Putin: 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia was 'a mistake'

According to the Russian president, the Soviet Union's actions in the 1950s and 1960s 'strained relations' more than needed.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 12.09.2023 12:59:00 (updated on 12.09.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprising admission during an economic forum in Vladivostok, describing the Soviet interventions in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in August 1968 as mistakes of Soviet policy. This candid acknowledgment came as a response to a question about whether the Soviet Union had acted like a colonial power when it dispatched tanks to Budapest and Prague during those tumultuous decades, Reuters notes.

No mention of current Russia-Ukraine war

"This part of Soviet policy was a mistake," Putin said at the forum, emphasizing that Russia, unlike the West, has never behaved like a colonial power. Notably, however, he did not mention Russia's recent military involvement in Ukraine.

Putin's remarks in Vladivostok also drew attention to the West's foreign policy, suggesting that it is making similar mistakes. He asserted that a policy that clearly undermines the interests of other countries is inadmissible, and noted that Western nations are currently making such errors, echoing the consequences of Soviet policies of the past.

"We admitted a long time ago that this part of the Soviet Union's policy was wrong and only led to strained relations”

Russian President Vladimir Putin

In November 1956, Soviet troops were sent to Hungary to quell an uprising against the Soviet dictatorship, an event that continues to be a source of tension between Russia and Hungary to this day. In August 1968, Moscow ordered the invasion of Czechoslovakia, with the stated goal of preventing the Prague Spring, an attempt to democratize the communist regime and introduce "socialism with a human face." 

A changing stance?

While Russian newspapers have repeatedly propagated the Soviet perspective, claiming that the Warsaw Pact troops were preventing a Western coup attempt in 1968, Putin's recent admission appears to signal a shift in Russia's stance towards these historical events. During a 2017 visit by former Czech President Miloš Zeman to Russia, Russian media emphasized that Czechoslovakia should be thankful to the Soviet Union for its actions in 1968.

The majority of Putin's speech at the forum was centered on the development of Russia's Far East and economic matters. However, his candid admission regarding Soviet mistakes in Hungary and Czechoslovakia will undoubtedly generate discussion and analysis in the international community, particularly in the context of Russia's ongoing geopolitical relationships.

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