The Prague Spring Archive Project
By Ian Goodale, U of Texas at Austin
The Prague Spring Archive project—a collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin and the Center for Russian East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), using materials from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library—has been launched at http://scalar.usc.edu/works/prague-spring-archive. The project makes important primary documents on the Prague Spring openly accessible to a wide and inclusive audience in a digital format, connecting the University of Texas at Austin with an international community of scholars and researchers.
The digitized collection chronicles the United States’ perspective of events leading up to, during, and following the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, including declassified cables, intelligence reports, letters, and memoranda exchanged by ambassadors, diplomats, intelligence officers, and politicians. Eight archival boxes are currently available digitally through Texas ScholarWorks, with more being digitized and prepared for addition to the repository. Many additional materials that have not yet been digitized are available to researchers in the reading room of the LBJ Presidential Library, as well, including materials that address the broader Cold War period before and after the Prague Spring.
The project’s online portal has been designed to replicate the original archival structure of the physical materials in the LBJ Library within a digital framework, allowing the user to “read” and explore the archive on their computer. The portal was designed to appeal to both academic researchers and to patrons conducting personal or non-academic research, with additional features planned that will extend the breadth of the site’s audience. A primer on the Prague Spring in the form of an interactive timeline is one of the site’s features aimed at users not already familiar with the events surrounding the incident. A module that will include materials aimed at high school teachers and students, including sample lesson plans and educational activities, will also be added in the future. For researchers who would like to explore what is available in the physical collections of the LBJ, the finding aid for the entire archival collection is available on the site.
To help maintain the archival integrity of the materials in their digitized format, extensive metadata were created to accompany the materials within the Texas ScholarWorks repository. The metadata allow the materials to be easily searched by researchers working with the materials within ScholarWorks, and can be downloaded by anyone through the repository. Full-text of the documents will soon be added in XML format to accompany the archival PDFs, increasing searchability and providing an additional resource for working with the documents—making digital humanities practices such as text mining or sentiment analysis easier to accomplish, for example.
The Prague Spring Archive portal is an attractive, easy to navigate resource that will continue to grow over time. New content and features, in development, will expand its scope and elevate its impact. Utilizing digital humanities tools and collaborative approaches to leveraging local expertise, the project creates context for important, unique primary source materials and shares them in an open access environment for use by local, national and international scholarly communities.
Key Figures in the Archive
Jacob D. Beam - The US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia under Johnson, Beam was present during the Prague Spring and subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia. He served as a vital point of contact for the US government as officials assessed the situation and decided on how best to respond.
Nicolae Ceaușescu – The General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party during the Prague Spring and subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact Forces.
Anatoly Dobrynin - As the Soviet Ambassador to the US during the Prague Spring and invasion of Czechoslovakia, Dobrynin facilitated communication between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Alexander Dubček – The First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring. His efforts to reform the communist government in Czechoslovakia were halted when he was forced to resign following the invasion of Warsaw Pact forces.
Lyndon B. Johnson – As the President in office during the events of the Prague Spring, Johnson played a pivotal role in the U.S. response to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, and many of the documents in this archival collection are addressed to him directly.
Henry Kissinger - The National Security Advisor under President Johnson. Although primarily concerned with U.S. involvement in Vietnam, he also played an important role in the broader U.S. handling of the Cold War and pioneered détente with the Soviet Union.
Antonín Novotný – The Stalinist President of Czechoslovakia (1953-1968), he was forced to yield power to Dubček during the Prague Spring.
Walt Whitman Rostow – The Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to President Johnson, W.W. Rostow played a vital part in shaping how officials in the United States government viewed and responded to the Warsaw Pact forces’ invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Ludvik Svoboda - The President of Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring. He was elected on March 30, 1968 with the support of Dubček.
Walter Ulbricht – The Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic during the Prague Spring. Ulbricht played a key role in cooperation between East Germany and the Soviet Union.
Ian Goodale is a Digital Scholarship and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Librarian at The University of Texas at Austin.