There was no marching band in the village square, no cheering children, no wreaths of red flowers as the last Soviet tanks began their withdrawal from Czechoslovakia, 22 1/2 years after putting down the reform-minded "Prague Spring."
Instead, 16 olive-green T-72 tanks of the 721st Armored Battalion maneuvered matter-of-factly Wednesday onto flatbed railway cars, as Soviet officers and Czechoslovak journalists milled about.The tanks are expected to cross the Czechoslovak-Soviet border at Cierna and Tisou Thursday after a 15-hour train ride across Czechoslovakia from the Soviets' Central Group of Forces headquarters in this small town 20 miles from Prague.
Already nearly 70,000 Soviet troops, 1,220 tanks and tens of thousands of trucks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, jets, helicopters and other military material have been shipped out of Czechoslovakia.
At the height of the transfer, as many as 11 railroad trains were arriving daily at the border filled with troops and equipment.
For the Czechoslovaks, the withdrawal of the last tanks marked the end of an era.
"We are loading the last tanks. This is an end to August 1968, and to the evil and bad feelings they created," Maj. Gen. Svetozar Nadovic said.
Gen. Gennadi Proposhchev, deputy commander of the Soviet Western Group of Forces, said he enjoyed his time here.
"We didn't think we were an occupying army, so we didn't behave like one," he said. "I enjoyed my stay in Czechoslovakia. I had many friends here, and I think the majority of Czechoslovak people were friends with us."