The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 117: Minutes of Soviet-Czechoslovak Talks
in the Kremlin, August 23 and 26,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, AÚV KSČ, F. 07/15; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 2, pp. 250–254, 265–271.

These minutes record two Soviet-Czechoslovak meetings held in Moscow shortly after the invasion.
The first of the meetings, on August 23, was with ČSSR President Ludvík Svoboda, who led a party and
state delegation to Moscow to request the release of the Czechoslovak officials. Brezhnev and his
colleagues first held a brief private meeting with Svoboda, during which they continued to urge him
unsuccessfully—to approve the establishment of a "provisional revolutionary government. "The meeting
then expanded to include the whole Czechoslovak delegation, made up of ČSSR Defense Minister Martin
Dzúr, ČSSR Justice Minister Bohuslav Kučera (who was a member of the socialist party, not the CPCz),
ČSSR Deputy Prime Minister Gustáv Husák, Czechoslovak Ambassador in Moscow Vladimir Koucký, and
hard-line members of the CPCz Presidium and CPCz Secretariat who had been working behind-the-scenes
since July to bring about an invasion.

The second meeting, which began in the late afternoon of August 26, and lasted into the evening, included
Dubček, Smrkovský, Černík, Špaček, and Šimon, as well as Zdeněk Mlynář and Miloš Jakeš. (The only
member of the CPCz Presidium who did not take part in this meeting was František Kriegel who declined,
out of principle, to take part in any formal negotiations with the Soviet Politburo and asked to be returned
to his detention site outside the Kremlin.)

At this meeting, Dubček, who had not attended any meetings since August 23, offers a lengthy rebuttal
to the Soviet arguments to reverse the Prague Spring. The CPCz leader insists that the invasion is a "grave
mistake" which has "inflicted great damage" on the CPCz, posed a "threat of a split" within the party,
and "created objective conditions" in Czechoslovakia "for the growth of anti-Soviet sentiment." These
effects were unlikely to dissipate anytime soon, he states, especially while foreign troops were so
conspicuously deployed on Czechoslovak territory. Dubček's comments prompt a scathing response from
Brezhnev, who warns that Czechoslovakia would remain a part of the socialist commonwealth and that
Moscow would never tolerate actions that "would negate our sacrifices in the Second World War." Further
talks are "pointless," Brezhnev angrily interjects when Dubček tries to respond. Then the whole Soviet
delegation, led by Brezhnev, demonstratively walks out in protest.

The talks resumed in the evening. At the outset, Brezhnev and Kosygin attempt to forestall any new
exchanges, arguing that further questions of the legitimacy of the invasion would be a "big setback for all
that we've done" and would "risk civil war." The two sides spend the rest of the evening going over a
protocol drafted by the Soviets, article by article, finishing just before midnight. The Moscow Protocol,
as it came to be known, established the ground rules for Czechoslovakia's "normalization" under Soviet
occupation.

Minutes of the talks on 23 August in the Kremlin

For the ČSSR: Cdes. Svoboda, Bil'ak, Dzúr, Husák, Indra, Kučera, Piller, and Koucký.

For the USSR: Cdes. Brezhnev, Kosygin, Podgorny, Voronov, Kirilenko, Polyanskii, Suslov, Shelepin, Grechko, Gromyko, Katushev, Ponomarev.

The talks were opened by Cde. Brezhnev.

He emphasized his willingness to find a solution acceptable to all sides. We support the decisions of the January, April, and May plenary sessions. We never intended to replace anyone in the leadership. At Čierna nad Tisou we intended to find a political solution.

But we saw what was happening. Anti-socialist forces were attacking not only the USSR but were engaged in the ideological manipulation of the people so that the very cause of socialism was endangered….

The reaction in the ČSSR to Bratislava was such that the propaganda organs began to depict it as a victory of the CPCz and so forth. Not even Rudé právo was able to find its bearings. I then

-469-

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