The background of the invasion
The process of de-Stalinization in Czechoslovakia had begun under the presidency of Antonín Novotný in the late 1950s and early 1960s. ČSSR was quite industrialized before World War II and the Soviet model mainly took into account less developed countries. Novotný’s attempt at restructuring the economy, the 1965 New Economic Model, spurred increased demand for politic reform too. But The Soviets were dead against it and began to consider a military alternative – the invasion. On the night of 20–21th August 1968, Eastern Bloc armies from four Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland —invaded the ČSSR.
The terrible night
That night, 2,000 tanks and 200,000 troops attacked the country. They first entered the Ruzyně International Airport. The Czechoslovak forces were confined to their barracks and by the morning of 21 August Czechoslovakia was occupied.
Dubček as a symbol of liberty – During the occupation by the Warsaw Pact armies, 72 Slovaks and Czechs were killed, 266 were severely wounded. Alexander Dubček called upon his people not to resist. However, there was sporadic resistance in the streets. Road signs in towns were removed (in order the armies from Warsaw Pact lose their bearings). Only those that indicated the way to Moscow were not removed.
Daring enterprise – However, on the night of the attack the Czechoslovak Presidium announced that Warsaw Pact troops had crossed the Czechoslovakia border without the knowledge of the ČSSR government. There was a previously unseen wave of emigration immediately after the invasion (it is estimated that about 70,000 people fled abroad).
The Brezhnev Doctrine – The Brezhnev Doctrine declared that the U.S.S.R. had the right to intervene when the country in the Eastern Bloc that seemed to be making a shift towards capitalism.