By Kevin Stoda, Germany
Retrospectively, no one could really have predicted what king of Revolutionary Autumn awaited Europe in 1989.
In late April 1989, I found myself traveling to visit Prague, Czechoslovakia for the first time.
I was planning to enjoy the great city’s beauty and legend during its annual great music festival, called the Prague Spring International Music Festival. Since I was traveling on a student’s budget, I slept in a train car coming from Nuremberg into the bulge well-south of the Fulda Gap and none-to-far from where Pershing II missiles (with multiple warheads) had been stationed some years before. Click here.
The Prague Spring (International) Music Festival was founded just after WWII, i.e. in 1946. Click here.
Originally the festival was intended to celebrate the end of that horrible war and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Prague Philharmonic. The first festivals focused primarily on Czech music, but the festival eventually expanded to one of the premier international music festivals on the continent—and world. Click here.
In an amazing but poignant contrast, modern historians refer with the same phrase “Prague Spring” to refer specifically to the year 1968—when Czechoslovakia’s one-time head, Alexander Dubcek, followed the dreams and voices of his people to create a communism or socialism in Central and Eastern Europe with a much more human face. Click here.
Like the ‘Chinese solution” in Tiananmen Square 21-years later, the experiments of the Czechoslovakian people its leadership led to the occupation of various city squares of across the country as heavy-handedly the small country was occupied by Soviet, Polish, East German and other Warsaw Pact states’ military in August 1968. Click here.
The people of the Czech and Slovak federation had not originally sought to embrace the West with the fervor of many of those peoples did in 1989-1990. They didn’t perceive of the system as totally broken.
Instead, the Dubcek-led government had simply tried to reform the system by providing more reforms and improvements through people-friendlier governance, administration and an expansion of individual freedoms.
However, as the BBC noted on the 21st of August, 1968, “Russian brings Winter to Prague Spring.”
Meanwhile, between summer 1968 and autumn 1989, the borders between the socialist Czechoslovakian/East German States and West German were always of concern and were seen as a place where tensions needed to be constantly prepared for between Eastern and Western alliances. Click here.
Geographically, western Czechoslovakia, provided(s) a bulge, which is threatening to the west, north, and south. This is why German and NATO troops trained each year for an invasion from the Warsaw Pact states, often in and around the Fulda Gap just north of Czechoslovakia.
The Fulda Gap was the most focused on point of concern, but the border between southern Germany’s Bavarian state was also seen as a soft underbelly of the German and NATO defenses. Click here.