The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech parliament, proclaimed the official holiday will be known as the Day in Memory of the Victims of the 1968 Warsaw-Pact Invasion and Subsequent Occupation.
On the night of August 20, 1968, the Soviet armies of the Warsaw Pact stormed into Czechoslovakia. According to the authors of the draft bill to commemorate the day, this event was one of the most tragic dates in Czechoslovakia’s modern history. Up to 250,000 Soviet troops and 2,000 tanks invaded. During the course of the invasion, over 100 Czechoslovakian civilians were killed and hundreds injured.
The occupation was meant to put a halt to liberalization reforms being advocated through the Prague Spring, which left the Soviets fearful Czechoslovakia would move closer to the West. Ordinary civilians offered tokens of resistance by arguing with Soviet troops, spraying anti-Soviet graffiti and demonstrating, but the overwhelming might of the Soviet armies crushed all resistance.
“The gratuitous invasion of Warsaw Pact troops meant not only the end of the democratization and humanist efforts to reform the socialist system in Czechoslovakia but also significant sacrifices to the lives of innocent civilians,” the draft bill further proclaimed.
The draft was signed by 90 deputies from all parliamentary groups except the Communist Party and is now going to the Senate for appraisal.
The Cabinet also introduced an amendment to permit a second official title for the day, allowing it to be called the “Remembrance Day for Victims”. The second title passed with 130 of the 137 deputies present voting in favor.
In the current parliamentary term, the parliament already decided to rename the existing holiday on November 17 from the Day of Freedom and Democracy to Day of Freedom and Democracy and International Student Day.