In 1968, liberal elements within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia initiated efforts to reform the communist regime from within. Various sectors of the country’s population increasingly resisted participation in communist-led organizations. On 5 January, Alexander Dubček, a Slovak reformer, replaced Antonín Novotný as First Secretary of the Communist Party. In April, Dubček announced a new political programme, “socialism with a human face,” (“socialismus s lidskou tváří”) which saw the implementation of reforms including the elimination of press censorship, the restoration of civic and individual rights, and the liberalization of the economy. As communist reformers implemented their own form of socialism, this period became known as the Prague Spring (Pražské jaro).

Some of the earliest European agricultural settlers in Canada’s Prairie West were Russian Mennonites. Two disparate political events provided a crucial framework for this movement. In 1870, Tsarist Russia overturned the guarantees and privileges originally granted to the Mennonite settlers, and in that same year, Canada purchased Rupert’s Land and began seeking group settlers to help colonize the territory.[1] The situation in Russia led many Mennonites to consider leaving Russia, and delegates visited both Canada and the United States to appraise the land available for settlement. As a result, about 7500 Mennonites arrived in Manitoba during the 1870s.[2] This movement to Manitoba is notable for scale and for its establishment of a formal and direct relationship with the federal government as a condition of settlement, an agreement called the Privilegium.

In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union concluded a treaty of non-aggression and neutrality. The Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union – commonly referred to as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – also delineated spheres of interest between both parties. The following month, German and Soviet forces invaded Poland and split the country into two zones according to the terms of their agreement. Between September 1939 and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet forces – hostile to the Polish population and its culture – imprisoned some 500,000 Polish nationals and deported a further 500,000 individuals in four waves of mass deportations from eastern Poland to labour camps in Siberia.