Prague Spring

Czechoslovakia was a part of the Eastern Bloc, controlled by the Soviet Union. In 1968, Czechoslovakia would challenge Soviet authority in an event known as the Prague Spring when demonstrations shook the Czechoslovakian capital.

A new Communist Party leader came to power in Czechoslovakia in January, 1968. His name was Alexander Dubček. He wanted to make some modest reforms in Czechoslovakia: grant more freedoms to the press and the rights of free speech to individuals and introduce a little capitalism as well.

The people--especially the young people--took to this idea. To many, it seemed like fundamental change was coming to Czechoslovakia and Czechoslovakia would have more say in the daily lives of people living there.

Things were good. Until the tanks rolled in.

Czech protesters carry the national flag as a Soviet tank burns in the background. (Public Domain)

On the night of August 20, 1968, over 200,000 troops from Warsaw Pact countries and hundreds of tanks rolled across the border into Czechoslovakia to put down demonstrations against the Soviet Union. Protesters were tear-gassed and arrested. The streets went up in flames. Protesters threw molotov cocktails at the tanks and blocked them in the streets.

This video below has footage from what happened in the Prague Spring:

This had happened before in Hungary in 1956. And in 1956, the Soviet Union crushed that revolt.

In Czechoslovakia, dissent against the Soviet regime would not be tolerated. The new Premier of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev declared that the Soviet Union had the right to interfere in any country in the Warsaw Pact. This was known as the "Brezhnev Doctrine."

In the end, the Prague Spring was brutally crushed. Over 100 protesters were shot to death in the streets. Leaders were rounded up and sent to Moscow.

The Prague Spring was over. But similar revolts were happening in the United States, too. Kids took to the streets to protest the Vietnam War.