The Warsaw pact invasion of 1968 is usually being seen as an attack of soviet Bolsheviks on the freedom of Czechoslovakia. This is however a somewhat simplified view, the country lost its independence in 1938 and never regained it, writes Dag Daniš.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia from that point were part of the Nazi and later the communist totalitarian regimes. The country also became a battleground of geopolitical struggle. The reformist communists lead by Alexander Dubček were not radicals nor revolutionaries. They wanted to preserve Czechoslovakia as a socialist country which will stay in the communist bloc. On the other side were the orthodox Stalinists who felt threatened by the reformists. None of these sides is important when we are reflecting on August 1968.
The decisive forces were the West and Moscow and their geopolitical interests and fears. Moscow feared that similarly to Austria a country will not act neutral but rather getting close to the West. The Austrian way and the urge for neutrality was inspiring Hungary which left the Warsaw Pact in 1956 and was invaded by the Soviet Union.
Neutrality however does not work, geopolitics has its rules – it doesn’t preserve vacuum. Every neutral country, such as Austria, Switzerland, Sweden were acting as a strong part of the Western bloc. That is why the Hungarian uprising ended with Soviet invasion and why Czechoslovakia was facing a similar problem in 1968. Moscow feared that loosening ties with communism predicts the end of the communistic regimes as well. And they were right. The totalitarian regimes of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other countries were not here because they were chosen by the people or they were working well. They were here because the Soviet Union enforced them. The invasion of 1968 was a preventive “war.” It sent a message: no experiments with neutrality.