Warsaw Pact invasion: 50 percent unaware 50 years on

During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning tank in Prague. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Fifty years on from the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia and almost 50 percent of the Russian population do not know anything about the event.

This and other statistics about the Russian-lead invasion have been revealed as the 50th anniversary of the military movement is remembered on Monday.

The poll from Russia’s Levada Center showed that 36 percent of the population thought the Soviet Union certainly or was likely to have “acted correctly” in sending troops into Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, 45 percent had difficultly answering whether the Soviet Union acted correctly or not – an increase of more than 11 percent from responses to the same question in 2003.

The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, officially known as Operation Danube, was a joint invasion of Czechoslovakia by the five Warsaw Pact countries: the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany and Poland. The two-day offensive against the political and social liberalization of Czechoslovakia – named the Prague Spring – resulted in a quick victory for the bloc.

More than 100 Czechoslovakian civilians were killed and 500 seriously wounded during the occupation. Speaking to The Guardian, Levada Center representative Lev Gudkov said the polling data reflects the resurgence of “Brezhnev-era propaganda, stereotypes of the Soviet period”.

Only 10 percent of 18 to 35-year-olds said they knew about the Prague spring, Gudkov said. “Young people don’t know and don’t want to know about what happened,” he said.

“These events are being forced out of the public memory.”

In the poll, 21 percent of respondents blamed a Western plot and 23 percent blamed a coup attempt by anti-Soviet leaders in Czechoslovakia for the events of 1968.

An estimated 18 percent of Russians called it a “rebellion against a regime installed by the Soviet Union” – down from 31 percent in 2008.

“I think this is the manifestation of the mass amorality of a great power, which has become the basis of the Russian imperialist revival under Putin and the support of the annexation of Crimea,” Gudkov said.

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