As the Czech nation celebrates 30 years of freedom and democracy the words of a leading Communist Party official have caused a public outcry. In an interview for Czech Radio, the party’s deputy chair, Stanislav Grospič argued that the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia was not an invasion and that the people killed had died mostly in road accidents. While his words evoked widespread condemnation, the Communist Party has not distanced itself from the statement.
The leadership of the Communist Party has not distanced itself from
shocking statements made by the party’s deputy chair Stanislav Grospič
who said in an interview for Czech Radio that the 1968 Soviet-led invasion
of Czechoslovakia had not been an invasion and that the people killed had
died mostly in road accidents. His words were condemned by politicians
across the board.
Opposition politicians are calling for his resignation as head of the Mandate and Immunity Committee in the lower house.
The head of the Communist Party Vojtěch Filip said after a meeting of the party’s leadership that its members should be more restrained in expressing themselves in public and should make sure their statements do not go counter the official party line.
The lower house of Parliament has passed a bill declaring August 21st a day
in memory of the victims of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in
1968. The bill was supported by 130 out of 137 deputies present.
The Communist Party MPs present failed to suport the bill, with the exception of Jiří Dolejš who said he was voting according to his conscience and regarded the invasion as „a terrible blow to the country“.
The bill will now go to the Senate for approval.
On Wednesday evening, thousands of people attended a protest march in
Prague initiated by Million Moments for Democracy, the organization behind
the largest demonstration in the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution
in 1989, which brought an estimated quarter of a million demonstrators to
Prague’s Letná plain in June. Organisers say the event was attended by
10,000 people and served as a reminder of the events of the Soviet invasion
in 1968, the brutal Communist crackdown on protesters in 1969 and as a
protest against the current prime minister and president.
Attendees met on Prague's Wenceslas Square in the evening hours before heading to Hradčany Square in front of Prague Castle.
The march was part of a wider string of demonstrations organized by the group this Wednesday. These were held in 93 sites across the country, including all of the Czech Republic’s major cities.
The Czech Radio building in Prague saw the most intense violence during the Soviet-led invasion of August 21, 1968 and, as every year, hundreds of people marked the anniversary at the station on Thursday. Among them were leading politicians – and one old lady who broadcast news of the occupation to the outside world.
Events are being held in the Czech Republic marking the anniversary of
August 21 in both 1968 and 1969. Czechoslovakia was invaded by Soviet-led
troops on that date in 1968, while the following year a number of
participants in demonstrations on the first anniversary were killed in
clashes with Czechoslovak security forces.
The main memorial event on Wednesday will take place in front of Czech Radio, which was a focal point of defiance and violence in August 1968. Senior elected representatives and people who lived through that time are expected to attend.
The events of August 1969 are to be marked by a march from Wenceslas Square to Prague Castle organised by the group Million Moments for Democracy.
Dozens of other memorial events are also being held around the Czech Republic.
Exactly a year after the Prague Spring was crushed by a Warsaw Pact invasion, many thousands of Czechoslovaks went into the streets once more to protest their country’s occupation. The subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrators, this time by their own countrymen, resulted in hundreds of arrests and even five deaths. It crushed the last vestiges of hope and persuaded the public that “normalisation” was here to stay.
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has launched an
interactive map showing where victims of the 1968 invasion met their
deaths. It details the victims’ names and where, when and how they died
in connection with the Soviet-led invasion between August 1968 and August
The map’s co-creator, historian Milan Bárta, said that while people initially died in big cities, later victims met their deaths on country roads as the result of traffic accidents as soldiers were barred from entering cities and withdrew to the regions.
Link to map (in Czech): https://obetiokupace.dejepis21.cz/
The anti-government protest movement A Million Moments for Democracy plans
a march through Prague on the 50th anniversary of a protest held a year
after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Organisers of the march on 21 August say they want both to commemorate past events and draw attention to current political issues that threaten the Czech democracy.
The group has accused Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) of undermining the rule of law while milking Brussels and Czech taxpayers to line his own pockets.
The Czech police have recommended that Mr Babiš be charged with fraud tied to the use of EU funds. He is also accused of having a conflict of interest because many decisions he makes benefit the Agrofert business empire he founded.
In late June, A Million Moments for Democracy organised the biggest public protest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew Communism, calling for Mr Babiš to resign.
The Australian broadcaster and writer Richard Fidler is author of two bestsellers Ghost Empire, a fascinating reconstruction of the history of ancient Byzantium, and Saga Land, a very personal journey into Icelandic history. His writing is lively and engaged, but he is also meticulous in his research. Earlier this year Richard spent two months in Prague on a residency made possible through the UNESCO City of Literature programme. He is writing a book that will look at a thousand years of Prague history, each episode told through the story of an