🎥 VIDEO OF THE WEEK: BBC reporter captures Prague just before August 1968 invasion

People seems cautiously optimistic about the Prague Spring reforms, although their joy would be temporary.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 26.07.2023 15:42:00 (updated on 26.07.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

A BBC report that aired 55 years ago this week captures Prague and its inhabitants just a month ahead of the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion.

The narrator points out that people are taking an unusual interest in reading the newspapers, which are filled with news of the promised economic reforms of the Prague Spring. People are eager to see more goods in shops, but Czechoslovakia is still a good 15 years behind the West, he adds. “People are happy that the government seems to be taking a line of its own against the pressures from Russia,” the narrator says.

He stops a few people on the street, who express support for then-Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubček and his reforms, and the desire to set out on a path without Soviet interference.

The narrator comments on the occasional disconnect between the rulers in Prague Castle and the people, adding that under Dubček that is set to change.

While he says the city is full of tourists, compared to today the streets seem relatively empty. Throughout the video, you can see náměstí Republiky, Na Příkopě Street, Wenceslas Square, Prague Castle, and Charles Bridge.

A representative of Czechoslovak TV tells the narrator that the new freedom of the press is worrying Russia. She adds that anyone who is not used to the idea is shocked by the opinions of some journalists, as previously only the official statements from the government could air, and people are afraid of anything new.

The narrator concludes on a less-than-optimistic note, saying that Czechoslovakia does not want a quarrel with Russia and will remain communist. He asks whether, in the future, Czechoslovakia will be virtually occupied like East Germany, disappointed in its hopes like Poland, or head toward prosperity like Yugoslavia. He concludes that the answer to at least half of those questions depends on the Russians.  

A similar video by newsreel company British Pathé called Prague - The Sad City was filmed before the invasion but released afterward, with somber narration about the unexpected turn of events.

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