This week no topic in the Czech Republic was more dominant than the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. On August 21st, tanks and soldiers moved in, and forever changed the course of the country, crushing reforms that had made life in Czechoslovakia tolerable compared to the Stalinist 1950s. But all too soon, the reforms came to an end. In the weeks which followed, many Czechs and Slovaks opted to escape, among them my parents – only a few years married. They were among the first to leave: that same night of the 21st crossing
The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia resulted in a permanent Soviet military presence on Czech soil. Between 1968 and 1991 –when the last of the Soviet troops finally left the country – they operated in 73 localities. The environmental damage they caused is taking years to repair and has already cost billions of crowns. Jakub Kašpar is a spokesman for the Czech Environment Ministry:
Soviet propaganda described the invasion of Czechoslovakia as “brotherly help” to a nation threatened by “counter-revolutionary forces”, and the Warsaw Pact forces that occupied the country in August 1968 came from Russia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. But not all the citizens of those countries agreed with the invasion, and several of them risked their lives to protest against Moscow’s crackdown. On Thursday, nine of them received medals in gratitude from Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek.
Exhibitions have been taking place all over Prague recently to commemorate the Warsaw-Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. But perhaps the biggest of all the displays was unveiled on Thursday, exactly 40 years after the Soviet tanks rolled in. ‘… And the tanks arrived’ sees Prague’s National Museum – to this day a symbol of the occupation – returned to the way it looked in 1968. For one month only, a 1960’s-style kiosk, vintage cars, and of course, a Soviet tank stand outside the museum.
August 21st, 2008 marks 40 years since Warsaw pact troops moved into Czechoslovakia, crushing the reform movement known as the Prague Spring. The invasion shocked many Czechs who came to the defence of the Czechoslovak Radio building (now Czech Radio) on Vinohradská Street. Dominik Jun was there in the run up to the commemoration and filed this report.
Because August 21 is the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the radio played such a central role in the events of those dramatic days, in this edition of From the Archives we shall be hearing the memories of one of the key journalists involved in those dramatic events. Jiří Dienstbier was one of Czechoslovak Radio’s star reporters at the time. Later he was to become one of the best-known dissidents of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and after the Velvet Revolution he was the country’s first post-communist foreign minister.
This August 21st marks 40 years since the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, an invasion meticulously planned by the Soviet Union to crush the period of economic and political reforms known as the Prague Spring. Within hours of late August 20th and early August 21st some 2,000 tanks as well as an estimated 200,000 troops had poured in. It was the beginning of the occupation which changed the course of Czechoslovak history.
All this week we’re broadcasting memories of those who lived through the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, which began around 11pm on August 20th 1968. Today we hear from one of our predecessors here at the Radio Prague English Section, Dora Slabá. August 20th 1968 was a normal working day for Dora, who worked as a presenter. When she went home that day she had no way of knowing that she would never come back to Radio Prague. She begins by describing the atmosphere on that perfect summer day in 1968.
It was 40 years ago this Thursday that Warsaw-Pact troops invaded the former Czechoslovakia, putting an end to the hope and reform of the so-called ‘Prague Spring’. All this week, Radio Prague will be commemorating the invasion by broadcasting the testimonies of those who were there. For today’s programme, Rosie Johnston spoke to Libor Hajský, a junior photographer at the Czech Press Agency on August 21, 1968 – the day that Soviet tanks rolled into Prague.
When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in the night from August 20-21 1968, the Czechoslovak Radio building was one of the first places that they tried to bring under control. In the process the building was damaged, several people were killed and dozens injured. Broadcasts went on in secret for several days, keeping the world informed of what was really happening, initially from within the building itself, and then from other locations in the city, using mobile studios and transmitters.