The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 116: Stenographic Account of Alexander Dubček's
Talks with Leonid Brezhnev and Other Members of the CPSU CC
Politburo, August 23,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, Sb. KV, Z/S 10; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 2, pp. 234–250.

This stenographic transcript records Alexander Dubček's meeting in Moscow on August 23, only two
days after he was detained by Soviet forces and placed in KGB custody. The meeting with the four Soviet
leadersBrezhnev, Kosygin, Podgomy, and Voronovlasted over three hours during which they at-
tempted to coerce Dubček to cooperate in publicly justifying the invasion, reversing the Prague Spring,
and "normalizing" the situation. The transcript demonstrates Dubček's refusal to capitulate. Although
the CPCz leader acknowledges that he is "in a very difficult emotional state, "he explains, firmly and
cogently, why the invasion is "a grave mistake" that will have "tragic consequences."

Soviet leaders decided to bring Dubček to Moscow for talks after the. collapse of their initial effort to
set up a hard-line regime in Prague on August 21. Dubček came against his will; Soviet leaders had failed
to meet his precondition that he first be reunited with his other detained colleagues. Unbeknownst to
Dubček, Černík was separately transported to Moscow and brought to the meeting as it was ending.
Brezhnev also concealed from Dubček the fact that President Svoboda had arrived in Moscow earlier that
day in an effort to gain Dubček's release.


STENOGRAPHIC RECORD OF THE NEGOTIATIONS

Cdes. Brezhnev L. I., Kosygin A. N., Podgorny N. V., Voronov G. I. with Cdes. Dubček and Černík31

Brezhnev: How is Cde. Černík feeling?32

Dubček: Bad, like everyone else.

Pödgorny: Is it his health that's bad or his mood?

Dubček: It's the situation that's difficult.

Brezhnev: Let's agree not to rehash the past and to have a calm discussion, beginning with the situation that has now been created in order to find a solution that would be of benefit to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, so that it can act normally and independently in accord with the principles contained in the Bratislava Declaration. Let it act independently. We did not wish and do not intend to intervene in the future. Let the government base its actions on the principles of the January and May plenary sessions of the CPCz Central Committee. We spoke about that in our documents and are ready to reaffirm if. Of course, we can't say that you and the others are in a happy mood right now. But the question is not one of your mood. We have to conduct negotiations in a prudent and sober way in looking for solutions. It can be said simply that your failure to fulfill your commitments prompted the five countries to take extreme but unavoidable measures. The course of events since then has entirely confirmed that behind your back (in no way do we wish to imply that you were standing at the head of it) right-wing forces (we modestly

31 Only Dubček was actually present during most of this meeting. Černík arrived near the end and spoke very briefly;
excerpts from that part of the meeting are not provided here. The 52-page stenographic transcript of Dubček's initial
meeting in Moscow, which was turned over by the Russian government to the Czechoslovak commission in mid-1992,
contains some small gaps and is not quite complete.

32 Presumably, this question was raised because Černík had been severely beaten after his arrest. See Dubček's'
recollections in Document No. 120. No doubt, the statement refers to Dubček's most recent encounter with Černík on
the previous day. while the two were still in the KGB's custody. Some accounts (including Černík's own recollections)
later suggested that Dubček and Černík had met in Moscow on 23 August just before Dubček's meeting in the Kremlin,
but the transcript of the meeting tends to undercut that version of events.

-465-

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