The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 107: The Invasion in Retrospect: The Recollections
of Kirill Mazurov

Source: "Eto bylo v Prage," Izvestiya (Moscow), August 19, 1989, p. 5.

In 1989, the Soviet newspaper Izvestiya published an interview with Kirill Trofimovich Mazurov, who
in 1968 was a full member of the CPSU CC Politburo and first deputy chairman of the Soviet Council of
Ministers. He was intimately involved in all the top-level deliberations leading up to the invasion, and
served as the Politburo's representative in Prague on the night that the troops moved in. Under the
pseudonym of "General Trofimov," he oversaw all the military and political aspects of the invasion, issuing
orders on behalf of the full Politburo.

In this interview, Mazurov discusses some of the factors that motivated the invasion, including internal
developments in Czechoslovakia, prospective changes in Czechoslovak foreign policy, tensions in So-
viet-Czechoslovak relations, and pressure from hard-line East European leaders, especially Walter
Ulbricht and Wladysiaw Gomułka. Mazurov recounts the missions he performed once he got to Prague,
stressing that he had been urged to "do everything "he" could to prevent a civil war" in Czechoslovakia.
Mazurov returned to Moscow a week after the invasion, conceding that "there was still a long way to go
before everything was over."

(For Mazurov's initial on-site reports and activities, see Document No. 112.)

Interviewer: Kirill Trofimovich, what particular aspects of the internationalsituation leading up to August 1968 compelled the highest political leadership headed by Brezhnev to venture to send troops into a fraternal country?

Mazurov: This is difficult to understand today if we look at the past without trying to immerse ourselves in the circumstances of a different historical era. What has come to be called the "Cold War" was in.full swing at that time. Relations were strained between the FRG and the GDR, and the construction of the Berlin Wall had provoked genuine hysteria in the West. The Cuban Missile Crisis had inflamed political passions. We had placed our hopes in a meeting with the U.S. president, but the meeting was thwarted by Powers' subversive flight.143 We learned of plans that certain circles were hatching to provoke a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union. We could have retaliated and we were able to frighten them,' but did we really have the quantity of weapons at our disposal that they did?

In their efforts to break up the socialist commonwealth, Western countries set their sights on' Czechoslovakia. Situated in the center of Europe, a country, with rich economic and cultural' traditions, Czechoslovakia ranked among the ten most developed states. The opportunity was there to seize for those who wanted to exacerbate tension. The population had become dissatisfied with the adoption of the Soviet model of development. The mechanical copying of ourprocedures upset the balance of their economy. Likewise, discussions about the victims of repression in the 1940s and 1950s, which were tied to Stalinism, in one way or another affected us. The opponents of the new system attributed all the deformations to their cooperation with our country. The opposition openly expressed anu-Soviet and anti-socialist slogans;

The Soviet leadership was alarmed when it detected how fast the activities of right-wing forces were growing in Czechoslovakia. The CPCz CC lost control of the mass media. We pointed this out over and over to the Czechoslovak leaders.at that time. In this difficult international situation we had only one desire, namely, to be united, to prevent war, and to ensure that everyone came

143 This refers to the flight in May 1960 by Gary Francis Powers in a U-2 reconnaissance plane, which was shot down
by a Soviet surface-to-air missile. The ensuing controversy resulted in the cancellation of aplanned U.S.-Soviet summit
in Geneva.

-433-

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