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The Communist coup in February 1948 marked a turning point in Bratislava's postwar development. Czechoslovakia became part of the Soviet bloc and the buffer zone between East and West. Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain. For Bratislava, which immediately after the war was still linked to Vienna by a tramway, this meant the construction of sealed borders with the West. Parts of the city were cut off by the barbed wire used for border fortification and residents there had to move. The late 1940s and early 1950s were a period of new construction, and the rebuilding of war-damaged parts of the city, especially industrial enterprises, which were nationalised after 1948. The lives of Bratislava residents were affected by Communist Party repression in the 1950s. Many people were imprisoned and thousands, accused in contrived processes, were forced out of the city. The 40-plus years of Communist rule were interrupted by the events of 1968-1969. Bratislava native and Communist Party reformer Alexander Dubček, who was elected first secretary of the party in January 1968, became a symbol of these events. The process of democratic change that he launched, which became known as the 'Prague Spring', was only ended by an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact in August 1968. The 'temporary presence' of Soviet troops that followed was to last more than 20 years. Together with widespread political persecution, the invasion and occupation was intended to prevent future attempts at reform, or any change in the social make-up of Czechoslovakia.
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