In the early years of Radio Free Europe, the U.S. station – although initially founded and largely secretly funded by the CIA – played a critical role in providing balanced, objective news to listeners in the Eastern Bloc, especially during turbulent periods of history. Having failed to live up its own standards when covering the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, RFE took a radically different approach to its coverage of the Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, says former RFE director A. Ross Johnson.
The Russian embassy in Prague has denied that former WWII Red Army marshal
Ivan Konev took part in the planning of the 1968 Soviet Pact invasion of
Czechoslovakia to suppress the reformist communist movement in the country.
The embassy pointed out that Konev had already retired from an active role in the army in April 1963 and had been transferred to the army general inspectorate. It added that there was no archive proof of his participation in the 1968 preparations.
The denial comes as the Prague 6 district is reported to be preparing to put a plaque on a monumental statue of Marshal Konev describing his preparations in the 1968 invasion. The statue is a frequent target for attacks. Konev led the Red Army forces that entered Prague at the end of the Second World War.
On August 25th, 1968, just four days after Russian tanks rolled through Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring reform movement, eight brave Russians staged a daring protest on Moscow’s Red Square, unfurling banners that read “Hands off Czechoslovakia!” and “Shame to the Invaders!”. They were quickly surrounded by communist police, beaten up and arrested. Most of them spent years locked up in prison, labour camps or in psychiatric institutions.
Ladislav Hornan, who is chairman of the British Czech and Slovak Association, has enjoyed a very successful career and led one of the UK’s top accountancy firms for many years. He came from a relatively privileged background in Prague, where his mother Magdalena Horňanová was a music professor and writer. Unusually, Mr. Hornan returned regularly to Czechoslovakia after emigrating in 1968. Until, that is, he spent almost a month in a Prague jail on spying charges in the mid-1980s. In a meeting room at his company’s City of London building he shared
Czechs are marking the 49th anniversary of the death of student Jan Palach who set himself on fire on January 16, 1969, in protest to the growing public apathy to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He died three days later; he was just 20 years old. A number of events were scheduled to honour his memory and sacrifice including a memorial ceremony at the Philosophy Faculty at Charles University on Tuesday afternoon.
Fifty years ago on January 5, 1968, the news came out of the ongoing central committee party meeting of the Czechoslovak communist party that Slovak, Alexander Dubček, had been chosen as the new party boss. Dubček was little known in Czech circles but his name would soon be known around the country and the world.
Moscow has issued a sharp protest over the vandalizing of a statue of
Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague which was spray painted with the dates
1956, 1961, 1968 and 2017 earlier this week. The Russian Foreign Ministry
denounced the act as vandalism and an insult to those who had laid down
their lives in the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
The incident happened shortly after an offensive article appeared on a Russian web which said the Czech Republic should be grateful for the 1968 Soviet-led invasion which had brought the country 20 years of peace and stability. On a state visit to Russia, President Zeman protested against the insult to his country and Russian Prime Minister Medvedev publicly distanced himself from the article.
Marshal Konev is perceived as a controversial figure in the Czech Republic. After being present on several fronts in WWII, Konev was involved in the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and was also present in Berlin for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
In his twenty years as editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber and Faber, Robert McCrum introduced some of the best Czech writers, including Václav Havel, Milan Kundera and Josef Škvorecký, to English speaking readers. This was in the days before the fall of communism and his visits to Czechoslovakia involved a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. A few days ago Robert McCrum returned to the Czech Republic, to see how the country is faring on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion. He spoke to David Vaughan.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitriv Mededev has distanced himself from the
article published on the website of Russian state-wide television channel
Zvezda on Tuesday, maintaining that Czechs should be grateful that
Soviet-led forces invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.
During a meeting with Czech president Miloš Zeman in Russia, Mr Medvedev said the article didn’t reflect the position of the Russian leadership and expressed the personal opinion of the author.
The article in question claimed that the Soviet led forces had prevented the West from orchestrating a coup in the then-communist country by means, it claimed, which were delayed until 1989.