Prague Spring 1968...
...Warsaw Pact Invasion, from Pen & Sword
Title: Prague Spring 1968
Author: Phil Caradice
Publisher: Pen & Sword
I grew up during the Cold War and distinctly remember the events of 1968 and the Russian tanks that went onto the streets of Prague, crushing the 'uprising' in Czechoslovakia. The book starts by setting out the context of the time. In America it meant Flower Power and claims about civil rights. Europe was not immune to these influences and young people in particular wanted to explore these freedoms.
Czechoslovakia was one of the countries affected, and a proud Czech leader in the person of Alexander Dubcek began to allow some of these new freedoms.
Czechoslovakia was a part of the Warsaw Pact and these moves towards the freedoms of the West were seen as a danger to their influence, and in the security of the Warsaw Pact as a whole. Despite a desire to allow their freedoms, Dubcek had more and more pressure put on him to control protesting youths. It got to the point where, despite promises from the Soviet leadership and Russian tanks appeared on the streets of Prague as military force was used to enforce Soviet control. The book tells us the story of what was happening on the streets and how the Russian leadership responded. Their promises were broken when the tanks took to the streets, and they were faced with protestors who fought back with petrol bombs and many civilians were killed. Even later, when things calmed down and the tanks were withdrawn (though only just outside the city) when even more protests meant that events were very much in the public eye, even in the West. At the end of the year, a young man called Jan Palach protested by setting fire to himself in Wenceslas Square, and after he had died others did so too. The Prague Spring failed, but the wish came true some 20 years later when the Warsaw Pact, and the symbolic Berlin Wall collapsed. Though split in two, the Czech and Slovakian Republics got the freedom so many had fought for, and Dubcek was still there to see it.
As someone who remembers the events and the stories displayed on the evening news here in the UK, I found it fascinating to read the detail of the events surrounding the story. It is 51 years ago now, and 30 since those countries got the freedoms they craved. For so many people therefore these stories are only history, not conditions they had to endure. I am quite sure that many youths today would find it hard to accept that their parents/grandparents did not enjoy the freedoms they have today, and they were hard fought for. Well worth reading and a good addition to this Cold War book series.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.