The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 62: Meeting Notes Taken by Chief of the Hungarian People's Army General Staff Károly Csémi on Talks with Soviet
Generals in Budapest to Discuss Preparations for "Operation Danube,"
July 24,1968

Source: MHKI, 5/12/11, Doc. 13.

This memorandum of a conversation between Hungarian and Soviet military officials reveals the state
of the final military planning for the invasioncode-named "Operation Danube "as of July 24. General
Károly Csémi's notes from the meeting with Col. General Konstantin Provalov, the commander of the
USSR's Southern Group of Forces; Lt. General Fyodor Marushchak, the chief of staff of the Southern
Group of Forces and General Tutarinov, confirm that despite János Kádár's moderating influence earlier
in the crisis, Hungary has participated fully in preparations for what Soviet officials describe here as
"exercises" on Czechoslovak territory. Hungary's role was to provide one division to help "crush" any
opposition from Czechoslovak army units and "defeat the counterrevolution."

(See also Document No. 66.)

On 24 July 1968 at 11:00 A.M. Cdes. Provalov, Tutarinov, and Marushchak came to see me.102 Cde. Provalov informed me that he was planning maneuvers on Czechoslovak territory. He thanked us on behalf of Cde. Grechko for taking part in the exercises.103

He asked us to designate a division that would take part as well as the commanders. We were asked to decide whether the division should be involved in the first or second stage. They felt it would be more expedient to take part in the first stage.

I replied that I had merely been authorized yesterday to announce our participation in the maneuvers, and that I would have to report all other matters. We agreed that Major-Generals Szücs and Reményi would leave for Mátyásföld on 25 July at 2 P.M. to prepare the plans and that they would report to me on the 26th.'04 It would be useful to include Major-General Kalázi in the preparations along with the commanders of the division and battalions and their chiefs of staff and political officers.105 We will appoint a military operational liaison group to be attached to Cde. Provalov's staff for the duration of the maneuvers.

They also declared that although we will prepare for the exercises and be ready to carry them out, it would be good if we did not actually have to go ahead with them.

The political objective of the maneuvers is to help the Czechoslovak people defeat the counterrevolution. We will explain this to the workers, peasants, and intellectuals and make it clear that we will withdraw afterwards. We will leave army units alone provided that they act loyally, but if they put up resistance they will have to be crushed.

102 All three of these Soviet generals played key roles during the invasion.

103 Soviet "persuasion" over the preceding two weeks forced the Hungarian leadership to reluctantly agree to contribute
Hungarian troops to the "exercises." On July 23, Kádár consulted with a few top aides and then explicitly confirmed
Hungary's willingness to take part, a decision that prompted effusive expressions of gratitude from Brezhnev and
Grechko. (See the top-secret aide memoire from the chief of the Hungarian General Staff, Col.-General Károly Csémi,
July 23, 1968, in MHKI, 5/12/11, Doc. 12.)

104 At the time, Mátyásföld (an outer district of Budapest) was the headquarters of the USSR's Southern Group of
Forces. Following the general mobilization on July 27, the headquarters was shifted to Csákvár; and it was temporarily
relocated once again, to Bratislava, on the day the invasion began.

105 The three Hungarian officers mentioned here were, seriatim: Major-General Ferenc Szücs, a deputy chief of the
Hungarian General Staff; Major-General Gyula Reményi, another deputy chief of the Hungarian General Staff; and
Major-General Lajos Kalázi, the commander of Hungary's 5th Army.

-277-

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