On 20–21 August 1968, Czechoslovakia was jointly invaded by four Warsaw Pact countries: the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. About 250,000 Warsaw Pact troops (afterwards rising to about 500,000), supported by thousands of tanks and hundreds of aircraft, participated in the overnight operation, which was code-named Operation Danube. Romania and Albania refused to participate, while East German forces, except for a small number of specialists, were ordered by Moscow not to cross the Czechoslovak border just hours before the invasion. 137 Czechoslovak civilians were killed and 500 seriously wounded during the occupation.
The invasion stopped Alexander Dubček’s Prague Spring liberalisation reforms and strengthened the authoritarian wing of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). The foreign policy of the Soviet Union during this era was known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.
Public reaction to the invasion was widespread and divided. Although the majority of the Warsaw Pact supported the invasion along with several other communist parties worldwide, Western nations, along with Albania, Romania, and particularly China condemned the attack. Many other communist parties lost influence, denounced the USSR, or split up or dissolved due to conflicting opinions. The invasion started a series of events that would ultimately see Brezhnev establish peace with U.S. Richard Nixon in 1972 after the latter’s historic visit to China.
The legacy of the invasion of Czechoslovakia remains widely discussed among historians and has been seen as an important moment in the Cold War. Analysts believe that the invasion caused the worldwide communist movement to fracture, ultimately leading to the Revolutions of 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.