“I Can’t Concentrate”!

An unarmed student confronts the Soviet tanks in Prague.

An Unknown Hero (1968)

With the Soviets tanks set once again to invade another country,1968 in Czechoslovakia proved to be a wild school year for many students.  In his recording, one student describes life to be completely different than when he had went to bed, and among the uncertainty that he would be able to ever finish schooling, he apologizes for his shaky speech.  The students final words in the audio clip were:  “Please excuse my bad grammar, with the Russian tanks under my windows I just can’t concentrate well enough” Appeal by Czech Students to the World.  While the Corps here at Tech has likely woken many Students during their early morning physical training, imagine the feeling of waking to the rumble of tanks rolling around Drillfield Drive.

Following the replacement of First Secretary Antonin Novotny with Alexander Dubcek, the reforms for “Socialism with a human face” had pushed much too far for the Soviets to be comfortable with and decided to take action to halt the decentralization.  Unarmed students who had taken to the streets in peaceful protest for reform had by this time become a global trend.  Earlier in the year protests occurred in France, and within days of the Soviet invasion of Prague there were more in the United States.  The struggle for reform is met with violence on many occasions.  In Prague, “The Soviet soldiers are filled with determination to fulfill their internationalist duty and to help the Czechoslovak brothers rout the counterrevolutionaries and uphold the socialist system.”  Eventually, the Soviets had succeeded to cripple reformists with the removal of Dubcek in the following year.

The events in Prague were part of a broader western youth movement for reform which were met by the soon to be Brezhnev Doctrine– a guideline for intervention to preserve socialism.


Permanent Link to Image and Sound:

“An Unknown Hero” http://www.soviethistory.org/images/thumb.php?year=1968&fname=praga5.jpg

Appeal by Czech Students to the World (August 22, 1968). http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=audio&SubjectID=1968czechoslovakia&Year=1968&navi=byYear

Additional Sources:

Seventeen Moments, “1968: Crisis in Czechoslovakia”. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1968czechoslovakia&Year=1968&navi=byYear

Val. Goltsev, “IN THE STREETS OF PRAGUE“. Current Digest of the Russian Press, The (formerly The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press),  No. 34,  Vol.20, September  11, 1968, page(s): 22-22 http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13759624






  • seeingred says:

    This post hits close to home for all of us because as students in a university, it seems frightening to think that at any moment our education could end. You also do a good job about pointing out that not only are the student’s afraid of their future with the university, but they also can’t concentrate day to day either by fear or pure distraction from the Soviet tanks rolling through the city.

  • brandonlapointe says:

    It’s kinda sad that a good amount of Americans (myself included) would never have thought about the Soviets dealing other nations. Since our reception of the Cold War was “us” versus the Russians, I feel we lose a lot of important history from this period.

  • A. Nelson says:

    You adopt an important and interesting perspective in this post, which fits nicely with the other discussions on the Prague Spring. The article from the Current Digest about how it “really was” on the streets in Prague sets out a really interesting (and chilling) view of the same events.

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