Shortly before midnight on August 20th, 1968, troops from the Soviet Union and four other Warsaw Pact countries entered Czechoslovakia.
Shortly before midnight on August 20th, 1968, troops from the Soviet Union and four other Warsaw Pact countries entered Czechoslovakia. They did so, according to Tass, the official Soviet News Agency in order to forestall counter-revolution. The effect was to put an end to what the Czechs called "the social democratic revolution", and what was popularly known in non-Communist countries as "the Prague spring": six months of relaxation of censorship and government restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly and movement.
SYNOPSIS: For several months, the Soviet Union had been watching the changes made by Mr. Alexander Dubcek in Czechoslovakia with growing concern. Mr. Brezhnev went to Czechoslovakia for two meetings with the Czech leaders within a week. At the first, he was accompanied by the whole Politburo of the Soviet Communist Party.
The second was at Bratislava. A ceremony was held during a break in the talks, to honour Soviet troops who had died liberating the city in the second world war. Here, Mr. Brezhnev was joined by the leaders of East germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. The had recently held talks among themselves in Warsaw.
Two Communist leaders were absent. President Tito of Yugoslavia, which is not a member of the Warsaw Pact, paid a separate visit to Prague just after the Bratislava meeting - and was received with great enthusiasm. It is well-known he believes that each country should be allowed to find its own road to socialism. Shortly after him came President Ceausescu of Rumania - who also got a warm welcome. Rumania is a Warsaw Pact member, but President Ceausescu said he did not share the alarm of the other Communist leaders, and had not attended the meetings in Warsaw or Bratislava.
Warsaw Pact military manoeuvres were held in Eastern Europe in June and early July. The troops operating in Czechoslovakia were not withdrawn until after the bratislava meeting on August 3rd: Within three weeks they were back.
By about 3 in the morning on August 21st, Soviet tanks and troops were in control of Prague and other cities. The National radio broadcast appeals to the people to keep calm and offer no resistance. The armed forces obeyed the order not to challenge the superior power of the Warsaw Pact forces; but the Czechoslovak people left the invaders in no doubt about their attitude. Spurred on by secret radio stations, they treated the occupation forces with contempt. Wenceslaus Square in Prague was the scene of many hostile demonstrations. Soviet troops replied mainly by firing over the heads of the crowd; but according to the secret radios a score or so of young demonstrators were killed.
Mr. Dubcek, summoned to Moscow, admitted in an official statement that his party had not taken Soviet interests sufficiently into account. A settlement was reached - with reduced Soviet forces remaining for ??? ???. Censorship and travel restrictions were reimposed. Mr. Dubcek later lost his office and his membership of the communist Party. He now works as a clerk in Bratislava.