Red Square was once again occupied by a group of protesters this weekend marking the 45th anniversary of the arrest of a group of activists and Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Recalling what happened 45 years ago, this protest was also dispersed by police, sparking an official complaint from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
25 August is one of the most important days in the history of the democratic movement in the USSR. On that day 45 years ago, seven people went out on Red Square to protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the forceful suppression of the “Prague Spring.”
Here are their names:
- Konstantin Babitsky
- Larisa Bogoraz
- Natalya Gorbanevskaya
- Vadim Delone
- Vladimir Dremlyuga
- Pavel Litvinov
- Viktor Fainberg
At exactly noon, the demonstrators sat down on the Lobnoye mesto [“Place of Skulls”] and raised posters saying, “Shame on the Occupiers!”; “Hands off the ChSSR!”; “At’ žije svobodné a nezávislé Československo!”; (“Long Live Free and Independent Czechoslovakia!”); Freedom for Dubchek!; “We are Losing Our Best Friends” and likely the most famous (held by Pavel Litvinov), “For Your Freedom and Ours”.
The demonstration lasted just a few minutes as all the participants were arrested (with the use of force) by KGB officers.
At the “trial,” not a single one of the demonstrators pleaded guilty. Babitsky, Bogoraz and Litvinov were sentenced to exile. Delone and Dremlyuga were sentenced to labor camps. The most terrible punishment – incarceration in a psychiatric prison with torturous “treatment – was meted out to Gorbanevskaya and Fainberg.
“The whole nation minus me – that’s not the whole nation. The whole nation minus 10, 100, 1000 people – that’s not the whole nation. So it’s already not all-national approval,” explains Natalya Gorbanevskaya about her decision to go out on Red Square in an interview for the film “They Chose Freedom.”
“For me, coming to the demonstration…was a selfish act – I wanted to have a clear conscience,” she added.
These seven people – and tens and hundreds and thousands of other dissidents who risked their freedom and life for the defense of human rights and civic dignity in a totalitarian country — really were the conscience of the nation. They saved the honor and future of their country. Like ten righteous people could save an entire city.