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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Pozývací list

WHEN Vasil Biľak passed away on February 6, no one could have suspected that just a month later history would repeat itself and someone else would get the idea to address an invitation letter (pozývací list) to the Kremlin.

WHEN Vasil Biľak passed away on February 6, no one could have suspected that just a month later history would repeat itself and someone else would get the idea to address an invitation letter (pozývací list) to the Kremlin.

“The party leadership is no longer able to defend socialism, or to organise ideological or political resistance to rightist forces. The very nature of socialism in our country is under threat. In these difficult times we turn to you with a plea for real help and assistance by all available means. Only with your support is it possible to save Czechoslovakia from the threat of counter-revolution,” wrote the former Secretary of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and his four comrades to Leonid Brezhnev in August 1968.

So when the overthrown Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych now calls on Vladimir Putin “to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defend the people of Ukraine”, it sounds only too familiar. What lessons can one learn from the Czechoslovak experience?

Firstly, the Russians are always ready to help a friend in need. The Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia two weeks after Biľak and co. asked.

Secondly, a sense of defeat and decades of Russian rule can leave deep scars that remain long after the tanks are gone. The last soldiers left in 1991, but the culture of collaboration, fear of those in power and misgovernance is still very much present.

And lastly, even outright treason can go unpunished. Seeing Biľak die at the age of 96 without serving a day in prison almost serves as an invitation for others to follow his example.

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