The Crisis in Czechoslovakia was yet another pivotal moment between the Soviet Union and another one of the Soviet bloc countries. “Socialism with a human face” was the slogan Alexander Dubcek utilized in promoting the Czechoslovakia Communist Party’s platform in 1968. As the newly-elected First Secretary, Dubcek proposed a new “Action Program” that called for economic freedom based around a “socialist market” (Siegelbaum), constraints placed upon Soviet secret police, and cultural freedom, among other demands. This program launched a huge debate throughout Czechoslovakia.
Similar to the events in Hungary in 1956, students and intellectuals were among the first groups to “push beyond the limits set by the party” (Siegelbaum). These groups, along with farmers and workers to certain extents, had for several years been “animated by western New Left currents” (Siegelbaum) and pursued demands through strikes and by forming unions and workers’ councils, among other actions. Essentially, these groups formed a particularly aware and “aroused public” (Siegelbaum).
In March 1968, Dubcek and other Warsaw Pact leaders met to discuss the crisis in Czechoslovakia in Dresden. Many of the leaders thought matters were getting out of control. Not much could be done, however.
In July of the same year, Moscow approved an “intervention by Warsaw Pact forces if Dubcek did not reverse his course. A last-ditch attempt to persuade him at a meeting in the little town of Cierna just over the border in Soviet Ukraine proved futile. The show of support for the Czechoslovaks by Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia during his state visit to Prague” in August 1968 was likely the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Soviet Union (Siegelbaum).
However, this invasion, held on August 17, was largely regarded as an embarrassment for the Soviet Union. It was captured on film and broadcast to the entire world. Perhaps the United States (along with other, more westernized countries) were preoccupied with their own issues, but enough attention was paid to Czechoslovakia to warrant an outcry. The crisis wasn’t over yet, but the PR failure of the invasion was a major stepping stone toward the end of the reformist movement in Czechoslovakia.
In addition, there were several interesting primary sources on the issues in Czechoslovakia, most notably the “Hostile Campaign over Czechoslovakia” written in 1969. This article points major blame on western media and propaganda for developing a “malicious campaign over Czechoslovakia with fresh force” (Current Digest). Essentially, according to this article, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia itself had very little to do with the invasion and the turmoil that was happening in Czechoslovakia; it was all due to western media. I find this astounding. Another article that stood out to me was the “Signing of the Soviet-Czechoslovak Treaty,” which gave a more firsthand overview of the actions that occurred after the invasion.
Freeze, Gregory. Russia: A History. Oxford University Press, 2009.