The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 65: Speeches by Leonid Brezhnev, Alexander Dubček,
and Aleksei Kosygin at the Čierna nad Tisou Negotiations, July 29,1968
(Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, Sb. KV, Z/S—5, 6; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 2, pp. 43–82.

The Čierna nad Tisou negotiations, named after the small railroad crossing town in Slovakia on the
border with Ukraine where they were held, spanned three-and-a-half days of meetings and generated a
transcript of several hundred pages from which Brezhnev's, Dubček's and Kosygin's speeches are drawn.
The meeting represented the last bilateral opportunity to forestall a Soviet invasion.

The lead-off speech by Brezhnev, several hours in duration, set the tone for most of the negotiations.
The Soviet leader issued a litany of charges and accusations, recounting how CPCz leaders had
"retreated" and "failed to take any realistic measures" when the "anti-socialist and counterrevolutionary
forces" both inside and outside the party "launched their attacks against the communist party, the
foundations of socialism, and the friendship of the Czechoslovak and Soviet peoples." Drawing on a thick
pile of press clippings he had brought with him to the meeting as "evidence" of the growing strength of
the counterrevolutionary elements in Czechoslovakia, Brezhnev went into even greater depth about the
CPCz leadership's alleged transgressions than he had in the pastbolstering his speech with a level of
detail that made an effective defense against his accusations almost impossible.

The transcript of Dubček's speech records his attempts to respond to the concerns raised by the Soviet
leader. His defense of the CPCz's actions throughout the Prague Spring addressed issues that were sore
points in Soviet-Czechoslovak relations: the prolonged Soviet troop deployments, the press polemics, the
threats of military intervention emanating from East Germany and Poland, the use of the Warsaw Pact as
a means of generating pressure on the CPCz Presidium, and the reluctance of the Czechoslovak leadership
to reverse key reforms. "The basic credo of our external political orientation is unchanged," he assured
his Soviet counterparts.

To Dubček's strong defense of the Prague Spring, Soviet Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin responded
with a stinging denunciation of the CPCz and many of the Czechoslovak officials who were present,
especially František Kriegel.

The negotiations produced few concrete results, even when Brezhnev and Dubček talked in private.
Nevertheless, when the meeting ended the two sides agreed to convene a multilateral follow-up conference
in Bratislava.

(See also Documents Nos. 76, 81, 82, 85, and 86.)

Brezhnev's speech:114

I tell you frankly, comrades, that we left Dresden with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we had the impression that the collective exchange of views had induced Czechoslovak officials to think again about the gravity of the situation and about their own responsibility, and to consider what must be done to rebuff the counterrevolution. On the other hand, we did not sense that the Czechoslovak comrades had any concrete plans or any concrete idea about what to do, in practical terms, to prevent the situation from heading in an ever more dangerous direction.

And again I regret to say that the course of events has borne out the conclusions of the fraternal parties rather than the unjustified optimism of the CPCz leaders. The March-April plenum of the CPCz CC was unable to stabilize conditions. What is more, the CPCz Action Program which was adopted at that plenum began to be used, in a number of instances, by the right wing as some

114 The nearly 2,000 pages of Czechoslovak notes and negotiating transcripts, which had been placed in a special safe
by Gustáv Husák at Soviet behest, became available soon after the "velvet revolution" of November 1989. Portions from
the Soviet notes and Russian transcript were turned over to the Czechoslovak commission in 1992.

-284-

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