As well as the national conflicts to free itself from the (right) dictatorship supported by the United States that occurred during the Cold War , other episodes also occurred to free itself from the oppression of regimes linked to the Soviet Union. And this is one of the best known stories. Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was an attempt to soften the existing communist dictatorship in the former Czechoslovakia to present a more “human” face, democratic and concerned with the problems of the citizens.
This “experiment” on socialist-communist theories lasted from January to August 1968, abruptly ending with the Soviet military intervention to “restore its order” in the face of the inertia of Western countries (since the country was in the orbit of Soviet influence ).
Reforms began with Alexander Dubcek’s seizure of power in January 1968
Up to this date nothing passed in the mind of this man who was already devising a kind of socialism more amiable with individuality and less prone to the dictatorial attitudes that prevailed in Soviet orthodoxy; it would further implement a program of changes after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. Prague Spring
The doctrine implanted by Dubcek was named “socialism with a human face”.
This doctrine asserted that political power remained in the hands of the only communist party, but that in turn it granted a greater degree of political freedom and direct participation in the decisions of citizens.
This participation (with the consequent diversity of opinions) was carried out through the structure of the communist party.
Alongside the changes was a sort of purge of conservative and traditionalist communists who preferred to follow the Moscow line
Freedom of press and expression , in addition to circulation, was also contemplated, allowing for the first public criticism of the regime and the communist party since the establishment of the communist government after World War II.
During this period, a federative state of two historic nations (the Czech Republic and Slovakia) was also established.
This separation would lead to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 and the founding of two new states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague Spring
The economy has also taken some steps towards the consumer market and private initiative, even in very specific sectors and in a limited way. However, this meant a great advance for the communist orthodoxy that still reigned in Moscow.
Much later, Mikhail Gorbachev would recognize the influence of socialism with a human face on perestroika.
But that would happen two decades later, and by 1968 Moscow was beginning to rave about Dubcek’s reforms.
The possibility of transition to a democratic system and a long-term market economy irritated CPSU intelligence in Moscow and began to outline a way to end these reforms.
Given the Hungarian experience of 1956, those responsible for the program of socialism with a human face never criticized the Soviet Union or the communist system , nor did they even mention abandoning the Warsaw Pact (unlike the Hungarians in their revolution), but even so they could not prevent the violent end of the new order at the hands of the USSR and the other satellite states of Eastern Europe (except Romania). Prague Spring
This also helped the new freedoms to be enjoyed more quickly by the population and critics of the system, further deepening the reforms proposed by the government. In this way, changes could occur with greater speed.
On August 20, 1968, about a quarter of a million Warsaw Pact soldiers, backed by approximately 2,000 tanks, entered the Czechoslovakian borders and began the invasion of the country, putting an end to the “Prague Spring”.
The operation was carried out with troops from the USSR, GDR, Hungary (which had suffered a similar invasion in 1956 and the elimination of all its main leaderships), Poland and Bulgaria. Romania did not participate because of disagreements with the Soviet Union, while Yugoslavia and Albania escaped the control of the Warsaw Pact.
Despite Dubcek’s call for armed non-resistance to the invader, there were acts of non-violent resistance, as well as some armed struggles against the invaders. Prague Spring
These fighting were not carried out by the Czechoslovak army that had stayed out during the first hours of the occupation with the help of Czechoslovak military and politicians loyal to Moscow.
Perhaps the iconic images of peaceful protests against Soviet occupation were of students Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc who burned “bonze style” (a form of suicide) in Prague’s famous Wenceslao Square, with a month difference between them. .
Dubcek and the Czechoslovak people would take revenge in 1989 thanks to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet bloc.
That year, Dubcek was proclaimed president of the Czechoslovak parliament. Two decades apart, “socialism with a human face” would try again, but this time with a dynamic of penetration of the capitalist economy that would invade everything. Prague Spring
Dubcek died in 1992 without seeing his dream fully realized, but at least he was able to live his political rehabilitation and the opening of his country.