Prague Spring 1968

Prague Spring 1968

The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Sowjet Union after the Second World War. It began on 5 January 1968, when the reformist communist Alexander Dubcek was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party. Dubcek wanted to grant additional rights to citizens of Czechoslovakia in an act of partial decentralization of the economy and demonstration. The reforms were not received well by the Soviets and after failed negotiations the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded in August the country to halt the reforms.

A non-violent resistance was mounted throughout the country. While the Soviet military had predicted that it would take four days to subdue the country the resistance held out for eight months. There were sporadic acts of violence and several suicides by self-immolation, such as that of the student Jan Palach. Czechoslovakia remained controlled until 1989, when the Velvet Revolution ended pro-Soviet rule peacefully. In October, police arrested hundreds of thousands gathered in Prague to protest the government. Alexander Dubcek, who led the Prague Spring in 1968, made his first public appearance in over two decades. A new, non-communist government took the country’s rein on December 5 and on December 29, Václav Havel was elected president.

The Prague Spring inspired the arts such as the work of Václav Havel and Milan Kundera The Unbearable  Lightness of being.