The Czechoslovakia Crisis, 1968: The State Department’s Crisis Files

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This collection increases our knowledge of one the most important events of the Cold War. These documents provide the background for an analysis of the beginning of the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

In the morning hours of August 21, 1968, the Soviet army invaded Czechoslovakia along with troops from four other Warsaw Pact countries. The occupation was the beginning of the end for the Czechoslovak reform movement known as the "Prague Spring."

The reform movement had been brewing for years, fed by economic problems as well as growing demands from Communist intellectuals for more freedom and pluralism within a socialist system. But it really gathered steam at the beginning of 1968, in January, when the Communist Party’s Central Committee replaced its hard-line First Secretary Antonin Novotny with the moderate reformer Alexander Dubcek, who eventually sided more and more clearly with the forces for change. In March, censorship was loosened and Novotny was relieved of his other function, President of the Republic. He was replaced by a career soldier, Ludvik Svoboda, whose last name in Czech means "freedom.

In the following months, censorship was further loosened, some political prisoners were freed, and topics that until recently had been taboo--such as the politically motivated show trials of the 1950’s--began to be openly discussed. The government adopted an "Action Program" that aimed at democratization of the Communist party and pluralism in politics and society.

The State Department’s Executive Secretariat was responsible for creating a documentary record on various international crises during the 1960s. The documents in Czechoslovakia Crisis, 1968, were collected and collated from a variety of State Department sources and represent an administrative history of the crisis from the perspective of the U.S. government and its foreign policy.

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