"Prague Spring": two thousand tanks against two thousand words

The year 1968 turned out to be difficult for all parties who, to one degree or another, took part in the Cold War. Washington was trying to get out of the Vietnamese trap, Beijing was shaking in the cruel convulsions of the cultural revolution, and Moscow had another headache - in the Czechoslovak barrack of the socialist camp, suddenly and unexpectedly, spring broke out. Prague Spring

In the grip of a political crisis

At the beginning of 1968, Czechoslovakia was experiencing a profound social and political crisis. The abrupt change of the domestic policy by the leadership of the Communist Party of the country affected the interests of all members of the Warsaw Pact, which inevitably should have led to military conflicts, as well as aggravating the already complicated relations of the Soviet Union with the United States. “Prague Spring” in this aspect was a dangerous precedent that could cause a chain reaction in the rest of the socialist barracks.The authorities of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic did not have enough political flexibility to implement the desired reforms and democratic changes without negative consequences for their small country. The Prague Spring questioned the very ideology of socialism, and therefore it should have been immediately suppressed. The situation was aggravated by the tireless and purposeful propaganda of the ideals of capitalism and democracy by Western special services. The Prague Spring, which had just begun, was doomed.

Prague Spring

Alexander Dubchek

On January 5, 1968, Aleksandr Dubchek became the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, who replaced on this important post the staunch Stalinist Antonin Novotny, who was responsible for the severe economic crisis in the country. The change of leader of the Czechoslovak Communists took place with the tacit support of Brezhnev, who then did not even suspect that this would lead to a socio-political crisis known as the “Prague Spring of 1968”, the response to which was military intervention by the USSR and its satellites. Western countries with considerable curiosity of an outside contemplator watched the awkward attempts to reform socialist society.Only their special services worked hard. And Dubcek was becoming a real popular leader who was supported by all Czech society.

Suppression of the Prague Spring

The human face of socialism

In April 1968, Brezhnev, not very sophisticated in political games and not possessing great foresight, approves the program of transformations proposed by the new party leadership of Czechoslovakia. It was designed for ten years, and it assumed the gradual introduction of freedom of speech, the market principles of enterprises and the complete abolition of censorship. Such a program was enthusiastically supported by both Communist reformers and ordinary citizens.

On the threshold of democratic paradise

In Czechoslovakia, they expected Moscow to bring punitive measures to their country. But time passed, and there was no reaction from the Kremlin. And then even the most cautious political leaders started talking about the Prague Spring - the time of national revival and hope. There were endless rallies and discussions on the streets. Intellectuals, students, lawyers, teachers and doctors openly opposed the status quo and lavished praise of Western democracy. "Prague Spring" is gaining momentum.Its main document was a manifesto called “Two Thousand Words”. All this threatened the extremely unpleasant consequences personally of Brezhnev, who, as the leader of the CPSU, was personally responsible for maintaining the unity of the entire socialist camp. The loss of Czechoslovakia would be a fatal blow to this unity. Like the Johnson administration, which feared the domino effect in the event of the fall of South Vietnam, the Soviet leaders feared a chain reaction in Eastern Europe.

Prague Spring 1968

On the threshold of military intervention

After the publication of the above-mentioned manifesto in the Czech press, which called for a total democratization of the political system and enthusiastically met by society, Moscow considered that such popular support for reforms could lead to a repetition of the Hungarian scenario of 1956. It was necessary to take a tough decision, despite all the fears of Brezhnev that the intervention would cause a NATO response, which would unleash a big war in Europe. During this period, Leonid Ilyich begins to take potent sleeping pills to relieve stress. Later this habit will develop into a pernicious addiction.But this is another, though no less interesting topic.

Operation Danube

On the night of August 21, two hundred thousand soldiers, officers and two thousand tanks from the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary invaded Czechoslovakia. Operation Danube, whose goal was to suppress the Prague Spring, was launched. The command of the invasion was entrusted to General of the Army Ivan Grigorievich Pavlovsky. As military historians point out, this was the most grandiose in its scale strategic military action of the USSR in the post-war period. About thirty tank and motorized rifle divisions in just 36 hours completely occupied the country in the center of Europe. At 4.00 the complex of buildings of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was surrounded by Soviet amphibious units. And at 6.00 a tank column without the slightest resistance seized the General Staff. The Prague Spring was over.

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