The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview
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DOCUMENT No. 86: Summary of Alexander Dubček's Meeting
with János Kádár at Komárno, August 17,1968

Source: ÚSD, AÚV KSČ, F. 02/1; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 2, pp. 216–219.

This memorandum of a conversation records a meeting between Dubček and Kádár on August
17arranged that morning at Kádár's initiative. At the Yalta talks, Brezhnev had urged that the Hungarian
leader intercede with Dubček one last time. The Komárno meeting, however, took place just after the Soviet
Politburo had decided, on August I7, to give the final go-ahead for "Operation Danube "as the invasion
was codenamed.

The meeting memorandum clarifies a longstanding discrepancy in the historical accounts of Kádár's
motiveswhether he sought to forestall an invasion by warning Dubček to take immediate action, or was
simply engaging in a deceptive charade at Moscow's behest, as Dubček implied in his own memoir, Hope
Dies Last. Twice at the beginning of the conversation, Kádár indicates that he had spoken to Brezhnev,
Kosygin, and Podgorny about his intention to meet Dubček, and had secured their approval. Those
admissions would have been peculiar if Kádár had genuinely sought to mislead Dubček into thinking that
the Hungarian leader was acting independently of the Soviet Union. Instead, by acknowledging from the
outset the constraints imposed by his ties with the CPSU leadership, Kádár appears to be trying to signal
to Dubček that the conversation could not be as free-ranging or explicit as either of them might have liked.

Although Kádár made no reference to the pending likelihood of military aggression against Czecho-
slovakia, he is reported in Zdeněk Mlynář's account, Nachtfrost: Erfahrungen auf dem Weg vom realen
zum menschlichen Sozialismus, to have offered a final warning to Dubček as they parted in the train
station: "Do you really not understand the sort of people you are dealing with?" Dubček, in his memoir,
records Kádár's remark about the Soviet leaders as: "But you do know them, don't you? "very similar,
but not identical. These meeting notes do not contain this final exchange.

The minutes were prepared by E. Újváry, a senior staffer at the CPCz CC's International Department.

"Pro forma introductory material has been deleted."

The Hungarian side was represented also by Cde. Erdélyi, a member of the HSWP Central Committee and deputy minister of foreign affairs.

The meeting, which took place in the building of the district committee of the Slovak CP at Komárno, was held at the request of Cde. Kádár.60

At the beginning of his remarks, Cde. Kádár said he wanted to have a personal meeting with Cde. Dubček with no protocol attached. The HSWP CC Politburo had agreed to his proposal. He said he was glad it had been possible to arrange the meeting. He mentioned the Bratislava meeting of the delegations from the six fraternal parties and noted that the brevity of the meeting as well as the heavy workload had not made it possible to discuss certain topical issues. That was why he had come up with the idea of having an additional meeting. Another factor that persuaded him of the need for such a meeting was, as he put it, some events that had occurred since the last bilateral meeting (at Komárno on Hungarian territory on 13 July 1968),61 particularly the talks between the CPCz CC Presidium and the CPSU CC Politburo at Čierna nad Tisou and the Bratislava meeting of the six fraternal socialist countries. Cde. Kádár then informed Cde. Dubček that after the Bratislava meeting he had spoken several times to Cde. Brezhnev on the phone, who also thought a meeting between the first secretaries of the CPCz

60 Kádár's own brief report on the meeting, presented to a joint session of the HSWP Central Committee and the
Hungarian Council of Ministers, August 23, 1968. can be found in PTTI, 288, F. 4/94 oe. See also a one-paragraph
description of the Kádár-Dubček meeting in Zdeněk Mlynář's Nachtfrost: Erfahrungen auf dem Weg vom realen zum
menschlichen Sozialismus (Köln: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1978), p. 157, and Dubček's own account in his posthu-
mously published memoir, Hope Dies Last, p. 173.

61 See Kádár's statement in Document No. 52. See also Document No. 51.

-370-

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