This August 21st marks 40 years since the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, an invasion meticulously planned by the Soviet Union to crush the period of economic and political reforms known as the Prague Spring. Within hours of late August 20th and early August 21st some 2,000 tanks as well as an estimated 200,000 troops had poured in. It was the beginning of the occupation which changed the course of Czechoslovak history.
The town of Chrudim, in Eastern Bohemia, has placed a tank on its main square as a reminder of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia 40 years ago. The invasion, intended to crush the reform movement known as the Prague Spring, took place in the early hours of August 21st of 1968. Over 100 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the clash with foreign troops. Numerous commemorative ceremonies, exhibitions and debates are being held across the country to mark the anniversary.
Experts predict that repairing the environmental damage caused by Soviet troops on Czechoslovak territory between 1968 and 1991 may take up until 2012. The occupying forces used 73 military areas and 60 of them were left in a very bad state. Since 1991 –when the last Soviet troops were withdrawn from Czech territory – the authorities poured 1.3 billion crowns into clean-up operations. Another 240 million will be required.
All this week we’re broadcasting memories of those who lived through the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, which began around 11pm on August 20th 1968. Today we hear from one of our predecessors here at the Radio Prague English Section, Dora Slabá. August 20th 1968 was a normal working day for Dora, who worked as a presenter. When she went home that day she had no way of knowing that she would never come back to Radio Prague. She begins by describing the atmosphere on that perfect summer day in 1968.
A newly released survey from the STEM polling agency suggests that most Czechs have not forgiven Russia for invading their country in August 1968. The invasion by Warsaw Pact forces was undertaken under the mantra of helping a brotherly nation, although the actual aims were to suppress growing democratic tendencies in the former Czechoslovakia. The findings of this latest survey suggest that 64% have not forgiven Russia for their “assistance”. The Czech Republic will mark the formal 40 year anniversary of the invasion on Thursday.
It was 40 years ago this Thursday that Warsaw-Pact troops invaded the former Czechoslovakia, putting an end to the hope and reform of the so-called ‘Prague Spring’. All this week, Radio Prague will be commemorating the invasion by broadcasting the testimonies of those who were there. For today’s programme, Rosie Johnston spoke to Libor Hajský, a junior photographer at the Czech Press Agency on August 21, 1968 – the day that Soviet tanks rolled into Prague.
Several of Josef Koudelka’s 1968 photos are being shown at the Mánes gallery, by the River Vltava, in a new exhibition entitled 1945 – Liberation, 1968 – Occupation. Two rooms of iconic black and white photographs show two very different sets of images: the Red Army greeted with smiles and flowers in May 1945, and Russian soldiers berated by angry crowds in August 1968. So how do the people looking at these images feel about today's Russia, especially in the light of the current situation in Georgia?
An exhibition of banners and posters made by the citizens of Prague in response to the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 has just been unveiled on Prague’s Wenceslas Square. Photos of home-made posters and grafitti messages were taken by Austrian reporter Franz Goess in August 1968, and to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led occupation, the images have gone on display at the heart of the Czech capital. On Monday, Mr Goess himself formally opened the exhibition. The photos will remain on display on Wenceslas Square until September 12, when they will travel to Vienna and then Paris.
When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in the night from August 20-21 1968, the Czechoslovak Radio building was one of the first places that they tried to bring under control. In the process the building was damaged, several people were killed and dozens injured. Broadcasts went on in secret for several days, keeping the world informed of what was really happening, initially from within the building itself, and then from other locations in the city, using mobile studios and transmitters.
In early July, three days after the Czech Republic and the Bush Administration signed a controversial agreement on a future anti-ballistic missile radar base, Russia drastically reduced the supply of oil flowing into the country. The move prompted fears that the Czech Republic had become the latest post-communist country to face what some view as extortion from its former big brother – one strongly opposed to the placement of the US radar base on Czech soil. The crisis soon passed, with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordering a full restoration
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