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Compassion for Russian Occupiers

The Czech Republic took up the EU presidency this month – just in time to deal with a number of volatile Russian issues.  The Czechs have dealt with plenty of their own volatile Russian issues in recent history, but anyone curious about underlying tensions between the two may be appeased by these sensible words from the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, quoted in today’s FT.  Despite Russia’s occupations of the Czechs from 1968 to 1990, Schwarzenberg said,

‘Czechs as a rule don’t have special prejudices against the Russians, even though in the period from 1968 to the 1990s the Russians had occupation forces in Czechoslovakia. Czech citizens saw that the Russian soldiers were worse off than themselves. They saw these poor boys marching towards some town and they felt a kind of compassion. There was an eruption [of anti-Soviet sentiment] in 1968, but many Czech travelers went to the Soviet Union and saw conditions for themselves…’

(Russia may also be pleased to see that the Czechs seem to know who’s really in charge when it comes to calling the shots in the Kremlin…)