Memorial to Jan Palach in Prague
Czech Republic profile & timeline
The Prague Spring was a period of democratization in Czechoslovakia. The period started on 5th January 1968 and ended on 21st August the same year.
On 5th January Alexander Dubcek was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Under public pressure he decided to adopt new policies. He called them: "socialism with a human face". They consisted in better respect of human rights and liberties mainly related to freedom of movement, speech and information.
Dubcek also intended to decrease the influence of the Soviet regime by increasing sovereignty of the Czech State and slowly moving towards autonomy. However, his ideas were not appreciated by the Soviets who decided to start the occupation of Czechoslovakia on 21st August 1968...
The invasion was followed by major demonstrations and protests which led to the withdrawal of thousands of Warsaw Pact troops. Even though the majority of them left, some stayed until 1989.
The suicide of Jan Palach, a young student, by self-immolation, shocked the world. His memorial in Prague reminds us of his sacrifice. After the Prague Spring the period of oppression and restriction of liberties and rights started again. The influence of the USSR increased and intensified.
In 1977, Vaclav Havel founded Charter 77 which was the union of people who courageously protested against the regime. The majority of the Charter 77 signatories were imprisoned. Despite many obstacles they did not lose hope and played an important role during the Velvet Revolution.
In 1989, the people decided that enough was enough and ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia.
The Prague Spring, although it is viewed as a major event in the history of Czechoslovakia, is not as important as the Velvet Revolution of 1989. This is because the Prague Spring did not end well; it brought more suffering to the people. Nevertheless, the demonstrations showed the courage of Czechoslovakians and their will to stand up to oppressors. People in the Czech Republic remember the Prague Spring as the first step towards liberation.