In the popular memory of the last half-century, several years stand out as historical turning points, although none more so than 1968. For those who lived through 1968, events all across the globe seemed to take on lives of their own. Change, whether gradual or cataclysmic, emerged as the uniting theme of the most tumultuous year in the post World War II era.
One of the most important events that happened during this time was the Prague Spring, which was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II. As the article in Seventeen Moments described, ” ‘Socialism with a human face’ was the slogan advanced by Alexander Dubcek to popularize the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s agenda for sweeping political reforms.” Dubcek called for complete cultural freedom, economic reform based on the “socialist market,” and restrictions on the secret police, provoking an outpouring of debate throughout the country.
As Dubcek’s power increased, pressure from Moscow intensified. In April, Dubcek introduced a liberalizing program, which reconfirmed the Czechoslovakian devotion to socialism but denounced the police state, the abuses of the past, and the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power. There was also a two thousand word manifesto that was written that called the people of Czechoslovakia to standards of openness and not revolution. The Soviet Union did not like this opposition that they were facing in Czechoslovakia and decided to do something about it.
On July 20-21 the Politburo approved preparations for a full-scale 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. (Seventeen Moments) By mid-summer, Dubcek had lost control of the liberalization process. Despite protestations from Moscow, Dubcek proved unable or unwilling to exert influence over the free press and new political parties. After dusk on August 20, troops from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria invaded Czechoslovakia.
As the article in Seventeen Moments states, the invasion was a public relations disaster for the Soviet Union. Although Dubcek wasn’t removed from office, the movement was broken as well as the chance for ‘socialism with a human face’. This was such a vital time in history for the Soviet Union because it showed that resistance was out there and many countries were against what the Soviet Union was trying to do. This was only one of many revolts across the globe and all of them were just looking for one thing: change.