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The Prague Spring

On 20 Aug 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded. The troubles began in January when Alexander Dubcek took over as the nation’s leader. Dubcek wanted a major overhaul of the Czech political and economic system, and greater political freedom, including for noncommunist parties. Dubcek also wanted less state control and more reliance on the free market. Finally, he insisted on more freedom from the Soviets. This shocked the Soviets and leaders in other East European nations. Talks took place to get him to soften his reforms. Dubcek refused, and tensions increased. Meanwhile, Czech citizens embraced and celebrated the free exchange of ideas in what came to be known as the “Prague Spring.” On the night of August 20, over 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops crossed into Czechoslovakia and headed for the capital of Prague; the entire country was occupied. Riots broke out, but these were viciously crushed and thousands of Czechs fled the country. This repression shocked the world, but it made it clear that powerless people have few rights. That’s true today.

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