The people were dissatisfied with the party leadership. We couldn’t change the people, so we changed the leaders.
—ALEXANDER DUBCEK, 1968
ON JANUARY 5, 1968, the day Dubek took over as leader of the Czech Communist Party, while Czechs and Slovaks cheered, his wife and two sons could not help crying at the miserable fate that had befallen him.
At the center of one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Soviet-dominated Central Europe stood a gray, ambiguous man. Despite being six feet four inches tall, all his life Alexander Dubek was always described as unobtrusive. But he was not as dispassionate as he appeared. By the time he had deposed Novotny´, whose nickname was Frozen Face, the animosity between the two men had a twenty-three-year history.
When Dubek took office at age forty-six, he did not seem youthful. Tall, enigmatic, often a dull speaker, but the inspiration for millions of energized youth, Dubek in some ways resembled Senator Eugene McCarthy. In fact, he had come very close to being born in the Midwest.
“I was conceived by a pair of Slovak socialist dreamers, who happened to immigrate to Chicago,” Dubek wrote. In 1910, Stefan Dubek, an uneducated Slovak carpenter, weary of a Slovakia repressed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and without opportunities, walked out of his mountain home along a curving bank of the Danube until he had reached Budapest, the domed and tree-lined capital of his oppressors. There he organized a socialist cell in a furniture factory and dreamed of overthrowing the monarchy. The factory management quickly realized what he was doing and fired him. Soon after, he immigrated to America, which he had been told was a land of democracy and social justice. He settled into a Slovak community on Chicago’s North Side.
American capitalism seemed a harsh system, neither as free nor as just as he had been told, but at least he could speak his political beliefs without being arrested, and he would not get drafted into World War I to fight for the monarchy he hated. The entry of the United States into the war was a blow to American socialists, who were generally opposed to war—and had believed Wilson’s promise that he would keep the United States out of war. Stefan, a pacifist—a belief that would reemerge in his son, Alexander, at a critical moment in history—went to Laredo, Texas, to meet up with Quakers and other pacifists who could help him get across the border to sit out the war in Mexico. But he was caught, arrested, fined, and imprisoned for a year and a half. When he was released, he returned to Chicago and met and married a young Slovak, Pavlina, who, unlike Stefan, was a devout communist. At Pavlina’s urging, Stefan studied Marx. When his sister in Slovakia wrote that she was getting married, he sent her a lengthy political questionnaire with which to screen the prospective groom. Stefan became very excited about the revolution in Russia, and in a letter to Slovakia in 1919 he wrote, “In America you can have most things but you certainly can’t have freedom. The only free country in the world is the Soviet Union.”
After nearly a decade of struggle for socialism, Stefan was disappointed with the United States and Pavlina missed her country, so in 1921 they took their baby and, with Pavlina pregnant, moved back to Slovakia to a newly created Czechoslovakia, and that is how Alexander Dubek, born a few months later, came to be a Czechoslovakian. He had many relatives on both sides in America, though he had no contact with them until near the end of his life when they started writing him letters after the fall of communism.
The new country where Stefan vowed to build socialism at first seemed exciting. Czechoslovakia had been thought up by a Prague professor, Tomás Garrigue Masaryk. At first the country seemed as though it would be an equal union among Bohemians, Moravians, and Slovaks. To Slovaks this was an enormous reversal of history, because since the tenth century they had always been the downtrodden and abused fiefdom of some powerful state. The Czech lands, Bohemia and Moravia, had had a late-nineteenth-century industrial revolution that had produced a literate middle class, including bureaucrats and technocrats with which to staff a new government. But after one thousand years of rule by the Magyars of Hungary, Slovakia was an impoverished agricultural region much like the neighboring part of Poland. Few Slovaks could read or write even in their native Slovak language. Most were peasants on very poor land. They had first expressed their nationalism in 1848, a year of rebellion not unlike 1968 except that the events were limited to Europe. In 1848 the Slovaks rose up against the Hungarians and demanded equal rights in a document known as Demands of the Slovak Nation. This became the model for Slovak nationalism, and its author, Ludovit Stur, became the Slovak national hero long before and after Masaryk. By a strange coincidence, when Stefan and Pavlina Dubek moved back to Slovakia, they settled into a cottage where Stur had been born in 1815, and it was there that Alexander Dubek was born.
The Slovaks’ Hungarian masters and Czech neighbors had always regarded them with condescension. If Slovaks had listened closely to Masaryk, they would have realized that he harbored that same contempt. He tended to characterize Slovaks as backward, lacking political maturity, and being “priest-ridden”—all familiar, pejorative Czech stereotypes of Slovaks.
But Masaryk enjoyed great popularity among not only the Czechs but the Slovaks. At the end of World War I, he traveled to America and gained the support of Woodrow Wilson; then he moved to Paris, where in October 1918 he formed a united Czechoslovakian government, managed to get it recognized by the allies, and returned two months later to a newly created nation in which he was the national hero.
From the beginning there was the “Slovak problem.” The Slovaks demanded that the new nation be called Czecho-Slovak and not Czechoslovakia, but the Czechs refused to grant that small hyphen of separation. This was the first of many arguments the Slovaks lost.
Little Alexander had almost no memory of childhood in Slovakia except a tame deer that lived behind the church and a St. Bernard dog that it grieved him to give up. He would be seventeen the next time he saw Slovakia. If Slovakia was backward, it was not nearly as underdeveloped as Kirghizia in the Soviet Union, where the Dubeks moved voluntarily in 1925 to raise their children on an agricultural cooperative.
Soviet Kirghizia, now called Kyrgyzstan, was four thousand miles from Slovakia, near China. It was not enough in the Iron Age to have metal for plowshares, and nearly the entire population was illiterate, since Kirghiz was not a written language. The Dubeks never reached their original destination. After traveling twenty-seven days, the rail line ended in a barren place called Pishpek and there they stayed, living in decrepit, abandoned military barracks. They helped build a farming cooperative, bringing in tractors. The local people, who had never seen one, ran after them, shouting, “Satan!” In the early years, there was so little food that Dubek remembered eating raw sparrow eggs in the shell. From there they went to the Russian industrial center of Gorkiy. Stefan did not bring Alexander back to Slovakia until 1938, when Stalin decreed that foreigners had to take Soviet citizenship or leave.
Alexander was now seventeen, and the exciting new Czechoslovakia was twenty years old and full of disorder and disillusionment. He had inherited his parents’ ideology but for a long time, it seemed, not their rebellious natures. He was an orthodox, Soviet-educated communist. During World War II he was a partisan in a band of guerrilla fighters known as the Jan Ziska Brigade, named after a fifteenth-century fighter. They fought a rear guard action against the Germans. Years later his official Party biography made much of this wartime experience. He was wounded twice in the leg. His older brother was killed. In 1945 his father, Stefan, was deported by the Germans as a communist to Mauthausen concentration camp. There he found one Antonín Novotny´, a prominent Czech communist who had also been deported. Novotny´ vociferously vowed that if he survived, he would never again have anything to do with politics.
In 1940, in a house where his father was being hidden, Alexander met Anna Ondrisova, about whom he said, “I think I was in love at first sight.” In 1945 Dubek married her and remained in love with her until she died in 1991. Rare for such an orthodox communist, Dubek married her in a church. When in 1968 Dubek became leader of Czechoslovakia, he was the only chief of a European communist country who had been married in a church.
Czechoslovakia is the one country that became communist by a democratic vote. Unfortunately, as often happens in a democracy, the politicians were lying. In 1946 Czechoslovakia, newly liberated by the Soviet Red Army, voted for a communist government that promised there would be no collectives established and that small businesses would not be nationalized. By 1948 the communists had complete control of the country, and in 1949 the government began taking over the economy, nationalizing all enterprises, turning farms into state collectives.
Alexander Dubek was a hardworking, serious-minded Slovak Party official carefully sidestepping the issue of Slovak nationalism. He was Slovak enough to be acceptable at home, but not so much that it would be of concern to the Party leadership in Prague. In 1953 he became regional secretary for an area of central Slovakia. That year Stalin died and Khrushchev began dismantling the most rigid excesses of Stalinism—everywhere but in Czechoslovakia. That same year Frozen Face Novotny´ was appointed first secretary of the Communist Party. Novotny´ was poorly educated and his career had shown little promise until he displayed a flair for fabricating evidence in Stalinist purges such as the campaign against the number two government figure, Party secretary-general Rudolph Slansky. Slansky was a brutal member of the dictatorship, probably guilty of many crimes, but he was tried and executed for Zionism. It did not matter that Slansky, far from being a Zionist, had disagreed with the Soviet Union’s early support of Israel. The word Zionist was being used not to designate supporters of Israel but to refer to people of Jewish origin, which Slansky was.
Before the Slansky trials, Novotny´ and his wife had once been invited to the home of Foreign Minister Vladimir Clementis, and Novotny´’s wife had admired the Clementises’ porcelain tea service. After Clementis was executed in the Slansky purges, with the help of Novotny´’s doctored evidence, Novotny´ bought the porcelain for his wife.
Paper pulp for construction was made from millions of library books full of dangerous Western ideas. The people of Czechoslovakia were listened to and closely watched by a tight network of secret police agents and neighborhood snitches performing their patriotic duty for the revolution. The citizenry had almost no contact with the West and only limited connections with the rest of the Soviet bloc.
Dubek’s job was developing the backward Slovak economy. He stood by patiently while the simplest of ideas were rejected. He and other leaders in his town of Banska Bystrica meekly approached Party leaders to suggest that a new cement factory be relocated to a spot that would not only avoid pollution in the town, but also had plentiful limestone deposits, since cement was made from limestone. The town had even offered to cover the expenses, which, he could demonstrate in his carefully detailed plans, would not be great. The proposal was rejected as the meddling of “narrow-minded bourgeoisie of Bystrica.” Industrialization was too important to be left to a bunch of backward Slovaks. The cement factory was built by the original plan, showering the town, like so many Slovak towns under the industrialization program, with dust, while the entrance to town was marred with an overhead cable railroad to transport limestone.
Dubek said nothing. He seldom criticized the government or the Party, either, for incompetence or brutality. In 1955 he was rewarded with a place at the Higher Party School in Moscow. He seemed thrilled by the honor and the opportunity to improve on what he regarded as a poor education. He felt that he lacked “ideological training.” But his three years of advanced ideology in Moscow turned out to be a vague discipline, because Khrushchev had denounced Stalin, leaving the school uncertain about what it should be teaching. Dubek returned from a reforming Soviet Union to a still-Stalinist Czechoslovakia in which Novotny´ had now become president. Since Novotny´ still headed the Party, the country was, for the first time, under one-man rule.
Students and young people were not afraid to show their displeasure. At cultural festivals in both Prague and Bratislava, they openly demanded more political parties, access to Western books and magazines, and an end to the annoying buzz, the jamming, that accompanied broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and the BBC World Service.
Dubek’s new education was rewarded with the position of regional secretary of Bratislava. He was now one of the important Slovaks. He still believed in blind Party loyalty, but to whom? Coming from Moscow, he was very aware that Novotny´ and Khrushchev were not saying the same things. Dubek was careful not to express his animosity toward Novotny´, though Novotny´ made no effort to hide his animosity toward Slovakia. According to Dubek, Novotny´ was “particularly ignorant about almost everything that concerned Slovakia and Czecho-Slovak relations, which was, of course, depressing for me.” In 1959, changes in the constitution dismantled the few remaining vestiges of Slovak self-government. While the Slovak people were enraged, the Slovak leaders were anxious only to please Novotny´ and serve Prague.
Dubek had disdain for the special recreation area Novotny´ had built for Party officials to spend their weekends. “The place itself was very nice, located in a charming part of the Vltava River Basin,” he recalled. “But I detested the whole idea of it—the isolated luxury enjoyed by the leadership under police protection.” His enduring image of Novotny´ was his passion for a card game called “marriage.” The bureaucrats looking for advancement were eager to be invited to play marriage with Novotny´, who dealt out the deck inside a huge beer barrel he had built in front of his house for the purpose of hosting these card games. Dubek did not play and instead spent the periodic obligatory weekends at the retreat playing with children or going for long walks in the forest.
Occasionally he had open conflict with Novotny´. “These confrontations,” he later wrote, “arose when I dared to offer differing opinions first on investment priorities in Slovakia and later on the rehabilitation of victims of the 1950s repressions.” But as a second-rung figure, Dubek could do little to change government, and he said and did very little. He was a Communist Party careerist.
In the early 1960s, Dubek served on the Kolder Commission, which looked into redressing government abuse in the 1950s. This work made a lasting impression on him. “I was dumbfounded,” he later wrote, “by the revelations of what had been going on in Czechoslovak Party circles in Prague in the early 1950s.” It is still not certain if he really had not known of these abuses before. But he did seem deeply shaken by the revelations of the Kolder Commission, and so did many other officials. Novotny´ came under tremendous pressure to reorganize his government. In 1963, when because of the commission’s findings the Slovak Central Committee was able to remove the first secretary they regarded as a Novotny´ quisling, it was the quiet Alexander Dubek they chose to replace him. This was done over the shouting of Novotny´, who stormed out of the session and never again attended a meeting of the Slovak Central Committee.
In the mid-sixties, life became more difficult for Novotny´. His friend Khrushchev was replaced in 1964 by his plotting protégé Brezhnev at the same time that the Czechoslovakian economy had taken disastrous turns. The economy had been catastrophic for years, but the Czech lands had started out at a level so far above those of everyone else in the Soviet bloc that it took years before the consequences of mismanagement became devastating. Slovakia, lacking the Czechs’ starting advantage, had been suffering for a long time. But now even the Czechs were experiencing food shortages, and the government had ordered “meatless Thursday.” With the combination of uncertain support in Moscow and unhappy people at home, Novotny´ eased up on the police state. Censorship became less severe, artists, writers, and filmmakers were allowed more freedom, and some travel to the West was allowed.
It was still a very repressive state. The literary magazine Tvar was shut down. There were limits to what could be written, spoken, or done. But Czechoslovakians flourished with the small margin of freedom they had been finally allowed. With the West no longer completely cut off, Czech youth immediately tapped into the vibrant Western youth culture wearing Texasskis—blue jeans—and going to clubs to hear the big beat, as rock and roll was called. Prague had more young people with long hair, beards, and sandals than anywhere else in central Europe. Yes, in the heart of Novotny´’s Czechoslovakia, there were the unshorn rebel youth of the sixties—hippies—or were they the rebel youth of the fifties, beatniks? On May 1, 1965, May Day, when the rest of the communist world was celebrating the revolution, the youth of Prague had crowned the longhaired, bearded beatnik, visiting poet Allen Ginsberg, Kraj Majales, King of May. “Ommm,” chanted Ginsberg, the Jew turned Buddhist, who even while embracing Eastern religion was to many young Prague residents the embodiment of the exciting new world in the West. For his coronation speech he clanked tiny cymbals while chanting a Buddhist hymn. After a few days of following him through the dark, ornate back streets of the center city, the secret police had him deported. Or, as he wrote it in a poem,
And I was sent from Prague by plane by detectives in Czechoslovakian business suits
And I am the King of May, which is the power of sexual youth,
And I am the King of May, which is industry in eloquence and action in amour,
And I am the King of May, which is old Human poesy, and 100,000 people chose my name,
And I am the King of May, and in a few minutes I will land at London Airport. . . .
But as Stefan Dubek would have readily pointed out, one is not completely free in America, either. When Ginsberg returned to the United States, the FBI placed his name on a list of dangerous security risks.
For all its repression, despite the mustached men in Czechoslovakian business suits, Prague was becoming popular. In 1966 three and a half million tourists visited the country, a fifth of them from the West. Czech movies such as Closely Watched Trains and The Shop on Main Street were being seen around the world. Milos Forman was one of several Czech directors sought internationally. Czech playwrights, including Václav Havel, were earning international reputations. Havel, perhaps not the most theatrical but the most politically stinging of the Prague playwrights, mounted plays of absurdist antitotalitarianism that would never have been seen in the Soviet Union. In The Memorandum, a bureaucracy prevents creative thinking by imposing a made-up language called Ptydepe. Havel often laughed at the language of communism. In another play, a character burlesques Khrushchev’s habit of concocting meaningless folkisms. The Havel character asserts, “He who argues with a mosquito net will never dance with a goat near Podmokly.”
In November 1967 a small group of Prague students decided to do what they were now hearing of students doing in the West. They held a demonstration. The issue was poor heat and lighting in the dormitories—neither the first nor the last student movement to start on a seemingly banal issue. They discovered, as many students in the West were also beginning to find, that it was fun to demonstrate. They marched in the dark of early evening, carrying candles to symbolize the dim light by which they said they were forced to study. It looked as merry as a Christmas procession when they headed up the narrow stone streets to Hradcany Castle, which housed the government. Suddenly they found their way blocked by police, who clubbed the few demonstrators to the cobblestone pavement and then dragged them off. About fifty needed hospitalization. The press reported simply on “hooligans” attacking the police. But by then people could decipher the code, and word spread quickly of the beatings, creating an even larger protest movement. By the end of 1967 students were handing out flyers and debating with anyone who would engage them on the street, and they looked very much like students in Berlin, Rome, or Berkeley. True, they were being watched by secret police, but so were American and Western European student demonstrators.
During the 1960s both Slovak nationalism and Novotny´’s animosity toward Slovaks grew. In 1967 the Slovaks defied the government and the Soviets by cheering Israel’s victory in the Six Day War. By 1968 the Middle East had become a favorite political metaphor in the Soviet bloc. It was a sign of trouble in Poland that the Poles, instead of showing their loyalty to Soviet interests, thrilled to the spectacle of the Jews defeating Soviet-trained troops. In March 1968, when Romania wanted to assert its independence, it strengthened its ties to Israel.
After January 5, the removal of Novotny´ as Party chief filled Czechoslovakia with hope, excitement, and gossip. One of the favorite stories concerned why Brezhnev had not come to Novotny´’s defense. When Khrushchev was replaced by Brezhnev, Novotny´ had been so upset by the undoing of his Soviet friend—they had even spent vacations together—that he had actually called the Kremlin. Whatever Brezhnev’s explanation, Novotny´ was not satisfied and he angrily threw down the phone, hanging up on the new Soviet leader. Brezhnev had a very long memory.
In 1968 both the Soviet Union and the people of Czechoslovakia put their hopes and trust in a tall, mournful-looking man with a faint smile, a man who had never shown great flair or imagination, which in any event were not qualities the Soviets encouraged. Dubek had no foreign experience. Except for the Soviet Union, he had been abroad only twice, both times in 1960, when he had spent two days in Helsinki and had gone to a Party conference in Hanoi.
But Dubek and many of his colleagues in the new government were of a unique generation, people who grew up with Nazi occupation, who saw a world of good and evil in which the Soviet Union was the force for good, the hope for the future. Zdenk Mlyná, who became part of the Dubek government, wrote, “The Soviet Union was, in that sense, a land of hope for those who desired a radical departure from the past after the war and who also, of course, knew nothing of the real conditions in the Soviet Union.”
The real question of the time was not why the Soviets accepted Dubek, but why the Czechoslovakians did. After twenty years of Stalinism, the nation was hungry for change, and they decided that Dubek might deliver it. As Mlyná pointed out, before 1968 the people of Czechoslovakia never learned very much about the character of their leaders, and so if this new one seemed difficult to read, they were accustomed to that. And by chance he was well suited for the youth of 1968. He was nonauthoritarian, a fact that seemed to be confirmed by his uneasiness in public and his dull speaking style. Young Czechoslovakians liked this awkwardness. In the end it would translate into a fatal tendency to make decisions too slowly, always the weak point of antiauthoritarianism. But in a small group he could be extremely persuasive. Most exciting of all, he was a leader with a habit of listening to others. Perhaps what had been true of Ludovit Stur, the officially outcast Slovak nationalist in whose house he was born, was also true of Dubek, as Dubek had said in an unorthodox speech three years earlier defending Stur: “He understood all the principal social and economic problems and the tendencies of his period, and he understood that everything must change.”
Dubek’s weeping family could see the spot he was in. He had to convince the energized people that he was a reformer, show the old-line figures in the Party and government, the Novotny´ men, that he could be trusted, and demonstrate to the satisfaction of Moscow that he was in control of this uncontrollable situation.
Dubek never mastered the situation. He simply tried to steer it, balancing the opposing forces, using the skills he had hewn as a Party man. He made no attempt to purge Novotny´ supporters. Years later he would speculate that this may have been his greatest mistake. There had been a 5 to 5 split in the presidium, what the Soviets had started calling a Politburo, that forced the vote to the Central Committee. And so these powerful bodies, normally packed with the chief’s men, were full of old-time communists who had been loyal to Novotny´ and did not really like Dubek. Even his chauffeur and the secretarial staff in his office were Novotny´ people.
Being a Slovak further complicated his position because Slovaks expected him to now strike a blow for Slovak nationalism, whereas the Czechs muttered about “a Slovak dictatorship.”
Meanwhile the country was full of factions with demands and expectations. The journalists wanted to know what to expect from censors under the new regime. Dubek offered no guidance on this or many other urgent issues. Later, historians spoke of the “January silence.” Dubek seemed to have come to power completely unprepared, with only a few vague notions: He wanted to help the Slovaks, improve the economy, respond to the demand for more freedom. But he had no programs, and he had the Novotny´ loyalists and the Kremlin to watch at his back.
He did not seem comfortable in Prague, a large and grandiose capital for a man who had fit in in Bratislava, with its few streets along the Danube, an occasional dilapidated ornate building from the old empire, filled in with blocks of low-ceilinged Stalinist housing for the people and a lone castle on a weedy hill. What few relics there were in Bratislava were crumbling, as were the new buildings. But now at age forty-six, Dubek suddenly was working in palaces, being driven by Novotny´’s man through a town of European grandeur.
The silence of Dubek created a vacuum in which many things could grow. On January 27 a newsstand appeared in the historic center of the city selling newspapers from around the world from both socialist and capitalist countries. The shop provided a reading room where coffee was served. In the evening people would fill the little room and sit and read Russian, West German, French, and British newspapers. Without censorship, the national press flourished, with newspapers vastly increasing their press runs and still being sold out early in the morning. There had never been unfettered press like this anywhere in the Soviet bloc. The papers were filled with stories of government corruption. They also attacked, exposed, and ridiculed Soviet government. They would fight one another for circulation by running bigger and better exposés of Soviet purges or Czech venality. Novotny´, never before scrutinized by the press, was exposed. He and his son, it was revealed, used a government import license to obtain Mercedeses, Alfa Romeos, Jaguars, and other Western cars with which to amuse women. When they got tired of a particular car, they could always sell it to friends at an enormous profit. Novotny´ could not survive the scandal, and without Dubek ever seeking it, on March 22 Novotny´ was forced to resign from the presidency.
The following day Dubek and his leaders were summoned to a Warsaw Pact meeting in the East German city of Dresden with its still burned and bombed out center. Significantly, Romania was not invited. In the winter of 1968 Moscow was far more troubled by Romania than by Czechoslovakia. While Dubek was trying to be the good disciplined communist, Romania’s Nicolae Ceaus¸escu had been showing increasing independence since the aftermath of the Six Day War, when Romania became the only Soviet bloc country not to sever diplomatic ties with Israel. Czechoslovakia had been the first to follow the Soviets and cut ties, which in the eyes of many Czechs had made Novotny´ look too subservient. In late February the Romanians walked out of a Communist Party International Conference in Budapest. Even worse, two weeks later, at a meeting of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet military alliance, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Romania refused to sign a communiqué endorsing Soviet and American nuclear weapon reduction. Romania said it was protesting the way the two superpowers dominated the dialogue without conferring with smaller countries.
So if the Soviets were upset with someone in the bloc, Dubek did not expect it to be him. Only weeks before he had written an article in Moscow’s Pravda in which he said, “Friendship with the USSR is the foundation of our foreign policy.”
Dubek had thought the Dresden meeting would be an economic conference. Suddenly he felt on trial. One by one the other leaders, the Poles, the East Germans, accused him of failing to be in control of the Czechoslovakian situation. Dubek looked to his one ally, János Kádár of Hungary. The Nationalists back in Bratislava could have laughed at the spectacle of a Slovak turning for help to their old oppressor. Even Kádár attacked him. What seemed to most trouble everyone, and especially Brezhnev, was that the press was running wild, writing about whatever they wanted, completely out of the control of government. What the Soviet Union demanded of its satellite country leaders was first and foremost that they be in control. The press had actually played a role in Novotny´’s dismissal from the presidency and was still demanding he be expelled from the Central Committee and even the Party.
They were right. Even after Dresden, when Dubek first realized the extent to which he was upsetting the Soviet bloc, he was unable to rein in the press. Freedom for their own press as well as access to Western media was to the Czechoslovakian people of primary importance. There was no subject on which there was less room for compromise.
But there was no turning back. Czechoslovakia could no longer live in isolation. Suddenly Prague was watched, talked about, even seen on television in many lands, and what the Czechs and the Slovaks were doing in the beginning of 1968 sent shock waves through the entire communist world and attracted the attention of young people throughout the West. Suddenly a Prague student who had never seen the rest of the world, bearded and in Texasski jeans too stiff and too blue, felt part of a liberating world youth movement.