1968 – The Prague Spring is crushed by the Soviet Army

For eight glorious months in 1968, it appeared that some of the liberalisation that was sweeping the West had taken root in Czechoslovakia. The Prague Spring, as it was called, was a period when political controls on the populace of the nation were relaxed: restrictions of movement, speech and commerce were all reduced or removed, and the people rejoiced.

The Prague Spring came to an end when the Soviet Union decided to demonstrate why it had absorbed the easternmost portion of Czechoslovakia at the end of World War Two: without the defensible mountains of the Carpathian range to protect, there was little to stop the tanks of the Soviets – and those of Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria – rolled into the country, and restored Soviet control and Soviet oppression. It would be another 21 years until the Velvet Revolution fulfilled the promise of the Prague Spring.

Referenced in:

Prague — Arik Einstein
They Can’t Stop The Spring — Dervish

1989 – The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia relinquishes power

The Velvet Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia, following on from the fall of the Communist regimes of East Germany, Hungary and Poland. It began when police suppressed a protest march on November 17. The suppression led to a range of other protests across the country, starting from November 19. Some of the strikes became permanent, and even the state controlled media could not hide the mounting chaos.

After ten days, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia came to the conclusion that they could no longer hold power. They gave up their monopoly on power, and the following day, the constitution was amended to remove their leading role in the state. Although free elections were not held until June of 1990, it was on this day that Communist rule ended in Czechoslovakia.

Referenced in:

Right Here Right Now – Jesus Jones

1969 – Jan Palach commits suicide to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia

Jan Palach was a twenty year old student in Prague when he set himself on fire. His action was intended as a protest of the brutal suppression of the Prague Spring the previous August, when Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to put an end to the liberalisaton that was taking place under the government of Alexander Dub?ek.

Palach spent three days in excrutiating pain before he died of his injuries on January 19, 1969. In death, he became a martyr to the cause of Czechoslovakia liberation (and liberation in general). When the Velvet Revolution freed the Czechs and Slovaks from Soviet rule in 1989, Palach was one of those honoured with memorials by the new government.

Referenced in:
Euromess — Jean-Jacques Burnel
Nuuj Helde — The Janse Bagge Bend
Va De Du Jesus — Åge Aleksandersen
Pochodnie (Torches) — Jacek Kaczmarski
The Funeral of Jan Palach — The Zippo Band