Events of August 1968

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Daniela Marie
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Events of August 1968

Postby Daniela Marie » 02-Apr-08 10:47

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!!
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Polednikova
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Postby Polednikova » 02-Apr-08 16:39

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!
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wissy
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Postby wissy » 02-Apr-08 17:15

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.........
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GlennInFlorida
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Postby GlennInFlorida » 02-Apr-08 17:41

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.
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Sova
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Postby Sova » 02-Apr-08 18:25

Wikipedia has a short section on it for starters:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Invasion_of_Czechoslovakia#Reactions_around_the_world
I especially liked the following quote:
Wikipedia wrote:Soviet Ambassador Jacob Malik insisted the Warsaw Pact actions were "fraternal assistance" against "antisocial forces." ... US Ambassador George Ball, suggested that "the kind of fraternal assistance than the Soviet Union is according to Czechoslovakia is exactly the same kind that Cain gave to Abel."

By the way, Polednikova, 11th graders are 16- to 17-year-olds.
Daniela Marie
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Postby Daniela Marie » 02-Apr-08 20:34

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!
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wissy
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Postby wissy » 03-Apr-08 13:27

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.
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BMoody
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Postby BMoody » 07-Apr-08 10:51

They are always so young... :(
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eso
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Postby eso » 07-Apr-08 11:10

My mother told me that some of these soldiers were told they are in Germany.
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zavorka
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Postby zavorka » 03-Jun-08 12:15

Hi,
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
Miro
"and in the end all ends up to this: you do your things, don't look behind, and keep going" The White Squall.

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