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Back in the Day: the start of the 'Prague Spring'


Czech Republic

Back in the Day: the start of the 'Prague Spring'

January 5, 1968 Alexander Dubcek is elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and immediately goes about implementing liberal reforms including lifting restrictions on free speech and freedom of movement. The changes were part of Dubcek’s policy to provide “socialism with a human face” in a country that had lived through a period of Stalinist control under the Soviet Union. His election heralded what was to be known as the Prague Spring. However it lasted only eight months. The Soviet response to the liberalisation of one of its satellite states was to send hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of tanks into Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968. The invasion was, at first, resisted by unarmed protesters, mostly students but they were no match for the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact. The Prague Spring was quickly crushed and Gustav Husak was instated as Party leader to bring Czechoslovakia back into line with Soviet-style socialism. Dubcek was downgraded to a post as a forestry official.

Also on January 5: work begins on San Francisco’s Golden gate Bridge (1933); in Cambodia the Khmer Rouge declares the constitution of Democratic Kampuchea (1976); singer Cher’s ex-husband Sonny Bono is killed in a skiing accident (1998).

Born on January 5: Konrad Adenauer (1876), King Juan Carlos I of Spain (1938), Marilyn Manson (1969).

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