Anatomy of an invasion
After the collapse of the "socialist community" and the peaceful change of the social system in Eastern European countries, and then the collapse of the Soviet Union, many phenomena in our recent historical past are reassessed, approaches to its key moments are changing. In addition to the political and ideological needs, manifested during any breakdown of social relations and a change in landmarks, when history is often rewritten, there is also a more objective documentary basis for comprehensive detailed conclusions, since the archives of the former ruling parties and supreme authorities are being opened for scientists and the public.
As a result, our ideas about many important events in the sphere of domestic and foreign policy of the Soviet Union, about the nature of relations with allies under the Warsaw Pact, about crises that have more than once shook the foundation of the seemingly unshakable building of world socialism, about the confrontation of two world military and political blocs.
During his visits to Eastern European countries in 1992-1993. Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave political assessments of such unlawful actions of the USSR as the armed suppression of the uprising in Hungary in 1956 and the intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. There was a real fireworks display of numerous publications of documents and materials previously kept under the "seven seals" everything in Russia, but our neighbors also have conditions for analysis and research work, since there are still many questions for historians.
The 1968 Prague Spring occupies a special place in the history of world socialism. Estimates of this historical phenomenon in a relatively short time - twenty-one years - have changed quite abruptly - from a "creeping counter-revolution" to a peaceful democratic revolution. The paradox from the very beginning was that the reform process, initiated by the communists, the ruling Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the country and enthusiastically supported by the broad masses of the population, was soon, after 8 months, suppressed by the military force, also by the communists, who were in power in neighboring Czechoslovak allies. under the Warsaw Pact. The ideas of the "Prague Spring" were seemingly crushed by tanks and consigned to oblivion, but, as it turned out, they largely influenced the emergence, already in a new round of history, of the ideas of anti-totalitarian mass movements and revolutions that led to a peaceful change in the late 1980s. social system in the former socialist countries.
What is this - "Prague Spring"? Revolution or counter-revolution, a conspiracy of internal and external forces trying to "tear" Czechoslovakia from the socialist camp, a cosmetic attempt at pro-socialist reforms, or a deep post-reform process with unpredictable consequences?
In any case, it was not a counter-revolution or some sinister conspiracy of the right-wing reactionary forces, planning to change the state and social system in Czechoslovakia. It is hardly possible to speak of a serious attempt by external forces, for example, the NATO member states to use the turbulent social processes in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to tear this country away from the socialist camp or commonwealth, although in general their propaganda actively played up the events in Czechoslovakia for sharp criticism. socialism.
In 1968 g.in Czechoslovakia during the "Prague Spring" it was primarily about the internal social process aimed at democratizing the regime, freedom of the press, economic, primarily market reforms and the protection of national independence.
Basically, the "Prague Spring" was a social movement of the broad masses of Czechs and Slovaks, members of the Communist Party of China, non-party, ripened in the depths of the socialist system, struck by grave illnesses, losing momentum and its advantages, unable to overcome the consequences of Stalinism. In fact, the movement of renewal and reform was initiated within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia by figures and groups of the nomenklatura elite and pro-socialist-minded representatives of the intelligentsia. The most far-sighted leaders of the partocracy, if we use the current clichés, saw the crisis in the system of power and management of society and were looking for a way out on the basis of modern achievements of social thought. In general, it was about improving socialism, about its revival.
The reflections of the reformers reflected the lessons of the development of Czechoslovakia after 1948, i.e. the torment of building socialism according to the Stalinist model, the tragic experience of popular demonstrations in 1953 in the GDR and in 1956 in Hungary, suppressed by force, as well as the Yugoslav path, including the principles of "public self-government". They also turned their attention to the experience of European social democracy.
We must not forget that this was the period of the 60s - a time of expectations and hopes in the socialist bloc. The initial impetus to attempts at reform came from the decisions of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, from the Khrushchev "thaw" in the Soviet Union. In all socialist countries, steps were taken primarily to improve the system of economic management, there were discussions around the "Kosygin" reform in the USSR and economic transformations in Poland and Hungary.
In the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and outside its ranks, especially among the creative intelligentsia, in student organizations, heated discussions also arose on the politics of the Communist Parties, the liberalization of public life, the abolition of censorship, etc. The country, known for its democratic traditions, had a developed industry even before the Second World War, clearly lagged behind its western neighbors. Attempts to change the economy were undertaken during the reign of A. Novotny (1904-1975), although he was known more as a dogmatist than a reformer. In particular, the economic reform, developed under the influence of O. Shik, had a market orientation. Its implementation created the preconditions for subsequent changes in the political system, primarily a change in the hypertrophied role of the Communist Party.
But the external impetus for changes, as usual, served as personnel changes at the pinnacle of power. In 1966-1967. there was a steady increase in internal contradictions within the top party leadership, which played out against the background of economic difficulties, disputes over de-Stalinization and democratization, as well as the federal structure of the state.
At the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPC on January 3-5, 1968, all this led to the resignation of the president of the republic, A. Novotny, from the post of first secretary of the Central Committee. A conspiracy of more progressive forces developed against him, all groups united in the Central Committee. Moscow knew about the situation, but decided to remain neutral, which meant, of course, a free hand for the critics of Novotny. L. Brezhnev disliked A. Novotny, considered his policy the reason for the growing difficulties in Czechoslovakia, moreover, he could not forgive him for some objections in 1964 regarding the form of N. Khrushchev's release from senior posts.
A. Dubcek became the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia, who had previously headed the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia and advocated updating the party's policy. Four new members were introduced to the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPC. For the first time, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was headed by a Slovak. It was a kind of sensation, but in essence it was a compromise of various forces within the Central Committee.
In Moscow, this choice was taken calmly. A. Dubchek was a famous person who spent many years of his life in the USSR, a graduate of the Higher School of Art at the Central Committee of the CPSU. Apparently, they hoped that he would be a controllable figure because of his gentleness of character, complaisance.
The subsequent period of the "Prague Spring" until about April 1968 was relatively quiet. Discussions about socialist revival and the country's future were unfolding in the country. Censorship restrictions were loosened, new press organs and promising associations appeared, including "KAN" - the Club of Non-Party People. An alluring feeling of freedom and independence gained new and new fans. As for the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the government, apart from general words about democracy, liberalization, new ideas and concepts were essentially not expressed, but inside there was a "positional war" for the redistribution of portfolios. Here is how one of the ideologues of the Prague Spring, the main developer of political reform programs, former secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Z. Mlynarz writes about this: And that is why it was impossible to start implementing a well-thought-out policy of reforms, while the public could not wait for the end of the struggle for the seats of ministers and secretaries of the Central Committee.
Although the leadership of the party decided back in January to prepare a "Program of Action for the CPC", and it was drawn up at the end of February, its adoption was delayed until the beginning of April.
The Communist Party, as an initiator of change, was essentially wasting time and giving up political space to other non-party forces.
A. Dubchek obviously had his own reasons for this. He encouraged widespread criticism of shortcomings and maintained an atmosphere of freedom of expression, while simultaneously solving his own problems. He needed to strengthen his position as a leader and achieve a change in the balance of forces in his favor, pushing the dogmatists out. He was in no hurry to convene an extraordinary party congress. And in general he prepared changes without pressure and aggravation. At the end of March, A. Novotny was relieved of his post as president, and General L. Svoboda became the new president of Czechoslovakia. Before that, several odious figures from the Central Committee and the government were forced to resign.
On April 4, 1968, the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPC elected a new composition of the presidium and secretariat of the Central Committee, in which there were enough supporters of Dubchek, although there were also "people of Moscow". On April 8, O. Chernik became the chairman of the government of Czechoslovakia. On April 18, J. Smrkovsky was elected chairman of the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia.
But the atmosphere in the country was changing, the initiative gradually passed into the hands of non-traditional political forces, which put pressure on the party-state leadership through the media and, in general, outside the framework of official structures. At the same time, the public enthusiastically supported A. Dubchek and his supporters, "progressives", they were on the crest of a wave of social upsurge. The current president of the Czech Republic, a well-known human rights activist V. Havel, assessed the then state of the leaders of the Prague Spring and their relationship with the population: They wanted to open the windows, but they were afraid of fresh air, they wanted reforms, but only within the boundaries of their limited ideas, which the people in their euphoria generously did not notice, but it was necessary to pay attention to this. minced after the events, and did not direct them. In itself it did not matter, society could do without their help. The danger was that the leadership, not having a clear idea of what was happening, did not imagine how it was protect. Being in captivity of their illusions, they constantly persuaded themselves that they would somehow manage to explain this to the Soviet leadership, that they would promise them something and thereby calm them down …"
However, another process was going on in parallel - mistrust and suspicion grew on the part of Czechoslovakia's allies in the Warsaw Pact - the USSR, Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary. Of course, A. Dubcek was not a naive person in politics, he tried to maneuver, realizing perfectly how important it is for the fate of reforms to find a common language with the masters of the Kremlin. The question that this might become impossible at all did not seem to have arisen at that time.
At the end of January A. Dubchek had a meeting with L. Brezhnev for many hours. Gradually he got acquainted with other leaders, the most friendly contacts were formed with Y. Kadar. On the anniversary of the February 1948 events, when the communists came to power, at the request of A. Dubcek, supported by Moscow, all the leaders of the European socialist countries arrived in Prague, including N. Ceausescu. Even a delegation from the SKU was present. In early March, a new summit meeting, this time at a meeting of the Warsaw Pact Political Advisory Committee in Sofia. In the course of these contacts, the allies, on the one hand, showed support for the new leadership of Czechoslovakia, but on the other, they tried to warn it against dangers, against sharp turns in reforming the policy of the Communist Party.
At the end of March 1968, the CPSU Central Committee sent out classified information about the situation in Czechoslovakia to the party activists. This document reflected the prevailing sentiment.
“On the initiative of the CPSU Central Committee, delegations of the fraternal parties of European socialist countries at the highest level were sent to Prague on the 20th anniversary of the celebration of the February events. the need to repulse anti-party actions and ensure unity and solidarity in the leadership of the CPC Comrade A. Dubchek in all cases firmly assured that the new leadership of the Central Committee of the CPC was in control of the situation and would not allow its undesirable development.
Recently, however, events have been developing in a negative direction. In Czechoslovakia, the actions of irresponsible elements are expanding, demanding the creation of an "official opposition", to show "tolerance" to various anti-socialist views and theories. The past experience of socialist construction is incorrectly covered, proposals are made for a special Czechoslovak path to socialism, which is opposed to the experience of other socialist countries, attempts are made to cast a shadow on the foreign policy of Czechoslovakia, and the need for an "independent" foreign policy is emphasized. There are calls for the creation of private enterprises, the abandonment of the planned system, and the expansion of ties with the West. Moreover, in a number of newspapers, on radio and television, calls are being propagated for "the complete separation of the party from the state", for the return of Czechoslovakia to the bourgeois republic of Masaryk and Beneš, for the transformation of Czechoslovakia into an "open society" and others …
There is an irresponsible, increasingly aggravated discussion of the suitability or unsuitability of a significant part of the leading figures of the party and state (the president of the republic, the chairman of the government, the ministers of foreign affairs, national defense, etc.) …
It should be noted that irresponsible speeches in the press, on radio and television under the slogan of "complete freedom" of expression, disorienting the masses, leading them astray, do not receive a rebuff from the leadership of the Communist Party of Ukraine …
The events taking place in Czechoslovakia are trying to use imperialist circles to discredit the policy of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and all the achievements of socialism in Czechoslovakia, to undermine the alliance of Czechoslovakia with the USSR and other fraternal socialist countries."
On March 23, Dresden hosted a meeting of the leaders of the parties and governments of six socialist countries - the USSR, Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The initial idea of the meeting (and, in general, more frequent meetings of leaders) came from A. Dubcek, who, back in Sofia, suggested holding a separate meeting of the neighboring countries of Czechoslovakia on issues of economic cooperation. The leadership of the CPSU Central Committee supported the proposal, knowingly preparing to discuss the internal political situation in Czechoslovakia. They decided not to call the Romanians because of the special, separatist line of N. Ceausescu in the social community. The Bulgarians were invited at the insistence of the CPSU.
In Dresden, a tub of cold water was poured onto A. Dubchek. It was in vain that he explained the provisions of the new action program of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, "The Path of Czechoslovakia to Socialism," and assured that the party was not mistaken in assessing the situation. V. Ulbricht began criticizing the policies of the CPC, added V. Gomulka, who said that counter-revolution was roaming around Prague. The HRC does not run the country. L. Brezhnev spoke softer. But he said about the concern of the Soviet leadership. Moscow understands how the current dangerous situation could have developed. What kind of liberalization is Dub-check talking about? What is this renewal of the socialist system? Can't they see in Prague that the CPC wants to turn into an opposition party? The country is not ruled by a party, but by Szyk, Smrkovsky, Goldstucker and others. According to Brezhnev, if measures are not taken, then we are talking about the last chance for the HRC.
The most restrained in Dresden was J. Kadar, who did not agree with the assessments about the threat of counter-revolution in Czechoslovakia, although he did not deny the strengthening of negative trends in the country. He called for mainly political work, for the development of the political and ideological platform of the party, with an emphasis on strengthening the ideological and organizational unity of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. This position was consistent with the intention of the leadership of the SCWP to be an intermediary between the HRC and the rest.
After the Dresden meeting, two approaches to the development of the situation in Czechoslovakia were clearly outlined. One is the path of reforms, the program of giving socialism a "human face", which was advocated by the majority of the leaders of Czechoslovakia, at that time including representatives of the pro-Moscow wing in the party. They do not deny the existence of right-wing, anti-socialist tendencies in Czechoslovakia, but they believe that socialism in their country is not in danger, since the main political direction is "pro-socialist", and the CPC is able to control social processes. Another approach is the position of the leadership of the CPSU and the leaders of the GDR, Poland, Bulgaria, who supported it, who were alarmed by the course of social processes in Czechoslovakia, saw them as a threat to socialism, believed that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was losing power more and more, and A. Dubcek turned out to be a weak leader. The conclusion was that it was necessary to change the situation and provide assistance before it was too late.
The position of the Hungarian leaders was somewhat different. They did not deny the dangers, the activation of anti-socialist elements, J. Kadar even drew parallels with the development of the situation in Hungary before October 1956, but believed that the CPC and the Dubchekov leadership were able to cope with the growing crisis on their own, without outside interference, especially military. The Hungarian leaders had their own reasons. Behind them was the tragedy of the 1956 uprising. The prosperity of the country, the well-being of the population was associated with the results of a radical economic reform that was just unfolding. N. Ceausescu objected to any interference in the affairs of Czechoslovakia and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, not because he was a champion of democracy and pluralism, no, he thought above all about the interests of Romania and his nationalist course, therefore he spoke in the spirit of defending full sovereignty. His foreign policy calculations were matched by the strengthening of Prague's course independent of Moscow, so he tried to encourage the leaders of Czechoslovakia to become even more independent. The USSR and its closest allies sought to neutralize these efforts of N. Ceausescu.
After a meeting in Dresden, the Soviet leadership began to develop options for action, including covert military measures. V. Ulbricht, T. Zhivkov and V. Gomulka believed that all means are good. To a certain extent, they collectively influenced Leonid Brezhnev. But the final decision was still far away.
Considering the further tragic development of events around Czechoslovakia, it should be noted that after the meeting in Dresden, attacks by Moscow and its allies on the democratization process in Czechoslovakia intensified, as well as attempts to put pressure on the leadership of the reformers and at the same time to rally the pro-Soviet forces opposing it in the interests of "saving socialism" …
As for what was happening in Czechoslovakia itself, the personnel reshuffles in the government, parliament and the leadership of public organizations that took place in April generally meant the strengthening of the positions of A. Dubcek and the reformist forces. At the same time, the tension in relations with Moscow was growing, although A. Dubchek did not think of a break with the Soviet Union.
In this regard, it is advisable to analyze the initial motives of the behavior of the leadership of the Soviet Union and other "fraternal countries."
First of all, without any doubt, Czechoslovakia, as a country with democratic traditions, is ripe for reforms. At the same time, most of the communist reformers, believing in the reformability of socialism, wanted to carry them out gradually, step by step, without social upheavals, and even more so without civil war, having before them an example of peaceful transformations in Spain after Franco's death. Naturally, they did not want the HRC to lose power by proposing a phased introduction of pluralistic democracy. Other forces, mostly outside the CPC, were leading the matter towards immediate freedom of action for other political parties, towards free elections on a multi-party basis.
Pragmatic politicians understood that deep reforms needed Moscow's favor. A. Dubchek, apparently, was sure that he would get it. But the then Czechoslovak leaders did not take into account that within the rigid allied system of the Warsaw Pact, which consisted of countries adhering to one official ideology - Marxism-Leninism, any transformation of the political course was allowed within the path or experience learned in the "center" - the Soviet Union. The "innovator" N. Khrushchev stood on this, L. Brezhnev, M. Suslov, N. Podgorny, A. Kirilenko adhered to the same. There were enough statements about the creative application of Marxist-Leninist teachings, but no one dreamed of genuine reforms in the leadership of the CPSU under Brezhnev. The economic reform was inhibited, although A. Kosygin was behind it. Separate attempts to update the style and methods of the party's work were undertaken by the young shoots of the nomenklatura, but it is known that a whole generation of so-called Komsomol leaders were removed from power during the years of stagnation.
Dogmatism and ossification were covered by references to Lenin, to the postulates adopted at the world conferences of the Communist Parties in 1957 and 1960: the notorious laws of building socialism. It was believed that revisionist sedition came from Prague. The usual instinct of self-preservation also worked, and no matter how the "Hungarian version" of 1956 was repeated. The manifestation of such sentiments was especially observed in the circles of the intelligentsia. There was a reason - a letter from Academician Sakharov that reached the West. The rebellion of students in Paris was also alarming.
Imperial thinking, the psychology of a besieged fortress, intensified by the years of the Cold War and the mutual arms race, dominated in Moscow in assessing the consequences of various reforms and innovations for "real socialism."Everything was calculated from the standpoint of the balance of forces and confrontation in the world, as well as damage to Soviet hegemony. Now in some scientific works one can come across the opinion that the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU then exaggerated the threat from the imperialist powers, because after the Cuban crisis of 1962, the "cold war" began to decline. Obviously, this is a somewhat simplified interpretation. The Warsaw Pact countries themselves took the initiative to convene an all-European conference, but in 1968 it was still a long way from the CSCE and Helsinki. Mistrust and suspicion were strong and mutual.
In 1968, there were also specific foreign policy reasons for the nervous reaction of the USSR leadership - the war waged by the United States in Vietnam, tense relations with China, Ceausescu's nationalist line, which weakened the Internal Affairs Directorate. There were no "Eastern treaties" with the FRG yet, so the theme of revanchism in Bonn was always heard in the official propaganda. Another circumstance makes it possible to better understand the position of the Kremlin - different approaches among the allied countries. The fact was the presence of the so-called northern tier of the Internal Affairs Directorate - Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow and other more liberal (Budapest) or countries that did not agree with Moscow (Bucharest). After the Sofia meeting of the PAC (in March), Romania was immediately excluded from the allied discussions of the Czechoslovak topic. As for the position of the leadership of the GDR, W. Ulbricht and others perceived everything that happened in Prague as a deviation from the principles of Marxism-Leninism, as a deviation from the leading role of the Communist Party and, in general, saw this as a threat to the "workers 'and peasants' power" in the GDR … The process of democratization in Czechoslovakia, according to the leaders of the SED, posed a danger to the situation in East Germany, since the destabilization of the situation in the GDR ultimately led to an increase in unifying sentiments among the population, to the annexation of the republic to the FRG. Berlin reacted very nervously to Prague's attempts to intensify ties with the West, especially with the FRG. W. Ulbricht all the time pressed on the question of the security of the western borders of the socialist community. There was one more reason for the decisive rejection of the SED leadership of the processes of the "Prague Spring". The ideas of "democratic socialism" were viewed in Berlin as a social democratic deviation, as right-wing opportunism. The ideological apparatus of the SED waged a fierce struggle against the ideology of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, although W. Brandt was already the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the FRG. After a collective meeting in Dresden, W. Ulbricht and G. Axen tried to influence A. Dubchek, but of course nothing came of it. Moreover, there was a mutual personal antipathy. The exchange of information between the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the SED has ceased.
Something similar happened in Warsaw. V. Gomulka, who had gone through the difficult path of normalizing the situation in the country after 1956, also feared that the processes in neighboring Czechoslovakia would negatively affect Polish society. The situation in Poland was quite tense, most recently in March, the police used force to disperse student demonstrations. V. Gomulka's position, due to his impulsiveness, sometimes underwent changes, but in general he was a supporter of decisive action. It was V. Gomulka who declared in July that the socialist countries cannot allow the counter-revolution to prevail in Czechoslovakia. In the summer of 1968, the Western press sometimes reported on the moderate position of Bulgaria in its approach to the events in Czechoslovakia. In fact, the leader of this country, T. Zhivkov, took a tough position, coordinating it with Moscow. Only on the issue of relations with Romania did he maneuver, trying to maintain normal contacts with N. Ceausescu.
But, of course, the position of the top leadership of the CPSU was decisive. The final, fatal decision matured gradually. During April-May, Soviet leaders still acted mainly by political methods, trying to "reason" Dubcek, to sharpen his attention to the danger of actions of anti-socialist forces. Measures of ideological, diplomatic and military pressure were applied. Soon Moscow, as Z. Mlynar writes, managed to split the previously united "troika" in the Czechoslovak leadership - A. Dubcek, Prime Minister O. Chernik and member of the presidium, secretary of the Central Committee D. Kolder. The orientation towards the left-wing, pro-Moscow group in the party leadership - V. Bilyak and A. Indra - has intensified. There was an active exchange of information about the situation in Czechoslovakia. Here are some examples. In early April, the Soviet ambassadors informed the top party and state leaders of the GDR, Poland, Hungary, and the People's Republic of Belarus that an anti-state group is operating in Czechoslovakia, which includes the Social Democrat Chernik, a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China J. Prochazka, General Kreichi, writers and publicists Kogo-ut, Vaculik, Kundera, Havel and others. Some of these people keep in touch with the leader of the bourgeois emigration, Tigrid. Literally a few days later, through the KGB, all leaders, including A. Dubchek, received information that in 1962 the United States had developed and is currently implementing an operational plan of secret operations against European socialist countries. Y. Kadaru, for example, this information was presented by the deputy chief of the foreign intelligence of the KGB, General F. Mortin.
At the end of April, Marshal I. Yakubovsky, Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact countries, arrived in Prague. They talked about "preparing maneuvers" on the territory of Czechoslovakia.
"Telephone diplomacy" was carried out by L. Brezhnev, informing the allies about contacts with A. Dubchek, agreeing on joint actions. For example, on April 16, he told Y. Kadar that, in his opinion, Dubcek is an honest person, but a weak leader. And events in the country are developing in the direction of counter-revolution, anti-socialist forces intend to restore a republic of the Masaryk type. If the planned Soviet-Czechoslovak meeting does not work, then the leaders of the "five" will have to get together. Then he raised the issue of Soviet-Polish-Hungarian military exercises on the territory of Czechoslovakia.
Military Decision Mechanism On
Leonid Brezhnev's meeting with A. Dubchek took place in Moscow on May 4. On it, the Soviet side sharply criticized the development of the situation in Czechoslovakia, the weakening of the influence of the CPC and the anti-Soviet attacks of the Czechoslovak press. No mutual understanding was reached. Perhaps, for Moscow, some result consisted in the fact that in the materials of the May Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPC it was said about the actions of anti-socialist forces in the country.
On May 8, a closed meeting of the leaders of the USSR, Poland, East Germany, People's Republic of Belarus and Hungary took place in Moscow, during which a frank exchange of views took place on measures in connection with the situation in Czechoslovakia. Even then, proposals were made for a military solution. The special position of Hungary has re-emerged. Referring to the experience of 1956, J. Kadar said that the Czechoslovak crisis cannot be solved by military means, it is necessary to look for a political solution. At the same time, he did not object to the conduct of command-staff exercises of the Internal Affairs Directorate on the territory of Czechoslovakia. At the end of May, the government of Czechoslovakia agreed to hold the exercises, hardly suspecting that a rehearsal of a future invasion of the country was being prepared.
The Shumavo exercises took place on June 20-30. In mid-June, Leonid Brezhnev informed the leaders of the five allied states that a revisionist group had been formed in the leadership of Czechoslovakia - Krigel, Cisarzh, Shik, Mlynarzh, Shimon. He raised the question of separating Dubcek and Chernik from the revisionists and persuading them to rely on "healthy forces" in the party.
The leadership of the Soviet Union continuously discussed the issue of options for action. In fact, what were the historical precedents? In 1948-1949, despite Stalin's threats, Yugoslavia defended its independent course at the cost of breaking with the USSR. In 1956 g. In Poland, a compromise was hardly reached with the new leadership headed by V. Gomulka, but before that there was a brutal suppression of the workers' protests in Poznan, and a massive Soviet military demonstration before N. Khrushchev's arrival in Warsaw, 1956 - an uprising in Hungary, suppressed by the Soviet troops, who were invited by the hastily formed government of Y. Kadar. The government of I. Nadya was removed from power.
The Hungarian example always loomed before our eyes, especially since M. Suslov, L. Brezhnev and Y. Andropov took an active part in suppressing the "counter-revolutionary rebellion" in Hungary. They reasoned something like this: yes, it was hard, but after a few years everything returned to normal.
However, in 1968 the Soviet leadership did not want to waste time, to wait, as in Hungary in 1956. After all, when hopes for I. Nadya dried up, they had to urgently throw the troops of the Soviet Army into battle against the rebels, bear casualties, preventing Hungary's neutrality and its exit from the Warsaw Pact.
But Czechoslovakia is not Hungary, they were shooting there, reforms were going on in a peaceful way. In 1968, the international situation was different, so the Soviet leaders did not want to take responsibility for the intervention on themselves, although they had a mandate from the other allies.
Thus, there was an obvious desire of Moscow to internationalize the Czechoslovak question, to link it with the security interests of the Warsaw Pact.
Leonid Brezhnev initiated many consultations with the allies. But gradually a forceful solution was born, the contours of the notorious doctrine of "limited sovereignty" arose. It cannot be ruled out that if a major military figure stood next to Brezhnev, the Soviet Union would have introduced its troops to Czechoslovakia in May, and at the same time, possibly, to Romania, under a plausible pretext.
The politicians continued to look for methods of influencing A. Dubchek, and already in April, the military had been developing plans for a military operation on the territory of Czechoslovakia. The main role was to be played by Soviet troops, the armies of Poland, the GDR, Hungary were assigned a political, subordinate mission.
Meanwhile, in Prague, the situation, from the point of view of Moscow, was getting more complicated. The Communist Party became more and more immersed in discussions and lost its influence. A certain part of the communists turned towards the Yugoslav experience. Moscow was outraged by the articles of the Czechoslovak press.
The democratic movement became increasingly polarized. More than 70 political organizations applied for registration in June. A committee was formed to recreate the Social Democratic Party. The former bourgeois parties became more active, their numbers grew. The non-party opposition put forward the demand for the creation of a multi-party parliamentary system. At the end of June, the famous "Two Thousand Words" manifesto was published, compiled by the writer L. Vatsulik and signed by many well-known public figures, including communists. This liberal document criticized the totalitarian system, the conservative activities of the Communist Party of China, and proclaimed the idea of democratizing the political system and introducing political pluralism. They spoke openly about opponents of democratization and the possibility of Soviet intervention.
There is no need to explain that in all the capitals of the five allied states "Two Thousand Words" were regarded as a sharp attack on socialism. The condemning statement of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was sluggish in tone. Meanwhile, the party began preparations for the XIV (extraordinary) Congress of the Communist Party of China, scheduled for September 7. The Two Thousand Words Manifesto seized the initiative from the Communist Party with its demands.
In this situation, the Soviet leadership decided to hold a new collective meeting of the allies with the participation of the leaders of Czechoslovakia to discuss the aggravating situation in Czechoslovakia. In a letter from L. Brezhnev to A. Dubchek on July 6, this meeting was proposed to be held in Warsaw on July 10 or 11. On July 9, there followed a negative response from the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, referring to the fact that holding such a meeting would complicate the work of the Communist Party and the situation in the country. It was proposed to replace the general meeting with bilateral ones, in Prague, and not only with the five allied countries, but also with Romania and Yugoslavia. Despite new proposals on behalf of the "five", the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia decided not to participate in the meeting in Warsaw, but proposed to hold a meeting of the leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the CPSU, and then a general meeting.
Many historians of the "Prague Spring" consider the refusal of A. Dubcek and other leaders to come to the collective meeting as a major mistake, as a result of which relations with the USSR and the allies were finally broken.
In Warsaw, the Prague line was heavily criticized. Proposals for a military invasion were openly voiced, although moderate voices, of the same Kadar, were also heard. In his speech, Brezhnev gave an alarming assessment of the evolving situation, calling it a new moment that Czechoslovakia was moving away from the socialist community. He presented the opinion of the CPSU on collective responsibility for the fate of socialism in each country, which later became known as the doctrine of "limited sovereignty" or the doctrine of Brezhnev, but nevertheless called for political steps, primarily focusing on "healthy forces" in the CPC. The meeting participants sent an open collective letter to Prague. It was a warning signal.
The next stage on the road to the tragedy was the meeting in Cierna nad Tisou on July 29 - August 1, in which the full members of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee and the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union took part together with President L. Svoboda.
Did the Prague leadership understand the tendency in the development of relations with the USSR and its closest allies? Obviously, not everyone in Prague understood. Of course, centrist politicians such as Dubcek and Chernik realized that it would be dangerous to repeat the actions of the Hungarian Prime Minister I. Nadya to break with the USSR.
They understood that one should not joke with the belonging of Czechoslovakia to the Warsaw Pact. But they hoped that they would be able to explain themselves with Moscow, they hoped for their authority. It was believed that they would pass the way to the XIV Party Congress without conflict, although after Warsaw everything became more complicated. It was illusory to count on support from Yugoslavia and Romania, on holding an international conference of European Communist Parties.
At the end of July, the preparation for the military operation was completed; it was called the exercise. According to the magazine "Der Spiegel", 26 divisions were involved in the invasion, of which 18 were Soviet, not counting aviation.
But the final decision has not yet been made in Moscow. Preparing for negotiations with the leaders of Czechoslovakia, the Kremlin proceeded from the assumption that the meeting would take place in the conditions of the formation in Czechoslovakia of national unity on an anti-Soviet basis, in conditions, as it was believed, the growing threat of a right turn in the policy of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the emergence of figures who were more radical than Dubcek. Moscow feared that power in Czechoslovakia could peacefully pass into the hands of "anti-socialist forces."
Doubts also appeared in the Soviet leadership. Can you still count on Dubcek? Didn't he fall under the influence of "rightists" like Smrkowski and Kriegel? They tried to neutralize and remove these figures, as well as Cisarz, Pelikan, and Minister of Internal Affairs Pavel.
By that time, constant contacts were maintained with the President of Czechoslovakia and with the minority in the Presidium, primarily with V. Bilyak. The position, of course, was determined by Leonid Brezhnev and his entourage. But the leadership of the CPSU was by no means monolithic. The difference in approaches was felt in the Soviet embassy in Prague, there were their own "hawks", but there were also moderate ones.
The content of the negotiations in Cierne nad Tisou is known. The transcript is several hundred pages long. The atmosphere was tense.
On the whole, the leaders of the USSR tried to bind Dubcek with certain agreements on the framework of democratization, preservation of the leading role of the Communist Party of Ukraine, personnel change, restriction of freedom of media activity, etc.
The main agreements were reached at the meetings of the "fours" - Brezhnev, Podgorny, Kosygin, Suslov - Dubchek, Svoboda, Chernik, Smrkovsky.
The negotiations ended with a seemingly satisfactory result for Moscow.
The Czechoslovak delegation basically acted as a united front, but V. Bilyak adhered to a special position. This was important for Moscow. At the same time, a personal letter was received from A. Kapek, a candidate for membership in the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPC, with a request to provide his country with "fraternal assistance" from the socialist countries.
Cierna nad Tisou was immediately followed by a meeting of the leaders of six parties in Bratislava on August 3, 1968. The day before, Leonid Brezhnev informed the allies about the content of his agreements with Dubcek. The agreements reached in Bratislava, after discussions with the Czechoslovak delegation, were viewed almost as a success. The statement adopted in Bratislava contained a key phrase about collective responsibility in the defense of socialism.
After Bratislava came the most dramatic phase of the crisis in Czechoslovakia. It seems that the situation is somewhat discharged. Some kind of compromise was reached. But neither the Soviet leadership, nor Ulbricht and Gomulka, the most active critics of the Prague Spring, believed in the ability and desire of Dubcek and his supporters to "normalize" the situation.
In Bratislava, Leonid Brezhnev received a letter from five members of the CPC leadership - Indra, Kolder, Kapek, Shvestka and Bilyak with a request for "effective assistance and support" to wrest Czechoslovakia "from the imminent danger of counterrevolution." The legal basis for the invasion was obtained, although it was not a formal pretext.
But first we decided to check the mood of A. Dubchek. The main role in these contacts was taken by Leonid Brezhnev, whose decisiveness intensified as the radical step approached. After Bratislava, he went on vacation to the Crimea, surrounded by his personal staff, in Moscow A. Kirilenko was left in the Central Committee "on the farm", whom the secretary general fully trusted. An interdepartmental working group functioned. The KGB and the GRU were active.
On August 8, an important telegram was received from the coincident in Prague. He reported after a conversation with Dubcek that although the leaders of the CPC and the government in Cierna and Bratislava undertook to fight against the right-wing and anti-socialist forces in Czechoslovakia, and Dubcek confirmed that he intends to significantly update the composition of the Central Committee and top leadership, however, there is no complete confidence in his actions. Dubcek was accused of insincerity. It was concluded that Dubcek was not yet ready for consistent action against the right-wing forces.
Brezhnev from Yalta often spoke on the phone with the co-ambassador in Prague, with the leaders of other socialist countries. In Yalta on August 12, for example, a closed meeting of Brezhnev, Podgorny and Kosygin with Y. Kadar was organized. He was asked to talk with Dubcek again. Met with Dubcek and V. Ulbricht.
In mid-August, Leonid Brezhnev called A. Dubchek twice and pressed the questions: why the agreements are not being fulfilled, where are the promised personnel decisions, why the separation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the state security is not carried out? Brezhnev not only reminded his interlocutor of the agreements, but intimidated - "anxiety is arising in Moscow," since everything is going the same way again, the necessary decisions are not being made.
Allies and "healthy forces" were informed of our steps. In Prague, they were advised to act more boldly, to press on Dubcek. They advised me to think about what extreme measures might be needed, what emergency bodies should be created.
On August 13, another step was taken - an appeal was sent to Prague from the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU on the issue of unfriendly speeches by the Czechoslovak press, disrupting the agreements reached in Cierne nad Tisou. The Soviet leadership also informed President Svoboda.
In conversations with Brezhnev, A. Dubchek evaded a direct answer, referring to the fact that personnel matters are resolved collectively. There will be a Plenum, and we will consider everything there. Angrily declared that he did not hold on to his post. I talked about difficulties. Brezhnev's reproaches followed in response. But a warning was also issued: the new situation in Czechoslovakia could force Moscow to make independent decisions. In the end, A. Dubchek exploded and, in his hearts, threw out in response: "Since you in Moscow think that we are deceivers, why talk. Do what you want." His position was clear - we are able to solve our problems on our own, without outside interference.
The behavior of A. Dubcek and the Prague leadership was recognized in Moscow as unsatisfactory. The military solution mechanism has started working.
On August 16, at a meeting of the top Soviet leadership in Moscow, a discussion of the situation in Czechoslovakia took place. Proposals for the introduction of troops were approved. At the same time, a letter from the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU to the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was adopted. It was presented to A. Dubchek and O. Chernik on August 19, the conversation was in the nature of communication between the deaf and dumb. On August 17, Ambassador S. Chervonenko had a meeting with President L. Svoboda and informed Moscow that at the decisive moment the President would be together with the CPSU and the Soviet Union.
On August 18, a closed meeting of the "five" took place in Moscow. The Allies, without any particular objection, approved the considerations of the Central Committee of the CPSU that the CPSU and other fraternal parties have exhausted all political means of influencing the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in order to induce them to repulse the "right-wing, anti-socialist forces"; the moment has come for active measures to defend socialism in Czechoslovakia. They "agreed to provide the necessary military assistance to socialist Czechoslovakia" and approved appropriate measures, which, in particular, provided for the appearance of the "healthy forces" of the CPC with a request for help and in order to change the leadership of the CPC.
The idea of an appeal by Czechoslovak politicians, which Leonid Brezhnev spoke about, was supported at the meeting. J. Kadar stressed that an open statement by the left-wing Czechoslovak forces is necessary. This is the starting point. Talking about his meeting with Dubcek on August 17, he called it fruitless and fruitless. Say, Prague is deviating from what was agreed in Bratislava.
V. Gomulka spoke about the desirability of publishing a letter from "healthy forces", especially in the West. But he suggested that the number of signatories should be at least 50 for persuasiveness.
In a message to the President of Czechoslovakia, Svoboda, sent on behalf of the participants in the meeting in Moscow, one of the main reasons was the receipt of a request for military assistance to the Czechoslovak people from the "majority" of the members of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and many members of the government of Czechoslovakia.
On August 17, a group of "healthy forces" were sent materials prepared in Moscow for the text of the Appeal to the Czechoslovak people. The idea was to create a Revolutionary Workers 'and Peasants' Government (they did not come up with another name, they worked according to the Hungarian model of 1956). Was prepared and a draft appeal of the five governments of the countries - members of the Department of Internal Affairs to the people of Czechoslovakia, as well as to the Czechoslovak army. The draft TASS statement on the introduction of the allied forces was approved. The Soviet leadership, anticipating a negative international reaction, warned the Soviet ambassadors a day before about a possible action in Czechoslovakia, citing an appeal from a group of Czechoslovak politicians.
Everything was scheduled. The military was advised to capture the most important points in Prague. The arrests were assigned to the state security organs. On August 21, it was planned to hold a Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and a session of the National Assembly, where the top leadership was to be replaced.
In the implementation of plans for military intervention, a large role was assigned to President L. Svoboda. A letter was sent to him on behalf of the leaders of the five socialist countries. Leonid Brezhnev made a special phone call. The President of Czechoslovakia did not approve of the introduction of troops, but assured that he would not go against the allies and would do everything so that blood would not be shed. He fulfilled his promise. The army received instructions from the President and the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union not to oppose the interventionists.
The military operation went relatively smoothly. Allied forces occupied all points without the use of weapons. Small skirmishes took place in Prague.
But all political plans failed. An apparent failure has occurred. It was not possible to form a new government and hold a plenum of the Central Committee. On August 22, information was sent from Moscow to Ulbricht, Gomulka, Kadar and Zhivkov. It explained that the plans of the so-called initiative group in the Czechoslovak leadership could not be implemented. First, the "ordered" 50 signatures under the petition were not collected. The calculations were based on the authoritative Strougal, but he refused to sign. The collection was terminated for about 18 signatures.
Secondly, the main complications occurred at the meeting of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia on August 20 at night, when it became known about the introduction of troops from five countries. The majority - 7 to 4 - voted in favor of a Presidency statement condemning the invasion. Only Presidium members Kolder, Bilyak, Shvestka and Rigo spoke according to the original plan. Barbirek and Piller supported Dubcek and Chernik. And the calculation was on the advantage of "healthy forces" - 6 against 5.
Belatedly, control was established over radio, TV and newspapers. They had to be captured by Soviet servicemen.
With the help of workers of the Czechoslovak state security agencies, led by the deputy. Minister V. Shalgovich, Soviet paratroopers detained Dub-chek, Chernik, Smrkovsky, Krigel and Shpachek.
The "healthy forces" took refuge in the Soviet embassy. But the ambassador was unable to persuade them to form new government bodies. The media have already declared them traitors. Meanwhile, on the initiative of the Prague City Committee, the XIV Congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia began its sessions in Vysočany, albeit without delegates from Slovakia. The situation in the country was getting tense. The people were shocked and outraged by what had happened, a wave of protest was growing. Calls for strikes and demonstrations intensified. The country was seething, demanding the withdrawal of allied troops and the return of their interned leaders.
K. Mazurov, a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, first deputy of the USSR Pre-Council of Ministers, who was in Prague at that time (A. Yakovlev, now known to all of Russia, was appointed his deputy for propaganda) reported to Moscow that the "healthy forces" were at a loss, and as it turned out, they did not have "sufficient support either in the party or in the country."
The failure of the initial political plans forced the leadership of the Soviet Union to change tactics on the fly. It was impossible to do without negotiations with the legitimate leaders of Czechoslovakia. A. Dubchek and his comrades from the "counter-revolutionaries" again became partners. Almost all members of the leadership of the Central Committee of the CPC were brought to Moscow. The best way out for the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee was L. Svoboda's proposal for official negotiations. He arrived in Moscow on August 23 together with G. Husak, who at that time was the deputy chairman of the government of Czechoslovakia.
Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny held separate conversations with President L. Svoboda, Dubchek and Chernik, as well as Smrkovsky, Shimon and Shpachek. Finally, plenary talks took place.
What goals did the leaders of the Soviet Union pursue? They sought to sign a document with the Czechoslovak leaders, which would, above all, justify the entry of troops as a forced measure due to the failure to fulfill the obligations of the Czechoslovak side, adopted as a result of the negotiations in Cierna nad Tisou and Bratislava, and the inability to prevent a right-wing coup. The conversations took place in an atmosphere of pressure and latent threats, although ritual statements about the friendship of peoples were also heard. There were no even hints of a clear violation of the norms of international law, relations between the socialist countries. Everything was extremely frank and unceremonious. Yes, uninvited people came, yes, the situation is difficult, yes, normalization will drag on, but let's look ahead and jointly look for a way out. No apologies from the Soviet side followed. Moreover, Dubcek had to listen to many reproaches in his address.
Secondly, the condition, agreed in advance with Svoboda, was firmly set - all the main leaders would return to their places if the decisions of the party congress in Vysochany were declared invalid and the convocation of a new congress was postponed in general.
Third, to provide guarantees for the implementation of the agreements in Cierna nad Tisou and Bratislava on the fight against anti-socialist forces and control over the media. Without this, the allied forces will not leave, they say, it will not be possible to deceive the allies again. Moreover, Brezhnev harshly raised these questions, declaring that the resistance would be broken, even at the cost of bloodshed.
Fourth, the withdrawal of allied troops will be phased. Soviet troops remain in Czechoslovakia, an agreement is signed about this.
Fifth, to carry out personnel changes, but the "healthy forces" should not suffer.
Since the invasion and in the negotiations in Moscow, the leaders of Czechoslovakia have been on the defensive, trying to avoid clashes, bloodshed and casualties. Quite consistently, they stated that the entry of troops was an unprovoked and unjustified step, which would entail grave consequences, including internationally. G. Husak adhered to the same position, noting that the goals set by the allies could be achieved by other, non-military means.
Having decided not to retire at a difficult hour for the country and save what could have been saved, A. Dubchek and his comrades doomed themselves to signing the humiliating Moscow Protocol. (Only F. Krigel refused to sign it.) To their relative successes, they could attribute Moscow's agreement with the January and May (1968) Plenums of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the promise to withdraw the allied troops. Obviously, the illusion prevailed again that it would be possible to do something in the future. But the Moscow Protocol and other agreements defined the framework for the "normalization" of the situation in Czechoslovakia and meant the curtailment of democratization. And in this process, as it was quickly confirmed, there was no place for A. Dubchek, J. Smrkovsky, and then O. Chernik. In April 1969, G. Husak, later elected president of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, became the head of the CPC. In the course of restoring order and internal party cleansing, the ideas of the "Prague Spring" were anathematized. The majority of the population, having survived the upheavals of August 1968 and seeing the surrender of their former heroes, relatively quickly resigned themselves to the new situation, but the memory of the "Prague Spring" lived on.
For the Soviet Union, the strangulation of the Prague Spring turned out to be associated with many grave consequences. The imperial "victory" in 1968 cut off the oxygen to the reforms, strengthening the positions of dogmatic forces, strengthening the great-power features in Soviet foreign policy, and contributed to the intensification of stagnation in all spheres.
With the beginning of perestroika in the USSR, the hope for change was revived in wide circles of Czechoslovak society. The consonance of the ideas of 1968 and 1985. was significant. The citizens of Prague greeted M. Gorbachev with delight, who arrived in 1987 on a visit. But the Soviet leader did not go to revise the 1968 estimates. He praised G. Husak and relied on M. Yakesh.
One of the main demands of the "Velvet Revolution", which won in November 1989, was the condemnation of the 1968 intervention and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country.
The Soviet leaders belatedly, which was generally characteristic of Gorbachev's policy, accepted the erroneous and unjustified interference of the USSR and its allies in the internal affairs of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. The reevaluation was voiced at a meeting of the leaders of the then socialist countries in December 1989 in Moscow. Social development in Eastern Europe was already following a new path, the ideas of reforming socialism were unclaimed. Soon the previous system of power in the Soviet Union collapsed.