The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968

The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968

Language: English

Pages: 531

ISBN: 0739143050

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Publish Year note: First published December 16th 2009
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On August 20, 1968, tens of thousands of Soviet and East European ground and air forces moved into Czechoslovakia and occupied the country in an attempt to end the "Prague Spring" reforms and restore an orthodox Communist regime. The leader of the Soviet Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, was initially reluctant to use military force and tried to pressure his counterpart in Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek, to crack down. But during the summer of 1968, after several months of careful deliberations, the Soviet Politburo finally decided that military force was the only option left. A large invading force of Soviet, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops received final orders to move into Czechoslovakia; within 24 hours they had established complete military control of Czechoslovakia, bringing an end to hopes for "socialism with a human face."

Dubcek and most of the other Czechoslovak reformers were temporarily restored to power, but their role from late August 1968 through April 1969 was to reverse many of the reforms that had been adopted. In April 1969, Dubchek was forced to step down for good, bringing a final end to the Prague Spring. Soviet leaders justified the invasion of Czechoslovakia by claiming that "the fate of any socialist country is the common affair of all socialist countries" and that the Soviet Union had both a "right" and a "sacred duty" to "defend socialism" in Czechoslovakia. The invasion caused some divisions within the Communist world, but overall the use of large-scale force proved remarkably successful in achieving Soviet goals. The United States and its NATO allies protested but refrained from direct military action and covert operations to counter the Soviet-led incursion into Czechoslovakia.

The essays of a dozen leading European and American Cold War historians analyze this turning point in the Cold War in light of new documentary evidence from the archives of two dozen countries and explain what happened behind the scenes. They also reassess the weak response of the United States and consider whether Washington might have given a "green light," if only inadvertently, to the Soviet Union prior to the invasion.

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health. Dubček, Leben für die Freiheit, 276–89. 37. RGANI, F. 89, op. 38, d. 57, pp. 62–110 (cf. note 32). 38. The May plenum of the CC CPČ lasted from 29 May to 1 June 1968. Contrary to the hopes of the “fraternal parties,” which had been banking on a decisive victory of the “healthy forces” and the end of the reformist movement, the plenum resulted in a compromise that fell short of the expectations of the “Five.” By way of reaction, the political pressure against the CPČ was stepped up. See

The subject Šnejdarek chose for his address in Frankfurt was the Munich Agreement. Commenting on the address, the Frankfurter Rundschau writes: “He went so far as to say that the Czechs thought the statements of Brandt and Kiesinger on the Munich Agreement sufficient.” Politically speaking, this of course means turning over an entirely new leaf.24 An interview of the head of the Economics Department of the same Prague Institute, Karl Tauber, with the radio station Deutschlandfunk was linked by

and Lexicon (Bratislava: Slovenske Pedagogicke nakladitelsvo, 2002), 156; and Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (London: Pimlico, 2005), 439–40. 13. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive, The KGB in Europe and the West (London: Penguin Books, 2000), 327. In February 1968, Mišo Pavićević, deputy state secretary for foreign affairs, was informed of the changes in Prague by Ladislav Šimovič, Czechoslovak ambassador in Belgrade. In the ambassador’s opinion,

lacked the logic of a consistent reform program. The key decision at the end of February 1968 to abolish censorship must be seen in that context. This decision was taken in the illusory conviction that the party’s control of the media was guaranteed by the KSČ members being among the editors and that society could be counted on in its entirety to support the reform program and nothing else. This quickly proved a misjudgment. The media totally emancipated themselves from any control within weeks

typical example of the disinformation campaign of the Directorate “A” of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB is an article in Pravda on 19 July 1968 entitled “The Adventurous Plans of the Pentagon and the CIA.”42 Citing a “strictly confidential operative plan” and documents of the commander in chief of the U.S. Army in Europe, it claimed that the Pentagon and the CIA were playing an active part in Czechoslovakia, engaging in “ideological diversions” and fomenting a “counterrevolutionary coup.”

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