On July 1, 1991, the Warsaw Treaty was officially dissolved and 36 years of Czechoslovakia’s military alliance with the USSR came to an end. As a consequence, Soviet troops stationed in the country during the 1968 invasion were gradually withdrawn – an anniversary that the Czech NGO Opona is celebrating with a series of events entitled Week of Freedom, starting Monday. Sarah Borufka spoke to David Gaydečka, one of the organizers of Freedom Week about the events planned.
The Slovak State Attorney’s Office has dropped criminal charges against former communist leader Vasil Bilak who sanctioned the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Bilak, one of the communist hardliners who opposed Alexander Dubcek’s Prague Spring reforms wrote a letter of invitation to the Moscow leadership asking the Soviets to stop the “counter-revolution” in Czechoslovakia by any means. In 2000 the Slovak authorities launched criminal proceedings against Vasi Bilak on charges of treason, but investigators said there was a lack of witnesses in the Czech Republic to take the now 93-year-old Bilak to court.
Czechs gathered at Prague’s Olšaný cemetery on Saturday to pay tribute to student Jan Palach who set fire to himself in protest at the Soviet-led occupation of 1968 and reversal of the reforms that sparked it. Jan Palach made his protest on January 16, 1969, and died of his injuries three days later. His funeral in Prague a week later was a mass demonstration against the invasion and the ‘normalisation’ that followed. Palach’s remains were taken from the Prague cemetery in 1973 by authorities and moved to his home village outside Mělnik, north of Prague. They were returned to Prague in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime.
Czechs gathered at Prague’s Olšanský cemetery on Saturday to pay tribute to student Jan Palach who set fire to himself in protest at the Soviet-led occupation of 1968 and reversal of the reforms that sparked it. Jan Palach made his protest on January 16, 1969, and died of his injuries three days later. His funeral in Prague a week later was a mass demonstration against the invasion and the ‘normalisation’ that followed. Palach’s remains were taken from the Prague cemetery in 1973 by authorities and moved to his home village outside Mělnik, north of Prague. They were returned to Prague in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime.
Michael Kocáb has been dismissed as government commissioner for human
rights. Mr Kocáb had already tendered his resignation, but said he
to stay on as human rights commissioner until a successor was installed.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas announced on Wednesday that the cabinet had
voted to remove him with immediate effect, saying a number of names were
contention for the post.
In the early 1990s Mr Kocáb, then best known as a rock musician, became an MP and oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. In more recent times he served as minister for human rights in a caretaker Czech government.
A ceremony was held at the Czech Radio building in Prague on Saturday honouring the victims of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. Warsaw Pact troops had entered the country during the previous night, halting the liberalisation reforms of the Prague Spring. Speaking at Saturday’s memorial ceremony, the chairman of the Senate, Přemysl Sobotka, paid tribute to the Czechoslovak Radio journalists who had kept the public informed about the invasion; he said that listeners did not hear the truth again until 21 years later, when the communist regime fell. Over 100 people were killed in the violence that followed the occupation. The greatest losses were recorded at the Czech Radio building on Vinohradská St, which had become a rallying point for resistance.
August 21 marks the anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and other communist countries. The occupation crushed an attempt to reform the communist regime, and drove the country into two decades of hard-line rule. What that all meant to the people of Czechoslovakia has been looked at many times. In our special programme today, we look at August 1968 from another perspective: that of the occupiers.
One hundred and sixteen soldiers of the occupying armies of the Warsaw Pact died on Czechoslovak territory during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia launched on August 21st, the daily Hospodarské Noviny writes on the eve of the anniversary. The paper says that the vast majority died in traffic accidents or by mishandling their weapon in a skirmish. Only one was killed by a local protesting against the invasion. Historians estimate that over 100 Czechs and Slovaks were killed in the first days and weeks of the Soviet-led invasion.
A monument was unveiled in Prague on Friday morning to Ryszard Siwiec, the Polish man who set himself alight in September 1968 in protest at his country’s participation in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Siwiec committed suicide in Warsaw just weeks after the invasion and six months before the Czech student Jan Palach made his own terrible sacrifice in Prague. The monument was unveiled on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of the invasion.
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