Alexander Dubcek, the former Czech Communist Party leader whose "Prague Spring" reforms were trampled under the tanks of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, started a 10-day visit to Italy Saturday - his first outside his native land in 19 years.
Dubcek, 67, arrived in Bologna at about midnight Friday at the end of a daylong car trip from Bratislava, where Czechoslovakia's current rulers have forced him to reside in near-total obscurity since his expulsion from the Communist Party in 1970.The overland trip through Austria to Italy was organized in conditions of tight secrecy by professors of Bologna University, where Dubcek will receive a honorary degree in political science Sunday. The university invited Dubcek to Bologna for the ceremony as part of celebrations marking the university's ninth centenary.
Dubcek received government permission and a visa to visit Italy in September. But his trip took on extra drama because of its coincidence with this week's crackdown on dissidents in Prague who had planned to stage a weekend symposium on the theme "Czechoslovakia 1968-88."