Archive: History | 1968 1968

1969: Radio Prague goes back to the bad old days

14-04-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Liberec in 1968, photo: Institute of Contemporary History In the course of 1969 and 1970 Czechoslovak Radio was transformed back into what it had been in the 1950s, a tool of hard line propaganda. In the process, over 700 radio staff were forced to leave their jobs. Those who stayed found their freedom of expression severely curtailed. To give an idea of the extent to which things had changed by August 1969 - the first anniversary of the Soviet led invasion – I will start with a short extract from Radio Prague’s broadcasts back in 1968, as the tanks rolled into the city. At the time the radio was playing a crucial role in keeping the world informed of what was really happening – including reports of violent incidents as the invading troops opened fire on civilians:  More

After Palach: fears and hopes

07-04-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Palach’s funeral, photo: Security Services Archive In last week’s From the Archives we followed the tragic last days of the student Jan Palach, who on January 16 1969 set himself alight in protest against growing apathy in the face of the Soviet invasion five months earlier. The whole country was in shock. Such a drastic and violent sacrifice had little precedent in modern Czech and Slovak history, and perhaps for just that reason Palach immediately became a symbol of the country’s lost liberty and a rallying cry for those who still hoped to save something of the reforms of 1968. Those in power had to be cautious; they were well aware that Palach’s legacy could be explosive.  More

The abnormality of normalization

24-03-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Alexander Dubček On the airwaves, 1968 ended very much as it had begun. For New Year’s Eve, Czechoslovak Radio chose the same format as the year before, with the light-hearted musical cabaret of the Semafor Theatre. But behind the scenes, the Soviet-led occupation in August had changed everything. The Soviets were only too pleased for the radio to give the impression of normality. A gradual, almost imperceptible drift back to hard-line communism was beginning. The process came to be known cynically as “normalization”, a word that was first used by Alexander Dubček himself on August 27 1968. He had just returned from his forced five-day stay in Moscow, where he had been bullied into accepting the presence of foreign troops.  More

Playing cat-and-mouse with the Soviets to keep on air

17-03-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

August 1968 In the days immediately after the Soviet invasion in August 1968, staff at Czechoslovak Radio played a cat-and-mouse game with the occupying forces. For the first couple of days, they managed to continue broadcasting directly from the radio headquarters, despite the presence of tanks outside.  More

Shock and disillusionment: students respond to the 1968 Soviet invasion

10-03-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

For the younger generation that had grown up after the end of World War II, the Soviet-led invasion of August 1968 was traumatic. The Prague Spring had brought an atmosphere of optimism and genuine enthusiasm for change, and all these hopes were crushed overnight. In this week’s From the Archives, we’ll hear what students had to say at the time, as recorded by Czechoslovak and foreign radio stations as the occupation unfolded.  More

Words, words, words… The United Nations and the 1968 invasion

03-03-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Jiří Hájek, photo: The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic In this week’s From the Archives we continue our look at how radio covered the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Today we follow the part played by the United Nations. Within just a few hours of the tanks crossing the border, the UN Security Council met for a special meeting to discuss what to do about the invasion. Czechoslovakia’s Ambassador to the UN, Jan Mužík was unequivocal:  More

August 21 1968 on the airwaves

25-02-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

August 1968 in Prague In the course of 1968 the Soviet Union made it increasingly clear that it disapproved strongly of the Prague Spring reforms. Yet, despite mounting tensions with Moscow, the Soviet led invasion on the night from August 20-21 1968, came as a huge shock. Today we are going to hear some of the broadcasts from that fateful day. We start with Radio Moscow, with an official Soviet version of events.  More

Alexander Dubček: hope and despair in 1968

18-02-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Alexander Dubček and Margita Kollarová The political reforms of the 1960s accelerated dramatically when on January 5 1968 Alexander Dubček became First Secretary of the Communist Party, the most powerful position in the country. Dubček immediately set Czechoslovakia on a course of economic and political reform, to create what was described as “socialism with a human face”. Today we are going to hear two recordings of Dubček from 1968 that show both the hopes with which the year started and the despair which followed the Soviet invasion in August.  More

New website presents the life and sacrifice of Jan Palach

17-01-2012 17:04 | Christian Falvey

www.janpalach.cz It was one of the most remarkable single acts in Czechoslovak history, one that still today evokes mingled shock and admiration. Now the documents, reports, essays and films relating to the self-immolation of Jan Palach - five months after the invasion of his country by Warsaw Pact forces – is available to the public through a new website launched to commemorate the life and sacrifice of the young activist.  More

Seeking asylum in communist Czechoslovakia

14-01-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Czechoslovakia played an active part in the Soviet Union’s propaganda war with the United States during the 1950s, a time of edginess and paranoia on both sides. There was no shortage of people trying to flee across the Iron Curtain to the West, but every now and then the flight would be in the other direction, and someone from the West would actively seek asylum in the Communist Bloc. For the communist regimes this was a propaganda opportunity not to be missed.  More

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