Prague Spring Anniversary Marked by Czech Groups in Croatia

By 29 November 2018

ZAGREB, November 29, 2018 - The Croatian-Czech Society and the Češka Beseda association on Wednesday held a round table discussion dedicated to the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalisation in Czechoslovakia as a Communist state after World War II. The year 1968 stirs up strong emotions among Czechs and Slovaks because it was a year of great hopes, enthusiasm and optimism, as well as a year of great disappointments, it was said at the event marking the Prague Spring anniversary.

The Prague Spring and its end, as well as the subsequent protest suicide of student Jan Palach, is probably the best known event in the history of the Czech and Slovak peoples in the world, said the president of the Croatian-Czech Society, Marijan Lipovac.

Around 50,000 Czechs and Slovaks were vacationing in Croatia at the time and could not return to their country as the borders were closed for about ten days.

The residents of Zagreb offered them to stay with them in their homes, said Češka Beseda vice-president Marina Kolaček Novosel, speaking of reports in Croatian newspapers at the time of the Prague Spring.

The Prague Spring was a reform movement led by Czechoslovak Communist leader Alexander Dubček and aimed at democratising and liberalising the country's social and political system, said Lipovac.

The hopes of reforms were destroyed in the occupation by five Warsaw Pact states – the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, in August 1968.

The Prague Spring was supported by Yugoslavia and Romania since Josip Broz Tito saw in it the success of his concept of socialism, while Nicolae Causescu, with his rigid regime, defended the principle that each state has the right to develop its own kind of socialism.

After the occupation, Dubček and the Czechoslovak leadership were forced to capitulate and give up their reforms, even though they were allowed to stay in their positions for some time.

The only of the planned reforms that was implemented was the federalisation of Czechoslovakia, which on 1 January 1969 became a federal state consisting of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic. A period of so-called normalisation ensued and lasted until the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

During the occupation, 137 Czechoslovaks who tried to put up resistance were killed. Political opponents were fired or arrested and around 250,000 people emigrated, including many researchers and cultural workers.

During that period, Croatian citizens and institutions provided their Czechoslovak guests with accommodation and the necessary assistance, once again confirming the solidarity between the Croats, Czechs and Slovaks in difficult times of their history, said Lipovac.

For more on relations between Croatia and the Czech Republic, click here.