The process of de-Stalinization in Czechoslovakia had begun under Antonín Novotný in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but had progressed more slowly than in most other states of the Eastern Bloc. Following the lead of Nikita Khrushchev, Novotný proclaimed the completion of socialism, and the new constitution accordingly adopted the name Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The pace of change, however, was sluggish; the rehabilitation of Stalinist-era victims, such as those convicted in the Slánský trials, may have been considered as early as 1963, but did not take place until 1967.
In the early 1960s, Czechoslovakia underwent an economic downturn. The Soviet model of industrialization applied poorly to Czechoslovakia since the country was already quite industrialized before World War II and the Soviet model mainly took into account less developed economies. Novotný's attempt at restructuring the economy, the 1965 New Economic Model, spurred increased demand for political reform as well.
1963 Liblice Conference
In May 1963, some Marxist intellectuals organized the Liblice Conference that discussed Franz Kafka's life, marking the beginning of the cultural democratization of Czechoslovakia which ultimately led to the 1968 Prague Spring, an era of political liberalization. This conference was unique because it symbolized Kafka’s rehabilitation in the Eastern Bloc after having been heavily criticized, led to a partial opening up of the regime and influenced the relaxation of censorship. It also had an international impact as a representative from all Eastern Bloc countries were invited to the Conference; only the Soviet Union did not send any representative. This conference had a revolutionary effect and paved the way for the reforms while making Kafka the symbol of the renaissance of Czechoslovakian artistic and intellectual freedom.
1967 Writers' Congress
As the strict regime eased its rules, the Union of Czechoslovak Writers (Cz: Československých spisovatelů) cautiously began to air discontent, and in Literární noviny, the union's previously hard-line communist weekly. members suggested that literature should be independent of Party doctrine.
In June 1967, a small fraction of the union sympathized with radical socialists, especially Ludvík Vaculík, Milan Kundera, Jan Procházka, Antonín Jaroslav Liehm, Pavel Kohout and Ivan Klíma.
A few months later, at a meeting of Party leaders, it was decided that administrative actions against the writers who openly expressed support of reformation would be taken. Since only a small group of the union held these beliefs, the remaining members were relied upon to discipline their colleagues. Control over Literární noviny and several other publishers was transferred to the Ministry of Culture, and even some leaders of the Party who later became major reformers — including Dubček — endorsed these moves.