1968/21/8: Socialism with a human face destroyed

52 years ago, the Warsaw Pact troops invaded what was then Czechoslovakia. Most of the strategic cities in the country were occupied, shortly after the arrival of tanks and the occupation of airports where Soviet planes with other military equipment landed. Radio and television broadcasting was interrupted, but quickly resumed in improvised studios.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Czechoslovak "February coup", the then first secretary, Alexander Dubček, declared that changes were needed after the triumph of socialism and that the goal was so-called "socialism with a human face." This marked the beginning of a process called the Prague Spring: in April, a program of liberalization began, including above all freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and the possibility of multilateral governance. The changes were increasingly appreciated and supported by the population, but the Communist Party leadership did not have a unified position on these initiatives.

In the following months, Dubček received several serious phone calls with the representatives of the Soviet Union, in which he was clearly told that the other members of the Warsaw Pact did not like the current events in Czechoslovakia and considered it a threat to socialist development. Brezhnev (the highest representative of the Soviet Union) repeatedly, with increasing urgency, first indicated to Dubcek the possibility, later the need, to intervene in this development by all available means.

On the night of Tuesday, August 20, to Wednesday, August 21, 1968, the invasion of Czechoslovakia began. The first wave of attack took place in the morning, when the airport was occupied, and transport planes with military units began to land.

Top politicians were taken to the Soviet Union, where they subsequently signed the so-called Moscow Protocol. In doing so, they effectively confirmed the occupation and submitted to the Soviet Union.

From the day the troops entered the territory of Czechoslovakia until the end of the year, 108 Czechs and Slovaks died in clashes with foreign soldiers and in traffic accidents caused by the occupying troops. By 1989, 402 civilians had died due to the occupation, most of them in car accidents. The invasion also resulted in the emigration of approximately 100,000 people by the end of 1969, and another 140-250 thousand people emigrated by 1989. The Soviets report 104 of their dead during the first month of the invasion.