BRATISLAVA, CZECHOSLOVAKIA -- Alexander Dubcek, 70, the Czechoslovak Communist leader whose 1968 efforts to introduce "socialism with a human face" were crushed by a Soviet invasion, died Nov. 7 in Prague.

Mr. Dubcek, who suffered multiple injuries in a car accident Sept. 1 near Prague, the Czechoslovak capital, died of "failure of vital organs," according to the official state news agency CSTK.

Dubcek was a beloved figure to many Czechs and Slovaks for his role in the brief period known as the "Prague Spring." The Soviet invasion in August 1968 forced Dubcek from office, and to Moscow in chains. He returned home, but suffered more than 20 years of ostracism and public disgrace at the hands of the Communist hard-liners who succeeded him. Soviet troops remained in Czechoslovakia for the next 23 years.

Dubcek, however, lived to see his tormenters toppled during the "Velvet Revolution" of November 1989. The fall of communism also marked Dubcek's return to political life, and he played a highly visible, if not decisive, role in the street demonstrations and tense negotiations that ended four decades of Communist rule. Crowds that gathered in Prague's Wenceslas Square in those tumultuous weeks looked up to a balcony one cold evening to see Dubcek dance a jig with soon-to-be President Vaclav Havel as the nation's hard-line Communist rulers agreed to surrender power.

After the fall of communism, Dubcek served two years as chairman of the democratically elected federal parliament. Despite the poor showing of his Slovak Social Democratic Party in June elections this year, he remained an influential figure at home and abroad, and an important power broker on the Slovak political scene. He had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency of the independent Slovak state that probably will come into existence in January.

Since 1989, Dubcek had been criticized by right-wing anti-communists for failing to stand up to the Soviet invasion two decades ago, and for what some said was his less-than-forceful stewardship of the federal parliament in recent times. But the courtly, silver-haired Dubcek was respected by many others as a stabilizing force during the often chaotic first two years of democratic rule.

"We have enough demagogues and eccentrics of various sorts both on the left and right of the political spectrum," Havel said when Dubcek eventually left the broad-based civic movement Public Against Violence to return to his socialist roots in the newly reformed Slovak Social Democratic Party. "We must therefore rejoice when a reasonable man, who does his best for his country and is open to agreement and dialogue, appears on one or the other side."

Dubcek was reelected to the federal parliament when his party narrowly won in June elections.

Dubcek was born in rural eastern Czechoslovakia in 1921 and spent 13 years in the Soviet Union, where his parents had moved to work as teachers.

When his family returned to Czechoslovakia, Dubcek apprenticed as a locksmith and joined the Slovak Communist Party in 1939. He spent three years as an adult student at the Soviet Party School in Moscow, graduating with honors. During World War II, he worked in a munitions factory and joined a Slovak uprising against the Germans and Slovakia's wartime Nazi-puppet government.

He rose steadily through the ranks of the Slovak and Czechoslovak Communist Party in the 1960s. He was part of a group of reformers who had Soviet blessings for their efforts to oust hard-line president and party leader Antonin Novotny, a Stalinist who had resisted Moscow's attempts to put the Stalinist period behind it.

When Dubcek was chosen to lead the party in January 1968, he was, said historian Joseph Rothschild, "a believer in . . . reforms, yet a veteran of the party apparat, a friend of the liberal intellectual but not a radical critic of the system, a Slovak patriot now promoted to central responsibility," but untainted by the Stalinist terrors of the 1950s, "eminently prudent and promising."

While professing his commitment to Marxism and the leading role of the Communist Party, Dubcek at the same time presided over far-reaching changes that came to be known as "socialism with a human face."