The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 115: Discussions Involving Certain Members
of the CPCz CC Presidium and Secretariat, at the Soviet Embassy
in Prague and the ČSSR President's Office, August 22,1968 (Excerpts)

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

These meeting notes record efforts on August 22 to establish a "Provisional Revolutionary Workers'
and Peasants' Government" in Czechoslovakia. Following the failure of the "healthy forces" in the CPCz
to gain majority support on the CPCz CC Presidium for a quisling government while the invasion was
underway, Soviet Ambassador Chervonenko convened a 5 P.M. meeting of thirteen Czechoslovak
officialswho had not been arrestedat the Soviet embassy to hear their demands and urge them to
implement the original Soviet plan for a transfer of power.

The thirteen officials who took part included: Vasil Bil'ak, Drahomír Kolder, František Barbírek, Emil
Rigo, Jan Piller, and Oldřich Švestka. who were full members of the CPCz Presidium; Jozef Lenárt, who
was a candidate member; Miloš Jakeš, who was the head of the CPCz Central Control and Auditing
Commission; and Alois Indra, Štefan Sádovský, and Zdeněk Mlynář, who were members of the CPCz CC
Secretariat. The other two participants in the meetingMinister of Internal Trade Oldřich Pavlovský, and
Deputy Interior Minister Viliam Šalgovič—were not members of the party leadership, but they were invited
to attend because they had been working so closely with the "healthy forces." (The only members of the
leadership not present were a candidate member of the CPCz Presidium, Antonín Kapek, and four members
of the CPCz Secretariat—Čestmír Císař, Evžen Erban, Oldřich Voleník, and Václav Slavík apparently
because of illness or, in Císař's case, because he was in hiding.)

The key demand of the thirteen officials was that Ambassador Chervonenko permit them to contact
Brezhnev and seek the release of Dubček and the other Czechoslovak leaders who had been detained.
Chervonenko kept the group waiting for several hours; when he finally appeared, he listened briefly and
then left the room. He reemerged a half hour later and informed the delegation that it would be impossible
to contact Moscow. Chervonenko advised the group to defer any proposals for obtaining the release of
their arrested colleagues, and he urged them to try once again to form a "Revolutionary Workers' and
Peasants' Government." Chervonenko then departed, and a formal meeting of the thirteen Czechoslovak
officials began at the embassy, as recorded in these notes.

The notes reveal that the participants were uneasy about the situation they confronted. Alois Indra,
whose unreservedly pro-Moscow orientation was well known both to his colleagues and to the public,
acknowledges that "the stigma of treason "odium zradce" will be left on everyone who takes over." By
the end of the meeting, none of the participants had yet agreed to be named the new CPCz first secretary;
the person they had chosen to head the new government, President Svoboda, flatly rejected the idea when
he was informed of it.

The second meeting recorded in these notes took place at Svoboda's office in the presidential Castle at
around 11:00 P.M. Shortly before this meeting, Chervonenko conferred with Svoboda and urged him to
take over as the leader of a "Provisional Revolutionary Government." The president refused, just as he
had earlier declined to approve the formation of a "Revolutionary Workers' and Peasants' Government"
headed by Indra, on the grounds that "ninety-five percent of the population are behind Dubček and
Černík," and "if they are not released a great deal of blood will be shed." Svoboda declares that he would
instead lead a small delegation to Moscow the next day to seek the release of all CPCz officials who had
been arrested.

(See also Documents Nos. 96, 100, 118, 129.)

Cde. Bil'ak says it is necessary to agree on an alternative in case the negotiations with Cdes. Dubček and Černík are unsuccessful. He recommends the immediate formation of a provisional revolutionary government consisting of 11–15 people under the leadership of Cde. Indra. He

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