Historical Examples

Historical Examples of Nonviolent Action

Civilian Resistance in Czechoslovakia

In 1968 the Soviet Union and four other Communist countries invaded Czechoslovakia. Rather than defending themselves militarily, the Czechoslovakian people responded with nonviolent resistance. This piece describes some of the nonviolent tactics they used in an attempt to thwart Soviet objectives. There are also some comments on how the Czechoslovakians could have used nonviolence more effectively, the vulnerabilities of bureaucratic systems, and the practicality of using strategic nonviolence for national defense (civilian-based defense).

“The story of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is a testament to the power of civilian resistance and the limitations of military force. Even when the country was bristling with Warsaw Pact troops and military equipment, in no way could it be said the Soviets were in control of Czechoslovakia.”

People Power in the Philippines

In the mid-1980’s a popular movement sprang up to oust the corrupt Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. As the resistance gained momentum, two key military officers defected from the government and sequestered themselves inside a Manila military base. What followed was an amazing example of nonviolent struggle as hundreds of thousands of ordinary Filipinos took to the streets to protect the rebel officers from troops still loyal to Marcos.

“A Marine commander threatens to start shooting. Priests and nuns kneel before the tanks, praying the Rosary. No shots are fired. Finally, the tanks turn around and withdraw as the crowd cheers.”

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Text by James L. VanHise licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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