Russia Invades Czechoslovakia

Published: 1968
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI

Announcer: In 1968, Russia ruffled her feathers and showed her power to the rest of the world when in August she and members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country of Czechoslovakia.

Unknown Speaker: "We just came over the border, and while -- while we were in Bratislava, we saw some shooting going on. I was standing on top of the Comenius University, and there were maybe a couple thousand people burning this huge canvas, and then they rolled it up and burned it and a tank went over it and it was spinning over and then some shots; and I went inside and the -- some bullets came right over my head, about -- about three or four feet over my head, and -- and then I -- I fled away, and as soon as I -- I was inside I saw them. They were carrying this … this boy of about 20 years old and he was … all over his stomach it was all blood and everything. It was just … it was just terrible."

Announcer: The story of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia is next on the United Press International 1968 in Review.

It was mid-afternoon when the rumble of Russian tanks broke the silence of the streets of Prague, Czechoslovakia on August 20th, 1968.

Unknown Speaker: "On the streets of Prague is a -- the strange turf, actually. There are tanks all over the city. They seem to concentrate in the center of the city at a place called Wenceslas Square. And the odd thing is that people eventually mill around in the square in quiet times, and to they're just mulling around. The women are carrying children, they're walking their dog. They stand and -- and watch as the tanks go by; the young people hoot at the tanks and they boo and whistle and jeer, and they … I found one young man carrying a -- they carry many, many Czechoslovakian flags. I found one young man take his flag and stick it into the tank's track and shoot the flag up. But people, they don’t really look at the tank. As they come, as the tanks roll up the square, the people will stand in front of it and sort of look to one side and pretend it's not there and just step out of the way just in time for the tank to roll by, and tanks don’t slow down."

Announcer: Since early in the year, the Czech Government had been aggravating the Russians with announcements of liberal reforms, reforms that by Russian standards were inconsistent with the Communist way of political life. Russia warned them that they would not accept these changes. A summit meeting was held in July; the Czechs came from the meeting optimistically with plans to continue their reforms, but little did they know that Russia had other plans.

United Press International’s News of 1968 will continue right after this message.

Announcer: Reports from Prague throughout the siege made constant reference to the courageous defiance to the Russian military might by the Czech people, especially the young Czechs …

Unknown Speaker: "The old people would argue with the Soviet truck drivers and the tank drivers; but the young people, they were the ones who were trying to instigate these blockades and harassment of any kind, anything that was available they used. Young kids 10 years old, 12 years old, young kids would get right close to the tanks and with drifts and you just -- you know, just sling 'em at the -- at the -- the tanks. And we learned later, although we didn’t see it happen, that a Russian soldier was shot from the State Bank of Czechoslovakia from the roof, and ne was -- the Russian soldier was killed, lying in the pavement, and they opened up a barrage of fire on the wall of the bank and bullet holes all through the windows and the side of the … the bank."

Announcer: The Russians eventually pulled most of their troops from the country, but not until Czech leaders promised to adopt unpopular measures that would at least slow down the liberal reform of their country.