The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 103: Alexander Dubček's Recollections of the Invasion
and Its Immediate Aftermath

Source: "Alexander Dubček vzpomíná: Púvodní rozhovor pro Občanský deník o pozadí
srpnových událostí roku 1968," Občanský deník (Prague), Part 3, August 17, 1990, p. 3.

Alexander Dubček's lengthy interview with Občanský deník in 1990 before his death covers the events
on the night of the invasion and the first two days immediately thereafter. Dubček recalls how "stunned"
he was at news of the invasion, and the initial decisions he made "to prevent a military confrontation."
He describes the way he and his colleagues were rounded up and spirited away by a team of Soviet KGB
and Czechoslovak State Security officers and his growing comprehension after arriving in Poland that
"this was not just a 100 percent liquidation measure." He notes that some of the others, especially Černik,
were severely beaten and mistreated by the Soviet officers, and remembers screamingin Russianat his
captors in Poland who were manhandling Černik to "let go of him immediately." The interview also
includes valuable information on Dubček's emotional reactions to his Soviet counterparts in Moscow, but
also to President Svoboda who had been brought to the Kremlin for negotiations. "Psychologically,
everything affected me very badly," Dubček recalls.

(See Document No. 67 for the first two parts of the Občanský deník interview, and Document No. 120
for the final part.)


PART 3

Obáanský deník: We are interested in your personal testimony on the way the situation unfolded after Černík returned from the phone and informed you that Soviet troops had entered our country.

Dubček: When Černík came and officially announced that troops had crossed the borders, everybody reacted differently. I was stunned and I got up from my chair and started to walk gloomily around the room. I was taken aback by such treachery. I did not expect it. It might sound naive nowadays, but at the time I thought that maybe someone would call, that it might be possible to call Brezhnev, or that something else would happen. One thing was clear to me: we could not resign, we on the presidium had to do something. Gradually the view prevailed that we should adopt a position on the matter. The result was the famous declaration by the presidium in which we denounced the entry of troops as an illegal act, and so forth. I believed it essential to have the declaration published as soon as possible.

At the time I realized that another step was also extremely important: to decide whether or not to resist the military intervention. My position—which was espoused not only by me, but by those who thought in the same view—has often been judged in a negative light since. Yet even today, knowing all I know now, I would definitely act again the way I acted at that time, and would do everything I could to prevent a military confrontation. At the time I believed this was the right decision, and I still believe that today. To have done otherwise would have resulted in enormous and senseless bloodshed, and I am certain that the Soviet authorities did expect there to be fairly widescale armed resistance. Under the circumstances, we could have either given our consent to such action, or resistance could have taken place spontaneously. But my better judgment told me not to act the way the enemy was expecting us to act. That's why I told Černík and Svoboda: "Do not put up military resistance; let the invasion proceed without any sort of armed resistance."

Občanský deník: Did you consult the president or Dzúr about the possibility of defending the country, or was this your decision alone?

-420-

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