The day the Russians rolled into Prague

The day the Russians rolled into Prague


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2018

Fifty years ago today we awoke the the news that Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces had marched into Czechoslovakia overnight, toppling the Prague Spring government of Alexander Dubcek and reimposing Kremlin terror.

It was a sickening blow to those of us who believed in a gentler road to coexistence.

Many Czech and Slovak friends escaped in the following weeks. Others went silent for years.

Much of the new music that welled up in the six months of freedom was suppressed. A Soviet orchestra was barracked at the BBC Proms. Slava Rostropovich, who played the Dvorak concerto, was in tears.

Everybody lost something that day.


  • rita says:

    I was at that prom. – it was a moving occasion to say the least.

  • Lonesome Foghorn says:

    Something analogous is happening in Western societies today. Not overtly with a tank invasion but with an insidious, Orwellian ideology: the economic wasting of the middle class, punitive measures against free speech and the subordination of the individual to the collective by state force. Meanwhile a tiny elite creams off all the wealth.

  • adolphus says:

    This is fake news. It never happened. Russia has never attacked a country.
    In reality, all the images are from Budapest 1956, not Prague 1968.
    (E.g. the Vespa you see in the last video is a 1950s model.)

    • lancelot says:

      and who attacked Budapest 1956?
      perhaps nobody in prague could afford a new vespa??

    • Paul says:

      Let us hope that Adolphus was being sarcastic, but his comment about Budapest is an afront to the Czech people, and should be removed from this site as hate speech similar to those who deny the holocost or that children were actually killed in a school. Norman, please moderate and remove such comments.

  • Bogda says:

    Interesting though how in Czech Republic events from 1968 are called Russian (Soviet) occupation/ invasion, however Second World War Nazi period is known only as protectorate. (L

    • Furzwängler says:

      That’s because the German name for the occupied Czech lands (not Slovak) was Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren / Protektorát Čechy a Morava). Easy enough to look up! The Czechs were truly blessed with a kind and beneficient ‘Reichsprotektor’ called Reinhard Heydrich. Look him up.

      • Bogda says:

        Of course I know how Germans called it. But that’s ridiculous argument. Soviets certainly didn’t call 1968 – occupation.
        Its utterly bizarre to call and remember as a nation the whole period of Second World War under Nazi rule as time of protectorate. Not sure If there is any other county in Europe who remembers Second World War in similar terms.

        • Furzwängler says:

          As we all know, the Germans loved, and were masters of, euphemisms for the dreadful things they did. There is a whole website out there somewhere dedicated to the doublespeak they used for their euthanasia programme and, later, for mass murder on an industrial scale. It makes for interesting – if often unpleasant – reading.

        • MacroV says:

          This seems just a matter of semantics. Most of the Czechs from war years obviously are dead now. I’m not sure – even after living there for three years – what they called that time, but if they called it a “protectorate” it wasn’t with any fondness; they often expressed their appreciation for the Americans showing up, but unfortunately not going farther east than Plzen. You know what happened to Heydrich and the fellows who did it are still honored as heroes.

          As for the Soviets, well, the problem was that they came to “liberate,” but then never left. Then came again with reinforcements in 1968.

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    Its funny as some commentators always try to bring capitalism or nazism to a situation entirely provoked by the communist criminals of the Warsaw pact ! On that day my dad made my brother and I listen to Smetana and Dvorak. I still remember vividly.