Red Square protest against 1968 invasion remembered

Roman Gazdík
19. 8. 2008 10:00
Participants invited to Prague for 40th anniversary
Pavel Litvinov was sentenced for five years in Siberia
Pavel Litvinov was sentenced for five years in Siberia | Foto: Memorial, Moskva

Prague - On 25 August 1968, eight people met on Red Square in the center of Moscow, the capital of the former Soviet Union.

After reaching an elevated point called Lobnoye Mesto, they rolled out their banners.

"Hands off Czechoslovakia! Shame on occupants! Vive free and independent Czechoslovakia! We lost our best friends! For our freedom and yours!"

In the heart of the Soviet monolith power, a few steps from the Kremlin, these people dared to criticize the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that took place four days earlier.

Read more: Josef Koudelka forgives Warsaw Pact troops for 1968

KGB confused at first

By doing this, these eight people brought on themselves many years of social ostracism, marginalization and even exile. 

"At first, there was chaos, KGB boys who thought we were Czechs had a hard time deciding what to do with us without orders form higher places," Vladimir Dremlyuga, one of the eight, remembers.

For our freedom and yours
For our freedom and yours | Foto: Memorial, Moskva

Eventually, the demonstrators were beaten up and transferred to a police station.

"Five minutes of freedom"

"I realized that the price I would have to pay for these five minutes of freedom on Red Square will be a few years in prison," poet Vadim Delone said in October 1968 during his final speech at court.

He was sentenced to two years and ten months in a labor camp.

From the group of eight, only the 22-year-old Tatiana Bayeva was freed of charge. The rest had to go through prisons and camps, harassment by Soviet authorities, brainwashing in "psychiatric" clinics, surveillance, house searches and faced the impossibility to find work.

Even Bayeva, who was convinced by the others to say she wasn't involved, was suspended from school one week after the protest.

40th anniversary

Some of them agreed to come to the Czech Republic as it commemorates the 40th anniversary of the invasion. They were invited by the Institute for the Studies of Totalitarian Regimes.

Read more: Czech TV to screen 1968 Soviet invasion live

One of them will be Natalya Gorbanevskaya, author of the novel Noon, which she wrote during their trial. The book subsequently publicized their case all over the world.

Red Square protest not alone

Gorbanevskaya was declared mentally ill by the Soviet authorities and was subjected to a psychopharmaceutical "treatment" until 1972.

Pavel Litvinov, who was sentenced to five years in Siberia, will be coming from his home in New York State.

Protests against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia took place in other Eastern Bloc countries, and their participants were invited as well. Among the attendees will be Bernd Eisenfeld, Toni Krahl and Franciska Groszerová (all from East Germany), Ágnes Hellerová (Hungary), Georgi Dimitrov (Bulgaria) a Tereza Stodolniaková (Poland).

Read more: 1968: Bilateral meeting anticipated Soviet invasion

Meeting with PM and President

On 21 August they will open an exhibit about anti-Soviet protests that took place in the Soviet bloc, with PM Mirek Topolánek participating in the ceremony. Some of them will meet President Václav Klaus as well.

The public will have an opportunity to meet them too. On 25 August, they will also participate in a forum in the Krásný ztráty bar in Prague.


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