of a Telephone Conversation with Leonid Brezhnev, December 13,1967
Source: Sb. KV, Z/M; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 32–34.
This transcript of a December 13, 1967, phone call from Leonid Brezhnev to Hungarian communist
party leader Jdnos Kádár records the Soviet premier's reaction to his visit to Prague and his negative
impression of Novotný's political situation. Brezhnev tells Kádár that Novotný "hasn't the slightest idea
about the true state of affairs" and "is himself to blame for all these problems because he does not know
what collective leadership is and how to handle people." Despite Brezhnev's deep misgivings about
Novotný's abilities, the Soviet leader indicates, as he did during his meetings in Prague, that he agreed
with Novotný about the need to proceed slowly in separating the top party and slate posts in Czechoslo-
vakia, preferably leaving the matter to a "later stage." At the end of the conversation, Kádár informs
Brezhnev that Novotný has cancelled the Hungarian leader's scheduled trip to Prague.
Cde. Brezhnev phoned me this morning (13.12.1967) and conveyed to me the following information:
"I consider it my duty to inform Cde. Kádár about my trip to Prague. The trip was quite unexpected; it was arranged at the personal request of Cde. Novotný.13
Even before the request there were signs that certain events had taken place in Prague, that a large number of people at the October plenary session had spoken out directly against Cde. Novotný. There were proposals to introduce a secret ballot in party elections, and the Slovak issue was raised in very tense terms. All this demanded our close attention, and that is why we decided I should go to Prague. Although I am very much pressed for time—we are preparing a session of the Politburo—I nevertheless left on an unofficial friendly visit.14
My first conversation was with Cde. Novotný. He informed me about the October plenary session, but it was evident that he was not aware of the scale these problems had assumed and the way things had evolved before the session of the Central Committee. Later on, the plenary session was interrupted, and certain urgent problems that had arisen were left unresolved because the comrades were about to leave for a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution.
At the conclusion of the Central Committee session it was announced that another session would meet in December to deal with the plan and the budget, and that the discussion could continue there. Cde. Novotný fell sick after his return from Moscow and was unable to get up until the last day (his back was hurting).15
I spoke with the members of the Politburo one by one. In my talks I discovered that each of them was preoccupied with his own concerns; no one really cared about the plenary session, but merely about carrying on the discussion. Even at the previous session the discussion had been spontaneous and, as a result, various groupings formed. Cde. Novotný hasn't the slightest idea
13 The following passage has been deleted here: "who even insisted twice on this matter."
14 The manuscript originally said "under the pretext of an unofficial friendly visit," but the words "under the pretext"
were subsequently crossed out.
15"Novotný's trip to Moscow in early November was a routine visit to take part in the celebrationof the 50th anniversary
of the October Revolution of 1917, but, unbeknownst to the other members of the CPCzCC Presidium, he also used the
occasion to invite Brezhnev to come to Prague in December.