The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 99: Report by Defense Minister Dzúr, June 9,1970,
Regarding His Activities on the Night of August 20–21,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, AÚV KSČ, File for G. Husák.

General Martin Dzúr prepared this report for the CPCz Control and Auditing Commission in June of
1970. The section reproduced, "The Period from the Night of 20/21 August 1968 Through until the End
of 1968, "explains how Dzúr first discovered that foreign military units were crossing into Czechoslovakia
and what measures he took to forestall a violent clash between those units and the Czechoslovak People's
Army (CzPA). He cites the full text of a top-secret directive he issued to the CzPA "in encrypted form on
20 August at midnight," ordering all soldiers to remain in their barracks and desist from "the use of
weapons under any circumstances."

(See Document No. 106.)

… On 20 August 1968,I was working at the National Defense Ministry as on any other normal working day. I received documents, had a pre-congress discussion with journalists, and so forth.

Late in the afternoon I got a telephone call from General Kodaj.115 He asked me whether I knew what was being discussed at the CPCz CC Presidium. When I told him I didn't know, he suggested that I contact Cde. Bil'ak. I phoned Cde. Bil'ak at the CPCz Central Committee but didn't find him there. I told this to General Kodaj, who suggested that I call Cde. Hruškovič at the Slovak CP Central Committee. He referred me to Cde. Šalgovič. I phoned Cde. Šalgovič, who promised to call on me that evening in my home. But this didn't happen. I didn't know that the situation was so serious; I assumed there would be changes in the CPCz CC Presidium.

In the evening Cde. Ludovít Bortel came to see me; we concluded that evidently something was going on in the CPCz CC Presidium.116 We agreed that he would try to find out at the CPCz Central Committee what was happening. I lent him a car, and he left for the CPCz Central Committee, where he allegedly spoke to the first secretary. But when he returned, he told me that he had found nothing out.

At around 10 P.M. on 20 August 1968, Cde. Černik called me at home from the Central Committee. He asked me whether I knew what was happening on the borders. I replied that nothing special was going on. He replied that he wasn't interested in the border with Federal Germany and Austria but in the other borders. I told him I would have to ask Minister Pavel because I was responsible only for the western borders. Cde. Černik said he had been unable to contact Pavel and asked me to try to contact him and then let Cde. Černík know at the CPCz CC Presidium.

At that point the possibility of an intervention by the allied troops occurred to me for the first time. (Later I discovered that A. Dubček and Černik had already been informed from Hungary and Poland, but didn't see fit to let me know about it.)117

115 Lt. Gen. Samuel Kodaj had recently been appointed commander of the CzPA's Eastern Military District, which
corresponded exactly with the territory of Slovakia.

116 Ludovit Bortel was the ČSSR deputy minister of internal trade (primarily responsible for tourism), the general
secretary of the Government Foreign Travel Committee, and a member of the Presidium of the Czechoslovak-Soviet
Friendship Association. His responsibilities were very different from those of Dzúr, but the two men and Dubček had
known each other in Slovakia when they were in earlier stages of their careers.

117 Dzúr is referring here to the unconfirmed reports streaming into the ČSSR Foreign Ministry on the evening of
August 20 (see Document No. 98). These cables, which were quickly passed on to the CPCz leadership, heightened the
tense atmosphere at the CPCz Presidium meeting; but similar rumors had turned up before and had proven unfounded,
so it comes as little surprise that Dubček and Černík did not immediately appreciate the full urgency of the warnings.
Certainly there is no evidence that they were trying to conceal anything from Dzúr.

-411-

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