The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 123: Josef Smrkovský's Address to the People
after His Return from Moscow, August 29,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: Sedm pral'ských dnů, pp. 401 ff.

This transcription of Josef Smrkovský's address was broadcast to the nation over Czechoslovak radio
on August 29. His detailed and somber speech conveys the harshness of the Moscow agreements and the
severity of the constraints imposed by the "cruel reality of the Warsaw Pact's military occupation of our
-country." Although he makes no mention of the Moscow protocol, he does explicitly cite many of the steps
the Czechoslovak leadership would have to take to comply with the protocol. In his address, Smrkovský
also explains why he and his colleagues have decided to agree to a "compromise "with Soviet authorities.

Our negotiations in Moscow were of an unusual nature. You know that we did not go there all together at the same time, and you are also aware of the circumstances under which each of us went there and negotiated there. I think I need not elaborate on this any further; for me as for Comrade Dubček and the others this is still a subject that is too difficult and painful.

Under the circumstances, as everyone will agree, deciding what to do was highly problematic. The occupation of the country by the Warsaw Pact armies was a cruel reality. Our contacts with home were limited; at first we had little, indeed almost no, information, and suddenly we had to rely more on our faith in the firm position of our people than on any knowledge of the facts of the situation. On the other hand, the position of our partners was conveyed to us very accurately. We even detected certain political difficulties that the military intervention was creating. We knew that the world was sympathetic toward us, but we also knew that the great powers prefer compromise solutions over everything else.

Under these circumstances we were faced by a dilemma to which there was no way out.

We could have rejected any compromise and forced events to the point where the foreign troops would remain on our territory permanently, with all the implications this would have for the sovereignty of our state, for political rights, for the economy, and possibly for greater human sacrifices, which such a deepening of the conflict would have clearly entailed. I want to point out that we even considered rejecting any accommodating solution, that sometimes it is better to face bayonets head-on in the interest of the honor and character of one's nation.

Nevertheless, we believed that such an extreme moment had not yet been reached, and that despite everything that had happened, there remained a second alternative which we, as politicians responsible for the future of the state, could not forsake. That is why we eventually tried to find another solution via an acceptable compromise. But even as we did so we were aware of the consequences, above all the moral and historical consequences that such a solution could have…56

56 Smrkovský went on to explain several of the onerous steps the CPCz and the ČSSR government would have to take
in the coming days and weeks. On August 27, several hours after returning from Moscow, he had addressed the National
Assembly. This speech was followed by presentations by Dubček to the CPCz Central Committee and by Černík to the
ČSSR Government. President Svoboda also addressed the country in a speech carried over the radio just after 2:00 P.M.
on the 29th, and Dubček read out a longer statement via the radio a few hours later, speaking with great emotion and
strain and often pausing for a minute or longer. In addition, the four leaders issued a joint statement on the 27th appealing
for public calm and pleading with Czechoslovak citizens to avoid steps that might precipitate a "national catastrophe."
The following day, Černík delivered a speech over the radio, and on the 29th Smrkovský did the same. All these speeches
and statements can be found in a book compiled by the Institute of History of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences,
sedm pražských dnů: 21.-27. srpen 1968: Dokumentace (Prague: ČSAV. September 1968), pp. 380–407.

-489-

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