Czech Yourself before you Wreck Yourself 9

(Editor’s Note: This post received commendation in the Comrade’s Corner)comradescorner


Czech students hang their national flag on a Soviet tank in Prague

Czech students hang their national flag on a Soviet tank in Prague

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).

An unarmed student confronts the Soviet tanks in Prague

An unarmed student confronts the Soviet tanks in Prague

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.


9 thoughts on “Czech Yourself before you Wreck Yourself

  1. A. Nelson Nov 3,2014 8:21 pm

    Love the title of this post. Check the links and citations for the Current Digest.

  2. jmhawkins Nov 3,2014 11:10 pm

    I loved this title and the primary source that were used in the article. There was alot of good information about the czech crisis. It was very interesting to read about.

  3. jslattery Nov 4,2014 12:43 am

    “Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” Notice how all of these protests happened after Stalin died. I don’t think they would dare to even contemplate a protest when Stalin was in power. Unfortunately, Khrushchev had to answer with force, otherwise the U.S.S.R. would lose legitimacy, and civil unrest would probably spread even further.

  4. cpurvis2 Nov 4,2014 1:38 am

    Like the others, great title. Before this class, I really had not understood this whole Czech Crisis ordeal, but your post put this into perspective of the time and gave a great overview of the situation.

  5. afoutz Nov 4,2014 3:24 am

    I always find it interesting how the intellectuals and students are the first to push beyond what is already set. To me as a student I’m very complacent with what rules are set for me, however I feel like those who are in lower standing should be the ones to push for more. I liked your title and the articles you used to support your post.

  6. oliva2015 Nov 4,2014 4:15 pm

    I don’t think that this would ever have happened under Stalin. Stalin’s grip on the Soviet union was tight and brutal, the students and intellectuals were far too afraid to try such an act under Stalin. Kruschev loosened his grip over the Soviet union and began to allow the thaw, and when he realized that this loosening grip allowed the more rebellious in their society to act out, he tried to crush it as Stalin might have but his attempt was not as controlled as Stalin would have done.

  7. piercedc Nov 4,2014 4:24 pm

    The Czech crisis was interesting because it represented a unified populace against the communist party. It is interesting to note that students led the way yet again in this protest which seems to be a trend throughout the Soviet Union. The Czech model and the 1968 revolt, even if it was suppressed, foreshadow the willingness of the Czech state to reform and eventually perform better than others after the collapse of the soviet union.

  8. katiewells9 Nov 4,2014 4:33 pm

    The title of your post is really great (like everyone else said). You also included some great primary resources, it was a really great read overall.

  9. Ryan Dellinger Nov 5,2014 11:31 pm

    This is surprisingly similar to several other world events. In the Tienanmen Square Massacre in China, tanks and soldiers were met with unarmed resistance. In the Kent State shootings, unarmed teens confronted National Guard soldiers (the shootings have proved to be highly controversial), and in Hitler’s purge of Europe, the students and the educated were among the first to go. I find it amazing how similarly events can unfold, even when separated by years and thousands of miles.

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