Prague 2 district council on Monday rejected the proposal to make 1968 invasion hero František Kriegel an honorary citizen. Kriegel was the only member of a government delegation in 1968 who refused to sign a declaration approving the Warsaw Pact invasion of former Czechoslovakia. The controversial proposal from independent councillor Michal Uhl has divided the council. Centre-right members of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have argued that Kriegel’s active involvement in the Communist coup brought the party to power in February 1948. Kriegel, who also participated in the Spanish civil war, died in Prague in 1979.
Thursday is the 46th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed the Prague Spring reform movement, ushering in two decades of so-called normalisation. That traumatic event was commemorated at a ceremony at Czech Radio, scene of the most brutal repression in August 1968 – and comparisons were drawn with Russia’s actions today.
The Czech Republic on Wednesday commemorates the 46th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. A series of events held to mark the anniversary include a chain hunger strike and a gathering outside the Czech Radio building which saw clashes between civilian protesters and the occupying forces. The invasion of five Warsaw Pact armies quashed efforts by Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party to reform the regime in a period known as the Prague Spring, ushering in an era of renewed repression lasting until the late 1980s.
The freshly released files of the so-called Mitrokhin archive shed light on Soviet intelligence activities during the Prague Spring of 1968. The files, smuggled by senior KGB officer Vasiliy Mitrochin to the UK in the 1990s, have been opened to the public by Cambridge University. They suggest that the KGB aimed to undermine Czechoslovakia’s democratization process, with Soviet illegal agents targeting dozens of Czech and Slovak public figures.
On Monday, the Archive Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge made available to the public for the very first time the results of one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history. The documents, collected by Vasili Mitrokhin, a KGB defector, were handed over to the UK authorities in 1992 and include details on the Soviet agency’s infiltration efforts regarding the 1968 Czechoslovak Prague Spring. In total, 19 boxes of Mitrokhin’s notes will be made available, and could help Czech historians shed more light on a painful chapter in the country’s history.
Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček, several local mayors and members of the public honoured Czech victims of Communism in Prague on Saturday, the news agency ČTK reported. Mr Hudeček warned against questioning the crimes of Communism, and said the motivation of those who sided with the regime needed to be studied. Some 250 people were executed by the Communist authorities and another 8,000 died in jail. An estimated 250,000 people left the country during the four decades of Communist rule. The gathering took place at a cemetery in Prague’s Motol district where the ashes of dozens of anti-Communist activists were secretly buried in the 1950s and 60s.
For many Czechs, Russia’s Natalya Gorbanevskaya was nothing less than a hero, one of eight people in 1968 who protested on Red Square in Moscow against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. All of the protesters were arrested and as punishment she was sent to a psychiatric hospital. A few years after her release in 1972, she emigrated to France where she continued to work as a poet translator and human rights activist up until her death at the age of 77 last week.
The civic association Dekomunizace hung black paper cut-outs of human bodies from lamp posts, bridges and buildings in Prague, Hradec Králové and Jihlava on Tuesday morning to warn of the growing influence of the Communist party on Czech politics. The cut-outs, which look like hanged bodies, have the words ‘Went against the Communist Party’ written on them and are meant to symbolize more than 250 people who were executed for political reasons in communist Czechoslovakia. The association is worried that after this weekend’s elections the Communist party will play an even greater role in Czech politics. Its members are also concerned that the current Communist party has never distanced itself from the actions and crimes committed by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989.
Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman has reopened the case of a former communist prosecutor who faces charges of abuse of power. Mr Zeman canceled a decision by prosecutors in Mělník who stopped the prosecution of the 85-year-old man over his involvement in a 1950s campaign against independent farmers, a spokeswoman for the supreme state attorney said. The man allegedly ordered the forcible removal of several farmers’ families from their communities. In total, the communist authorities relocated between 3,000 and 4,000 families in the campaign
On Wednesday, Czechs marked the 45th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion that crushed the period of reforms known as the Prague Spring. They weren’t alone: reaction also came from Sofia, where artists overnight anonymously sprayed an infamous Soviet-era monument pink. With the words ‘Bulharsko se omlouvá’, they apologised for Bulgaria’s role in the 1968 invasion, a gesture that did not go unnoticed and made world headlines.