THE PRAGUE UPRISING ANNIVERSARY AMID WESTERN SILENCE
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On the night of 20 to 21 August, the Soviet Union brought its full weight to bear on the civilian resistance to reverse democratic reforms backed by popular democracy in Czechoslovakia that was dubbed The Prague Spring.
Czechoslovakia, with 20 other European betrayed nations, was handed to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin by Winston Churchill and US President Roosevelt at the February 14, 1945 Yalta conference.
Coincidentally, on this Valentine date the RAF and USAAF, by saturation bombing, incinerated an estimated 300,000 Germans and Eastern Europeans refugees fleeing from the Red Army after their having sought sanctuary in defenceless Dresden.
Through the local Communist Party, the only authorised political power in the country, Moscow controlled state politics. The Western-backed Stalinist system included terror, brutal secret police, suppression and repression of dissidents, creating an atmosphere of fear throughout Czechoslovakia.
In January 1968, Alexander Dubček became the leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. The Slovak politician announced plans to end censorship and liberal reforms of the Communist regime, or to create “socialism with a human face”.
The first step, the abolition of censorship, produced an explosion-like effect. Unlike Western media, Czech media began publishing stories of Communist corruption, assassinations and other crimes against the pro-Soviet regime. With their newly acquired freedom of expression, Czechs and Slovaks began to openly demand fundamental political change.
Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, a close friend of American presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, was furious. The spring of Prague began to dismantle the Soviet power apparatus in Czechoslovakia. The fresh breeze of democracy threatened to spread to other USSR Eastern European satellite states. In Warsaw, Polish students poured out on to the streets in support of Czechoslovakia.
In the early morning hours of August 21, 1968, some 250,000 troops, 2,000 tanks and hundreds of planes from the USSR, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland crossed the border of Czechoslovakia to rescue the Communists dwindling power and restore Moscow control.
For the first time since their liberation by the armed forces of the Reich, foreign forces patrolled Prague. On this occasion, instead of welcoming the intruders, Czechs expressed their indignation. Mainstream media criticism in the West was muted an non-critical; no sanctions were proposed or imposed.
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The Czechoslovak army was confined to its bases. But, many residents raised barricades, tried to stop the invasion and attacked invading tanks with Molotov cocktails. But it was a battle against all odds. The Soviet Union, with assurances of non-interference by NATO, was omnipotent.
The most celebrated street battle took place near the Czechoslovak Radio building in the capital city of Prague. The street-democrats tried to prevent the radio from falling into the hands of the Soviet invaders. At least fifteen people were killed in the clashes but the true number may never be known.
The repression of the Prague Spring claimed the lives of 137 civilians. The Warsaw Pact forces seized the media, arrest journalists, and created the conditions for a “normalization” of the situation in Czechoslovakia by the USSR.
While Czechs and Slovaks cleaned the streets of blood and debris, USSR leader Leonid Brezhnev warned of Moscow’s willingness to intervene militarily should any other country deviate from the strict party line.
Party Leader Dubček, together with his associates, was arrested in the early hours of the invasion and taken to the USSR. In 1969 he lost his position as party leader and in 1970 he was expelled from the Communist Party. He afterwards lived as a forester. Dubcek’s successor, Gustav Hussack, withdrew Dubcek’s reforms and stripped the party of its Liberal members.
The Prague Spring was a shining example of the desire of the people of countries occupied by the USSR to take a different, democratic path. But the Kremlin’s tools to maintain its influence was the use of media control and censorship and brutal armed force. There were no sanctions on the Soviet Union by the NATO West.
The events of 1968 were not the first revolution in Eastern Europe against Western-backed Soviet colonisation. Twelve years earlier, a bloody revolution had taken place in Hungary. In 1956, USSR forces suppressed the people’s revolt with a military intervention using tanks, aviation and artillery.
Michael Walsh was awarded Euro Weekly News ‘Writer of the Year 2011’. With 60 books bearing his name, thousands of new stories and columns, Michael is arguably Britain and Europe’s most prolific author of multi-topic books.
MICHAEL WALSH is a British born Irish journalist, author, and broadcaster. His 60 books include best-selling WITNESS TO HISTORY, TESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION), REICH AND WRONG, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH , TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROES, and THE ALLIED INVASION.
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