Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic has moved one step closer to declaring August 21st a national remembrance day in honour of the victims of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia.
On Wednesday, the Czech Senate approved an amendment to the law on public holidays establishing August 21st a national day in memory of the invasion of Czechoslovakia from Warsaw Pact troops in 1968.
In October, the lower house of Parliament had approved the text by a wide majority. All but one lawmaker from the Communist Party (KSCM) had opposed the bill.
KSCM deputy-chair Stanislav Grospic later sparked outrage when he appeared the downplay the significance of the event, claiming that the 1968 Soviet-led invasion “was a tragic moment” but “wasn’t an occupation”, and that “the people who died were mainly victims of traffic accidents”.
During the night of August 20-21st 1968, nearly half a million Soviet-led troops from the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, a vast program of liberalization reforms implemented by Alexander Dubcek. The invasion remains one of the most tragic dates in Czechoslovak modern history.
A recent study by the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes shed some light on all the victims from the invasion and subsequent occupation, as well as the circumstances of their death.
The amendment on the Czech legislation of public holidays includes a set of other proposals, including celebrating May 1st, not only as Labour Day, but also to commemorate the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU, 15 years ago.
The bill still has to be signed into law by President Milos Zeman, who sparked controversy last year after refusing to deliver a speech on the 50th anniversary of the invasion.