65. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

4614. Subj: USSR-Czechoslovakia.

Summary. As Czech CP Congress approaches, Soviets apparently increasing pressure on Dubcek leadership to contain “democratization.” This reflects growing concern not only over danger of contamination other EEs with resultant adverse effects on their foreign as well as domestic policies, but also over possible reverberations in USSR itself.
Despite reported Brezhnev’s tearful protestations to Smrkovsky’s delegation2 that Soviets did not even think of interfering in Czech internal affairs, they obviously attempting to do just that. Most dramatic evidence this effort are, of course, delay in departure Soviet troops after Warsaw Pact exercise and recent letters to CPCS from Soviet, East German, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian CPs. After brief lull in press polemic with Czechs following Kosygin’s “rest and cure” at Karlovy Vary, Soviets have also intensified their public campaign against proponents [Page 202] of liberalization in Czechoslovakia, with implied threat they would come to support true defenders of socialism.
Following their attack on Cisar (Moscow 4268),3 Soviets seized upon letter Czech People’s Militia to Soviet Ambassador Prague as pretext for well-publicized meetings throughout USSR expressing support for defenders of socialism and condemning “anti-socialist” elements in Czechoslovakia. This campaign included July 7 Pravda denunciation of Mlada Fronta’s reaction to meetings, which ended with statement that “our Czech class brothers can always count on full understanding and support Soviet people.” Czech Embassy here also receiving from one to two hundred letters a day from Soviet citizenry endorsing Czech militia letter, and even Koucky expressed to British Ambassador his annoyance at action Soviet Government in stimulating such letters.
Continuing Soviet attacks on Czech liberals, yesterday’s Literaturnaya Gazeta carried extremely sharp attack on Vaculik and his “2000 Words” declaration.4 Article accuses Vaculik of attempting promote “hot summer” of chaos and disorganization in Czechoslovakia, of hating Communist Party and “truly popular democracy,” and of seeking establish “pure democracy” designed deprive CPCS of power. “2000 Words” labeled as provocative, anti-Communist, and counter-revolutionary program. Echoing Kirilenko’s remark in Bologna that “no one has right close his eyes” to danger caused by imperialist attempts subvert socialist countries from within, article states “watershed” between “healthy” and “anti-socialist, in essence counter-revolutionary” forces increasingly evident in Czechoslovakia, and expresses bewilderment “2000 Words” published by four Prague papers and in effect supported by National Front President Kriegel on TV June 28.

While Literaturnaya Gazeta focused its attack on Vaculik personally, and in fact suggested he had had some difficulty in finding signers for declaration, today’s Pravda article by Aleksandrov states “2000 Words” not isolated phenomenon but evidence growing activity rightists and outright counter-revolutionary forces in Czechoslovakia. Indeed, in asserting tactics used by these forces similar to and even more devious than those employed by Hungarian counter-revolutionaries in 1956, article implies Czechoslovakia on verge of anti-Communist revolt. Although Aleksandrov notes that “healthy” forces in CPCS regard “2000 Words” as open attack against socialist system, against leading role CPCS, and against friendship between Czechoslovakia and USSR, as [Page 203] well as other socialist countries, he also deplores “equivocal” stand taken by some of Czech leaders and attacks Prace, Zemedelske Noviny, Mlada Fronta, and Prague radio and TV for influencing public opinion in favor declaration. Pointing out other socialist countries closely watching Czech developments, Aleksandrov refers to Soviet meetings in support Czech Militia’s letter, and cites criticism of “2000 Words” voiced by Rabotincheka Delo and Nepsabadszag.

In what sounds like strong warning to Dubcek leadership, article expresses “confidence” Czech Communists will be able give resolute rebuff to reactionary, anti-socialist forces and ensure further development of country on road of socialism and friendship with all socialist states. Similar to Pravda July 7 denunciation of Mlada Fronta, it ends with ominous statement that in their struggle for strengthening socialism “working class and all working people of Czechoslovakia can always count on understanding and full support Soviet people.”

Another device used by Soviet press in criticizing Czech developments is to identify FRG with objectives pursued by Czech liberals. Latest piece along such lines, perhaps prompted by Ziak’s suggestion Brandt visit Prague (Bonn 14142),5 was July 5 Izvestiya article accusing Bonn of seeking spread deviously falsified interpretations of Marxism in effort split EE’s among themselves and from USSR.
Last, but not least, Soviets’ concern about Czech situation and their effort put pressure on Dubcek evident from Brezhnev’s speeches on occasion Kadar visit and at reception military academies graduates July 8. Soviets probably do not hope be able turn clock back in Czechoslovakia, but they clearly making every effort stop it.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL CZECH. Confidential. Repeated to Budapest, Warsaw, Sofia, London, Berlin, Bucharest, Bonn, USNATO, Prague, Belgrade, Paris, and Munich.
  2. The Chairman of the Czech National Assembly led a parliamentary delegation to Moscow June 4–15. He met with Brezhnev on June 14.
  3. Apparently an incorrect reference. Telegram 4268 from Moscow, June 14, reported on the makeup of a Soviet scientific delegation. (Department of State, Central Files, SCI 40–3 IAEA)
  4. A June 27 manifesto written by Ludvik Vaculik and signed by 70 prominent Czech intellectuals calling for a speed-up in democratization and denouncing party rule under the Novotny regime. For text, see Times Literary Supplement, July 18, 1968.
  5. Telegram 14142 from Bonn, July 5, reported that the Czech Vice Foreign Minister had expressed a desire for a visit by Willy Brandt to Czechoslovakia. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 GER W)