In the course of 1968 the Soviet Union made it increasingly clear that it disapproved strongly of the Prague Spring reforms. Yet, despite mounting tensions with Moscow, the Soviet led invasion on the night from August 20-21 1968, came as a huge shock. Today we are going to hear some of the broadcasts from that fateful day. We start with Radio Moscow, with an official Soviet version of events.
The political reforms of the 1960s accelerated dramatically when on January 5 1968 Alexander Dubček became First Secretary of the Communist Party, the most powerful position in the country. Dubček immediately set Czechoslovakia on a course of economic and political reform, to create what was described as “socialism with a human face”. Today we are going to hear two recordings of Dubček from 1968 that show both the hopes with which the year started and the despair which followed the Soviet invasion in August.
In this edition of Czechs in History, we take a look at the controversial legacy of Jan Palach. This young Czech history student shocked the world by setting himself on fire in the centre of Prague in protest at the Soviet-led invasion of communist Czechoslovakia in 1968, which crushed the democratic reform movement known as the “Prague Spring”.
It is 40 years ago this Friday that student Jan Palach set himself alight following the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. Palach’s suicide turned him into a symbol of national resistance, and to this day, Czechs and Slovaks remember what he did for his country. On the eve of this 40th anniversary, historians have just discovered a document which sheds new light upon his actions.
June 30 might become the Occupation Armies Withdrawal from Czechoslovak Territory Day to mark the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country. If the proposition by a group of deputies is approved by Parliament, the day will commemorate the withdrawal of more than 73,000 Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia in 1991 where they were stationed since the Soviet-led invasion of the country in 1968.
Over the next four weeks, at almost 600 primary and secondary schools throughout the Czech Republic, pupils will come face to face with the many injustices carried out during four decades of communist rule. Using documentary films and interaction with real people who lived through those times, the Stories of Injustice project attempts to shed light on a period that barely features on the mainstream Czech curriculum. The programme is run by the NGO People in Need, and this is its fourth year, but as Rob Cameron reports, it's not to everyone's
Czechoslovakia played an active part in the Soviet Union’s propaganda war with the United States during the 1950s, a time of edginess and paranoia on both sides. There was no shortage of people trying to flee across the Iron Curtain to the West, but every now and then the flight would be in the other direction, and someone from the West would actively seek asylum in the Communist Bloc. For the communist regimes this was a propaganda opportunity not to be missed.
Even after the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union and Klement Gottwald in Czechoslovakia the 1950s remained a period of high political tension between East and West. The Cold War was at its height; with it came the arms race and the space race. Here is Czechoslovakia’s president Antonín Novotný, in a New Year radio address on January 1 1958:
When Joseph Stalin died on March 5 1953, it sent shockwaves round the world. In Czechoslovakia his personality cult had been almost as overwhelming as in the Soviet Union itself. At the time of his death, work was already well under way to build the biggest statue of the Soviet dictator in the world – unveiled two years later in Letná Park. Stalin had a close ally and kindred spirit in the Czechoslovak President, Klement Gottwald, and Gottwald ignored warnings from his doctors in order to attend his friend and protector’s funeral. Before leading
An exhibition of rare photos showing the crushing of the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968 is on display at a gallery in Vienna. The photographs were taken by Austrian photographer Franc Goess who worked for Paris-Match magazine and happened to be in Prague at the time of the Soviet led invasion. He made 100 shots of the groundbreaking event but they were never published, languishing for decades in an archive. Following an April premiere in Prague – to mark the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia – the collection is now on show at the Westlicht Gallery in Vienna. It will remain on display until mid-October.
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