As a teenager, Jan Kaplan took advantage of the new freedom to travel to visit London.
He describes the Prague Spring as typically Czech, comparing it with the attempts by national hero Jan Hus to gradually change the Catholic Church from within a century before the Reformation—a statue of the martyred reformer is one of Prague's landmarks.
|Student Jan Palach committed suicide by self-immolation in Wenceslaus Square |
to protest the crushing of the Prague Spring.
This still is from Burning Bush, a Czech miniseries set in the era.
'You can't live in central Europe and be landlocked and hope to change things except from within,' Kaplan says.
'The Czechs were developed, and the Russians were peasants, with an almost feudal form of control in the way that they implemented Socialism. The Czechs could have done it far more elegantly,' he adds wistfully.
That may be, but the Russians realized that their template for undermining democracy now threatened to break up the Communist bloc.
In August 1968, the Soviets decided to crush the 'premature perestroika,' and the Red Army that had once liberated Prague returned to shackle it.