MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) – Ten protesters were detained Sunday for rallying on Moscow’s iconic Red Square to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia — and replicate the 1968 protest rally that got its participants jailed, exiled or forcibly committed to psychiatric institutions.
In August 1968, Soviet and Warsaw pact tanks and troops entered Czechoslovakia to quell the Prague Spring – the Czechoslovakian socialist government’s attempt to carry out liberal reforms and build “socialism with a human face.” Seventy-two people were killed and hundreds injured, and reformist leader Alexander Dubcek was eventually forced to resign.
Seven Soviet dissidents, including human rights defender and poet Natalia Gorbanevskaya, rallied on Red Square on August 25, 1968 to protest the invasion. Minutes after unfurling their banners, one of which read “For Your Freedom and Ours,” they were brutally rounded up – one of them had his front teeth knocked out – and were later sentenced to jail, exile or forced psychiatric treatment.
Gorbanevskaya, who was “diagnosed” with schizophrenia and forcibly kept in a psychiatric hospital until 1972, headed Sunday's rally along with 10 modern-day Kremlin critics and opposition activists, according to a video posted on the Grani.ru website.
Just like 45 years ago, the rally was dispersed just minutes after the protesters unfurled the banner reading “For Your Freedom and Ours.” Ten participants — excluding the 77-year-old Gorbanevskaya — were rounded up and taken to a police station in central Moscow, according to the video and police.
A Moscow police spokesman told RIA Novosti that the protesters were detained for “holding an unsanctioned rally” and were released shortly afterwards.
Gorbanevskaya, who now lives in Paris, came to Moscow to participate in the rally and to hold her poetry readings, she told Dozhd television.
In 1976, US folk singer Joan Baez released “Natalia,” a song she wrote about Gorbanevskaya. Introducing the song on her "From Every Stage" live album, she said: "It is because of people like Natalia Gorbanevskaya, I am convinced, that you and I are still alive and walking around on the face of the earth."
Updated with minor edits throughout