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Prague Spring

Kieran Williams


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The upheaval in Czechoslovakia in the second half of the 1960s conventionally referred to as the Prague Spring was one of the greatest challenges to the Soviet model of political economy and social control. The centerpiece of this challenge was an effort by the ruling Communist Party (Komuni-stická strana Československa, KSČ) to combat growing disaffection by relaxing the limits on speech and association, curtailing surveillance by the secret police, introducing market elements into the planned economy, federalizing the unitary state to put relations between the two constituent nations (the Czechs and the less numerous Slovaks) on a more equal footing, and preparing the KSČ for semi-competitive elections. Alongside the official efforts, ferment in universities, trade unions, and intellectual circles exceeded the bounds set by the KSČ and greatly alarmed the Soviet Union, which led an invasion in August 1968 to restore Leninist orthodoxy. The ensuing week of non-violent civil resistance to that invasion is also an important part of this episode. Although the Prague Spring is normally associated with 1968, it neither began nor ended in that year. Its first stirrings can be found five years earlier, when economic recession coincided with a new round of revelations about political crimes committed after the KSČ seized power in 1948; it ended in August 1969 when protests to mark the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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