The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 47: Report on the Šumava Exercises
by Generals I. Oláh and F. Szűcs of the Hungarian People's Army
to the HSWP Politburo, July 5,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: MHKI, 5/12/11.

This top-secret report offers a candid assessment of the Šumava military exercises by two senior
Hungarian army officers who took part: Major-General István Oláh, a deputy minister of national defense;
and Major-General Ferenc Szűcs, the deputy chief of the Hungarian General Staff. The two generals
acknowledge that the exercises "were organized essentially for political reasons" and were designed as
a "kind of camouflage "that would enable the Soviet Union to pursue its "political goals." They also note
that the exercises were intended to have specific political effects in Czechoslovakia: namely, to "para-
lyze and frighten" the "anti-socialist forces," to "intimidate wavering elements," and to "bolster and
safeguard true communists dedicated to the revolution and to socialism." On a more ominous note, the
generals observed that the exercises allowed the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies to "gain greater
experience in planning, organizing, supervising, and cooperating in large-scale military opera-
tions"precisely the type of preparation necessary for an invasion in August 1968.

Their report is critical of the heavy-handed manner in which Soviet military officials conducted these
operations. Marshal Yakubovskii, according to Oláh and Szűcs, "kept everyone in a stale of maximum
uncertainty" about the schedule for ending the exercises. Soviet commanders brushed aside the Czecho-
slovak complaints by drawing "comparisons between the events in Czechoslovakia and the Hungarian
counterrevolution" of 1956, an analogy that the Hungarian generals curtly dismissed. Looking back on
"the experience of the past 20 days," the generals concluded that the maneuvers had exposed "unaccept-
able shortcomings" in the Warsaw Pact, and they expressed particular irritation at the "unprofessional,
crude, and insulting behavior of certain Soviet military commanders," whose conduct had been "objec-
tively detrimental to the authority and reputation of the Soviet Union and the unity of the Warsaw Pact. "

The commander-in-chief of the Warsaw Pact's Joint Armed Forces organized strategic-operational military command-staff exercises under the codename Šumava, which started on 18 June 196811 Most of the exercises were held on the territory of the ČSSR, with some on the territory of the GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union. Soviet, Czechoslovak, Polish, German, and Hungarian army and division staffs took part in the exercise: in total, these included the staff of one front, the staffs of seven combined-arms armies, one air force army staff, one air defense army staff, and the staffs of nine divisions, as well as subordinate intelligence and rear services units together with lower-level formations. Originally, the Germans were not included but in the last phase of preparations they joined on the basis of decisions of which we were totally unaware. The Hungarian People's Army was represented by the staffs of the 5th Army and the 11th Tank Division (altogether approximately 800 persons and 260 vehicles).

Romania and Bulgaria, under the command of their deputy chiefs of the General Staff, took part with three persons each, at the invitation of the commander-in-chief.

The exercise was organized essentially for political reasons and with political objectives, on the basis of an analysis of the situation worked out at the Dresden and Moscow conferences. The exercise and the preparation of the highest-ranking staffs were to serve as a kind of camouflage.

The objective of the exercise, its content and procedure, and above all the methods used in carrying it out revealed the extent and implications of the conflicting assessments involved. As a result, a tense, nervous, and antagonistic atmosphere arose in which views held by Czechoslovakia clashed with those of the exercise commanders, the Soviet comrades.

11Although most of the forces were in place on June 18, the exercises formally began on June 19.

-199-

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