New Approaches to the Prague Spring

Lecture | March 12 | 12-1 p.m. | 201 Moses Hall

 Timothy Scott Brown, Northeastern University, Boston

 Institute of European Studies, Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES)

The Prague Spring, a movement of reform Communism instituted in Czechoslovakia under Alexander Dubcek in early 1968 and crushed by Soviet force of arms in August of the same year, has been interpreted overwhelmingly according to a liberal narrative ending in the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989. To be sure, the relevance of the experiment in “Socialism with a Human Face” for the Europe-wide uprisings of 1968 has been widely acknowledged, prompting frequent comparisons with the “French May” of that year. Yet, most accounts focus on the liberalizing aspirations of the Czechoslovakian protagonists at the expense of the socialist ones, emphasizing the basic failure of communication between radicals in the CSSR and their left-wing counterparts across the Cold War border. Far from being an attempt to ape western democracy, Timothy Scott Brown will show, the Prague Spring was an effort to come to grips with leading questions of revolutionary theory and practice in the 20th Century, above all those surrounding the Bolshevik claim regarding the leading role of the party. In this respect, the Prague Spring not only resonated strongly with debates taking place in both eastern and western Europe between 1956 and 1968, but retains a strong relevance in the contemporary world.

Timothy Scott Brown is Professor of History at Northeastern University and Senior Fellow at the Institute for European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a 2016-17 Berlin Prize Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin, a 2016-17 ACLS Fellow. He is currently a Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany.

His latest book, "Sixties Europe", is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Previous monographs include "West Germany in the Global Sixties: The Anti-Authoritarian Revolt, 1962-1978" (Cambridge, 2013; 2015), and "Weimar Radicals: Nazis and Communists between Authenticity and Performance" (Berghahn, 2009; 2016). His new book project is entitled "The Greening of Cold War Germany: Environmentalism and Social Movements across the Wall and Beyond, 1968-1989".