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Historians update number of 1968 invasion victims in new book

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Prague, Aug 17 (CTK) – A total of 137 Czechs and Slovaks died in consequence of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and another more than 400 people in the following years of occupation, historians Prokop Tomek and Ivo Pejcoch write in a book presented on Thursday, which updates the number of the victims.

Pejcoch told CTK that it took them several years to gather the necessary information. They succeeded in updating the previous data also thanks to studying so far unknown archive materials from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Cooperation with the victims’ families, too, has brought new information, including some photos and a number of data on the victims’ professional as well as private lives, Pejcoch said.

A crushing majority of the victims died between August 21, 1968, when the Warsaw Pact troops invaded the country, and mid-September of the same year.

The invaders shot more than 50 people dead in the first days of the occupation, Tomek said.

According to the new book, at least 80 Czechs and Slovaks died during the first ten days after the invasion, i.e. until the end of August, and further 23 and 18 in September and October, respectively.

The situation calmed down only in November 1968 after the occupiers withdrew to barracks.

Tomek and Pejcoch dealt with the number of the occupation victims in their previous book already, raising the number of victims in 1968 from 108, who were spoken about by then, to 135. In their new book, they have raised it by another two.

Pejcoch said he does not expect the number to further steeply increase.

“We cannot rule out the existence of a completely forgotten victim, but definitely not more than one or two of them,” he said.

The new book says the oldest victim was Antonin Abraham, a member of the Czechoslovak legions that crossed Russia in the wake of World War One, who was killed by a Soviet tank at the age of 91.

The authors also seek to clear the circumstances of the death of some of the Soviet soldiers who died in Czechoslovakia, while Soviet and Russian sources say they were murdered.

Tomek told CTK that the historians found no evidence to prove any of the alleged murders.

They examined a list presented on the website of the veterans from the Soviet military units that stayed in Czechoslovakia.

“The list contains the names of 102 soldiers who allegedly died [in Czechoslovakia] by the autumn of 1968,” Tomek said, adding that Russian sources assert that 12 of these soldiers were killed by Czechs or Slovaks.

An enquiry has shown that these soldiers died in accidents, fatally shot by their colleagues as a result of misunderstanding or under the influence of alcohol.

“There was a number of unfortunate accidents and events. We did not find a single case confirming the murder of a Soviet soldier,” Tomek said.

Russian archives should be the main sources in this respect but the archives dealing with these events are closed to historians, he added.

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