The 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia was neither legitimate nor helpful
There is a lot of propaganda in the West but a documentary that Rossiya 1, a major Russian TV station, aired last month makes us sure that propaganda is equally alive and well in Russia.
The 44-minute documentary was called "The Warsaw Pact: Pages Declassified" ("Варшавский договор. Рассекреченные страницы") and the part dedicated to the invasion into Czechoslovakia starts at 13:45 and ends at 25:00 or 28:00, depending on what you count.
The film is rather incredible from the viewpoint of Czech and Slovak viewers and it has already led to some official diplomatic protests in both successor states of Czechoslovakia.
We don't learn at all who the leaders of Czechoslovakia were at the moment and what they were and weren't doing. We don't learn that all the changes were taking place exactly according to the laws of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. We don't learn about Czechoslovakia's democratic tradition and the new communist party's leaders' attempts to make the system less totalitarian and more free, more democratic, more modern, and more economically efficient. The Russian viewers aren't even told that the changes known as the Prague Spring were led by a new, pro-reform leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia led by Mr Alexander Dubček (who was Slovak).
Instead, everyone is supposed to believe that Czechoslovakia was on the verge of a fascist coup. The Warsaw Pact soldiers have found some weapons, we're shown. The civil war was around the corner. Now, why would someone believe such a thing in 2015? It's insane. In 1989, the changes that our society underwent were much more radical than a softer, more pro-freedom leadership of the communist party. We have enjoyed more freedom to act assertively because the Soviet Union would no longer act in 1989. Still, during the Velvet Revolution, not a single window was ever broken. Why would you believe that during much more moderate events of 1968, people would naturally not only break windows but start a civil war? Do you really think that the evidence seems compatible with such an expectation? People, including most of the rank-and-file members of the communist party, were simply ready for something else than the post-Stalinist regime.
The documentary also mentions some drills in West Germany. Should we really believe that those played a role?
We also learn about "Club 231" or "K 231", an organization of political prisoners that was named after the bill 231/1948 about the fight against the enemies of socialism. The Russian documentary says these basic things but claims that it was a fascist organization led by an old fascist named Jaroslav Brodský. And these organizations were full of people who were active Nazis during the war. Are you serious?
Brodský was born in 1920 and trained as a teacher and a librarian. As you can see, he was very young during the war. After the coup in 1948, he was picked as an inconvenient teacher who was politically close to Mrs Milada Horáková, the most famous victim of Czechoslovak communist judicial murders. I don't know exactly what Brodský did on every day of the war but I know what Horáková did and I know that there exists no evidence in the Czech or Slovak language that would imply that Brodský was a Nazi of a sort. This is probably a deliberate lie and if it is not, someone may have been confused by the name of Horáková's party, the Czech National Socialist Party. It surely sounds similar to the name of NSDAP but that's a purely linguistic coincidence and those parties had nothing to do with each other at all – in fact, the Czech National Socialists were an important component of the anti-Nazi resistance.
The claim that there were many Czechs who had been active Nazis during the war and who were waiting to start a coup is ludicrous for another, quite general and embarrassingly simple, reason. Unlike the Ukrainians etc., such Czechs couldn't really exist. During the war, we were a protectorate of Germany i.e. a part of the Reich that was directly controlled by ethnic Germans. Every Czech had to be obedient but no Czech was allowed to get to the power structures. This pretty much followed from the nationalist character of the Nazi ideology: non-Germans were simply not good enough to rule in the Reich and we were a part of the Reich. So all the people who were truly powerful in the Nazi hierarchy of power during the protectorate years were ethnic Germans and if they were really active as Nazis, they were either expelled or otherwise punished already in 1945. The idea that members of the "Club 231" who were people convicted according to a law from 1948 had been active Nazis during the war years is plain comical. It is a complete misunderstanding of what Nazism was, what it did with our country, and how it ended.
Slovakia was a formally independent country during the war years. One could have called it a clerofascist regime but it was a very soft and "nearly decent" country so people with some previous role in the Slovak state were unlikely to be "monsters". Moreover, except for Dubček and a few other guys, the Prague Spring was "mainly" powered by the Czech intellectual and political elite, especially folks in Prague, and much less so by Slovaks. And be sure about it, during the war, Dubček (the liberal communist boss) himself was a part of the communist anti-Nazi resistance in the Slovak state (and was wounded while doing so). Amusingly enough, Dubček was conceived in Chicago in 1921 but born in Slovakia and when he was 3, his family moved to the Soviet Union. ;-) By the bosses of the hypothetical fascist coup, you surely don't mean Dubček, do you?
If you try to find some people who may have mattered in 1968 (if the liberalization were allowed to continue) and who have had a hypothetical chance to deserve a "fascist" label, you won't find almost anyone closer than folks like Václav Havel. His family was less anti-Nazi than many others and he held obvious anti-Russian sentiments but it's just silly and insulting to call Havel a "fascist" (especially because he was born in 1936 – just compute how old he was during the war). The communist propaganda sometimes tried to invent such links but even those jerks weren't making this claim explicitly.
Needless to say, the Russian documentary says nothing whatever about the witty, hostile, yet totally peaceful "welcome" that the Warsaw Pact and especially Russian soldiers received. "Go home, Ivan, Natasha was waiting for you" is the most often quoted slogan that was everywhere. Traffic signs showing "Moscow 2000 km to the East" were everywhere, too. Barricades were being built by the Czechoslovak people. Instead, in the new film, a Russian general claims that they were welcome as heroes and bombarded by beer and apples by the grateful locals. Wow. Why don't you show us some pictures or films supporting such an extraordinary claim? I can show you tens of hours of films displaying the displeasure of almost all Czechs and Slovaks with the invasion.
The documentary also contains some weird errors that don't even seem to be very useful for the main propaganda message. For example, it claims that the whole Warsaw Pact "except for Albania" participated in the 1968 "fraternal help" to Czechoslovakia. Oh, really? The filmmakers must have forgotten that Romania – a much more important and "mainstream" country than Albania – refused to participate, too. While it's right that in that epoch of "Deep Cold War", a similar intervention designed to defend the territorial integrity of the Soviet bloc was extremely likely to occur, the Romanian attitude shows that it didn't have to be quite inevitable. The history could have proceeded differently but it didn't.
The "interpretation" of the events described in that movie almost exactly coincides with the "official Soviet picture" that the soldiers and others were told before they were sent to Czechoslovakia. (150,000 Warsaw Pact troops invaded my homeland in the first wave and the total number of troops involved is said to be 500,000. Please compare this number with the 7 Russian tourists in Donbass who are being used as a justification of sanctions and hostilities against Russia. We in Czechoslovakia know what an invasion is and there's been none in Ukraine.) So there is a counterrevolution and you will be helping our Czechoslovak friends. Needless to say, they came here and saw ordinary citizens with no weapons in their hands who were enjoying their newly freed cultural life and who weren't happy about the occupying forces at all but who were completely peaceful. Lots of these soldiers were asking: "Where is the civil war? WTF?"
The percentage of people in Russia who believe similar stuff – that the 1968 invasion was legitimate and helpful – was close to 50% and it is probably higher these days. Please. I know that TRF is being read by a small number of Russians but if you believe this trash, why don't you try to watch at least a few random films about these events on YouTube or elsewhere?
Again, remotely similar distortions (of other topics) exist in the West as well. But I just find these things amazing. Especially in the age of the Internet, it is not hard at all to find the basic facts about certain events. If a sufficient number of people were educating themselves, it would become embarrassingly indefensible to broadcast similar pure lies about events that are really not that far and that are being well remembered by many people who are still alive (perhaps one-third of our nation remembers those events). But despite the Internet, pure and self-evident lies still seem to be enough for TV documentaries – in Russia but obviously not only in Russia. It's sad.
BBC propaganda about Second World War
It's not hard to find near counterparts in the West, either. On the same week as the documentary above, BBC Two broadcast "1945: Savage Peace". It tries to claim that the bulk of the ethnic Germans who were either punished or expelled after the war were "peacefully living nice folks" etc. In this list of these nice chaps that deserved kisses, they also include Karl Hermann Frank, one of the most important Nazi officials in the Sudetenland. This SS-Obergruppenführer became the "Secretary of State" during the protectorate and personally ordered the extermination of two Czech villages in 1942, Lidice and Ležáky. On May 9th, 1945, Frank surrendered to the U.S. army here in Pilsen, was extradited to Czechoslovakia, tried, and hanged in 1946. BBC surely doesn't want to suggest that this particular guy could have also been treated differently, does it?
It's just amazing. Similarly, the (spontaneous execution of some Germans plus) expulsion isn't something that is occurring in the Heaven and I am not happy that it had to happen or proud that my ancestors had to do it. But they had to do it. And at any rate, it is damn obvious that an action exerts a reaction, too. Third Newton's law. The expulsion was an act that has fixed at least the most macroscopic aspects of justice. It also created a much more peaceful post-war arrangement in Central Europe where the inter-ethnic tension was eliminated. Well over 90% of the Sudetenland Germans were enthusiastic fans of the Nazi party. This majority has helped to destroy Czechoslovakia. They obviously committed treason, continued in the harassment of the Czech population during the war years, and could have been executed for that. Instead, they were generously just expelled which was really great for them because they could escape communism and live more free and prosperous continuations of their lives, too.
This BBC propaganda piece's efforts to present the Sudetenland Germans as angels who didn't deserve any punishment is completely analogous to the Russian documentary's goal of presenting the 1968 invasion to Czechoslovakia as a helpful fraternal help. Again, how stupid do you have to be to buy the claim that Karl Hermann Frank was a nice man who should have been handled kindly?