1968: Events in Czechoslovakia

The Prague Spring refers to a four-month-long period of political liberalization and reform in Czechoslovakia that occurred in 1968. 

By 1968, people in Czechoslovakia began criticising the communist leadership of their country. They were unhappy because of inflation, food shortages and a generally poorer standard of living compared to countries in Western Europe where people’s wages were much higher. People sought freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to set up new political parties.

Alexander Dubček, who had become the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in January 1968 intended on creating a government of "socialism with a human face," promoting political freedoms and a free, decentralised economy.

During the Prague Spring, the Czechoslovak government introduced a series of reforms, which led to a brief period of optimism known as the "Czechoslovak thaw," during which people enjoyed newfound freedoms and engaged in lively political and cultural discussions.

Soviet Intervention

However, the USSR and its leadership were very concerned about the reforms. They were worried that the ideas would spread through East Europe, and they feared losing Czechoslovakia, which was a very important industrial area, an important trading partner of COMECON and an important member of the Warsaw Pact. 

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

In August 1968, the Soviet Union and its allies, including Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Hungary, launched a military intervention in Czechoslovakia to protect socialism and maintain the Warsaw Pact. Soviet tanks and troops invaded the country, bringing an end to the Prague Spring and reinstating conservative leadership loyal to Moscow.

Consequences of the Prague Spring and the invasion: