The Soviet Reassessment of the 1968 Decision and the Making of the „Gentle Revolution“ of 1989

  • Jiří Valenta


By 1989 the Soviets realized that the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 had been a very costly undertaking in terms of the Soviet’s broad national interests. ln retrospect, the Soviets appear to believe that a political solution would have been preferable. The re-evaluation and then condemnation of the decision to invade Czechoslovakia was part of .a larger, quite comprehensive reexamination of the Soviet policy during the Cold War, carried out within the framework of new political thinking. As they moved forward with their critical analyses, Gorbachev and his colleagues realized, and admitted so publicity, that the Soviet reform process (broadly referred to as perestroika), had much in common with some of the reforms of the Prague Spring of 1968. This conclusion arrived against the back drop of revolution and democratization in Eastern Europe, and constituted a de facto rehabilitation of Alexander Dubček's ill- fated experiment. Although Gorbachev's leadership bas not encouraged a thorough reassessment of the 1968 invasion, as it did the invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviet policies toward Czechoslovakia and Eastern Europe have nonetheless reflected profound changes in Soviet thinking, which have in turn favored sweeping political changes in the region. Facing potentially explosive conditions in Czechoslovakia and in East Germany and the possibility that harsh dealings with them could harm U .S. - Soviet relations, Gorbachev chose to turn his back on Leninist orthodoxy and allowed the beginnings of democratization to take place in these countries. This reflected a new Russian image of national security. Though still evolving, this concept does not include the old requirement that there be Leninist regiments at the Soviet periphery. The fact that the Soviets did not intervene to protect the Leninist regimes threntened and then toppled in the series of revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989 is a testimony to the enormously changed Soviet ideology on security.

Author Biography

Jiří Valenta