A monument to senior Communist Vasil Bil’ak, who sent a letter of invitation to the USSR that was used to justify the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, was vandalised just hours after being unveiled in his Slovak hometown of Krajná Bystrá, the news site SME.sk reported. A Slovak artist and an associate daubed red paint on a bust of Bil’ak along with the word sviňa (pig/bastard). Bil’ak, who died a year ago, was charged with treason in 1991 but the case was dropped for lack of evidence.
When Jan Palach burned himself to death in January 1969 over the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, his radical protest was echoed by a number of young men in the Eastern Bloc. Among them was Eliyahu Rips, who put a match to his petrol-doused clothing in the Latvian capital Riga on April 13, 1969. But unlike the others, Rips survived, after passers-by put out the flames.
When I asked Paul Goldsmith by phone if he knew where Czech Radio was he said, I think so, but the last time I saw it it was on fire. At just 19 he had found himself in the middle of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia after deciding to visit Prague while travelling through Europe. A keen photographer, he captured those events in pictures that were soon picked up by the international media. Now, after being compiled for a book, his photos are on show at two concurrent exhibitions in Prague. When Goldsmith came to Czech Radio, we began by discussing
An exhibition of photographs taken by American Paul F. Goldsmith in Prague during the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia is being held in the city. Then a student, Goldsmith was touring Europe in August 1968 and found himself in Prague when the tanks rolled in; on leaving the country he gave his photographs to the AP news agency in West Germany and they were soon seen around the world. He is due to attend Tuesday evening’s opening at the café Krásný ztráty. The exhibition runs until November 9.
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.
Details have emerged from the KGB files smuggled out of Russia in 1992 by senior KGB official Vasili Mitrokhin, which Britain declassified last week. Some of the files relate to an operation code-named Progress in which 15 Russian agents were sent to Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1968 to undermine the Prague Spring pro-democracy movement. They targeted journalists from Czechoslovak radio and television, academics from Charles University, members of the Christian Democratic Party and writers such as Pavel Kohout and Milan Kundera. Operation Progress was launched by then KGB chief Jurii Andropov. The files can be viewed at Cambridge University.
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.
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