Crushing of the Czechoslovakian uprising in 1968 is remembered on new Slovak silver coin

After the Second World War, Soviet influence over Eastern Europe became all encompassing to such a degree that Winston Churchill described it as an Iron Curtain descending. For decades, communism kept countires like Poland, East Germany and Hungary, firmly under its heel, but as time passed, disaffection set in. Beginning in January 1968, reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) and he set in place a series of reforms that became known as the Prague Spring.

Alarmed by the reforms, the Soviet Union, using as an excuse the recently signed Bratislava Decleration – one that gave Warsaw Pact countries the right to intervene if a member government showed ‘bourgeois’ tendencies – invaded with upwards of 250,000 troops on the night of 20–21 August 1968. That number more than doubled in the following weeks and it took months to quell the demonstrations. Over 500 were seriously wounded during the occupation, and 137 Czechoslovakian citizens lost their lives. It wasn’t until the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that the country finally broke free of the Soviet yoke.

To commemorate the demonstrations against the invasion, the National Bank of Slovakia has issued an 18 gram, 0.900 silver coin with the snappy title “The spontaneous, non-violent civic resistance against the Warsaw Pact invasion of August 1968”. The reverse face of the coin takes a small part of perhaps the most famous contemporary image of the event, one taken in Bratislava by young photographer, Laco Bielik. Called “The Bare-chested Man in Front of the Occupiers Tank”, it appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world and infuriated the Soviets. This potent image is a fine basis for the coin and the number 50 in the background does little to diminsh it.

The obverse has the number 68 in place of the 50, representing the year the events took place, this time behind rows of symbolic barbed wire. Designed by artist Patrik Kovačovský, with his work translated to an engraving by Dalibor Schmidt, the coin was struck by the Kremnica Mint. Two versions are available, differing only in finish. The higher quality proof variant will have a maximum mintage of 6,650 pieces, while the cheaper brilliant uncirculated variant will top out at just 2,850. The coin should be available to order now.


The late 1960s in Czechoslovakia saw the emergence of a society-wide movement for democratisation of the communist regime. The Soviet leadership monitored these developments with increasing concern. In early August 1968 representatives of Warsaw Pact countries met in Bratislava and signed the Bratislava Declaration, which stated in part that “it was the common internationalist duty of all socialist countries to protect and consolidate socialist gains”. It was supposedly at this time that a ‘letter of invitation’, giving an appearance of legitimacy to the impending military intervention, was passed to the Soviet leadership.

On the night of 20-21 August Czechoslovakia was invaded by armed forces from several Warsaw Pact countries. The invasion force included three hundred thousand foreign soldiers and more than six thousand tanks and combat vehicles. As a result of the invasion, the reform process was stopped and the period of ‘normalisation’ began. The invasion of Czechoslovakia shocked the world and triggered spontaneous civic resistance that made headlines at home and abroad.

REVERSE: features a fragment of Laco Bielik’s photograph “The Bare-chested Man in front of the Occupiers’ Tank” placed in front of the number ‘50’ and the word ‘výročie’ (anniversary), symbolising the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armed forces. At the top of the coin is the inscription ‘AUGUST 1968’.

OBVERSE: depicts barriers of barbed wire with the number ‘68’ positioned behind them, representing the period of oppressive “normalisation” that followed the invasion of Czechoslovakia by armed forces of the Warsaw Pact in August 1968. The Slovak coat of arms appears at the top of the coin. At the bottom are the name of the issuing country ‘SLOVENSKO’ and the year of issuance ‘2018’, together with the coin’s denomination and currency ‘10 EURO’ separated by a horizontal line. To the left of Slovakia’s coat of arms is the mint mark of the Kremnica Mint (Mincovňa Kremnica), and to the right are the stylised letters ‘PK’, the initials of the coin’s designer, Patrik Kovačovský.

COMPOSITION 0.900 silver
WEIGHT 18.0 grams
FINISH Proof or B/Unc
MINTAGE 6,550 proof and 2,850 b/unc
BOX / COA Yes / Yes