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21 Aug, 2008 01:26

World remembers Prague Spring

Forty years ago Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to kill the country's liberal reforms. The leaders of the small central European country were trying to create what they called 'socialism with a human face'. Mili

Today in Prague there are no tanks and virtually no reminder of the dramatic events that took place here in 1968.

On August 21 1968 troops from five Warsaw Pact countries entered Czechoslovakia, an action that has stuck in people’s memories over the years. Miloslav Vlcek, speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, says people do not remember it was not only about August 21.

“We forget it was the reforms of ‘the Prague Spring’ that led to this. Today we must not put all the blame on Russia – it did apologise for the Soviet Union’s deeds. But take other countries of the Warsaw pact who were also involved – we have good relations with them today,” says Vlcek.

Creating ‘socialism with a human face’ was in people’s hearts and minds. The Soviet Union trusted Alexander Dubchek, the new leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, to build any kind of socialism – as long as it did not hamper the interests of the Warsaw Pact treaty.

Marat Kuznetsov, a former Russian diplomat in Czechoslovakia, who worked in the Soviet Embassy in Prague back in 1968, says the Warsaw Pact bringing troops into Czechoslovakia should be put into the geopolitical context of the time.

“It was at the height of the Cold war, not just a confrontation of two socio-political systems but also of two political blocks: NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The military parity was fragile and unstable – but the whole world depended on it.”

In the summer of 1968 western media suggested that as a result of reforms Czechoslovakia would become a knife in the back of the Warsaw Pact countries. According to Kuznetsov peace in Europe was at stake and it could have been shattered by this geopolitical shift.

Those events are a part of history now. A recent opinion poll for the Czech newspaper “Lidove Noviny” revealed that 70% of the country’s youth knew little about the Prague Spring.

“We are already two generations away from those events. For the people who witnessed them, they’re alive. But today’s generation simply can’t understand them,” says Czech MP Tomas Hasil.