Tag Archives: Czechoslovakia

Prague Spring

The origin and start of the Prague Spring

On the 5th January 1968, the Prague Spring began when Alexander Dubček became the new First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The Prague Spring lasted for just over seven months before the Soviet Union, along with other members of the Warsaw Pact, invaded Czechoslovakia to bring the reforms to a halt.

Dubček was a committed Communist, and had been First Secretary of the regional Communist Party of Slovakia since 1963. However he struggled to work with Antonín Novotný, the President of Czechoslovakia, under whose control the country experienced a slow and uneasy move towards destalinization while suffering a huge economic downturn. Frustrated by Novotný’s failure to effectively restructure the country, Dubček and other reformists challenged him at a meeting of the Central Committee in October 1967. In response Novotný secretly invited the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to visit Czechoslovakia to secure his support. However, this plan backfired when Brezhnev learned just how unpopular Novotný was and instead lent his support to remove him from power.

Consequently Dubček replaced Novotný as First Secretary on the 5th January 1968, and quickly began to introduce a series of political reforms. Known as “socialism with a human face” this political programme was intended to maintain Communist control of the government while allowing mild democratisation and political liberalisation. However, as the reforms took hold the government was faced with public demands to go even further. At the same time, the USSR and other Warsaw Pact countries began pressuring Dubček to bring the Prague Spring under control. On the 20th August they took matters in to their own hands and invaded Czechoslovakia.

Prague Spring Dubcek

Czechoslovakia and the Prague Spring 1968

Comparing and contrasting Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968

This I/GCSE History revision podcast looks at the uprisings in Communist Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  Although they were 12 years apart, they share some common similarities but also have some marked differences.  The podcast is divided into three main sections.  Considering Hungary first, then Czechoslovakia, I explain the respective causes of the uprisings, the events during them, and finally the consequences. The third part of the podcast compares the two revolutions.

The first part of the episode addresses the Hungarian uprising of 1956 from the downfall of Rakosi to the rise of Nagy and his own eventual execution before the USSR reasserted its control over Hungary through Kadar.  An explanation is given of why the USSR was so unwilling to allow Nagy’s reforms to take hold, and the extent to which the Hungarian people fought to assert their independence.

The second part of the revision podcast focuses on Czechoslovakia in 1968.  The policies of Dubček and the Prague Spring are outlined, along with their effect on the attitudes of both the Czech people and the Soviet Union.  The eventual demise of Dubček following the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is then described.

The final part of the podcast is arguably the most important for revising History GCSE and IGCSE.  The episode concludes with a comparison of the two uprisings, detailing an essay technique that helps you to explain the similarities and differences between them in an examination answer.  It doesn’t actually matter whether you think they were more similar or more different, but it is important to present a balanced answer as outlined in the podcast.

     

Gorbachev

Collapse of communism in eastern Europe

This is the final revision episode (for now!) in the series examining the Cold War for GCSE and IGCSE students.  Focusing on the collapse of communism in eastern Europe it assesses the effect of the Solidarity movement in Poland, and the role of Gorbachev, in bringing about the end of Soviet dominance in the region.  The second part of the podcast goes on to explore the specific experiences of major eastern European countries in the lat 1980s and early 1990s.

The podcast begins with Poland, where massive popular opposition to the government led to the establishment of the Solidarity trade union in the Gdansk shipyards.  The rise of Solidarity is described, along with the subsequent government clampdown under the government of Jaruzelski.  The impact of Solidarity is considered.

The second section looks at the USSR under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev.  His two key policies of perestroika and glasnost are explained, and their impact of Soviet foreign policy is assessed.

In the final section of the podcast, I describe the process through which the states of eastern Europe freed themselves from communist rule.  The most popular exam questions on the collapse of communism focus on asking WHY a certain event contributed to the end of the system, or ask to what extent a particular event was responsible.  Remember that to answer any of these questions you need to support your reason with solid evidence, and explain exactly WHY it contributed to the collapse of communism.

     

Losing Soviet control over eastern Europe

These three videos present the events that led to the end of communism in the Eastern Bloc.

PART 1 – Gorbachev, the attitude of Honecker, Hungary 1989, Poland 1989, Warsaw Pact Summit 1989, the economic and political situation in East Germany, the crossing of East Germans through Hungary

PART 2 – East Germany’s 40th anniversay demonstration, fall of Honecker, fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia

PART 3 – Uprising in Romania leading to the end of Ceausescu

Why did Britain and France appease Hitler?

“This documentary called ‘Did we have to Fight?’ (first broadcast 1999) explores Britain’s options in the run-up to the Second World War. It will be particularly useful for students of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain, and of the wider conflict.”

Hitler and the Road to War – ‘History File’ extract

An overview of how Hitler’s policies in Nazi Germany broke the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and contributed to the outbreak of World War 2 alongside the Allied policy of Appeasement.