The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 31: Minutes of the Secret Meeting of the "Five"
in Moscow, May 8,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, Sb. KV, Z/S 3; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 193–216.

This transcript of the multilateral conference in Moscow on May 8,1968 provides an internal account
of how Soviet and East European leaders secretly assessed events in Czechoslovakia, weighed their
options, and took a further step toward a consensus in favor of military intervention. Initially, Brezhnev
informs the communist party leaders of Bulgaria, Poland, East Germany and Hungary of the earlier
meeting with the Czechs in Moscow, and Dubček's lack of a "constructive" response. The meeting of the
"Five," according to the transcript, then turns to an evaluation of events in Czechoslovakia. Both Ulbricht
and Gomułka repeatedly insist that a full-blown "counterrevolution" was under way in Czechoslovakia
and that the country was in danger of returning to a "bourgeois order;" Hungarian leader János Kádár,
however, argues that counterrevolutionary forces will not gain the upper hand and that most of the negative
developments in Czechoslovakia are attributable to Dubček's "fight against mistakes committed in the
past" under Novotný. Although Kádár did not wholly discount some of the dangers that had emerged in
Czechoslovakia, his clear preference is to work with, rather than against, Dubček and the other
Czechoslovak reformers. In contrast, Gomułka, Ulbricht, Zhivkov, and most Soviet officials express the
need for outside military intervention if the "healthy "forces within the CPCz are unable to reassert control
and rebuff the "counterrevolutionary" forces.

8 May 1968

Participants in the talks:30

From the Soviet Union: Cdes. L. I. Brezhnev, N. V. Podgorny, A. N. Kosygin, and K. F. Katushev;

From Bulgaria: Cde. T. Zhivkov;

From Hungary: Cde. J. Kádár;

From the GDR: Cdes. W. Ulbricht and G. Axen; and

From Poland: Cde. W. Gomułka.

L. I. Brezhnev: Dear comrades, allow me in the name of the CPSU Central Committee to extend to you a warm welcome in the capital of our homeland, Moscow, and to thank you for responding promptly to our suggestion to meet and exchange opinions on such a pressing issue for all of us as the events in Czechoslovakia.

"Brezhnev next recounts developments in Czechoslovakia since the Dresden meeting and informed the others about the Soviet-Czechoslovak talks on May 4."

L I. Brezhnev: At the outset of our talks, Cde. Dubček informed us about the situation in the country. He spoke for two hours. After he was done, Cde. Černík spoke, followed by Cde. Smrkovský and Cde. Bil'ak.

I won't go into details about Cde. Dubček's remarks. They were quite similar to his speech in Dresden. He said nothing constructive; he limited himself to general assurances to the effect that they are coping with events. Not surprisingly, he said nothing about the May Day

30 This transcript is one of a number of documents that the Russian government provided to the Czechoslovak
commission in April 1992.

-132-

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