Events of August 1968

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous (Czech-Related)' started by Daniela Marie, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. Daniela Marie

    Daniela Marie Well-Known Member

    Hello everyone. My daughter (11th grade) was told to pick a topic for a historical essay. I suggested to her "the events in Czechoslovakia in August 1968" in a broad sense (because she's one quarter Czech!). Her teacher narrowed the topic down to "Why didn't the US intervene at the time of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968?"
    I was thinking that people on this forum might give me some interesting information. I know there's a lot of well-informed people. Can anyone tell me any information on this topic, or links to articles (English is better, but I can also read Czech, although it's harder!)
    I would be very happy to receive any kind of input on this topic!!
  2. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    I apologise for my lack of knowledge of the American grade system, so I don't know how old your daughter is. But I would have thought the subject her teacher has suggested is more appropriate for university students! Or perhaps your daughter is particularly bright?

    I would think that it will be quite hard for her to get much information on what is a very narrow question. I'm no expert - I was 12 in 1968, the daughter of a Czech living in the UK - but I have read around the Soviet invasion over the years and I don't remember seeing much about why America, or anyone else, for that matter, didn't intervene. Perhaps your daughter's teacher knows some sources?

    Much more fertile ground would be why the Soviets invaded in the first place. She could look at what Dubček was trying to do and why it was seen as such a threat by Moscow.

    Just on my personal memories, I remember we went on a protest march in London - I still have the stickers and badges. Then when the Red Army Emsemble came to the UK to give musical performances, we carried posters saying "The Czechs didn't have to pay to see the Red Army" which I thought was very witty at the time, and still do!
  3. wissy

    wissy Well-Known Member

    Hi Daniela Marie, :)

    "Why didn't the US intervene at the time of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968?"

    By intervention, does your daughter's teacher mean Militarily or Politically?
    If it was militarily i think that in 1968 the answer would be pretty obvious -a third world war or at least the threat of a European land war that cold easily have escalated (the nuclear weapon threat etc). Discuss.........
  4. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    US was having its own set of problems that year - MLK and RFK killed, the Democratic National Convention in shambles (The whole world is watching...) and most people here considered the invasion an "internal affair" inside communist bloc nations - not to mention the threat of nukes.
  5. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Wikipedia has a short section on it for starters:
    I especially liked the following quote:
    By the way, Polednikova, 11th graders are 16- to 17-year-olds.
  6. Daniela Marie

    Daniela Marie Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Polednikova, wissy, GlennInFlorida and Sova! Yes, my daughter is 17. She goes to an international school here in Rome, which has the American system and is taught in English. That comment by the US Ambassador is really good. I was interested to read all your comments. I think the teacher meant both militarily and politically.
    I/she would also be interested in reading anyone's memories from August 21, 1968 and the days after.
    I myself was 7 years old and on vacation in Czechoslovakia, visiting my grandmother (my mom's Czech, dad's Italian). We were in the countryside, not too far from Prague. I remember the woman who was renting us the cottage coming in early in the morning with a small radio in her hands, tears streaming down her face, saying "The Russians are here!" I knew something terrible had happened. Someone drove us back to Prague and we (my mom, sister, and myself) got on a train going to West Germany. The train was incredibly full. I remember stick drawings of pigs on the trains and the writings "Rusove jsou prasata" (Russians are pigs) or something like that - that's what stuck in my 7-year-old mind!
  7. wissy

    wissy Well-Known Member

    My wife was 13 at the time. She and her older sister were visiting friends who had an apartment on Karlovo náměstí. (now offices - the state took the apartment away from them). When the Russians came there was some resistance in the square and some shots were fired. My wife and everyone in the flat had to shelter in the bathroom to avoid the bullets.

    She remembers Russian soldiers were posted by the front door and in the communal hallway of the apartment block and were very unfriendly and intimidating. She remembers that when they were allowed out her friends mother Milena remonstrated with one of the soldiers (she spoke Russian) shouting "Why are you doing this? How dare you keep us in our homes! Get out of our country!"
    The soldier raised his rifle and neighbours pulled Milena away. My wife remembers thinking how young the soldiers were.
  8. BMoody

    BMoody Well-Known Member

    They are always so young... :(
  9. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    My mother told me that some of these soldiers were told they are in Germany.
  10. zavorka

    zavorka Well-Known Member

    I was in the first grade of gymnasium, that summer I had to repair greek by taking private lessons, in Turin, and that was my first committment t oa pilitical cause, to see freedom for a friend country. In the western side of the iron courtain (how it was called then, cortina di ferro) the Dubcek spring was given a great mediatic visibility. Nobody mentioned the internal problems that were in every country caused by the 68 movement (and anti-US pro-Viet support).
    Sometimes, as goes in Tommasi di Lampedusa book "everything must change because everything remains the same", but at that time lot of people was favouring the conservatorism choice, to not change due to risks of what could come with changes.
    some personal memories:
    it was so strange for a private to see/hear that the only voice of defence of a country was for a czech free radio... still being able to broadcast for one week... a heroism not fully appreciated and not backed by similar positions or words of confort by the western governments.
    and how was that nobody could control the air space, and to remain surprised at night for the landing?
    even Yugoslavia, considered on a neutral position, did not take contacts for advising the reformists...
    afterward, lower grade militars were told that the situation was going out of control, that the intervent was necessary, that actions were diffused on the territory for a subversion of the government ... a kind of antisandinist movement...
    those justifications are easy to confection for the safe of minds...
    from a political point of view (US), it was savier to let things go this way, and let grow a national feeling of anticommunism, (not only in czech people) rather than supporting the reforms of an illuminated but still revisionist group of politicians.
    Hoping to have been of some help
  11. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Daniela Marie
    Good for your daughter for wanting to take on such an international, profound subject.
    If I can kind of use this to veer somewhat off topic.
    Maybe I'm over generalizing, I don't know your daughter's teacher, but I have to say there is a definite trend.
    Your daughter's teacher's suggestion, to me, seems so telling of the state of affairs of American academia.
    Your daughter suggests a serious topic, concerning global politics, and her teacher immediately jumps to the version, well it's America's fault.
    American academia is tilted so far to the left. They seem to march lock step to the theory that, if something is going wrong, certainly it must be America is somehow to blame.
    This fact distresses me.
    Good luck to your daughter, and thanks for letting me vent.
  12. zavorka

    zavorka Well-Known Member

    I dont' agree with the oversimplification of finding a sacrifical victim, one is right and the other is wrong...
    since Rashomon movie, there are many points of view, and nobody tells the true story.
    the central EU was called "the international chess board",
    I suggest that the move to leave the queen at the adversary was, at the end of the facts, very well played. It introduced a genralised, nationa lfeeling of adversion to soviets.
    I don't know if there were other choices, if the queen cannot be saved, or if it was intentional.
    If you are czech, you should also play well chesses. Yuo can understand the sacrifice of a your own item.

    take care
  13. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Rereading everything, I see I really did jump to conclusions.
    So she goes to an international school in Rome.
    So maybe the teacher was expressing the notion that it was impossible for the US, in that geo-political situation to do anything.
    Russia asserting itself in it's sphere of influence.
  14. Petr_B

    Petr_B Well-Known Member

    See, one may say it's all really the fault of the USA: who originally handed Czechoslovakia to J. Stalin on a silver plate? Yes, it was the 32nd President of the United States - F.D. Roosevelt (at the Yalta Conference and supposedly W. Churchill didn't like the idea). :wink:
    Sure, things probably aren't as simple as that, but there might be some truth to it after all.
  15. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    2 Petr_B:

    First: Its our fault to let others treat us..
  16. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    My husband agrees and fails to find any kind words when speaking of FDR. I don't know much about handing over Czechoslovakia, but I can't stand him just for his great idea of Social Security. :roll: :evil: -- nothing like saying "hey you people are too stupid to plan for your own future so the government is going to do it for you. But the retirement plan we have is so bad, we'll opt out of it while forcing you non-governmental pea-ons to do it" :evil: :evil:
  17. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Wow...this is a tough crowd.
  18. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Nothing like that happened at Yalta. It’s just a myth spread by communists to make the people in Soviet sphere of influence resigned to revolt. The only issue concerning Czechoslovakia discussed at Yalta was establishing of the UN.

    The sphere of influence were firstly discussed at the Moscow conference between Stalin and Churchill (the famous percentages agreement). Roosevelt was absent. And again, Czechoslovakia was not mentioned at all.

    The only Roosevelt’s war decision affecting the chances of Czechoslovakia to get out of Soviet sphere was the decision to invade Normandy and not Balkan as suggested by Churchill. I like the Churchill’s idea much more. The liberalization from the east parallelly with Soviets was the best way to prevent the spliting of Europe.

    The American who definitely wrote the Czechoslovakia off was not Roosevelt, but Eisenhower. He was eager to conquer the imaginary Alpine fortress and stopped Patton to liberate Prague.

    Three events were essential for Czechoslovak subjugation to the Soviets:

    1) The ratification of the agreement about friendship between Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union (1941).

    This was primarily British fault. Brits hesitated (and still hesitate) to acknowledge their failure at Munich and failed to fully recognize the Czechoslovak exil government in London. Czechoslovak government was more or less forced to buy the recognition at high costs from the Soviets.

    2) The establishing of the National Front (March 1945), resp of the Government of Košice (April 1945) which was a totalitarian coalition of communistic and pro-communistic parties.

    This was big failing of president Beneš. He underestimated the consequencies of the decision to form a government with communists. The democratic left wing was not able to manage the communists without the assistance of the banned rightwingers.

    3) The subjugation of the Czech National Council (CNC) to the Government of Košice (May 1945).

    This was the Eisenhower’s mistake. The CNC was a democratic body which governed the Prague uprising. It was the last democratic institution to resist effectively the Government of Košice. With Patton in Prague the CNC could hold out, but without any support it was quickly managed by the Red Army which installed the Government of Košice.

    The western recognition of 1946 undemocratic election was only a formal nail in the coffin.
  19. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Consider the Soviets invaded a Soviet controlled country.
    It was surprising only for the people. The government and army were aware of such a possibility. They even prevented the first attempt on invasion.
    Czechoslovak government was in close contact with the governments of Yugoslavia, Romania and Canada.
    Yugoslavia even mobilized in support of Czechoslovakia.
  20. Petr_B

    Petr_B Well-Known Member

    While Czechoslovakia might not be directly mentioned in the text of the Yalta Conference (as we aren't that important to be mentioned specifically), I believe the outcome of the Yalta Conference significantly affected CE/EE region as a whole. And (Czechoslovak) communists probably weren't the only ones to think like that:
    Source:, link is referenced from Microsoft Encarta article about the Yalta Conference so it should be somewhat credible.

    Anyway, everything is connected and we could go even further back and blame those who let Hitler into power, starting with rather unfortunate Treaty or Versailles. Or we can dig even deeper and go to reasons why WWI (which changed the map of Europe and allowed communists to reign Russia) started. And so on and so on. There's always someone or something outside the Czechs I can put the blame on (see Czech C's thread). :)

    We can also cry rivers and say that because we are such small country in an important region it's always O nás bez nás ([Deciding] About Us [Czechs] Without Us [Czechs]). Kdo chce psa bít, hůl si vždycky najde. :wink:

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