The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview
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DOCUMENT No. 48: General Semyon Zolotov's Retrospective Account
of the Šumava Military Exercises

Source: "Shli na pomosch' druz'yam," Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, No. 4
(April 1994), pp. 15–18.

This memoir of the preparations and conduct of the Šumava exercises was written by Lt. General Semyon
Mitrofanovich Zolotov, a top official in the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet armed forces. It details
the logistical operations of the maneuvers and offers observations about the anxiety they produced inside
Czechoslovakia. "We did not sense the fraternal warmth and friendliness that had previously distinguished
the Czechoslovak friends," Zolotov writes; "instead, they seemed apprehensive. "

Following the maneuvers, Zolotov became directly involved in preparations for the invasion as head
of the Political Directorate and a member of the Military Council in the Transcarpathian Military District.

(See also Document No. 87.)

In mid-May 1968 they informed us that in the very near future, joint military exercises involving troops from the member states of the Warsaw Pact would be held on the territory of Poland, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. Issues concerning the organization and conduct of the exercises were examined during a visit to those countries by the commanderin-chief of the Joint Armed Forces, Marshal of the Soviet Union 1.1. Yakubovskii. Originally, the exercises were intended to be live military maneuvers with significant military contingents taking part, but at the insistence of the Czechoslovak side, they were carried out simply as command-staff exercises. I learned about this, having been at the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet army and Navy.

After the May holidays I went with a group of comrades from the headquarters and the Political Department of the army to one of the garrisons, where I scrutinized the state of educational work and military discipline. Here we were given orders that the troops and command organs of the army would have to be brought up to combat readiness. It was up to me to return immediately to the headquarters and get in touch on a secure phone line with the leadership of the district's political directorate.

Within several hours, our plane touched down at Ivano-Frankovsk. The field command, the military communications units, and the support formations for the army staff were already prepared to march out. New formations had been added to the army's lineup, and these had been fleshed out with personnel called up from reserves. The situation was reminiscent of combat.

All the officers from the headquarters and political department of the army were in the military units. I met with political workers who had recently traveled around the units and formations. We reviewed a number of practical matters. We agreed, in particular, to keep each other informed about the exercises.

On 12 May our front-line units advanced to the region along the state border with the ČSSR. In Uzhgorod we held a meeting to consider matters of party-political work under field conditions and the organization of special propaganda for the upcoming exercises of the allied armies.

In the evening of that same day, the army commander, Lieut.-General A. M. Maiorov, got together with the commanders of the formations and units to consider matters connected with garrison service and the activity of military traffic control.13 On 23 May we were at the Transcarpathian Oblast Party Committee, where we had a discussion with the party Secretaries,

13 General Aleksandr Mikhailovich Maiorov, the commander of forces in the Transcarpathian, was appointed
commander of the Central Group of Forces in the fall of 1968, at the same time that Zolotov was appointed head of the
Central Group's Political Directorate.


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