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27 June 2008

On this day in history: Czech reformist manifesto published, 1968

On 27th June 1968, the Czechoslovak writer and journalist, Ludvík Vaculík, published his progressive manifesto The Two Thousand Words. The text called upon the Czechoslovak people to demand greater openness and decentralisation from the Communist Party, which had already started making reforms under the influence of Alexander Dubček, who had become First Secretary of the party in January 1968. The article was accompanied by sixty signatures when it appeared in the journal Literarny Listy, which Vaculík was an editor of (the other editors distanced themselves from the text), as well as two other journals.

Over the next few months The Two Thousand Words became a petition which attracted thousands more signatures; however, not everyone supported Vaculík's programme. While progressives from the lower ranks of the Communist Party and other reform-minded intellectuals, writers and workers wrote letters in support of the manifesto, senior part officials and hardliners denounced Vaculík and set in motion the procedures for banning him from the party. As well as polarising opinion at home, the manifesto caused disquiet in other parts of the Soviet Bloc, particularly in Moscow where the Soviet hierarchy were becoming increasingly concerned by Dubček's reform programme, concerns that would eventually result in Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia.

An English translation of The Two Thousand Words is available at ThinkQuest.