The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 97! Emergency Cable from the CPSU Politburo
to Soviet Ambassadors around the World, August 19–20,1968

Source: AVPRF, F. 059, Op. 58, P. 124, D. 548, LI. 93–94.

This highly classified cable was transmitted by the CPSU Politburo to Soviet ambassadors in all major
countries on the night of August 19, and the early morning hours of August 20. The cable directs Soviet
ambassadors to strictly adhere to the official line when justifying the invasion. Ambassadors are also
instructed to respond to "demonstrations and picketing of an unfriendly nature that might take place"
outside the embassies and other Soviet buildings by meeting the demonstrators and explaining, as "patiently
and tactfully "as possible, why the invasion had occurred. The final sentence of the cable appears to reflect
concents that embassy personnel might begin questioning the wisdom of the invasion if they were unduly
swayed by "propagandist^, anti-Soviet campaigns" or by "attacks and provocations of various sorts
launched by reactionary bourgeois circles." Almost no embassy employees or other Soviet officials
opposed the invasion in private (much less in public), and the very few who did were swiftly dismissed.

SOVIET AMBASSADOR (EYES ONLY)114

We are letting you know in strict secrecy that within the next day or two there might be a joint effort by the five socialist countries—the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, the GDR, and Bulgaria—to provide assistance to the Czechoslovak people in dealing a blow to the counterrevolution and defending the gains of socialism. This help is being extended at the request of the Czechoslovak side.

You must bear in mind that there may be attacks and provocations of various sorts launched by reactionary bourgeois circles in the countries where you are stationed against the embassy (representation and consulate) and other Soviet institutions. These circles may also seek to engage in a propagandistic, anti-Soviet campaign.

It stands to reason that the embassy and other of our institutions must take all necessary precautionary measures. First of all, you must explain to all our citizens the purpose and significance of our action, relying on the appropriate materials you have at your disposal as well as whatever documents may be published.

Second, in discussions with foreign state and social officials, you must explain our policy toward fraternal Czechoslovakia, especially emphasizing that the aid to the Czechoslovak people is being undertaken at the request of the Czechoslovak side.

The whole job of explaining these matters must be conducted actively, with full awareness that our actions are just, and that they respond both to the interests of Czechoslovakia and other socialist countries and to the common interests of peace in Europe and the entire world.

In the event that demonstrations or picketing of an unfriendly nature take place outside the embassy building or other Soviet institutions, assess the situation and, if the participants in the Č-monstrations express the desire to speak to employees of the embassy (or of another institution), you do not have to avoid such discussions. You must patiently and tactfully offer them the necessary explanations.

All our employees and the members of their families must behave stolidly and must strictly observe party and professional discipline.

114 The existence of this cable was confirmed in mid-1992, when a copy was relea'sed from the archives of the Russian
Foreign Ministry.

-409-

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