Describes the collapse of a repressive Communist regime, the subsequent unprecedented explosion of popular freedom, the surprise Soviet occupation, and the spirited passive resistance of the population until the gradual strangulation of the Prague Spring.
This fascinating account, by a Czech-speaking American diplomat who lived in Czechoslovakia from 1967-1969, describes the collapse of a repressive Communist regime, the subsequent unprecedented explosion of popular freedom, the surprise Soviet occupation, and the spirited passive resistance of the population until the gradual strangulation of the Prague Spring. Drawing on his own journal, recent memoirs, and documentary materials in the National Archives, the author shows how American diplomats and senior U.S. officials analyzed and reacted to ongoing events. He explains how reform leader Alexander Dubcek became wedged between enthusiastic popular support and the objections of ultra-orthodox Soviet leaders. Skoug's economic and commercial responsibilities gave him considerable access to Czechoslovak officials even in the Novotny period, and he was an eyewitness to the invasion and many other crucial events of the period, including the great patriotic demonstration of March 1969 which the Soviet Union exploited to force Dubcek's resignation.
Despite overt Soviet pressure, neither Prague nor Washington anticipated intervention. The Johnson Administration, courting Moscow for help on Vietnam, displayed calculated indifference to the dispute and reacted tepidly to developments. Left alone, the Czechoslovak population met the invader with militant, if passive, resistance, but the Dubcek leadership capitulated to Soviet demands and acquiesced in an occupation that gradually betrayed all of the gains achieved. Subsequent reluctance by Washington to criticize Moscow helped the Soviet Union cut its diplomatic losses. On the other hand, the Czechoslavak crisis may have helped to persuade Gorbachev to allow Eastern Europe to resolve its own affairs in 1989.