This fascinating account, by a Czech-speaking American diplomat
who lived in Czechoslovakia from 1967-1969, describes the collapse
of a repressive Communist regime, the subsequent unprecedented
explosion of popular freedom, the surprise Soviet occupation, and
the spirited passive resistance of the population until the gradual
strangulation of the Prague Spring. Drawing on his own journal,
recent memoirs, and documentary materials in the National Archives,
the author shows how American diplomats and senior U.S. officials
analyzed and reacted to ongoing events. He explains how reform
leader Alexander Dubcek became wedged between enthusiastic popular
support and the objections of ultra-orthodox Soviet leaders.
Skoug's economic and commercial responsibilities gave him
considerable access to Czechoslovak officials even in the Novotny
period, and he was an eyewitness to the invasion and many other
crucial events of the period, including the great patriotic
demonstration of March 1969 which the Soviet Union exploited to
force Dubcek's resignation.
Despite overt Soviet pressure, neither Prague nor Washington
anticipated intervention. The Johnson Administration, courting
Moscow for help on Vietnam, displayed calculated indifference to
the dispute and reacted tepidly to developments. Left alone, the
Czechoslovak population met the invader with militant, if passive,
resistance, but the Dubcek leadership capitulated to Soviet demands
and acquiesced in an occupation that gradually betrayed all of the
gains achieved. Subsequent reluctance by Washington to criticize
Moscow helped the Soviet Union cut its diplomatic losses. On the
other hand, the Czechoslavak crisis may have helped to persuade
Gorbachev to allow Eastern Europe to resolve its own affairs in
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