1968: Events in Czechoslovakia

In 1968, people in Czechoslovakia began criticising the communist leadership of their country.

They were unhappy because the economy was not doing well and there was a poorer standard of living compared to countries in western Europe where people’s wages were much higher.

Key People involved

  • The new leader of Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek.

  • Brezhnev, the new leader of the USSR

Demands of the protesters:

  • Freedom of speech and freedom of the press

  • Set up new political parties

Why did the USSR invade?

  • The USSR and its leadership were very concerned about the reforms

  • They were worried that the ideas would spread through East Europe

  • Czechoslovakia was a very important industrial area

  • It was an important trading partner of COMECON and important member of the Warsaw Pact.

  • Eastern European countries were worried that Czechoslovakia might become allied with the USA and Western Europe.

Other members of the warsaw pact got involved, including...

  • East Germany

  • Poland

  • Bulgaria

How did the people respond to the invasion?

  • The Czechs did not resist the invasion but carried out some peaceful protests.

How did the West react?

  • Western countries criticised their actions of the USSR (so did other communist eastern European countries)

Consequences for Czechoslovakia:

  • There were no violent clashes, although 79 people died during the invasion.

  • Soviet forces threw reformers out of the communist party, but they were not imprisoned or executed

  • The new pro-Soviet leader, Husak, reversed all the reforms.

  • Brezhnev announced that the Soviet Union would not allow any communist country in Eastern Europe to abandon communism.

What were the consequences for the USSR?

  • They were criticised by China and their relationship with China quickly deteriorated after the invasion as China criticised the USSR for how they treated Eastern European countries.