The events leading up to the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia were, for many observers looking back, inevitable. After two decades of oppressive Communist rule under the auspices of the Soviet regime, the country was ready for radical change. When Alexander Dubček was elected as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia the politician seized the opportunity for democratic reform. A period of ‘liberalization’ known as the Prague Spring was enacted, allowing an expansion of citizen civil rights and liberties, partial democratization, and decentralization of the economy. Restrictions on press freedom, travel and free-speech were also loosened. All much to the vexation of the USSR, who, in between failed negotiations with Dubček, watched closely.
On August 21, 1968, forces from five of the countries grouped in the Warsaw Pact invaded. Tanks flooded Prague’s streets as residents buffered the sidewalks and buildings, protecting the Czechoslovak Radio Centre and destroying street-signs to misdirect the Eastern Bloc invaders. During the political turbulence, Josef Koudelka was moved to document his country during the upheaval.