The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968-69

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Learning aims:

  • Explain why Dubcek introduced reform in Czechoslovakia
  • Explain why the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia
  • Explain the impact of the Prague Spring on international relations

Key events

  • Communist Coup in Czechoslovakia and the death of Jan Masaryk (sometimes referred to as the ‘third defenestration of Prague – the other first two occurred in 1419 and 1618!


  • On Stalin’s orders, the Czech government carries out a series of purges and victims included democratic politicians but also military leaders, Catholics, Jews, People with wartime connections with the West and even high ranking comunists


  • Khrushchev replaced as Soviet Leader by Brezhnev


  • January – Alexander Dubcek was elected leader of the Czech government and was approved by Brehznev and trusted to make the country less unpopular whilst remaining loyal to the Soviet Union
  • April – Prague Spring reforms began
  • Turning point came when Dubcek invited Ceausescu of Romania and Tito of Yugoslavia for talks – communist leaders of countries not in the Warsaw Pact
  • August 20 – 500,000 Soviet troops invade Czechoslovakia and ended the Prague Spring
  • September 26th – Pravda newspaper published speech setting out the Brezhnev doctrine


  • January 16th – Jan Palach, a 20 year-old university student set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in protest and died 3 days later of his injuries
  • April – Dubcek dismissed

Watch the following video without taking notes and try to remember as much as you can. Get ready for questions at the end.

Read and answer the questions that follow:


  1. Working with your group, list as many reasons as you can why communism was unpopular in Czechoslovakia before 1968.
  2. Look at the measures Dubcek proposed in the Prague Spring. Epxlain how each one might make communism more popular
  3. Why do you think Brezhnev sent Dubcek back to Prague in 1968, instead of removing him from office straight away?
  4. Express the Brezhnev doctrine in your own words
  5. What were the key effects of the Soviet invasion on relations between the Soviet Union and other communists in Europe?
  6. What were the key impacts on relations between the USA and the Soviet Union?
  7. How was the USA’s reputation affected by the whole affair?


The Significance of Jan Palach

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