idea set forth by Alexander Dubček of having “Socialism With a Human Face” was long forgotten and the collapse of the communist state of Czechoslovakia began to fall.
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- Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.
- Lowenthal, Richard. The Sparrow in the Cage, Problems of Communism, Vol. 17, No. 6 (November – December 1968), pp. 2-28.
- Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Crisis in Czechoslovakia.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 1 Sept. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1968-2/crisis-in-czechoslovakia/.
- Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Crisis in Czechoslovakia.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 1 Sept. 2015, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1968-2/crisis-in-czechoslovakia/crisis-in-czechoslovakia-images/.
- Stavrianos, L. S. The Epic of Man (The Brezhnev Doctrine). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971, pp. 465-466.