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1968 Prague Spring

The 1968 Prague Spring was an uprising in Czechoslovakia against their Stalinist regime, in the light of an economic crisis and the general flourishing of radical thought happening throughout the world in 1968. The conservative government, led by Novotny, was replaced by a new “reforming” government led by Dubcek, which tried to find some kind of conciliation between the wishes of the population and the wishes of the Soviet Union’s government. They failed, and the USSR launched a military occupation of Czechoslovakia, albeit one a lot less deadly than the 1956 Hungarian uprising (100 dead vs 20,000). The reformers’ government capitulated to Soviet demands, but the people weren’t willing to back down as easily.

Street blockades were erected and street signs and building numbers taken down in order to hinder Russian troops. Demonstrations occurred regularly, and student occupations were ongoing. Industrial action took place in sympathy with the student occupations, and further actions (strikes) were threatened if the student occupations were attacked, or the reformist politicians removed from power. Printers refused to publish conservative/reactionary news.

Eventually (April), Dubcek resigned and was replaced by a conservative, Husak. Censorship was reintroduced over the news media and intellectual journals, purges and resignations began, and protests began to be cracked down on violently – 3,900 protesters were arrested at one. The movement effectively crumbled under the weight of repression, and its inability to organise with a vision beyond defence of the reformist government and strikes.

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