Occupation of Czechoslovakia 1968 – 50 years after

On 5th September 2018, the conference  Occupation of Czechoslovakia – 50 years, organized by MEPs Ivan Štefanec (Slovakia) and Jaromír Štětina (Czech Republic) in cooperation with the Czech Center in Brussels and the European People's Party (EPP) faction in he European Parliament  was held in Brussels.  

The conference was attended by historian Petr Blažek from the Institute for Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague, political geographer Michael Romancov from the Institute of Political Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University in Prague, journalist and essayist Adam Drda from Post-Bellum Association – Memory of the Nation and president of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) Grigorij Mesežnikov. 

Ivan Štefanec opened the event by his introductory speech, followed by Jaromír Štětina, who presented his personal testimony from August 1968. 

Based on rich factual material, Czech participants pointed out  the diverse contexts of the so-called “revival process” in Czechoslovakia 1968 (“socialism with a human face”, Prague Spring). They focused on historical, geopolitical and ideological factors, on the circumstances of the various political actors' decisions in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, on their personal characteristics and doctrinal background. Speakers agreed with the conclusion that despite the efforts of the reformist wing inside the then leadership of Czechoslovak Communist Party to promote changes in society, the existent type of socialism in Czechoslovakia (the Communist regime implanted after the Second World War in Central Europe by the Soviet Union) was non-reformable and that the military invasion of the Soviet Union and its allies from the Warsaw Pact was quite expected. 

In his contribution, IVO president pointed out the select aspects of the “revival process” in Slovakia, perception of the events of 1968 by  Slovak public today, and the revisionist attempts of contemporary  Russia to influence development in Central European countries through ideological activities (for example, through specific socio-political narratives) which are in harsh contradiction with principles and norms of liberal democracy and with interpretations of events of 1968 used nowadays in  Czech Republic and Slovakia (the “revival process”, invasion, occupation and normalization). 

At the end of the conference, the exhibition The Occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was opened in the European Parliament building, which was attended by the Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Ševčovič, Ambassador of Czech Republic to Belgium Jaroslav Kurfürst, Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic in the EU Peter Javorčík and Director of the Czech Center in Brussels Jitka Pánek Jurková.

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