to the CPCz CC Presidium," July 26,1968
Source: "Poselství československého lidu Předsednictvu ÚV KSČ," Literární listy,
special edition, July 26, 1968, p. 1.
This "Message from the Citizens" to the Presidium, captures the degree of popular support for resisting
Soviet pressure on the reform movement. The document was drafted by the well-known writer, Pavel
Kohout; it was intended to bolster the morale of top Czechoslovak officials on their way to the meetings
at Čierna nod Tisou with the "historic task" of "convincing the leaders of the CPSU that the renewal
process in our country must be carried through successfully to the end."
The message calls on the Presidium to show "unity" and "courage" in "defending the path on which
we have set out, a path we will not abandon as long as we live." The statement closes by reminding the
CPCz negotiators that they were "writing a critical page of Czechoslovakia's history on our behalf," and
that "we will anxiously follow your deliberations … We are thinking of you. Think of us!"
Such catchphrases and slogans devised by Kohout, along with the compelling sentiments expressed in
the statement, ensured that the "Message" became an effective vehicle for ordinary Czechs and Slo-
vaks—even those who normally had little interest in politics—to lend their support to the reform movement.
After it was published in a special issue of the weekly Literární listy on July 26, 1968, and featured the
next day in many newspapers all over Czechoslovakia, including Rudé právo, over a million people signed
it and countless others pledged their support in letters and telegrams.
Message from the Citizens to the Presidium
We are writing to you on the eve of your meeting with the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union where you are going to discuss the fate of us all. As on many occasions in history, only a few men are going to decide the fate of millions of people. This is a difficult task and we would like to make it easier for you by giving you our support.
Over the past centuries the history of our country has been a history of bondage. With two brief intervals, we were condemned to shape our national existence illegally, and several times we were on the brink of annihilation. That is why our people so passionately hailed the democracy brought to them by liberation in 1918. It was a flawed democracy since it failed to provide its citizens with social security. And yet it was the working class that during Munich most firmly revealed its determination to defend this democracy against obliteration. This was another reason why our people so enthusiastically welcomed socialism, which our liberation in 1945 brought us. It was a flawed socialism because it failed to give creative freedom to its working population. But we tenaciously went in pursuit of it and began to find it after last January….
The time has come when after centuries our country has once again become the cradle of hope, not only our own hope. The time has come when we are capable of demonstrating to the world that socialism is not some emergency solution for underdeveloped countries but the only true alternative for civilization.
We expected that this would be greeted with sympathy, above all by the entire socialist camp. Instead we are being accused of treason. We receive ultimata from comrades whose pronouncements increasingly reveal their ignorance of our developments and our situation. We are being accused of crimes we never committed. Designs are being attributed to us which we never had and do not have.