Prague Spring

The Prague Spring (Czech: Pražské jaro, Slovak: Pražská jar) was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected the First Secretary of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and continued until 21 August when the Soviet Union and all members of the Warsaw Pact, with the notable exception of Romania, invaded the country to halt the reforms.

The Prague Spring reforms were an attempt by Dubček to grant additional rights to the citizens in an act of partial decentralization of the economy and democratization. The freedoms granted included a loosening of restrictions on the media, speech and travel. After national discussion of dividing the country into a federation of three republics, Bohemia, Moravia-Silesia and Slovakia, Dubček oversaw the decision to split into two, the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. This was the only change that survived the end of the Prague Spring.

The reforms, especially the decentralization of administrative authority, were not received well by the Soviets, who, after failed negotiations, sent thousands of Warsaw Pact troops and tanks to occupy the country. A large wave of emigration swept the nation. While there were many non-violent protests in the country, including several suicides by self-immolation, there was no military resistance. Czechoslovakia remained occupied until 1991.

After the invasion, Czechoslovakia entered a period of normalization: subsequent leaders attempted to restore the political and economic values that had prevailed before Dubček gained control of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). Gustáv Husák, who replaced Dubček and also became president, reversed almost all of Dubček's reforms. The Prague Spring inspired music and literature such as the work of Václav Havel, Karel Husa, Karel Kryl, and Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Read more about Prague SpringBackground, Liberalization and Reform, Soviet Reaction, Aftermath

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    Leigh Brackett (1915–1978)