1968_Red_Square_demonstration

1968 Red Square demonstration

The 1968 Red Square demonstration (Демонстрация 25 августа 1968 года) took place on August 25, 1968 at Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, that occurred during the night of 20-21 August, 1968, crushing the so-called Prague spring, a set of de-centralization reforms promoted by Alexander Dubček.

Prague spring and place for execution

Many people over the world had protested against the suppression of the Prague spring with troops of USSR and other countries of the Warsaw pact. One of acts of such protests took place in Moscow, at the Red Square. The protest was held at the Lobnoye Mesto, to avoid any violation of public order that could have occurred during the demonstration. They were sitting to avoid any inconvenience to ordinary citizens which might be caused by them standing, although this appears to have had little effect.

The protest

The protest began at noon as eight protesters (Larisa Bogoraz, Konstantin Babtsky, Vadim Delaunay, Vladimir Dremluga, Pavel Litvinov, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Viktor Fainberg, and Tatiana Baeva) sat at the Lobnoye Mesto and held a small Czechoslovak flag and banners with various slogans, including:

  • "We are losing our best friends" («мы теряем лучших друзей»),
  • "Ať žije svobodné a nezávislé Československo!" (Long live free and independent Czechoslovakia),
  • "Shame to the occupants" («Позор оккупантам!»),
  • "Hands off the CSSR" («Руки прочь от ЧССР!»),
  • "For your freedom and ours" («За вашу и нашу свободу!»),
  • "Freedom for Dubchek" («Свободу Дубчеку!»).

Within few minutes, seven protesters were assaulted by the seksots, loaded into cars, and handed over to the KGB. The Czech flag was broken, and the banners were confiscated. Since Natalya Gorbanevskaya had recently given birth, she was not made to stand trial. The other protesters convinced 21-year old Tatiana Baeva to declare that she had been at the Lobnoye Mesto by accident, and she was released soon after.

The KGB failed to find out which protester was holding which banner; therefore, all the banners were attributed to each protester, except for Tatiana Baeva, who was released. The banners were branded by the KGB as "anti-Soviet".

Trial

During the investigation and trial, the defence revealed several inconsistencies in the accusations. One of the eyewitnesses declared that he saw protesters leaving the GUM, a large store in the vicinity, even though this store is closed on Sundays. Additionally, all eyewitnesses happened to be from the same military division, even though they all claimed that they ended up on Red Square accidentally. However, these inconsistencies were not taken into account during the trial.

Reaction to the trial and recognition of protesters

Lawyers for the defence had shown that there was no criminal intent in the demonstration held by the protesters , but despite this, the protesters received harsh sentences of up to several years in prison.

It was claimed by Yuliy Kim that the sentences had already been written down before the trial. Yuliy Kim wrote the song "Ilyich", which mentions Andropov's and Brezhnev's anger regarding the demonstration, and names three of the participants: Pavel Litvinov, Natalya Gorbanevskaya and Larisa Bogoraz.

The public recognition of protesters lated for 40 years. During the conflict in South Ossetia, August 2008, the first president of Chech republic Václav Havel had expressed his simpaties to the protesters. The Czech Premier Mirek Topolánek recognized the heroism of protesters with awards. Yet, no similar recognition is reported from the side of the Russian government. Instead, August 24, 2008, the similar demonstration with slogan For your freedom and ours happened at the same place .

References

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