Echoes of the «Prague Spring» in the circles of the Soviet dissident intelligentsia

Mikhel D.V.


This article examines how the idea of intellectual freedom, proclaimed as one of the main values by the ideologues of the Prague Spring, resonating in the circles of the Soviet dissident intelligentsia. Academician A.D. Sakharov came to the «Prague Spring» through an internal conflict between a scientist and a citizen – a conflict in which, as he believed, the citizen defeated the scientist, and therefore the nuclear physicist A.D. Sakharov, having left his institute, turned to human rights activities. Sakharov's echo of the «Prague Spring» can be heard entirely in his «Reflections on Progress, Peaceful coexistence and Intellectual Freedom». A.I. Solzhenitsyn took the «Prague Spring» as his brainchild – he considered the letter to the 4 th Czechoslovak Writers' Congress the cause of the changes launched in Czechoslovakia, and as the first real battle with the hated «regime » – a lost battle, but which strengthened the losing side – the Soviet and Czechoslovak dissidents. Historians – dissidents M.Ya. Heller and A.M. Nekrich saw the «Prague Spring» as a freedom island in the realm of «real socialism», on which socialism first broke its teeth and then its neck. For them, the «Prague Spring» was also an occasion to reflect on themselves and their relationship to their former fellow citizens in the USSR, who perceived the demise of the «Prague Spring» as a necessity. The question of how the call of the Prague Spring resonated in Soviet dissident intelligentsia will lead us to different answers, depending on how we interpret one of the long-term consequences of the Prague Spring itself: the collapse of the Soviet state. Under the wreckage of this disintegrating state, after years of its unsettlement and inhabitation, the distant «Czechoslovak events» of 1968 look only like an inevitable episode in a chain of other historical events – Mikhail Gorbachev's «new thinking», Perestroika, the Belovezha Accords, bloody wars across the perimeter of the former USSR. However, this same event can also be seen as a test of humanity, conscience and wisdom, political restraint or fervor.


Prague Spring; intellectual freedom; A.D. Sakharov; A.I. Solzhenitsyn; M.Ya. Heller and A.M. Nekrich.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2021.04.10

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