AUGUST 21 is the day when the two countries of the former Czechoslovakia remember the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops into the country in 1968 in an attempt to give a halt to the reformist movement which later became known as the Prague Spring.
The invasion has put an end to all the hopes the people in Czechoslovakia had in the democratisation process led by the then-Communist Party chairman Alexander Dubček, who wanted to create a regime that became known as ‘socialism with human face’.
On the night between August 20 and 21 the troops of five Warsaw Pact allies – Bulgaria, Hungary, GDR, Poland and USSR – invaded their allied country Czechoslovakia in what they called ‘the act of international solidarity’. Romania did not take part in the invasion.
Dubček’s allies in the leadership of the Communist Party protested against the invasion which they regarded as a violation of the basic rules in the relations between socialist countries and the norms of the international law. In reaction, the USSR arrested Dubček and his collaborators, transported them to Russia and let them free only after signing the ‘Moscow Protocol’, which basically meant a capitulation of Czechoslovakia and a start of the period of ‘normalisation’, which meant mainly political prosecution of those who took any active part in the Prague Spring movement, resembling the political processes in 1950s. Many of them lost their jobs, some ended up in prisons.
A massive wave of emigration of Slovaks and Czechs to the western countries followed the invasion.
It took another 20 years for the regime to fall and for the democratisation process to be restarted.