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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August, 1968

LETTER FROM CZECH COMMUNIST POLITICIANS TO BREZHNEV REQUESTING SOVIET INTERVENTION IN PRAGUE SPRING

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    In August 1968 a small group of pro-Moscow hardliners in the Czechoslovak Communist Party, led by Vasil Bilak, wrote two letters requesting urgent assistance from the Soviet Union to thwart the imminent "counterrevolution" in Czechoslovakia. Both letters were addressed to Leonid Brezhnev, the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU), and both were written in Russian to ensure that they would be read promptly. The first (and more important) letter was signed by Bilak and four of his colleagues: Drahomir Kolder, Alois Indra, Oldrich Svestka, and Antonin Kapek. Brezhnev later used the letter as a formal justification for the impending military invasion of Czechoslovakia.
    "Letter from Czech Communist Politicians to Brezhnev Requesting Soviet Intervention in Prague Spring," August, 1968, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Published in Czech in Hospodarske noviny, 17 July 1992. Translated for CWIHP by Mark Kramer. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114636
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Esteemed Leonid Ilich,

Conscious of the full responsibility for our decision, we appeal to you with the following statement.

The basically correct post-January democratic process, the correction of mistakes and shortcomings from the past, as well as the overall political management of society, have gradually eluded the control of the Party's Central Committee. The press, radio, and television, which are effectively in the hands of right-wing forces, have influenced popular opinion to such an extent that elements hostile to the Party have begun to take part in the political life of our country, without any opposition from the public. These elements are fomenting a wave of nationalism and chauvinism, and are provoking an anti-Communist and anti-Soviet psychosis.

Our collective -- the Party leadership -- has made a number of mistakes. We have not properly defended or put into effect the Marxist-Leninist norms of party work and above all the principles of democratic centralism. The Party leadership is no longer able to defend itself successfully against attacks on socialism, and it is unable to organize either ideological or political resistance against the right-wing forces. The very existence of socialism in our country is under threat.

At present, all political instruments and the instruments of state power are paralyzed to a considerable degree. The right-wing forces have created conditions suitable for a counterrevolutionary coup.

In such trying circumstances we are appealing to you, Soviet Communists, the lending representatives of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with a request for you to lend support and assistance with all the means at your disposal. Only with your assistance can the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic be extricated from the imminent danger of counterrevolution.

We realize that for both the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Soviet government, this ultimate step to preserve socialism in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic will not be easy. Therefore, we will struggle with all our power and all our means. But if our strength and capabilities are depleted or fail to bring positive results, then our statement should be regarded as an urgent request and plea for your intervention and all-round assistance.

In connection with the complex and dangerous course of the situation in our country, we request that you treat our statement with the utmost secrecy, and for that reason we are writing to you, personally, in Russian.

Alois Indra

Drahomir Kolder

Antonin Kapek

Oldrich Svestka

Vasil Bilak