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Czechs and Slovaks remember 1968 Invasion

Czechs and Slovaks remember 1968 Invasion

Czechs and Slovaks held ceremonies Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed the liberal reforms of Alexander Dubcek and ended an era known as the "Prague Spring."
Czech President Vaclav Klaus traveled to the Slovak capital, Bratislava, while Slovak Premier Robert Fico joined his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek in Prague for the commemoration ceremonies.
Symbols of that era such as a Soviet T-54 tank and homemade posters protesting the invasion were on display in Prague's Wenceslas Square, the main location of clashes between Soviet troops and Prague citizens.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia also marked the anniversary with speeches, conferences and film screenings.
"Communism is beyond reform. Every attempt to liberalize it leads to its destruction," Topolanek wrote in an opinion piece in Thursday's Lidove Noviny daily. "The only defense against Moscow's imperialism is an alliance with the West. That is the main lesson of August 1968."
The Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in the early hours of Aug. 21, 1968, involved armies from five Warsaw Pact countries and 500 planes.
It didn't take them long for them to force the Czechoslovak army to surrender, ending the attempt by Dubcek, the Communist Party leader and reformer, to give his Moscow-imposed regime a "human face."
Several hundred people died in the conflict, which halted the few months that Czechoslovaks had spent that year enjoying their "Prague Spring," which included unknown press freedoms, political reforms and unrestricted travel.
The bitter period of submission that followed the invasion finally ended in 1989 with the Velvet Revolution that toppled Communist rule.
When the Czechoslovak federation broke up peacefully in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent and eventually joined the European Union and NATO. During Thursday's 40th anniversary ceremonies, Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, met with Fico, his Slovak counterpart, in Prague for official talks and a commemoration.
Later in the day, both leaders planned to lay flowers at a plaque remembering Marie Charouskova, a student who was killed during the invasion 40 years ago.
Also Thursday, Klaus, the Czech president, drove to the Slovak capital, Bratislava, to lay flowers in memory of the invasion's civilian victims, together with his Slovak counterpart, Ivan Gasparovic.
"This is a dark moment of our shared history," Gasparovic said about the invasion.


Updated : 2021-06-15 08:41 GMT+08:00