Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Alexander Dubček

Alexander Dubček (1921-1992) was a Slovak politician and was the leader of Czechoslovakia from January 1968 to April 1969.  His efforts to reform the communist government during the Prague Spring resulted in the Soviet-led invasion in August 1968.

He was born in Uhrovec, 157 km (98 miles) from Bratislava on 27 November 1921.  His father was a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and the family settled in Kyrgyzstan but returned in 1938.  Dubček was part of the resistance during the Nazi occupation.  Following the war he rose up the ranks of the party and in 1962 he became a full member of the Central Committee's Presidium.  In January 1968 he became First Secretary of the Communist Party.

Dubček's slogan of "socialism with a human face" ushered in the liberal reforms of the Prague Spring.  Although he remained loyal to communism he wanted Czechoslovakia to pursue its own path while maintaining a socialist government.  Censorship of the media was lifted which fuelled a new wave of Czechoslovak films.  Victims of the Stalin-era political purges were rehabilitated and strikes were legalised.  Equality in economic relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union was demanded along with a desire for Soviet advisors to be removed from the country.  He wanted real elections with secret ballots for party officials.  While his popularity soared with the people the loosening of control upset the communist hardliners.

The Soviets and leaders of other Warsaw Pact countries weren't happy about the reforms.  They didn't want a more westernised Czechoslovakia.  Dubček thought that as long as he reassured everyone that the country would remain loyal to Moscow then there wouldn't be any intervention like when Hungary was invaded in 1956.  He was wrong and on 20-21 August 1968 the country was invaded in the largest military operation in Europe since WWII.

Dubček and other five other reformers were arrested and taken to Moscow.  Brezhnev bullied him with threats of incorporating Slovakia into the Soviet Union while splitting Bohemia and Moravia into a new country under Soviet rule.  Dubček conceded and signed the 15 doctrines of the Moscow Protocol which ushered in a rigid era of normalisation that restored strict communist order in the country.

In March 1969 the Czechoslovak ice hockey team beat the Soviet Union at the World Cup.  Some fans went crazy and destroyed the offices of the Soviet airlines and some other institutions.  This came to be known as the Czechoslovak Hockey Riots and afterwards Dubček was forced to resign.  In 1970 he was expelled from the Communist Party.  He then worked in Slovakia for the Forestry Service.  He never got involved with any dissent groups.

Following the Velvet Revolution, he was elected Chairman of the Federal Assembly in 1989.  In 1992 he became leader of the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia and represented the party in the Czechoslovak Parliament.  On 1 September 1992 he was in a car crash.  As a result of his injuries he died on 7 November 1992.

Here's an interesting 10 minute video I found out on YouTube.

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