The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 140: Soviet and Warsaw Pact Apologies
to Czechoslovakia, December 1989

Source: "Zayavlenie rukovoditelei Bolgarii, Vengrii, GDR, Pol'shi, i Sovetskogo Soyuza" and "Zayavlenie Sovetskogo Soyuza," both in Pravda, December 5, 1989, p. 2.

In early December 1989, just after communism had collapsed all over Eastern Europe (except in
Romania, where a violent revolution was still to come), leaders of the Soviet Union and the four East
European countries that took part in the 1968 invasion gathered in Moscow to issue a collective statement
repudiating the "illegal interference "they had committed 21 years earlier against Czechoslovakia. That
same day, the Soviet government issued a separate apology for its role in spearheading the invasion. These
declarations marked the culmination of a reassessment of the 1968 invasion that had been under way in
the Soviet Unionunofficially, for the most partsince the autumn of 1987.

By the time the two statements were issued, the East European countries that had contributed troops
in 1968 had already conveyed apologies of their own to Czechoslovakia, starting with a resolution by the
Polish parliament in mid-August 1989 that expressed "sorrow and regret" to the Czechs and Slovaks,
declared the invasion to be a "violation of the inalienable right of every nation to self-determination,"
and explicitly "condemned the aggression of 1968, which set back the process of democratization in
Czechoslovakia." Hungary issued a similar apology a few days later, and East Germany and Bulgaria
both followed suit once the orthodox communist leaders in those countries had been overthrown. The
individual East European statements were stronger than the declaration that the Soviet government later
issued, but it was not until the Soviet Union had officially apologized that the Brezhnev Doctrine was fully
renounced.

Statement by the Leaders of Bulgaria, Hungary, the GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union:

The leaders of Bulgaria, Hungary, the GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union, having gathered for a meeting in Moscow on 4 December of this year, declare that the introduction of forces into the CSSR in 1968 amounted to interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign Czechoslovakia and must be condemned.

Having cut short the process of democratic renewal in the ČSSR, these unlawful actions had long-term negative consequences. History has confirmed how important it is, even in the most complex international situation, to use political means for the settlement of any próblems and to adhere strictly to the principles of sovereignty, independence, and non-interference in internal affairs in relations between states, as required by the clauses of the Warsaw Treaty.

Statement by the Soviet Government:

Czechoslovak society is at a stage now where it is critically reevaluating the experience of its political and economic development. This process is natural and is something that many countries undertake in one form or another. Unfortunately, the necessity of constant socialist self-renewal and realistic assessments of continuing events were not always feasible. Especially in situations when such events assumed a contradictory shape and demanded bold responses to the needs of the time.

In 1968 the then-Soviet leadership sided with one of the parties in an internal dispute in Czechoslovakia that stemmed from festering problems. At the time, this unbalanced, deficient approach and this interference in the affairs of a friendly country were justified with respect to the tense confrontation between East and West.

We share the point of view of the CPCz CC Presidium and the ČSSR government that the entry of the armies of the five socialist.countries into Czechoslovakia in 1968 was unjustified, and that the decision about it in light of all facts known now was mistaken.

-576-

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