21 August 2008

Prague, August 21, 1968

"That week in August is a historical experience that cannot
be wiped out of the awareness of our nations, though we
can't say yet what it really meant, or what marks it has left
on the genetic material of society, and how and when these
will manifest themselves." ~ Vaclav Havel (1987)

Prague, August 1968. Photograph © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos.

I have never been to Prague. Some day, with luck. This evening, of course, is the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Soviet invasion of the then Czechoslovakia ~ an indefensible act of violence. I call your attention to this slide show of photos (including the one I've lifted above) of the invasion and resistance by Josef Koudelka over at the Magnum blog. And I call your attention too, to this essay by Adam Michnik (neither a Czech not a Slovak, but a Pole) on the unanticipated implications of the suppression of "the Prague Spring." His remarks, like the passage from Havel above, remind me of a theme Rebecca Solnit raises repeatedly on the unexpected and unforeseen ways of political change. I've posted on this theme several times before ~ for example, here and here and here.
P.S.: I've resisted posting on "1968" in part because there is probably too much being written about it. But for some reflections and re-assessments see Dissent, Democracy Now! (here and again), openDemocracy (many times), In These Times (here & here) ...

PS2: (Updated 24 August) I just came across this story which, among other things, reports:
"a recent poll . . . found that 70 percent of Czechs younger than 20 have "no opinion" on the events of 1968."

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Blogger rod said...

Writing from Prague and fresh from the 'physical' Koudelka exhibit, one is quite sad to find the city covered up in ads and signs and more 'capitalist' in look than any other European capital I have seen.

I don't really have much to add to what you say, except a quotation of Slavoj Zizek, speaking last week at the Sarajevo Film Festival when, in one of his usual excursi, he said that the Prague Spring saved democratic socialism; Under the conditions at the time either normalization would have come later or the country would have 'fallen' to capitalism.

I have to say I have to agree with it. Not that it makes it less sad seeing the tank on Wenceslas' Square here today; a tourist attraction. And the painful memories of the hope these peoples once had.

Hope you are having a good summer; From a reader's perspective, definitely a productive one.

(You still 'owe' me a good jazz starter kit!)

24 August, 2008 12:40  

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