This week marks the 45th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The invasion and subsequent occupation of the nation was intended to put an end to the liberal policies enacted by reformist president Alexander Dubček‘s that began after his election in January 1968. Dubček’s democratic reforms included a loosening of restrictions on the media, speech and travel as well as other general acts that partially decentralized the economy. The Soviet Union saw these particular measures as a threat to the cohesion of communist bloc nations in Eastern Europe and after several failed negotiations with the Dubcek government, invaded the country along with several other Warsaw Pact nations ( the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary) on August 20th, 1968.
During the invasion , 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed with close to 300 severely wounded. Alexander Dubček called upon his people not to resist yet ,throughout the nation, there was scattered resistance in the streets. In a clever (and humorous) act of defiance, road signs in towns were removed or painted over—except for those indicating the way to back to Moscow. Many small villages renamed themselves “Dubcek” or “Svoboda” (Slavic for “freedom” or “liberty” ) making it impossible to navigate the countryside without navigational equipment.