The crisis in Czechoslovakia in 1968 was exactly that – a crisis. It was a crisis for the Communist party and the Soviet Union because a wave of reform and somewhat anti-socialist feelings were sweeping across the Soviet bloc country of Czechoslovakia. The Prague Spring as this period was later dubbed, was brought on by creative intellectuals and the student youth calling for “complete cultural freedom, economic reform based on the ‘socialist market’, and restrictions on the secret police” according to the Seventeen Moments module.
The party leaders in Moscow faced a dire situation in Czechoslovakia, which was undoubtedly the most “Western” of the bloc countries. Taking a page out of the American manual on foreign policy, the Soviet Union scrambled to contain the developing political disaster in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union along with the Warsaw Pact countries eventually invaded the near-rogue Czechoslovakia with military force and easily ended the reformist sentiment. But in addition to an invasion force to quell a possible uprising, the Soviet Union deployed propaganda (per usual) to contain the spread of reformist ideas. Here is an excerpt from a Pravda article titled “Hostile Campaign over Czechoslovakia found on the Current Digest of the Soviet Press database:
“In the past few days Western bourgeois propaganda has developed its malicious campaign over Czechoslovakia with fresh force. Note is being taken here of the fact that the reactionary press and radio are striving to complicate the situation in Prague, to impede the process of the consolidation and normalization of political life in the country. Pursuing this aim, the bourgeois propagandists are spreading various kinds of lying and provocative rumors and slanderous statements. They deliberately distort events and facts, trying to excite the population and to sow doubts and fears.”
The policy of containment was not only used by the United States in response to the spread of communism, it was also used by the Soviet Union to keep communism within its empire.
Link to Pravda article:
For this post, I am using the 900 Days: Siege of Leningrad module from the 17 Moments in Soviet History. This moment in Soviet history is particularly dark, and the Nazi onslaught at Leningrad proved to be one of the most destructive and deadly moments for the Soviet Union in the Second World War.
At the beginning of the German siege of Leningrad in September 1941, the city’s population numbered around 2.5 million residents. The city’s dwellers faced incredible hardships including constant shelling from the Nazi attackers, extremely harsh winters, and virtually no food and water. The photograph below shows civilians stranded in Leningrad foraging for water in artillery shell craters.
The siege of Leningrad resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians within the city. In an effort to resist the siege and endure the many months of primal living, all able-bodied civilians were mobilized to build defenses and reinforce fortifications throughout the besieged city. Below is an example of the civilian mobilization, where in many cases the residents were forced into slave labor by the Soviet authorities and military leaders. This photo shows Leningrad residents building a fortification in the city. As you can see most of the people working in the photo are women, and one can assume that probably most of the men that these women were married to were either killed or conscripted into the Red Army and stationed on the city’s defensive perimeter.
By the time the siege was broken in January 1944, 800,000 residents had died of starvation and 200,000 were killed by Nazi bombings. Of the original population of 2.5 million, 1 million had died in the 2 year siege.
These photos were found on this website:
This photograph from the Prokudin-Gorskii collection shows a large agricultural area in the Russian countryside. Farms of all types could be found throughout the vast Russian Empire, where peasant workers toiled for their livelihoods. The peasantry made up the vast majority of the Russian population, being at the lowest level of the feudal system as ‘serfs’. This feudal system was very much linked to Russia innately having countless farms within its borders. It would not be until the Russian Revolution in 1917 when the feudal system was ultimately discarded to make way for communist ideas such as collective farming.
The entire Prokudin-Gorskii collection can be found here: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/index.html
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