The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 104: Oldřich Černík's Recollections of the Crisis
(Excerpts)

Source: "Kak eto bylo: Byvshii Predsedatel' pravitel'stva ChSSR o' sobytiyakh avgusta 1968
goda," lzvestiya (Moscow), December 5, 1989, p. 5; and "Bumerang 'prazhskoi vesny',"
Izvestiya (Moscow), August 21, 1990, p. 7.

Oldřich Černík, Czechoslovak prime minister during the Prague Spring, provided two lengthy retro-
spectives on the crisis: the first appeared in Izvestiya in late 1989 shortly after the communist regime in
Czechoslovakia collapsed, and the second appeared in Izvestiya on the 22nd anniversary of the invasion
in 1990. The first article, in which Černík offers a "different" perspective than those of Soviet officials
interviewed earlier in Izvestiya, conveys the prime minister's broad view of events leading up to the invasion.
His 1990 interview includes two anecdotes about Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev: the irritation
that Brezhnev expressed at the slogan "socialism with a human face "; and how Brezhnev attempted to
turn the reformers against one another by promising to secure new posts for them if they would heed his
wishes. "He never doubted for a moment that it was his 'paternal' right to replace foreign prime ministers
and designate the leaders of other countries' parties," Černík concludes about the Soviet leader.


Černík's Recollections in 1989

My view of the situation in the ČSSR in 1968 and the entry of troops from the five Warsaw Pact countries onto our territory is different from that expressed by K. T. Mazurov.134 At that time I was a member of the CPCz CC Presidium and chairman of the ČSSR Government, and K. T. Mazurov was a member of the CPSU CC Politburo…

The process of post-January development in our country lasted only eight months. There was not a single instance during that time when the authorities had to resort to coercive methods or apply pressure against anti-socialist forces. The reason for this was simply that there were no mass protest actions or anti-socialist demonstrations in the ČSSR during that period, none at all. Yet even so, this process was interrupted and terminated by military intervention from outside. Why?

The development of events in Czechoslovakia was not, and could not be, at that time an isolated, internal matter for Czechoslovak communists and the Czechoslovak people. This process also affected the interests of the fraternal communist and workers' parties of the countries in the socialist camp. The ideological legacy of the period of administrative-bureaucratic rule, an oppressive legacy of Stalinism, still prevailed in all the socialist countries in Eastern Europe. This was a defining element and was the basic principle for realizing the practical policies of the individual communist parties and of the whole socialist commonwealth. The theoretical line swamped the practical construction of socialism; principles that were far removed from reality stifled new and innovative decisions; and every attempt to fashion a new program—one that was responsive to the life's realities and would ease social tensions—was consistently thwarted by the concept of the leading role of the party. Every such attempt or even a mere search for independent solutions became suspect and was construed as an attempt at revising the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

In the military-political sense, that is, from the standpoint of the defense and security of the socialist countries, the special significance of Czechoslovakia—a country located in the very heart of Europe and at the same time forming an outer boundary of the socialist world—was emphasized. Czechoslovakia both before and after the Second World War was an industrially

134 Černík is referring to the interview published in Izvestiya on August 19, 1989. which is translated as Document
No. 107.

-424-

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