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1968: the year of global revolutions

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Rakshak Adhikari

Staff Writer

The Department of History organized a roundtable event on Nov. 14 titled “Reflecting on 1968: The 50th Anniversary of Global Revolutions.” The event, a series of brief lectures followed by a Q&A, was held in the International Arts Center and was attended by around 100 students, faculty and staff.

The first speaker was Robert Kruckeberg, an assistant professor of history, who talked about the “May events in France” which, according to him, were a series of student-led protests soon followed by a general strike all over France that brought the whole nation to a standstill. 

Kruckeberg also briefly introduced, among other important figures, Michel Foucault, who was a contemporary post-modernist philosopher of the period and whose ideas of power and hegemony helped influence the events. The May events eventually led to the fall of Charles de Gaulle, the president of France, and resulted in a general wave of liberalization in France.

The talk was followed by a discussion on the “Prague Spring” by Margaret Gnoinska, an associate professor of history, who talked about the series of reforms initiated by the then-leader of communist Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek, that ultimately led to a Soviet invasion of the country. 

While describing the events, she also spoke about the state of censorship in the Soviet Union, the personality of the then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and his policy of intervention in other communist states that became known as the Brezhnev doctrine. She also briefly recalled her personal discourse with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, whose decision to disband the Soviet Union ended the Cold War.

Kathryn Tucker, a lecturer in history, addressed the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. She discussed the racial tension and division that existed during the time, briefly touching on the subject of the non-violence movement and the later emergence of the black nationalism movement.

The discussions were followed by a Q&A session in which the panelists answered a variety of questions from the audience, ranging from the role of other Eastern European nations in the Prague Spring to whether the discussed events were indeed a failure.

“I decided to attend the event because of the professors involved and the subject matter at hand,” said Ansley Markwell, an alumna of Troy who drove from Montgomery. “The turmoil of 1968 is fascinating, especially in the larger context of the Cold War.”

Gnoinska said the conversation continued even after the event was over, which showed that the students were interested in the nature of topics discussed by the panelists.

“The event on 1968 further contributed to educating our Troy students and the community about the world,” Gnoinska said. “That’s why I made sure that we had it during the International Education Week.”

According to Gnoinska, the roundtable was a success and the history department is already making plans to organize a similar event marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War as well as the centennial of the Treaty of Versailles.