The couple who were to become the parents of Alexander Dubcek met as emigrants in the United States but
were obliged to return to Europe after Mr. Dubcek refused, for pacifist reasons, to serve in the U.S. Army during
the First World War. Alexander Dubcek was born in the Slovak part of Czecheslovakia on November 27 1921.
The family subsequently based themselves in Russia where Dubcek senior, a cabinetmaker by trade, joined the communist party and worked in factories in several cities over the years prior to 1938 when the Dubceks returned to Slovakia. This was the year that Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany moved to seize control of Czechoslovakia.
During the Second World War Alexander Dubcek was active as a communist guerrilla in opposition to the Nazi occupation - his brother was similarly active and lost his life as a result.
After the war Czecheslovakia was one of several eastern European states to be brought under the sway of Soviet Russia. Alexander Dubcek worked in a factory and was active as secretary of local Communist committees. In the early 1950's he was appointed to the central committee of the Slovak Communist Party, he was studying law and soon thereafter he was in full-time employment as a politician and also pursued political studies in Moscow. By 1964 he rose to the chairmanship of the Slovak Communist Party.
After 1964 Alexander Dubcek began to adopt unconventionally liberal economic views for a high Communist official in that he saw a substantial role for private enterprises. He also began to openly associate with intellectuals and artists. In 1967 he was supported by several interests in Czechoslovakia in securing the dismissal of the Czechoslovak Communist leader Novotny with the result that he was himself appointed leader of Czechoslovak Communism early in 1968.
Dubcek soon authorised a lifting of controls over the media, trades unions, economic enterprises and the courts. There were many such extensions of liberalisation in politics, the economy, and the arts giving rise to the so-called - Prague Spring - where civil freedoms seemed to flourish in a state that still officially declared itself to be Communist.
The Soviet Union became alarmed by the nature, and the speed, of the reforms sponsored by Dubcek and invited him to consider reining them in - an apparent compromise was reached in mid August but, several days later, the Soviet army invaded. In the aftermath of this the reforms that had taken place were rescinded and Dubcek was obliged to leave office.
In 1989 the system where Soviet Russia had sponsored communism in Eastern Europe substantially collapsed. Dubcek was invited to become leader of the Social Democratic Party and served for a time as speaker of the Czechoslovak parliament.
In the event Dubcek's influence on developments was cut short by his death on November 7, 1992.