50 years since Warsaw pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia

August 21st of 1968 is a black day in Czech history. People still recall waking up on that fateful morning to find that Soviet-led Warsaw Pact tanks had rolled into the country crushing all hope of implementing the democratic reforms of the Prague Spring. Shocked citizens took to the streets in protest of the invasion. Over 100 people were killed and 500 injured in skirmishes with the invaders, many of whom had no clear idea of what they were doing here and even where exactly they were. One of the key battles was for the control of Czech Radio, similar to the one that took place at the end of the Second World War.

Fifteen Prague citizens and radio employees lost their lives in the clash with Soviet armed forces, who eventually seized the building. Although radio broadcasting continued from other locations, the public and media revolt was soon suppressed. In the following period, also known as the "normalisation", hundreds of employees were forced to leave the radio because of their political views, and thousands of people across the country were sacked for speaking their minds. Communist apparatchiks took over and those who did not flee the country were forced to toe the party line or live as outcasts harassed by the dreaded secret service. People closed up, trusting none but their closest family and friends. Some thought it would be a couple of years before things turned for the better, but the communist regime was to stay in power for another twenty years.

 

In the turbulent year of 1968, Radio Prague was "freer" than Radio Free Europe

Hungarian Revolution in 1956, photo: ismeretlen, CC BY-SA 3.0Hungarian Revolution in 1956, photo: ismeretlen, CC BY-SA 3.0 In the early years of Radio Free Europe, the U.S. station – although initially founded and largely secretly funded by the CIA – played a critical role in providing balanced, objective news to listeners in the Eastern Bloc, especially during turbulent periods of history. Having failed to live up its own standards when covering the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, RFE took a radically different approach to its coverage of the Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, says former RFE director A. Ross Johnson. More...

 

Young Russians in Prague find that 1968 Russian-led invasion casts long shadow

Russian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, photo: CIA, Flickr, Public DomainRussian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, photo: CIA, Flickr, Public Domain The number of Russians residing and working in the Czech Republic has been steadily growing in recent years. Many come here in search of a better life, to escape the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin or homophobia in their homeland. And many find that the Russian led-invasion of Czechoslovakia casts a long shadow. More...

 

Prague exhibition brings August 1968 invasion to life

Photograph by Václav Toužimský, photo: ČTK/Vít ŠimánekPhotograph by Václav Toužimský, photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek With the 50th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia fast approaching, an exhibition just launched at Prague’s Old Town Hall brings together almost 200 photographs documenting that time. Most belong in private archives and a number are being shown in public for the first time ever. More...

 

Ivan Hartl: A one-man international branch of the Czech underground

Ivan Hartl, photo: Ian WilloughbyIvan Hartl, photo: Ian Willoughby Ivan Hartl has been living in the UK since the late 1960s. From there he helped run banned literature into his native Czechoslovakia with Palach Press, as well as promoting internationally the persecuted rock band The Plastic People of the Universe. More...

 

Ladislav Hornan: Locked up on spying charges in 1980s Prague as a UK citizen

Ladislav Hornan, photo: Ian WilloughbyLadislav Hornan, photo: Ian Willoughby Ladislav Hornan, who is chairman of the British Czech and Slovak Association, has enjoyed a very successful career and led one of the UK’s top accountancy firms for many years. He came from a relatively privileged background in Prague, where his mother Magdalena Horňanová was a music professor and writer. Unusually, Mr. Hornan returned regularly to Czechoslovakia after emigrating in 1968. Until, that is, he spent almost a month in a Prague jail on spying charges in the mid-1980s. In a meeting room at his company’s City of London building he shared that remarkable story. But first we discussed August 1968 when, as an 18-year-old, he was in England on a summer study stay. More...

 

Fifty years since Alexander Dubček took over at top of Czechoslovak communist party

Alexander Dubček, photo: Czech TelevisionAlexander Dubček, photo: Czech Television Fifty years ago on January 5, 1968, the news came out of the ongoing central committee party meeting of the Czechoslovak communist party that Slovak, Alexander Dubček, had been chosen as the new party boss. Dubček was little known in Czech circles but his name would soon be known around the country and the world. More...

 

Movement and dance theatre tells powerful story of Soviet dissidents who stood up for Czechoslovakia

Natalia Gorbanevskaya, photo: Filip JandourekNatalia Gorbanevskaya, photo: Filip Jandourek On August 25th, 1968, just four days after Russian tanks rolled through Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring reform movement, eight brave Russians staged a daring protest on Moscow’s Red Square, unfurling banners that read “Hands off Czechoslovakia!” and “Shame to the Invaders!”. They were quickly surrounded by communist police, beaten up and arrested. Most of them spent years locked up in prison, labour camps or in psychiatric institutions. More...

 

PHOTOGALLERY AUGUST 1968 - CZECH RADIO PHOTOCOMPETITION

AUGUST 21ST OF 1968