Crisis of the Cold War – The Prague Spring

Crisis of the Cold War – The Prague Spring

Demands for More Freedom

GCSE History Revision - The Prague SpringAlmost like a sequel to the Hungarian invasion of 1956, in April 1968 the Soviet Union flexed its muscle against a Warsaw Pact country once more after it threatened the pro-Soviet communist regime there.

During 1967 and 1968, students and intellectuals in Czechoslovakia began to push for greater press, radio and TV freedom of expression. They wanted to express various complaints they had about the regime, such as the poverty that many people lived in.

Brezhnev and Dubeck

At first, it seemed that these people would get their way. The new Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev did not help the embattled Czechoslovak government. Under pressure, he resigned, and in April 1968 the more liberal Alexandr Dubcek took charge.

Dubcek removed some of the restrictions on freedom of speech. The result was a bit like opening a bottle of coke after you’ve shaken it. Over the next four months, there was an outpouring of criticism against how Czechoslovakia had been governed since the war, and non-communist political parties even began to be created.

In August 1968, Czechoslovak communists pleaded for Brezhnev to intervene and reassert communist control. Brezhnev was happy to oblige, and created the Brezhnev Doctrine, which stated that the Soviet Union would ensure that all Warsaw Pact countries remained communist.

Invasion of Czechoslovakia

GCSE History Revision - Invasion of CzechoslovakiaOn 20th August, Soviet forces invaded Czechoslovakia. But unlike during the Hungarian invasion, the people did not fight the invaders. Instead, they offered them flowers, to demonstrate their peaceful intentions, whilst also protesting at their presence. A pro-Soviet government was quickly installed.

To people in the West, once again the Soviet Union looked like the bad guy. Being a supporter of communism in Western Europe became a lot more difficult, and Western European communists became very critical of the Soviet Union.