The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 105: János Kádár's Recollections of Events Preceding
and Following the Invasion

Source: "Yanosh Kádár o 'prazhskoi vesne'," Kommunist (Moscow), No. 7, May 1990,
pp. 101–103.

In a lengthy interview after the fall of the Soviet Union, former Hungarian leader János Kádár discussed
events from early May to late August 1968, when the pressure for military intervention grew and the invasion
finally took place. Kádár dates the first time Leonid Brezhnev directly raised the possibility of military
intervention at the multilateral conference in Moscow on May 8th. Except for the Hungarian delegation,
Kádár recalls, the East European officials at the meeting seemed quite willing, and even eager, to go along
with that option. Even after the CPSU CC Politburo made its final decision in mid-August, Kàdàr claims,
he still believed that political options were worth pursuing. He acknowledges, however, that "they were
no longer listening to us by that point." General Secretary Brezhnev tried to purchase Hungary's support
with "a petty bargain, "according to Kádár's account: "Jànos, contribute just one military unit, and you '11
receive whatever you need." Yet, Kádár is evasive when the interviewer tries to ascertain why Hungary
ultimately decided to support and participate in the invasion, answering that "the Czechoslovak comrades
did not permit us to take steps to head off a catastrophe and they did not take those steps themselves either. "

Kàdár: In early May, Kosygin phoned and asked us to come to a meeting in Moscow. As it turned out, they wanted to discuss the results of the meeting that had just been held with the Czechoslovaks.136 But there were no representatives from the CPCz at the Moscow meeting.

Brezhnev informed the leaders of the Soviet, Polish, East German, Bulgarian, and Hungarian parties about the meeting he'd had with Dubček, Smrkovský, and Bil'ak. The meeting was totally unsatisfactory. The leaders of the CPSU were disturbed that Czechoslovakia's borders had been opened. They also were concerned that the opposition forces in Czechoslovakia had become more and more aggressive and that anti-Soviet sentiments were being expressed. In the end we all agreed that troop maneuvers by the Warsaw Pact countries might have a beneficial effect both inside the country and beyond its borders.

During the negotiations Brezhnev raised the question of resorting to decisive measures if positive changes in Czechoslovakia did not materialize.

Interviewer: How did all of you react to this?

Kádár: Some approved the idea. But we said there was no need for rash action. In Dresden we raised our voices, but in this case we didn't have the right to do that.

Interviewer: The others were in agreement with you?

Kádár: No.

Interviewer: This was followed by Dubček's official visit to Budapest and by the extension of the Hungarian-Czechoslovak treaty. This appeared to be a political demonstration.

Kádár: We didn't think of it that way. These things had all been planned long before, so they had to take place. Of course, to the outside observer it might have seemed that it was just a demonstration. But in the middle of June, Warsaw Pact troop maneuvers took place in Czechoslovakia. We weren't sure that this step was necessary. We believed that the Czechoslovaks needed assistance, and that without them we wouldn't be able to do anything.

136 This is a reference to the bilateral Soviet-Czechoslovak meeting held in Moscow on May 4, 1968. The larger
Moscow conference was held on May 8, without the participation of either Czechoslovakia or Romania. See Documents
Nos. 28 and 31.

-427-

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