On this day in 1968, the Soviet Union led a Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring. In January of the same year, Slovak reformer Alexander Dubček had begun a decentralization program in Czechoslovakia, focusing on the economy and democracy. He liberalized regulations on personal freedoms and orchestrated the country's peaceful division into the Czech and Slovak Republics. Russia would not accept these reforms and used military force to restore soviet order. Czechoslovakia would remain under Russian control until the 1989 collapse of East Germany spread across central and eastern Europe in the following year.
Gorbachev credited the Prague Spring for inspiring glasnost and perestroika. The only difference between the Prague Spring and Gorbachev's reform movement has been described as "nineteen years." While not ultimately as successful as the Polish Solidarity Movement, the Prague Spring was a watershed moment for political freedom - and its defeat by Russian militarism was a critical blow to Communism's moral and intellectual standing.