The film opens with printing presses turning out the first uncensored newspapers for 20 years. People are shown reading them enthusiastically. We then see shots of central Prague as the commentary tells us that the people want more reform than Czech leader Dubcek is proposing, and also warns that the USSR may stop further reform.
Czechoslovakia became a Communist state in 1948. Although it was independent, communist officials in the country were controlled directly by the USSR. By 1968 people in Czechoslovakia wanted change. This film report was made in July 1968 at the height of the reform period in Czechoslovakia. The reforms began in January 1968. Alexander Dubcek wanted to give Communist rule ‘a human face’. He removed censorship, restricted the activities of the secret police and brought in economic reforms. At the same time, he was loyal to Moscow and had no intention of leaving the Warsaw Pact. Dubcek’s reforms were popular and successful in Czechosloakia. However, they alarmed Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev was pressured by Communist leaders in East Germany, Poland and Romania to stop Dubcek. They were worried that their own people would demand reforms if Dubcek carried on without the USSR stopping him. Brezhnev tried to pressure Dubcek in a series of tense meetings in the Summer of 1968. Tensions seemed to be easing when Soviet tanks suddenly entered Czechoslovakia in August 1968.
Interesting or important points about the film
One interesting feature of the film is the focus on the ordinary people of Czechoslovakia. The film focuses on the views of ordinary people compared to their own political leaders and also hints at the concerns of the USSR at what is going on. As it turned out, the commentator’s concerns turned out to be right.