Spring's End: 50 Years Since The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

Throughout much of 1968, the government of Czechoslovakia, led by Communist Party chief Alexander Dubček, carried out an extraordinary and fateful experiment.


Believing that more economic, political, and cultural openness would reinvigorate the communist project, Dubček set about constructing what he, and the intellectuals who backed him, called “socialism with a human face.” Censorship eased, more competitive elections were proposed, economic decisions would be cautiously decentralized.

Moscow was incensed. The Kremlin saw Dubček’s idealistic tinkerings with Soviet orthodoxy as an existential threat to the Kremlin’s hold over the Eastern Bloc. And so fifty years ago last night, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sent half a million troops into Czechoslovakia to snuff out what had become known as “the Prague Spring.” Dubček was arrested and deposed. The Soviets would stick around, heavily resented, for two decades.

Why did it matter back then? The invasion made it clear that no reform of socialism was possible, marking a turning point at which many intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain made the perilous leap into outright opposition. One of those intellectuals was a young Czech playwright named Václav Havel. It would take nearly a quarter of a century for the work of those dissidents to bear fruit, but the seeds were sown in August of 1968.

Why does it matter now? For years the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia confirmed for many in Central Europe that a chronically imperial Russia would never fully respect their sovereignty. After communism fell in 1989, that fear drove them to seek EU and NATO membership. But today, amid growing friction between the region and Brussels over European values and rules, polls show that close to 40 percent of Czechs and Slovaks, along with more than 20 percent of Hungarians and Poles, say Russia can be a valuable partner in pushing back against an overbearing EU.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

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