First Advisor

Michael Reardon

Term of Graduation

Spring 1998

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Germany (East) -- Politics and government, Czechoslovakia -- History -- Intervention, 1968



Physical Description

1 online resource (xxii, 167 pages)


In 1968, Czechoslovakia attempted to sweep the ashes of Stalinism from its path to socialism. The reform-movement "Prague Spring" united the nation with a goal to achieve a more just form of socialist society. When the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, they destroyed this dream.

The purpose of this thesis is to show how the SED interpreted events in Prague and presented their analysis to the East German public. Although imbedded in events in Czechoslovakia, this is an essay on German history.

The SED presented a public image of complete unity. The public heard nothing of internal power struggles and differences of opinion. In 1968, members of the ruling elite came to different conclusions and varied interpretations ofPrague Spring. These differences of opinion rarely left the internal chambers ofthe SED. The SED's Central Party Organ, Neues Deutsch/and presented material that reflected the end product ofthe debate over Prague Spring and not the process by which these ideological results were achieved. The editorial line of the newspaper did not differ from that of the SED leadership. Neues Deutsch/and was a mouthpiece. This was absolutely essential in order to form a unified front against what the SED termed "counterrevolution."

The SED acted from an ideological standpoint. However, realizing its difficult position as one part of a divided nation, and with relatively little national legitimacy, the SED also acted in a pragmatic manner. The party interpreted events abroad in terms of the GDR's, and therefore the SED's, immediate interests: the continued existence of the East German state and the leading role of the Party. Walter Ulbricht and other SED leaders acted in a manner consistent with these goals and used ideology to justify their actions. In this sense this essay presents an interpretation of the Marxist-Leninist Weltanschauung of the SED high command. The SED reaction to Prague Spring, as reflected in the newspaper Neues Deutsch/and, sheds new light on the mentality on the upper echelons of the SED leadership.


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