The Invasion of 1968 in Pictures

On the 21st of August 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded by the troops of Warsaw-Pact. It was a shock for the whole world. No one could believe that Czechoslovakia, which was an ally of the USSR, was actually attacked by the Soviets. Doesn’t it sound strange even nowadays?

Czechoslovak “friends” and “allies” – GDR, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the USSR – broke into the sovereign country. They were neither invited nor welcome. Would you welcome a friend with a loaded gun ready to shoot?

Those “brothers” came to put an end to the Prague Spring which was a very short period of political and economical liberalization in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Czechoslovak leaders, though communists, saw the immense need for reforms. They tried to create “Socialism with Human Face”. However, it is to say that they never wanted to change the system into a real democracy.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that Czechoslovak leaders were communists with every cell in their bodies, the Soviets were very nervous. They could see that the people in Czechoslovakia wanted more than few reforms, and so they had to act quickly in order not to let Czechoslovakia go out of their sphere of influence. And so they sent hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of tanks to one of their allied country and called it a “brotherly help”.

Czechoslovak people were shocked and confused at first. “Russians are invading us? What??? That must be a terrible misunderstanding”, they thought. And so they tried to explain to the Russians that there is no contra-revolution in Czechoslovakia. But it didn’t help. People were in agony. Many people, however, were ready to fight for the right of a sovereign state.

During this “brotherly help”, many Czechs and Slovaks got killed and hundreds were seriously wounded. It was a horrific scene – people with bare hands standing against Russian tanks with ball-cartridge. Friends turned out to be the worst enemies. Illusions were gone. The hopes for at least slight democratization were lost. People were crying. It was a truly sad and emotional moment.

However, it is impossible to describe it all. Pictures can tell much more than words. You will understand the situation much better after visiting the exhibition of authentic black-and-white pictures by Josef Koudelka at Prague’s Old Town Hall. It is right next to the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Square. The exhibition takes place till September 10th. The closest metro station is Staromestska (green line A).

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