Utopias and “Normality”: 1968 Revisited Fifty Years On
US : American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies
4 (winter 2018)
890 - 896 p.
Prague Spring, 1968, democracy
The Prague Spring of 1968 did not provoke a major international crisis but at most an “incident” in the making of east-west detente. Yet it deserves to be revisited for three reasons of lasting significance for Europe. First, the Prague Spring revived, beyond the contemporary writings on Czech “democratic exceptionalism,” the European debate about the relationship between socialism and democracy. Second, it was often interpreted as part of an international generational revolt against the establishments, yet it also revealed sharp contrasts between east and west. Can the misunderstandings and different legacies of 1968 in Paris and Prague be enlightening for trans-European dialogue (or lack of) after 1989? Third, Czechoslovakia in 1968 represented the most far-reaching blueprint for reforming the system within the Soviet sphere. Its crushing prevented reform in eastern Europe and Moscow. Although it provided inspiration for Gorbachev's belated, botched attempt to save the system, this was twenty years too late, thus paving the way for its implosion in 1989.