Czech army ends national call-up By Kate Connolly in Prague (Filed: 23/12/2004) The Czech army, which was responsible for crushing the Prague Spring uprising of 1968, is to end conscription after 140 years. The last contingent of drafted soldiers left its barracks in Prague's Castle district yesterday, opening the way for a fully-professional, Nato-style force. Military chiefs have been planning the transition for years, encouraged by the country's admission to Nato in 1999 and also in response to the charge that conscription is a relic of the Cold War, which produces poorly-trained and ill-equipped troops. The Czechs have had a love-hate relationship with the military. The army's achievements, both under the Habsburgs and in the form of the Czechoslovak Legion, which beat back the Red Army and secured independence for the Czechs and Slovaks, are often overshadowed by more painful memories. In 1939 the army was blamed for the surrender to Nazi occupying forces, even though the decision to do so was a political one. Thirty years on, troops participated in crushing the 1968 anti-Soviet demonstrations in Prague. Commentators say, however, that it is thanks only to the army's restraint from intervention in the collapse of Communism that it has a high standing today. "It was the army's saving grace that it did not participate in the 1989 revolution," says Major Eduard Stehlik, a Czech military historian. "It has made it much easier for it to gain the trust and respect of the people." Support for the Czech army has risen significantly since the fall of Communism but it is aware that it still has to prove itself on the international stage. The army is also under pressure to clean up its act following a series of scandals involving espionage, rape and bullying, which have centred on the prestigious Prague Castle guards.