21st of August 1968

Now, the 40th annual of August 21st 1968 is coming. It is an important date in Czechoslovak history. What happened in August forty years ago?

Czechoslovak history during 20th century was not really happy, the great period of Czechoslovak democratic Republic (1918-1938) was ended by coming of Nazis and then World War II, when Bohemia and Moravia were occupied. There was only brief period of freedom after the war, because already in February 1948 communists came to rule. Czechoslovakia thus became one of Soviet satelites. The late forties and the early fifties were extremely hard for some people, especially for those who were against the regime. Later, when in USSR died comrade Stalin in 1953, the public life was slowly starting to be more liberal. But the really big turn about was to come in 1968. It was called the Prague Spring. In January 1968 reformist Alexandr Dubcek came to the power. He started to work on many reforms, which were to make living in Czechoslovakia better. The economy was to be partialy decentralized, the free speech was to be granded, people could travel more. Now, the living in socialism should be finally good. Dubcek and his followers were calling for “Socialismus s lidskou tvari“ (which could be translated as the Socialism with people’s face), means they still wanted comunism, but without the restrictions (as censorship, poor economy etc.), which were so annoying for the people. So the people liked Dubcek’s reforms. But communist officers in Moscow did not like so. Those in Moscow were afraid of what was happening in Czechoslovakia so they have sent Warsaw Pact (Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria) troops and tanks to occupy the country. And the troops arrived on 21st of August, people were shocked by tanks in streets, for many of them was really hard to belive it. To belive, that Russians finished the period of liberalization. And some of the Russian soldiers were also confused, they were told they are going to free the country, but instead being welcomed, people were telling them to go home.

After August 21st, many people were really disapointed, and left the county – decided to emigrate. Those who stayed, had to live in an occupied country, Czechoslovakia remained until the Velvet Revolution. And after Agust came the period of normalization, Dubcek was replaced by Gustav Husak, who also became the president of Czechoslovakia, most of Dubcek’s reforms were canceled. 20 gray years of normalization period came.

There were many protests against the occupation of the country, the most famous one was when on 19th of January in 1969 a student Jan Palach burnt himself on Wenceslas Square and died subsequently. His burial then became a kind of national manifestation. But the Czechslovak people had to live in bad communism for another 20 years.

August 21st 1968 is a sad date in Czechoslovak history, but should be remembered and people should be thus also more aprreciate democracy they have. But for the popularization of this date was luckily also done a lot in films, literature, drama… for example by pretty popular Jan Hrebejk’s film Pelisky, which takes place in Prauge in 1968 and its heroes are affected by the run of history.

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