Prague, 20 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The following is a chronology of the
significant events leading up to the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in
the summer of 1968:
Jan. 5, 1968: Alexander Dubcek replaces Antonin Novotny as Party
declares his intention to press ahead with extensive reforms. Novotny was
criticized by party liberals and intellectuals for his government's poor
economic performance and his anti-Slovak prejudice. Dubcek is seen as the
perfect compromise candidate, acceptable to both the orthodox party
February: Communist Party leadership approves enlargement of the
reform program started in 1967. Journalists, students, and writers
call for the
repeal of the 1966 Press censorship law.
March: Public rallies held in Prague and other cities and towns
in support of
reform policies voice growing criticism of Novotny's presidency.
March 22: Novotny resigns as president, after facing pressure by
March 30: General Ludvik Svoboda is elected president of
Svoboda was a war hero who had also served in the Czechoslovak legion at the
start of the Russian Civil War in 1918.
April 5: Action Program of the Communist Party is published,
part of the
effort to provide "socialism with a human face." It calls for the
"democratization" of the political and economic system. The document
refers to a
"unique experiment in democratic communism." The Communist Party would
to compete with other parties in elections. Document envisages a gradual
of the political system over a 10-year period.
April 18: A new government is formed under Dubcek ally and
Cernik. Liberalization process goes full swing. Press continues to become more
outspoken in support of freedoms.
May 1: May Day celebrations show huge support for the new cause.
May 4-5: Czechoslovak leaders visit Moscow: Soviet leadership
expresses dissatisfaction with developments in Czechoslovakia.
May 29: A number of high-ranking Soviet military officials visit
Czechoslovakia to lay the groundwork for Soviet military exercises.
June 26: Censorship is officially abolished.
June 27: Two Thousand Words manifesto signed by reformers,
Central Committee members, is published in Literarny Listy and other
publications. It calls for "democratization," the re-establishment of the
Social Democratic Party, and the setting up of citizens' committees. The
manifesto is a more radical alternative to the Communist Party's April Action
Program The political leadership (including Dubcek) rejects the manifesto.
July 4: Beginning of Soviet-led military exercizes in Sumava,
strengthening the hand of anti-reformist forces in Czechoslovakia.
July 15: Representatives of the Communist parties of the Soviet
Hungary, Poland, East Germany and Bulgaria meet in Warsaw. They send a
worded diplomatic note warning the new Czechoslovak leaders that "the
in Czechoslovakia jeopardizes the common vital interests of other socialist
July 29-Aug. 1: Negotiations are held between the presidiums of the
Czechoslovak and Soviet communist parties in Cierna-nad-Tisou. Dubcek argues
that reforms did not endanger the role of the party but built public support.
The Soviets do not accept these arguments and sharply criticize the
moves. Threats of invasion are made.
July 31: East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Soviet Union announce
will hold military exercises near the Czechoslovak border.
Aug. 3: A Warsaw Pact meeting (without Romania) is held in
meeting brings about a seeming reconciliation between the Warsaw Pact leaders
and the Czechoslovak leadership. Here for the first time, the so-called
doctrine of limited sovereigny is announced. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev
receives a handwritten letter from five members of the Czechoslovak Presidium
who warn that the socialist order is under threat. They request military
Aug. 18: The Kremlin decides on the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
of Soviet Central Forces, General Aleksandr Mayorov, relates how Soviet
Minister Andrei Grechko stated to the assembled Soviet Politburo and military
leaders: "the invasion will take place even if it leads to a third world war."
Aug. 20: Czechoslovakia is invaded by an estimated 500,000 troops
armies of five Warsaw pact countries (Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria,
and East Germany) overnight into Aug. 21.
Aug. 21, Shortly after 0100: State Radio announces invasion by
five Warsaw Pact countries. It says the invasion took place without the
knowledge of the Czechoslovak authorities. "The Presidium calls upon all
citizens of the Republic to keep the peace and not resist the advancing
because the defense of our borders is now impossible." The army is given
to remain in its barracks and not to offer resistance.
Aug. 21, 0300: Czechoslovak Premier Oldrich Cernik, Dubcek, Jozef
and Frantisek Kriegel -- the four leading reformers in Czechoslovak leadership
-- are arrested in the Communist Party's Presidium building by Soviet airborne
Occupation governments distribute leaflets saying the troops were
sent in "to
come to the aid of the working class and all the people of Czechoslovak to
defend socialist gains."
Aug. 21, 0530: Tass says that Czechoslovak Party and government
requested urgent assistance from the Soviet Union and other fraternal
Aug. 21, 0600: Svoboda makes radio address calling for calm and
for people to
go to work as normal.
Aug. 21, 0800: Crowds and Soviet troops confront one another on
Square and Wenceslas Square. Tanks appear at the Museum and start firing at
nearby buildings and the National museum.
Dubcek and other party leaders are flown to Moscow and are compelled to
participate in talks with Moscow leadership. They sign a document in which
renounce parts of the reform program and agree to the presence of Soviet
Invasion draws condemnation from Western powers as well as
socialist parties in the West. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson calls on
to withdraw from Czechoslovakia.
Aug. 23: Svoboda flies to Moscow with large delegation of
Communist leaders to negotiate a solution.
Aug. 25: Czechoslovak leaders sign so-called Moscow protocol which renounces
parts of the reform program and agrees to the presence of Soviet troops in
Aug. 27: Svoboda returns to Prague with Dubcek, Cernik.
Aug. 31: 14th Party Congress declared invalid, as required by the Moscow
protocol. Censorship is reintroduced in the country.
Oct. 28: Czechoslovakia becomes a federal republic, the only
of the reform process that came to fruition.
Jan 16, 1969: Czechoslovak student Jan Palach sets himself afire
April 17, 1969: Dubcek removed as party first secretary, after
that follow Czechoslovak hockey team's victory over a Soviet team in
Dubcek replaced by Gustav Husak with full support of the Soviet Union.