Alexander Dubcek

Sakharov Prize Laureate 1989
dubcek Alexander Dubcek (1921-1992), was one of the catalysts behind the process of renewal and change in the former Eastern Block and the leading figure in the reform movement known as the Prague Spring in 1968 Czechoslovakia.

He grew up in a family committed to helping build socialism in the Soviet Union. In 1939, Dubcek secretly joined the Communist Party and after the occupation of Czechoslovakia in the Second World War, also joined the underground resistance against the pro-German Slovak state.

When in 1968 Dubcek, a devoted communist, became the new First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia he sought to liberalize the Communist regime.

He began a series of liberal reforms, granting the press greater freedom of expression, rehabilitating victims of the Stalin era political purges, and initiating a reform programme envisaging economic reforms and a wide-ranging democratization of Czechoslovak political life. His reforms aroused concern in Moscow and his endeavours to give Socialism a 'human face' were shattered on 21 August 1968 by Warsaw Pact  tanks entering Czechoslovakia and seizing control of Prague. Dubcek was kidnapped by the KGB, taken to the Kremlin and briefly detained.

In 1970, he was accused of treason, stripped of office and expelled from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. For fifteen years he lived as an ordinary worker and only returned to political life as a civil rights activist in 1988.

After the 1989 revolution in Czechoslovakia, Dubcek was elected Chairman of the Federal Assembly from 1989 to 1992. As one of the figures who kept hope alive for the Soviet dissidents in their long struggle for glasnost, as Andrei Sakharov described him in a message read out during the Sakharov Prize award ceremony, Dubcek expressed the wish that 'as a result of the Prague Spring the great symphony of the European community spirit will continue to resound in 1990 and in all the years to come'.