Forty-four years ago the armies of five countries associated in the Warsaw Pact, i.e. the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, invaded their supposed ally Czechoslovakia in a Moscow-directed move to end the reform process known as the Prague Spring. This year, several state officials of Slovakia attended a ceremony held in honour of the victims of the invasion, the TASR newswire wrote.
The events of August 21, 1968, including the culmination of the Prague Spring movement, represent a historical milestone as they united the nation, said Anton Srholec, head of the Slovak Confederation of Political Prisoners.
“It is difficult to unite the nation in a joint struggle, [aimed at] the common good,” he said, as quoted by TASR. “But suddenly, an enemy came, and at that moment we became united, full of enthusiasm. We marched around the tanks and spat on them.”
President Ivan Gašparovič, who also attended the event, described 1968 as a period of liberalisation and political change which provoked the military intervention of the Warsaw Pact countries. He stressed that Slovakia should not forget the events of 1968 and that it should remember not only those who suffered back in August 1968, but also those who underwent political persecution and pressure in the following years.
The official ceremony was also attended by several representatives of the opposition, including Erika Judinová from the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) movement, Ján Figeľ from the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Pavol Frešo from the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ).
Prime Minister Robert Fico also marked the anniversary of the intervention. He laid wreaths on the grave of Alexander Dubček, one of the main representatives of the reform movement, in Slávičie Údolie, Bratislava. He appeared to compare himself to Dubček, saying that like the latter, who sought to achieve ‘socialism with a human face’, his own Smer party was now trying to give a human face to a contemporary society based on pluralism, democracy and the rule of law, TASR wrote.
“I am very glad that after 1989, Alexander Dubček openly identified himself with the ideas of social democracy,” he said, as quoted by TASR. “So when we say that we want to be the followers of what Alexander Dubček said and did in 1967-68, it is an honour for us.”
He added that the occupation that took place on August 21, 1968, caused significant damage to Slovakia’s future and if the reform process had continued at that time, Slovakia would have been a different country now.
Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports
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