30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

The Prague Spring '68

A National Security Archive Cold War Reader

 

The Prague Spring ’68, published in 1998, was the first volume in the National Security Archive Cold War Reader Series published by CEU Press.  The product of a fruitful scholarly collaboration that began in 1992 between the National Security Archive and several Czech organizations, the volume was the first to provide such extensive documentation of a pivotal Cold War crisis from behind the Iron Curtain.

Much of the framework for the book emerged from a conference organized in Prague in 1994 by Dr. Jaromír Navrátil and Dr. Vaclav Kural from the “Prague Spring 1968 Foundation” and the Institute of International Relations in Prague, along with staff from the National Security Archive.  A key aim of the conference, “Czechoslovakia and the World, 1968: The New Archival Evidence,” was to bring to light documentation (along with eyewitness testimony) that had been hidden from the public for decades until the collapse of the Communist regime in late 1989. 

Then-Czechoslovak President Václav Havel had previously appointed several of his former fellow political prisoners to a Government Commission of the Czechoslovak Republic for the Analysis of the Events of 1967-1970.  The Commission included the following members:

Director:  Vojtech Mencl

Deputy Directors:  Josef Jablonicky and Václav Kural

Secretary:  Milos Barta

Members:  Antonín Bencík, Ondřej Felcman, František Janáček, Eduard Kubů, Pavel Machonin, Jan Moravec, Jaromír Navrátil, Eduard Novák, Pavol Pollak, Václav Slavík, Milan Strhan, Jan Simovcek, Jiří Vančura, Jindrich Madry, Jan Paulik, Anna Marková, Alexandra Janácková.

A parallel Slovak committee included Dr. Jozef Žatkuliak and Dr. Josef Jablonicky.

Many others in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and elsewhere played a specific part in the volume’s creation.  The principal compilers, editors, and translators are noted at the top of this posting.  A full listing of contributors is in the Acknowledgements.   Two other individuals who have been steady partners in the overarching project and deserve special mention here are Dr. Vilém Prečan and Dr. Oldřich Tůma, successive directors of the Institute of Contemporary History in Prague.

The volume covers the same time period, 1967-1970.  Over the course of 140 documents, most of which were published here for the first time in English (and in many cases in any language), the collection takes the reader from the period that prepared the ground for the events of 1968 through the “Prague Spring” to the planning and execution of the invasion in August and finally to the aftermath when hardliners reasserted harsh controls over the Czechoslovak population.  A documentary epilogue takes events up to the end of 1989 when a group of most of the leaders of the Soviet “bloc” issued a joint statement apologizing for their “illegal interference” in the affairs of their partners in Czechoslovakia. 

The following document excerpts give an idea of the content and breadth of sourcing of the materials, which include records from most of the Warsaw Pact member-states as well White House and CIA files from the United States obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.  

 

Read the Documents

The following are reproductions taken directly from the published volume.  They are numbered accordingly and each document image incorporates headnotes describing the context and significance of the item.

 

Document No. 61: “Problems with the Policy of Safeguarding the Internal and External Security of the State, Their Status at Present, and the Basic Ways of resolving them,” Czechoslovakia's Plans for Future Changes in Military and National Security Policies, July-August 1968 (Excerpts)

Document No. 72:  The "Letter of Invitation" from the Anti-Reformist Faction of the CPCz Leadership, August 1968

Document No. 77: Summary Report and Transcript of Telephone Conversation between Leonid Brezhnev and Alexander Dubček, August 9, 1968

Document No. 81: Transcript of Leonid Brezhnev's Telephone Conversation with Alexander Dubček, August, 13 1968

Document No. 86:  Summary of Alexander Dubček's Meeting with János Kádár at Komárno, August 17, 1968

Document No. 100:  Statement by the CPCz CC Presidium Condemning the Warsaw Pact Invasion, August 21, 1968

Document No. 109:  Minutes of the U.S. National Security Council Meeting on the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia, August 20, 1968

Document No. 119:  The Moscow Protocol, August 26, 1968