A term originally used by Western journalists to refer to a period of cultural and political liberalization in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Beginning January 5, 1968 when Alexander Dubček became first secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, the period was marked by Dubček’s attempt to create “socialism with a human face [socialismus s lidskou tváří]” in Czechoslovakia in order to shore-up popular support for the communist government in the face of economic troubles. Control of the press was loosened, accountability for police and security forces was promised, and plans were made to move toward a consumer economy to meet better the needs and desires of Czechoslovak citizens. As state control loosened, however, demands for further liberalization gained pace. The regimes of other communist states became nervous about the example being set in Czechoslovakia, leading to the Warsaw Pact invasion on August 20, and eventually to the reversal of reforms known as “normalization.” Following the invasion there was widespread popular outrage and passive resistance on the part of Czechoslovaks, but Soviet troops and the policies of normalization remained for some thirty years.
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