The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 81: Transcript of Leonid Brezhnev's Telephone
Conversation with Alexander Dubček, August 13,1968

Source: APRF, Prot. No. 38; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 2, pp. 172–181.

On August 13, General Secretary Brezhnev called Dubček to admonish him for not taking immediate
steps to reverse the Prague Spring reforms. A word-for-word transcription of this critical and dramatic
conversation was apparently made possible by a KGB tape recording system which enabled Soviet leaders
to keep track of important telephone calls.

In this conversation, Brezhnev adopts afar more aggressive and belligerent tone than in a call four days
previously. The transcript records him repeatedly accusing Dubček of "outright deceit" and of "blatantly
sabotaging the agreements reached at Čiema and Bratislava." The Soviet leader also issues oblique
warnings about "the emergence of an entirely new situation…forcing "the Soviet Union" to consider new,
independent measures that would defend both the CPCz and the cause of socialism in Czechoslovakia."

Midway through Brezhnev's attack, Dubček declares that he "would be content to go back to working
at my old place," and step down as CPCz first secretary. With apparent exasperation, he tells Brezhnev
that "if you "on the Soviet Politburo" believe we 're deceiving you, you should take the measures you regard
as appropriate." "Such measures," Brezhnev responds, "would be easier for us to adopt if you and your
comrades would more openly say that these are the measures you're expecting of us."

(See related Documents Nos. 77, 82, 85.)


Comrade L. I. Brezhnev's conversation with Comrade A. S. Dubček21

13 August 1968

Start of the conversation: 5:35 P.M.

End of the conversation: 6:55 P.M.

Brezhnev: Aleksandr Stepanovich, I felt the need to speak with you today. I called you early in the morning and then later in the day, but you were away the whole time in Karlovy Vary, and then you called me back, but at that point I had gone to have a talk with the comrades. Now that I've returned, they told me that you have a presidium meeting going on, and so I hope I'm not greatly disturbing you by having this conversation.:.

Dubček: No, not at all, the comrades already told me that you wanted to speak with me. I just now got back from Karlovy Vary. I had a meeting there with Cde. Ulbricht.

Brezhnev: How did the meeting go?

Dubček: I think it went well. Cde. Ulbricht and the comrades accompanying him returned today to the GDR, and I just finished seeing them off.

Brezhnev: We have little time, and so let me get straight to the point. I'm again turning to you with anxiety about the fact that the mass media in your country are not only incorrectly depicting our conferences in Čierna nad Tisou and Bratislava, but are also stepping up their attacks against

27 Some Russian (and other) historians have looked at these remarks and concluded that Brezhnev may have construed
them as a tacit green light for Soviet intervention. Others disagree, however, and it remains a matter of continuing debate.

28 This transcript was declassified and released from the Russian Presidential Archive in April 1994 in connection
with an international conference on the 1968 crisis held in Prague. It is one of nine documents presented at that time by
the head of the Russian Archival Service, Rudol'f Pikhoya, to Czech President Vaclav Havel. At times the transcriber of
the tapes has editorially summarized Dubček's remarks rather than simply record them. Those places are marked with
brackets.

-345-

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