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How did Ceaușescu survive the condemnation of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968?

How did Ceaușescu survive the condemnation of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968?

According to Wikipedia the communist leader of Romania (member of the Warsaw Pact) said that the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact forces is a "grave error". How could he "get away" with this speech? I mean the Soviet Union just proved they are ready to invade an ally if it steps out of the line… Why did Romania not suffer consequences?


Because the USSR didn't have unlimited resources. It was overmatched Vs Czechoslovakia, but invasions still cost money, labour, and materials.

Czechoslovakia made the strategically sound decision to resist through civil disobedience, instead of militarily. However, it's not always guaranteed that a big country beats a small country in a war. Vietnam beat China despite being outnumbered: although China had more troops, it also needed more of them for other tasks, including defending its long borders with India and the Soviets, and suppressing internal dissent.

Secondly, the Soviets had to maintain the fiction of communist countries fighting in brotherhood against a fascist counter-revolution. 1956 and 1968 marked the beginning of terminal decline in West European communist parties, both in their electoral success and their adherence to the USSR as an ideal. Most of the east European client states supported the attack on Czechoslovakia, but I doubt that they particularly liked helping Brezhnev out. If he was going to keep asking over and over again, they might even have got it into their heads to stick together against the Russians, and Brezhnev wouldn't want that.


Romania was already on the sidelines of Soviet influence, pretty much sailed its own course through their socialist experiment.

Their armed forces weren't under (direct) Soviet control like those of the other Warsaw Pact countries, their officers weren't being trained/indoctrinated in Soviet military schools, their entire country was already mobilised against any foreign threat, INCLUDING a potential Soviet invasion.

Most likely then Moscow considered taking action against them similar to what they had done in Prague and earlier Budapest to end up being too costly for the potential rewards.

Allowing the semi-rogueish Romanian dictator his moment in the spotlights (he had been a supporter of the Czech's actions before the Soviet invasion too) probably seemed to them to be the most prudent course of action. It wouldn't change anything in the relationship between Romania and the USSR after all, and would show the rest of the Warsaw Pact that the USSR could be gentle and overlook a bit of dissent from its underlings as long as they fell in line where important (economic cooperation, a single military block against NATO, etc).

Read this for a lot of information about the era.


Few weeks ago I heard an interview on Czech radio program Radiožurnál about a possible motivation of Soviet Union to invade Czechoslovakia with such violent force: Czechoslovakia - the Soviet Bloc's sharp spike into the western Europe, had resisted silently but very vehemently a Soviet plan of stationing tactical nuclear and chemical weaponry within their borders, and said weapons were deployed very shortly after the invasion.

What follows is my take on the events, as I'm not that well studies in works of professional analysts.

Certainly Dubček et al weren't particularly aligned with Soviet political plans as well, but a military action of such magnitude against a brother in the socialist camp must have had a considerable military objective. Recent studies of Czechoslovak army archives show that Czechoslovak People's Army was slated to be the first wave of attack in the Soviet military doctrine (I'll post a reference as soon as I find a reasonable one, I heard that some time ago on radio). And of course, the Soviet army dug itself deep, stationed tens of thousands of soldiers and never left the communist Czechoslovakia (and had to be expelled after the Velvet Revolution of 1989). In contrast, other Warsaw Pact armies assisted with the invasion, but haven't remained long after.

Since time was of essence (the counter revolution was a perfect ruse, yes, but the deployment plans were already two years overdue at that point) and the real reason behind the invasion was better not to be discussed openly, it could have prove more damaging than helpful to force the then relatively independent Romania into the invasion or openly reprimand it afterwards*.

Besides Romania, communist states of Yugoslavia, Albania and Cuba supported Czechoslovakia (Albania was a member state of the Warsaw Pact as well).

*Looking at the most recent Russian invasion (Crimea), one could observe that an effective Russian strategy is to build up to the fail accompli as quickly as possible and than limit any international discussion of the topic as strongly as possible (in pretending that the act of military aggression never happened).


While Ceausescu's anti-Soviet stand had much echo internationally, Ceausescu's interests were mostly internal, concerning his position as leader of the Communist Party and the communist model that he wanted to safe-keep, promote and develop.

In order for USSR to take action against Romania, the reasons and the effects of Ceauşescu's position should have been severely contrary to the Soviet interest: that they were not.


The reasons are related to the stage of the development of communism in Romania at that time.

Because of the specific traditions and conditions of the country, two aspects became dominant: the total control of the Romanian Communist Party over the society, with no real opposition and no perspective of opposition, and the development of the nationalist discourse within the communist one. These two aspects were complementary.

For historical, economical, cultural, political reasons that are hard to evaluate, Romania lacked the "inertia" against Soviet communism that always made itself felt and amounted to real resistance in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, were the communist leadership was more collegial then personal and was always confronted with the double imperative of coping with possible civil unrest and avoid Soviet intervention. While Hungary was the object of a such intervention in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Poland was under serious threat after 1980, Romania was never threatened by that. - If some internal dissent was present in Romanian intellectual circles, that was only because of the relative "liberalization" of the censorship in the sixties (by contrast to the fifties and eighties) which itself was a sign that the Party was relaxed and didn't felt threatened. Romania was a very good pupil that called for no reprimanding from the teacher, and even one that would try to surpass its teacher.

As time passed and the Ceausescu regime became more rigid in the eighties, following a more and more puritan communist dogma - that mimicked the North-Korean model - and trying to permeate absolutely all aspects of life, it probably felt the greatest inertia from the part of the peasant class, and at that point Ceausescu started his infamous (but in fact rather limited and ineffectual) "systematization" of villages (partially inspired by the North-Korean model, but trying to solve the same problem that Lenin and Stalin had faced when trying to impose a Marxian proletarian revolution in a rural agrarian country were industrial workers were a minority), which went in parallel with a process of forced industrialization.

Communist nationalism was a normal stage in the development of Soviet-modeled communism. USSR is a good example for that during the Stalinist era, were strong personal leadership amounting to a personality cult coincided with the exaltation of Russian nationalism. Like Stalin, Ceausescu benefited internally from flattering nationalist sentiment. And the fact that, given the 1968 invasion, he seemed to counter the Soviet power, brought him even the solidarity of those that resisted communism for nationalistic reasons. Like Stalin who was both a revolutionary and a continuator of the tsarists tradition, Ceausescu could look to the country's past and try to promote himself in the continuation of a long line of authoritarian rulers.

In following strictly this communist and byzantine model Ceausescu contravened the Khrushchevian model, and therefore was in tune with Brezhnev's. Khrushchev had initiated a process of reforms that had been aggravating the continuous dilemma the satellite countries faced, of navigating between internal unrest and Soviet obedience. Reforms in USSR should have entailed reforms in the satellite countries. Such reforms might have triggered unrest, which forced the leadership to react one way or the other: Hungary went towards liberalization, Romania went the other way. This dilemma was faced by Khrushchev himself, and it would end in him being ousted.


As for the effects of Ceausescu's position of 1968, that crisis was in fact a great opportunity for him of confirming and clarifying his position, by precisely not taking part in the invasion of Czechoslovakia. His position was very stable, he didn't need to prove his communist orthodoxy, was in perfect accord to Brezhnevian ways (any dissension arising not from opposition, but rather from competition under the same flag), therefore he had very little to gain from taking part to the invasion: while, by not taking part, he had a lot to gain both internally (for nationalistic reasons) and externally, as he attracted a lot of sympathy and influence in the West and in the non-aligned movement.

Brezhnevian USSR had nothing to lose from all this. USSR was powerful enough to be sure that any country following Soviet-style communism would never leave its gravitational grip. The only thing encouraging real independence of the satellite countries would have been unrest and reforms of this orthodox model. USSR was therefore interested first of all in the stability of the communist block, and Romania was a very solid brick in that block's walls. What disturbed Brezhnev in Czechoslovakia was not that the communists there were too independent, on the contrary: that the "real" (pro-soviet) communists there were dependent upon Soviet assistance in order for them to be able to promote "real communism", and the invasion provided that assistance… Such assistance was not needed in Romania.

1968 was an important year in the history of "real communism", in that it was the end of the hopes of reform for another 10-15 years. Ceausescu's demise would come with Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who would bring back to life the Khrushchev's trend of reforms, push them further and bring the collapse of the whole block.


Ceausescu was promoting himself in Romania and in the West as independent from the Soviets. This was true in the sense that intellectually he was a real mature communist that didn't need lessons from USSR anymore, practically following the old Soviet strategy of "socialism in one country", which married Leninist orthodoxy and national sovereignty. Both Romanians and the West interpreted this wrongly, the former as patriotic devotion and the latter as reformism. His patriotism and his reformism were real, but served his main ideal, which was a very pure communist project in his country.

Described by some as a mad dictator, Ceausescu was in fact following very lucidly the logic of the system he embodied. There was no madness other than this very logic, which he followed with utmost coherence, even beyond the contradictions that affected USSR with Khrushchev and would again with Gorbachev: his communist orthodoxy doubled by his politically relative but intellectually effective independence from the Soviet model brought him closer in the seventies and eighties to the models of Mao's China and especially of Kim Il Sung's North Korea; (Kim Il Sung is known as Kim Ir Sen in Romanian and other languages).

He had in fact bet on the winning horse of communism, which is still around and kicking.

Geopolitics play a big role here too. Romania was not a direct neighbor of Czechoslovakia, and no country invading the latter had to pass through Romania: that made it easier for Ceausescu to act as he did, as geographically he was isolated enough in 1968. The situation would be different in 1989, as he lacked the geopolitical advantages enjoyed by the Kim dynasty.


Nicolae Ceausescu

Nicolae Ceausescu was born of a peasant family on Jan. 26, 1918, in Scornicesti in the Olt country. At the age of 11 he began working in the factories of Bucharest. He participated in the social movements at the beginning of 1930s and joined the revolutionary working-class movement in 1932. The following year Ceausescu became a member of the Union of Communist Youth (UCY) and of the Romanian Communist party (RCP). He was successively secretary of Prahova and Oltenia regional committees of UCY and was a representative of the democratic youth in the Antifascist National Committee (1934).


At home with the Ceaușescus

Spring arrived late in Bucharest in 1968 &ndash on 21 August to be precise. That was the day when the communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu mounted a balcony in Palace Square and denounced before the gathered faithful the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia the previous night. In contrast to Prague, where spring disappeared beneath the exhaust clouds of Russian tanks, the season of rebirth lasted a whole decade in Bucharest. Ceaușescu&rsquos attack on the USSR made him the darling of the West, feted by Richard Nixon and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. His stance also earned him big bucks. The IMF waved through multibillion-dollar loans, while Renault lent its technical expertise to facilitate the production of a new car, named the Dacia after an ancient Roman province centred on Romania.

Early in the 1970s, after visiting Nixon in the White House, Ceaușescu decided to upgrade his title of general secretary, which he had inherited from his old cellmate and mentor Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, to that of president. He also took up residence in a spacious new villa in a leafy northern suburb of Bucharest. Branded the Palatul Primăverii, or Spring Palace, this two-storey building captured the mood of confidence nourished by the sunlamp of international favour. Was it also a dig at Russia, whose most famous palace was, of course, named after winter?

The Spring Palace, private residence of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu (1918&ndash89). Photo: David Muntean/AFP/Getty Images, 2016

The Prague Spring took root among students and writers. Spring in Romania, by contrast, was given life by Ceaușescu, the self-styled conducător, himself. Nothing embodied the spirit of the times better than the Palatul Primăverii. As the dollars rolled in, Ceaușescu was suddenly able to live in the fashion of his new friends in Washington and London. Amid Murano chandeliers, handmade walnut carvings, damask wall coverings and doors finished in buffalo leather, Nicolae and his wife, Elena, could share their favourite meal of chopped tomatoes, relax in front of the country&rsquos first colour television (though all Romanian broadcasting was in black and white), or serve distinguished guests tea &ndash always, after the Ceaușescus had shared a pot of Assam with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, drunk with milk, even though it made Elena retch. The Romanian people, unruffled by the winds of change blowing through the nomenklatura, carried on in their same downtrodden state, queuing for food and making the most of the few hours of electricity they were allotted each day.

The office of Nicolae Ceaușescu at his former residence in Bucharest. Photo: David Muntean/AFP/Getty Images, 2016

Kitsch is nowadays the aesthetic mode most commonly associated with late-period Soviet-style communism &ndash slogan-embroidered doilies, plaster figurines of Party leaders, murals of beaming workers. But looking round the Palatul Primăverii, one is struck by both the quality of the objets and the intricacy of the craftsmanship. The obligatory social realist canvases of peasants and labourers, factories and fields become almost invisible beside the fine furnishings the Ceaușescus amassed. Even works by renowned Romanian artists, such as the painter Camil Ressu or the one-armed sculptor Ion Jalea, pale beside showpieces from France, Italy or China.

No one ordinarily would think the Ceaușescus exemplars of good taste. Yet the conducător&rsquos policies, whether by design or default, transformed him into one of the great collectors of his age. The governments of East and West, vying for his favour, showered him with gifts, turning his home into a museum of princely luxuries. Louvre tapestries and Meissen porcelain sat cheek by jowl with Ming vases and Persian carpets, a set of which was presented to Ceaușescu by Mohammad Reza Shah. Kim Il-sung sent Korean antiques, while President Mobutu of Zaire chipped in with an assortment of ivory miniatures.

The décor at the Palatul Primăverii attained a similar standard. Regular invitations to London, Washington and Paris provided Ceaușescu with opportunities to see how the other half lived and to tailor his surroundings accordingly. For his daughter&rsquos suite, he took as his template Marie Antoinette&rsquos apartment at Versailles, commissioning Louis XVI-style tables, chairs and cabinets to furnish it. The rooms set aside for Nicu, his younger son and heir designate, were fitted out in the English style, with unfussy, classical fittings. All of this was helped by the communist government&rsquos long-standing failure to invest in industry. This enabled the Ceaușescus to enjoy the fruits of the many time-honoured handcrafts that survived in Romania when they had vanished elsewhere. The wood-coffered wine cellar, decorated in &lsquomedieval&rsquo Wallachian style, served as a showroom for Romanian carpentry, while the Byzantine-style fountains dotted through the house drew on the artistic traditions of the Orthodox Church, which otherwise was battered by the communist regime into submission.

Inside Ceauseșcu&rsquos private residence. Photo: David Muntean/AFP/Getty Images, 2016

Yet for all the finery, the Palatul Primăverii still betrays the neuroses of dictatorship. A passageway from Nicolae and Elena&rsquos apartment takes you into a tiled area and the first couple&rsquos infamous gold-domed bathroom, with its mosaic-lined shower and flying mirrors. This may have been sufficient to satisfy a sultan, but for the Ceaușescus it was just the start. Follow the tiled corridor a little further and you reach the heart of the wet wing: a full-blown sanatorium with machines offering every form of hydrotherapy, electrotherapy and hypoxi known to man. A little bit of anxiety about their health is perhaps understandable: Nicolae, after all, was diabetic. But it&rsquos when you get to the kitchen, the customary highlight of any house tour, that the true extent of their paranoia becomes plain. Or, more to the point, when you don&rsquot, for there is no kitchen. The Ceaușescus lived in such terror of poisoning that all their meals were prepared at a secret police facility and dispatched to the house by courier.

And what about the neighbours? Well, on the left is the bastion-like residence of the Syrian ambassador. He could tell you a thing or two about political springs. But has he yet found a way to inform his boss in Damascus about how it all ended for the Ceaușescus, on Christmas Day in 1989?


Czechoslovak negotiations with the USSR and other Warsaw Pact states [ edit | edit source ]

The Soviet leadership at first tried to stop or limit the impact of Dubček's initiatives through a series of negotiations. Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union agreed to bilateral talks to be held in July 1968 at Čierna nad Tisou, near the Slovak-Soviet border.

At the meeting, Dubček defended the programme of the reformist wing of the KSČ while pledging commitment to the Warsaw Pact and Comecon. The KSČ leadership, however, was divided between vigorous reformers (Josef Smrkovský, Oldřich Černík, and František Kriegel) who supported Dubček, and conservatives (Vasil Biľak, Drahomír Kolder, and Oldřich Švestka) who adopted an anti-reformist stance. Brezhnev decided on compromise. The KSČ delegates reaffirmed their loyalty to the Warsaw Pact and promised to curb "anti-socialist" tendencies, prevent the revival of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, and control the press more effectively. The USSR agreed to withdraw their troops (still stationed in Czechoslovakia since the June 1968 maneuvers) and permit the 9 September party congress.

On 3 August, representatives from the Soviet Union, East Germany, People's Republic of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia met in Bratislava and signed the Bratislava Declaration. ⎙] The declaration affirmed unshakable fidelity to Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism and declared an implacable struggle against bourgeois ideology and all "antisocialist" forces. The Soviet Union expressed its intention to intervene in a Warsaw Pact country if a bourgeois system—a pluralist system of several political parties representing different factions of the capitalist class—was ever established. After the Bratislava conference, Soviet troops left Czechoslovak territory but remained along Czechoslovak borders.

As these talks proved unsatisfactory, the USSR began to consider a military alternative. The Soviet Union's policy of compelling the socialist governments of its satellite states to subordinate their national interests to those of the Eastern Bloc (through military force if needed) became known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.


How did Ceaușescu survive the condemnation of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968? - History

This is a collection of oral histories containing accounts of everyday lives, thoughts and reactions of "ordinary" Hungarians living during two different political and economic regimes. The emphasis is on what they remember, or experience now, as memorable and important. The collection's intended use is as a primary source for students and historians. They are in English, either originally or translated from Hungarian at the time of the interview. All interviews conducted by Virginia Major Thomas and translator and collaborator Miklos Jakabffy. The collection has been partly financed by grants from the American–Hungarian Foundation. More About This Project

Andras Balog (b. 7/23/1949)
Andras Balog describes himself as the son of a poor family from the countryside. His mother was a cleaning lady and his father a driver for the Ministry of the Interior, transporting prisoners. Balog became a locksmith, and while working finished high school at night school and by correspondence. He advanced to become a textile machine technician in that capacity, he traveled all over Hungary and then further east, later moving to Iran, where he taught himself Farsi and English. He was a member of the Communist Party, but began to question Communism when he talked to American soldiers in Iran. Eventually in 1988, he refused to rejoin the party. He also traveled extensively in the West. When his company went bankrupt in 1990, he became a full-time self-employed taxi driver, a job he had done part-time under Communism. As a taxi driver he began working as a guide and then as a courier between the USAID and the American embassy. Slowly he moved into work as a general services assistant for the Peace Corps, as computer network manager for another company after having taught himself computer skills.

Balog has insightful assessments of conditions in Hungary today. Although he says he is making enough money to live well, he sees many others who do not have enough. He does not blame Communism or its legacy, but rather capitalist propaganda, which he reports as saying that under capitalism you can do whatever you want. He finds the current political and economic conditions in Hungary lacking in many areas.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and education—The 1956 Revolution—Various jobs and traveling—Life under Communism—Break with Communism—Work since 1989—Discussion of contemporary Hungary

Dr. Dénes Bara (b.11/16/1925)
Dénes Bara was a physician in Szeged, Hungary. He grew up in Horthy-era Budapest, escaped in a Swiss safe house there the Arrow Cross killing of Jews, and after the Russian army entered the city he fled and by chance ended up in Szeged. He tells of his life in Szeged under the Communist rulers Rakosi and Kadar, of his going to medical school and serving as a doctor in the army, of the effects of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and of various aspects of the capitalist governments after 1989.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, early education and fate of family—life under Szalasi and the Arrow Cross and the liberation of Budapest—life under the Russians—arrival in Szeged and life there—in the university of Szeged—life under Rakosi, marriage and army service—1956 Revolution, its effects and the Kadar regime—transition governments—political situation in Hungary today.

Eva Beck (b. 8/18/1930)
Eva Beck grew up in an upper-middle-class Jewish family. Her father owned a leatherware shop, and her grandfather owned a well-known bottling company in Budapest. As a child, she learned German, French, and English from nannies and private tutors, but because she was Jewish, under the Horthy regime she had to go to a Jewish gymnasium, which happened to be an excellent school. When the Nazis marched into Hungary in 1944, her schooling ended. She survived the Nazi and Arrow Cross regimes first in a “yellow star house,” then hiding in the home of cousins of an old family friend. Her hosts did not know she was Jewish, so she had to do a lot of pretending. But her father was shot by the Arrow Cross and her brother taken away an unknown fate. When the Soviet Army defeated the Nazis and Arrow Cross, she was reunited with her mother after a long, confusing month.

Beck’s wartime experiences left her emotionally unable to go to school. She got a job in a bookstore, whose remarkably perceptive owner saw to her education as he trained her by requiring her to read all the books’ dustjackets and learn what they were about. She became a voracious reader, and eventually became both a high-ranking administrator in a state-owned book export company and a convinced Communist. However, she became slowly disillusioned with Communism around the time of the 1956 revolution, although she was not active in it.

During the Kadar regime, Beck led the life of a politically unreliable but efficient and productive book export company employee. Her account of how she and others walked a narrow line is very interesting. She traveled a great deal for work, including a trip to the United States during the turbulent 1960s. In the 1970s she and her family traveled as tourists to the West as well as to Eastern Bloc countries. She noticed the many differences between life in Hungary and elsewhere most amusing was her discovery of the hunger in East Germany for political jokes, which East Germans were not permitted to tell, but the Hungarians were.

Beck did not anticipate the changes of 1989-1990. She has many penetrating comments about the present political, economic, and social situation in Hungary.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and education—Life under the Nazis and the Arrow Cross—Work at bookshop, becoming a Communist, 1956—The Kadar regime, life during this period—Travel—The changes and the present situation

Peter Bihari (b. 1957)
Peter Bihari is a history teacher in a high school (gymnasium) in Budapest and the author of The History of the 20th Century (Budapest: Holnap Kiado, 1991). He comes from an assimilated Jewish family his parents were middle-class Communist Party members with no deep ideological commitment to Communism. He notes the absence of political discussion in his family, especially about the Holocaust, but heard his grandfather make occasional critical remarks about the Kadar regime.

Bihari recalls the Kadar years of the 1970s and 1980s as better than earlier years, but by the late eighties he was convinced the system was unworkable. During his year in the military (the question about what he did in the army he calls a “hard question”), he became friends with Hungarians from other educational and economic backgrounds and counts this a very valuable social experience. He then went to university. During his university career, he spent four months at the University of Jena in East Germany, where he met students from Russia and other Eastern European countries he memorably watched election debates with his companions on West German state television. Upon graduation he became a high school history teacher and continued this after he got a Ph.D. in Hungarian history at Central European University.
He finds life in Hungary after 1989 quite different, and presents an insightful critique of current social, political and economic conditions in Hungary today. He is not optimistic about the future but sees achievements Hungary can be proud of, both present and past, especially its contributions to world culture. He assisted the historian and news correspondent Kati Marton in preparations for her 2006 book, The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background—life under Kadar—education—limitations of family discussion—military service and its value—at the Budapest university and at Jena—teaching history—PhD dissertation—the changes of ’89—post-’89 cultural changes—present situation in Hungary—Hungarian pessimism—Hungarian literature—great interwar Hungarian teachers and gymnasia

Ella Borocz (b. 5/1/1930)
Ella Borocz is the great-grandniece of famous Hungarian nobleman and statesman Istvan Szechenyi. As a member of the nobility, she had a privileged childhood and her family was not ill-treated by the Germans after the Nazi invasion in 1944. But she underwent the rigors of the Russian army’s siege of Budapest, and endured many difficulties under subsequent Communist rule. Her father, a nobleman, fled the country. She was not allowed to go to the university because of her noble background. She barely escaped deportation from Budapest in 1951. Her husband was arrested and imprisoned after the 1956 Revolution. And, ironically, under the Kadar Communist government she held various jobs for which she was prepared only by the language skills she had acquired during her privileged childhood from her nannies.

Borocz eventually became a tour guide, at first with politically imposed limitations on her travel. After 1989, she assisted Western businessmen interested in investment in post-Communist Hungary. She has much to say about the political and economic changes Hungary has undergone in the second half of the twentieth century, and which she has experienced for herself.

Judit Borzsak (b. 7/31/1936)
Because Judit Borzsak was the middle-class daughter of a teacher, she was not expected under Communist rule to go to the university instead, she was sent to a secondary technical school of economics. But while she was there, government policy regarding eligibility for higher education changed, and on the basis of her good grades she was allowed to go to the university. She wanted to teach English but was first employed as a librarian in several manufacturing companies, including a radio factory. Later, she became an English teacher. As guide of a tour for vacationing teachers, she had an opportunity to travel widely when most Hungarian travel was very restricted. Her experiences in both Russia and the West were illuminating, as she compared Muslim and Communist cultures and Western Europe with Hungary. However, when she tried to become an au pair in England, to improve her English, she ran afoul of the suspicious and duplicitous Communist Hungarian government. She is currently program officer of the Hungarian Accreditation Committee of the Hungarian Ministry of Education, and she has much to say, among other subjects, about the changes in education, the media, and society since 1989.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, education in technical secondary school and university—Revolution and post-’56 changes—Work as a librarian, marriage, child care—We’re Travel, passports, impressions of foreign countries—Journalists’ work under Communism—Differences between the west and Communist Hungary—1989 and post-1989—Life under capitalism—European Union—Higher education in Hungary and the teaching profession—Freedom of speech, the press, TV, and radio

Gabor Drexler (b. 5/2/43)
Gabor Drexler is the director of the Budapest campus of McDaniel College, which he was instrumental in establishing in 1994. (McDaniel was formerly called Western Maryland College.) He has had a long career in education, most of which took place during the Communist regime. Although, as the son of an engineer, he belonged to the middle class, he was able to enter the university because of his high entrance examination scores, and graduated in English and Russian literature and language. After briefly teaching, he worked in the Institute for Cultural Relations and was involved in educational and cultural exchanges with foreign nations and traveled extensively abroad. After 1981 he worked in the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and taught 20th-century English literature part-time at the university. He was a member of the Communist Party, which he discusses in the interview. He presents a history of Hungary under the Communist government, especially during the Kadar period, and comments extensively on the situation since 1989. He completely rewrote the interview in the interest of improved organization because he felt his oral presentation was confusing. His rewriting has not been altered in any way.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, education under Communism—Life under Communism before 1956—Importance of 1956 and of Kadar—Entrance into university—Information restrictions under Communism—Prague Spring, including Kadar’s role—Work for the Institute for Cultural Relations, later the Ministry—Founding of McDaniel College—Evaluation of the changes in 1989—Analysis of current political situation in Hungary—Family, education in technical secondary school and university—Revolution and post-’56

Zsuzsa Eastland (b. 1944)
Although she belonged to the middle class, the daughter of teachers, Zsuzsa Eastland was admitted automatically to the university in 1963 because she was rated one of the ten best students of the Russian language in Hungary. After graduating, she became a language teacher, eventually at the language institute of the medical school, teaching students medical texts in English and other languages. She has vivid memories of pre-1956 Communist terror and of the 1956 Revolution with its euphoria and hope.
She discusses Communist values, how they were presented and how they were observed, and living with the restrictions of life under Communism. She also has much to say about 1989 and its aftermath, about current political splits in Hungary, the effects of living under two different totalitarian governments, and the clash of unreconciled values today.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and religion—Memories of pre-1956—Education, discussion of freedom of speech—Memories of 1956 and its aftermath—Kadar regime: principles and practices—The “changes” in 1989 and subsequent corruption—Post-communism: leaders, problems, values and attitudes

Jeno Eder (b. 1926)
Although Jeno Eder is the son of a German father and Slovakian mother, with Slovenian ancestors, he is very proud to be Hungarian and very proud of Hungary. The men in his family worked for the railroad, where his father played a brave role during the Nazi army invasion in 1944. After leaving the Hungarian People’s Democracy army, Jeno was employed as a technical worker producing military equipment made to Soviet design. Later he worked in telecommunications economic research. But his true calling was in guiding tourists, which he was trained to do and began in 1986. He worked a guide in Hungary as well as abroad, and had many revealing experiences. He relates these and also makes many comments on life today in Hungary.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, education, and army and POW experiences—life and work under Communism—1956 Revolution and after—travel under Communism—becoming a guide—experiences as a guide—changes after 1989—Hungary today—pride in being Hungarian and speaking Hungarian—his father’s actions in 1944

Laszlo Fejer (b. 11/27/1947)
Fejer began his career as a part-time railway mechanic, employed by the Communist state. More important to his employer, however, was his excellence as an ice hockey player in the railway company's sports team in a regime where no professional sports were allowed. But the railway company paid him only as a part-time mechanic, a salary on which he could not live. He became variously a railway engineer, a college student, a gas heater mechanic, a teacher, and finally, after the political changes, the manager of a Danish company with international connections. He has many insightful comments on the life of a non-Communist worker in Communist Hungary. He added a letter about present-day Hungary after the interview was completed.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family and education—ice hockey for the Communist Hungarian Railway Company—traveling as an ice hockey player—life as a railroad engineer—college education—gas equipment mechanic and that jobs' advantages—technological changes and international contacts—the effects of political changes—post-Communist Hungary

Pal Geher (b. 1950)
Pal Geher is the son of a lawyer who lost his license because he refused the role of prosecutor in the now-infamous case of Peter Mansfeld, a teenager accused of treason for involvement in the 1956 Revolution. He could practice law again later only in a town far from his family in Budapest. Pal was allowed to attend the university because of his high academic achievements he subsequently went to medical school and became a rheumatologist and later a Ph.D. During the Kadar regime, he organized a scientific society that arranged international medical meetings for Hungarian doctors who were otherwise not permitted to travel, enabling them to exchange scientific information with doctors of other countries. After the fall of Communism, he served in the Ministry of Welfare of the Hungarian government, from 1993 to 1994 and from 2001 to 2002. In the latter period he was Vice-Secretary of State, and instrumental in reorganizing and privatizing the health care system in Hungary. He comments on both Communist and post-Communist politics and economics and the effects of the different systems on personal life.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background, early education—University, becoming a rheumatologist—Post-Communist changes in hospital system—Study in France, considering remaining there—Passport availability, possibilities of leaving Hungary—PhD—Medical meeting in Budapest—Ministry of Health position and politics—Political comments—Hungary and international politics—Hungary, NATO and E.U.—Current freedom of speech and press in Hungary—Computers, internet and freedom of speech—Freedom of speech and personal relationships

Kalman Hencsei (b. 1/1/45)
Kalman Hencsei’s father warned him early in life against becoming a Communist. His father was a peasant who, under Horthy’s regime, became a policeman in Budapest, but he refused to work for the Communists when they came to power and returned to farm life. Kalman grew up in the village of Bezered, where the Catholic church was very important to him and where he is now endowing a chapel. He graduated from the university in math and physics. He planned to be a scientist, but became a computer expert. He never joined a Communist Party, but he had a live-and-let-live relationship with the party and government. Later, he got a degree in economics he worked in banking and in the Ministry of Finance as a consultant, a position he enjoyed. After an unhappy stay in the United States he became very critical of the “American mentality” and returned to Hungary. He is one of three partners in an English language school whose finances he directs. He discusses, among other subjects, the current political and economic situation in Hungary and various social issues such as the “Gypsy problem.”

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and childhood—Education—Communists in his village—View of Trianon Treaty—Career as computer expert—Work in finance— U.S.A.—Work at English language school in Budapest—Current Hungarian politics and economics—Army service in Hungary—Gypsies in Hungary

Maria Kollar (b. 1945)
Maria Kollar is the granddaughter of eminent Hungarian banker Leo Lanczy, whose name is inscribed on the Chain Bridge in Budapest. Her father, Dr. Andor von Wodianer, was a lawyer. Because they were “bourgeois,” the family was “resettled”—deported—by the Communists from Budapest to a village on the Hortobagy ( Great Plains), where they were quartered with a peasant family. After two years, Maria and her sister were allowed to return to Budapest to live with their grandmother. Her mother also secretly lived with them.
Her social background also prevented Maria from entering the university. She had several administrative jobs with different businesses, finally working for Hungarian Lightmetal in Szekesfehervar, which was bought by Alcoa. She describes especially the social and economic changes as well as the political ones that have occurred in Hungary after the fall of Communism in 1989.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, deportation to Hortobagy, early schooling, return to Budapest—Political exclusion from university, work—Marriage, move to/work in Szekesfehervar, changes in workplace—Memories of Rakosi and Kadar eras—Current work and living situations—Current politics and press freedom—TV and computers—E.U.

Janos Kovacs (b. 1961)
Janos Kovacs was born to a Hungarian family living in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). His family was part of the Hungarian minority stranded there by the Trianon Treaty at the end of World War I, which moved national borders and left three-fifths of the Hungarian population living in other countries. His father was a member of the Communist Party, but his mother was a strict Roman Catholic who took her children to Catholic religion classes although the Communist Party frowned upon that.

Kovacs went to an industrial high school and college and eventually became a technician at the hydroelectric power plant at Bos on the Danube. He was working there when what he calls the “Silent Revolution” (i.e., nonviolent) took place in 1989. He comments upon prejudice against Hungarians in Czechoslovakia, about post-Communist life in Slovakia, and about the division of Czechoslovakia into two states.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and education—economics in Czechoslovakia—prejudice against Hungarians in Czechoslovakia—Czech and Slovak attitudes toward Russian communism—marriage and work—1989 and everyday life—post 1989.

Marton Ledniczky (b. 3/11/54)
Marton Ledniczky calls himself “an artist of film.” He is the son of a lawyer and grew up in Budapest during the Communist era, aware of the censorship of school subjects and of terror during this regime. He worked his way up in his profession in a state-owned film company, and also attended a theater and cinema high school. He experienced taboo subjects in the film industry and also the fact that some filmmakers were “more equal” among the equal and were permitted to question politics a little in their work. He discusses the changes in the film business after 1989 and the changes in Hungarian life and how they brought both new freedoms and new tyrannies. He is currently an independent documentary film producer.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and education—Making films during the Communist regime—Freedom of speech with the coming of capitalism—Other changes with capitalism—Role of the media in capitalism—Critique of current capitalism

Krisztina Nemerkenyi (b. 1/23/1953)
Although she was born when Rakosi was the repressive Communist leader of Hungary, Krisztina Nemerkenyi grew up during the Kadar regime and did not experience Communism as repressive. She attributes her sense of freedom not to Kadar but to the influence of her family which was large (eight children), democratic, deeply religious (Roman Catholic), and skeptical of political propaganda. She feels her family taught her to speak and live as she believed without fear, and while she was aware of spying in the university and elsewhere, she had no personal experience of it. She taught English and geography, and also worked in scientific publishing and as an organizer for scientific meetings. She comments on the current political and social situations in Hungary.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family and education—organizational work and teaching—the media—polarization in Hungary—political activity of youth—European Union—traveling—current social situation

Mesi Nyilasi (b. 1/28/1963)
Mesi Nyilasi is the daughter of a father who was a waiter and a mother who was an accountant. Born and raised in Budapest, she took two university degrees, one in biology and chemistry, one in English. She taught English language classes for adults for 20-odd years and later, as well as now, does work in documentation for a Hungarian pharmaceutical company. Mesi has many insights into both the political mood of Hungary under the Communist regime and now, after the spring 2010 elections, and into the different cultural situations under the two types of government.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and education—Work—Travel during Communism—Economic and cultural life under Communism—The Change of 1989—Current political attitudes in Hungary—Sense of security during Communism and now—Hungarian traditions and Communism

Odon Orzsik (b. 7/15/1959)
Odon Orzsik is a pediatric cardiologist practicing in Slovakia and Hungary. He is of Hungarian descent, but was born and brought up in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). As a child, he learned five languages, some taught at home by his doctor father. He attended the medical school of Comenius University in Bratislava (Pozsony in Hungarian, Pressburg in German), and after army training in medical school and a regular army stint, he returned to his home town and practiced like his father in a hospital as an employee of the state under Communism until the changes of 1989. He discusses many aspects of life under Communism and life now in Slovakia and Hungary.

Discursive Table of Contents: Place of birth, family and education—religion in Czechoslovakia under Communism—television in Czechoslovakia under Communism—his father’s life before, during and after World War II—traveling under Communism—Hungarians in Slovakia—entering the university under Communism—army training in medical school and regular army life—life in Communism and life now—the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Emil Pasztor (b. 4/18/26)
Emil Pasztor’s father was a baker who opened his own bakery just in time to be wiped out by the Crash of 1929, but who managed to open another in 1939. Emil was just beginning medical school in 1944 when the siege and occupation of Budapest by the Russian army occurred. He was seized by the Russians and marched off, ostensibly to captivity and forced labor, but by incredible luck managed to escape. He finished medical school and married his wife, also a doctor. Together they decided, after the 1956 Revolution was crushed, to remain in Hungary to contribute what they could to the country. He subsequently (1973-1993) became director of the National Institute of Neurosurgery in Budapest, which included a 150-bed free-standing neurosurgery hospital, the third largest in the world. An American colleague called him “a leader with courage, vision and high personal competence…I place him in the top five of all medical academics I have met.” (Dr. Frederick Holmes, professor emeritus, University of Kansas Medical Center, personal letter.) Dr. Pasztor comments about his trips to medical conferences during Communist times and about the changes in life after the collapse of Communism in 1989.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, education during World War II—Siege of Budapest 1944, capture by Russians, escape—Work as glazier, medical education—Marriage, 1956, choosing to remain in Hungary—Professional meeting in Washington and Sao Paulo—Changes after 1989

Agota Pavlovics (b. 5/3/56)
At the time of her 2005 interview, Agota Pavlovics was an editor at the Central European News Agency, which she described as “at the moment the far world of beautiful hopes.” She meant there was hope that it could convey more accurate news to other European news agencies, because its reporters lived in and therefore knew more about central Eastern European affairs. She is the daughter of a Hungarian mother and a Serbian father who was a teacher and long-time member of the Socialist Party. She graduated from the university in Serbo-Croatian and Hungarian languages. She taught briefly and then became a translator at the Yugoslavian Embassy trade office. In the 1980s this became a privately owned trade company, which meant she then had a better income and more luxurious lifestyle. She became a journalist after 1989 because she felt it was similar to teaching in its ability to inform and enlighten people. But she views current political and economic affairs in Hungary, along with current journalism, as in a “boiling period” of adjustment and change.

Discursive Table of Contents: Background and education—Teaching—Working in Yugoslav trade office—Journalism—Privatization of property in Hungary after 1989—Hungarian economy and European Union—Political instability in Hungary—Intelligence, press honesty and responsibility

Katalin Pecsi (b. 3/29/51)
Katalin Pecsi was born in Budapest to Communist parents and grew up knowing nothing of her Jewish heritage. Her father’s background was that of an assimilated Jew her mother came from an Orthodox family, and her maternal aunts and uncles belonged to a Zionist youth organization, Hashomer Hacair, and had spent some time in Palestine. When she was young there was little discussion of family members killed, ostensibly as political prisoners, in the Nazi death camps. Her parents talked of politics but eschewed all religious beliefs, although St. Nicolas and Santa Claus both visited at Christma time, causing Katalin some confusion as to whether they were twins or one person making two visits.

Pecsi discovered her Jewish background while at the university and has been exploring it ever since, in Hungary, in Germany, and in the United States. She feels that Judaism is “the most important part” of her identity. She is currently professor of literature at the Central European University in Budapest and director of education at the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center. She is also a founding member of Esther’s Bag, a group of Hungarian Jewish women seeking to promote research on the history of Jewish women and writing, holding discussions, and having exhibits about women in the Jewish community.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family’s Judaism, Zionism and trip to Palestine—Parents’ Communism, father’s deportation to camp and escape—Mother’s work in anti-Nazi underground—Upbringing in ignorance of Jewish heritage—Discovery of Jewish heritage, meaning to Katalin—Marriage to non-Jew, travel as a student before marriage—Editorial work, PhD, children, travel to Germany and USA—Father’s suicide, discovery of Jewish music and Holocaust history—Jewish practices in USA, Jewish secrecy during Communism—Children and Judaism, political divisions in Hungary today

Istvan Pelsoczi-Kovacs (b. 10/3/1938) [Transcript in Progress]
Istvan Pelsoczi-Kovacs was born in Dunafoldvar, a small city south of Budapest. He was of Slavic descent and his father had a trucking company. Dunafoldvar was in a critical location because of its bridge across the Danube, the river crossing between the south border of Hungary and Budapest. Consequently it was the site of much fighting during World War II between the Germans, who were holding it, and the invading Russians. A Wehrmacht officer lived in the family house, and rode to the fighting every day on his bicycle. Although Pelsoczi-Kovacs was so close danger, he survived the war without injury.

After the war he graduated from the gymnasium but couldn’t go to the university because he had a noble family name. Instead, he went to work in a laboratory man, and through that position proceeded to the university where he graduated in microbiology and also met his wife. Later, he went to work in a well-known food canning factory where his mother-in-law held an influential management position. It was she who “ordered” all the men in the family in the 1970s to join the Communist Party in order to be in a position to direct the party’s actions.

Once a member of the party, Istvan became first a deputy head, and then head of a department in the county council, a paid full-time job where he was in charge of the economics of tourism in the county. He says his work was economic, not strictly political work, and he did not want to be involved in politics. In 1978 he finished a Ph.D. in economics. He then taught customer protection and quality assurance in college, until he retired in 2000.

Pelsoczi-Kovacs thought the Kadar regime was a “soft dictatorship” and that life in Hungary under this was better than in other Eastern Bloc countries, although the regime frowned on churchgoing (he is Protestant). He believes that it was deleterious to the country that former Communist leaders were allowed to remain in positions of power. He believes it will take several generations before the effects of Communism will vanish and Hungary will have a democracy. He has many criticisms of the current government, the international situation and its influence on Hungary, and the current dangers, which he blames on Jewish capital influence.

Tibor Pok (b. 2/10/64)
Tibor Pok’s life illustrates the difficult economic challenges presented to many Hungarians by the collapse of Communism and the arrival of unrestrained competitive capitalism. He went to a high school that trained students for the catering trade, but he worked only one year in that field before starting a small trucking business. It was the 1980s, when the Communist government allowed small businesses to be privately owned. Soon, however, small private trucking firms proliferated and his ceased to be profitable.

After 1989, when capitalism replaced Communism, Pok started a small tobacconist shop, which also carried a small assortment of food and household items like soap. It was located on the ground floor of his parents-in-law’s house in a suburb of Budapest and was managed by Tibor and his wife. After 10 years, however, he was unable to compete with the many large international grocery chains that flooded Hungary. Currently he works as a waiter and his wife as a store clerk they no longer have to pay the heavy taxes and other expenses of owning their own business. Having worked in the United States, he is advising his daughter to go to the West when she is grown, because she will have better business opportunities there.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family and—Starting a private trucking company, its failure— Starting a small private store, its failure—Evaluation of the changes in 1989—Travel, impressions of other countries—Current political conditions in Hungary—Current education in Hungary

Marta Siklos (b. 6/4/1952)
Marta Siklos came from a Hungarian-Jewish family and became a secondary school English teacher and a translator of English-language literature. As a teenager, she visited family in England and later had both teacher training and a teaching job in the United States. She experienced the political changes in Hungary as a gradual relaxation, but was still surprised by their extent. She comments at length on the euphoria after the Communist collapse, and the subsequent divisiveness that developed in the country. She discusses many of the political and social problems in today's Hungary.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and education—teaching English and being a translator under Communism—life under the Communist regime—travel—the political changes—the Hungarian political and social situation today

Sándor Striker (b. 11/29/1953)
On June 1, 2008, Sandor Striker was appointed Vice Dean of the Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology of the ELTE University in Budapest. He comes from the Polanyi family of prominent Hungarian intellectuals (Karoly Polanyi and Michael Polanyi were greatuncles). Although his parents were long-time Communist Party members, he became disillusioned with Communist “democracy” in secondary school, and he planned to become a literature teacher and work independent of the political situation. After four years at the university but before writing his thesis, he went to England, where he learned English and studied at the university. But he illegally stayed for a year, so his passport was taken away by the Hungarian Embassy in London. He describes in fascinating detail what he learned about politics, his own country and life in general, and the complicated scheming he used successfully to return to Hungary.

Back in Budapest, Striker finished his university thesis on Lucifer and freedom in Madach’s The Tragedy of Man. He joined the Ministry of Culture and Education after the political changes of 1990 and succeeded in having legislation passed to make the country’s cultural centers more democratic. He became cultural attaché in London, but with a change in the Hungarian government his position was threatened. There followed years of legal suits against the government, during part of which he acted as his own attorney he finally won the many court battles and appeals. He taught first at the University of Applied Arts and then at Eotvos Lorand University, at the latter teaching European studies, the theory of culture, and cultural management. He comments on the continuation of old feudal traditions in Hungary today, the divisions in the country, and current political and economic problems.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, parents, childhood and education—Communism in education— political awakening—influence of Beat culture and conflict with parents—travel by Hungarians during Communism—career plans, teaching in small town, and studying cultural center management in the university—decision to go to England and trip there—loss of passport, and life in England—return to Hungary: reasons for and restrictions—vindication and getting new passport—finishing thesis for university—discussion of The Tragedy of Man, freedom, and the influence of cultural environment—work in the Ministry of Culture and Education and successful cultural center legislation—Hungarian cultural attaché in London, government changes—legal controversies with the government—discussion of the situation of Hungary today

Eva Szabo (Dr. Bara Denesne) (b. 12/14/1927)
Eva Szabo practiced medicine in Szeged, during the Communist regime and she says she and her family never suffered a bit during that period. Despite gentle pressure to join, she was never a member of the Communist Party, but “I was not an enemy, I was neutral.” She was the daughter of a factory mechanic and an obstetrical nurse, and she decided early to get an education in order to “become somebody.” Coming from a worker background, she had no trouble getting into the university. She describes the real estate situation under the Communists, the 1956 revolution in Szeged, life during the Kadar regime for doctors like her and her husband, and the post-1989 political situation in Hungary, with the divisions in society resulting from differing viewpoints. Her husband adds a word about the influence of the United States in the political changes of 1989 in Hungary.

Jozsef Szentesi (b. 1957)
Jozsef Szentesi’s family experienced at first hand the population displacements which roiled Eastern Europe after World War II. His parents were of ethnic German origin and his family, excepting his father, had to move away from home in 1947 to make room for Hungarians who, in turn, had been forced to move out of Slovakia. His father was allowed to remain because he was a policeman and had Magyarized his name from Sauter to Szentesi. However, with the coming of Communism he was kicked out of the police and became a day laborer, working mostly for farmers.

Szentesi grew up in poverty and went to school in Budaors and Budapest. He characterizes the history books he was taught from as “lying, lying, and lying.” He wanted to work as a clerk in a hotel office after high school but was refused, later learning that with his background he was rejected because he was unlikely to use the job to spy for the Communists. He became a waiter at a fancy restaurant until at 21 he had to go in the army, where he worked as clerk in a post kitchen assuring that the use of “Communist recipes” was exact. He was also a member of the army badminton team.

When Szentesi got out of the army he progressed from being a manager of various food services, including restaurants, to owning a grocery businesses, then to owning a wholesale grocery business. In the last position, although he was very careful to follow the law exactly, he ran afoul of the Communist government, which bent the law to serve itself. After the changes of 1989, he ran a billiard room and then went into raising grapes and producing the wine for which he is now famous. He discusses how to make excellent wine.

Discursive Table of Contents: Background and education—Work as waiter and army life—Restaurant manager—Store owner and businessman under Communism—Wholesale business, problems with Communism—1989 changes, billiard room, business complex—Current wine company

Lajos Veraszto (b. 8/31/45)
Lajos Veraszto grew up in Kardoskut, one of seven children of a poor farmer whose ingenuity in acquiring a threshing machine led to Communist condemnation of him as a kulak. The family experienced government pressure to join a cooperative and heavy Communist taxation of farmers in the early fifties. His experience of the 1956 Revolution was that of a country boy who knew nothing of Budapest and little of Communist politics. To avoid military conscription, he went first to drama school and then to the university in Budapest. There he acquired language skills, and after graduation he taught English at a workers’ club in a factory in Csesed. This morphed into a language department at the factory, and after his return from three years’ work in the United States, he developed it into a privately owned English language school, one of the largest in Budapest. He critiques capitalism as experienced in Hungary after 1989 as well as life under Communism.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, home and farm, collectivization of farms, elementary education, gymnasium—Stalin’s death, taxation, 1956 in village, life after 1956, education—Land surveying, Budapest drama school, university—England, teaching English at Csesed workers’ club, U.S. visit—Return to Hungary, private language school, political views

Csilla Dobos (b. 12/21/62)
Because Csilla Dobos began working as an “assistant” for the Central European University in Budapest when it was first being created, she can describe herself now as the university's longest-serving employee. She did many jobs at the university, at the same time earning a BA, and is now coordinator of the Medieval History Department and a member of the board of the university. Her ideas have been greatly influenced both by her family and by the Communist period in which she grew up, and she has many concerns about present political and economic life in Hungary.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background and education—early work—college—religious background and philosophy of life—children—Communism and post-Communism in Hungary—current political issues in Hungary.

Gabor Erdelyi (b. 1927)
Gabor Erdelyi is the son of a lawyer, later a judge, whom the Communist government tried to involve in the show trial of Laszlo Rajk and imprisoned when they couldn’t achieve their objective. Gabor trained to be a teacher in his native city of Debrecen and taught high school there before 1956, agreeing to teach Marxism. He told his students that if they learned the Marxism they had to know—and he would check their knowledge daily—then the class could spend their time studying other more interesting and important subjects. He was teaching when the 1956 Revolution occurred, and he was one of the principal leaders of the Revolution in Debrecen. He escaped from the pursuing Russians in an ingenious way and spent the next 50 years in the United States. He and his wife returned to Hungary in 2001, thankful for the refuge in the United States but happy to return to the country they had never wanted to leave. He not only relates the exciting story of his escape from Hungary in 1956 but also has insightful comments on the Communist and post-Communist political and social situations in his native country.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family, kidnapping by Russians, education in Debrecen—Teaching under the Communists—Pre-revolutionary activity in Debrecen—October 23, 1956 in Debrecen—The Revolution head of security—November 4, 1956: hiding from the AVH—Escape from Hungary—Critique of interwar political situation in Hungary—Beginnings of democracy ’45-’46—Communist Hungary father’s imprisonment—Imre Nagy, Janos Kadar—Politics and economics in post-Communist Hungary

Miklos Jakabffy (b. 6/17/48)
Desendant of a noble family, Miklos Jakabffy is the CEO of Decent Travel, a private travel agency in Budapest. He experienced Communist control of education in the gymnasium and university, worked in state-owned travel-related businesses (airlines, hotels), was restricted in his work because his step-daughter left Hungary illegally, and after 1989 successfully, though with difficulty, started his own business in the new free market economic system. Fluent in English and German, he is the translator and collaborator for this oral history collection.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family history—1956 and aftermath—education, college graduation competition prize—airline work, travel, smuggling—arrest, punishment—work and travel in 1980s—private enterprise, beginnings and development.

Peter Kardos (b. 8/14/56 )
Peter Kardos, the son of an army officer and trained as a carpenter, became a policeman because he was promised certain benefits: scholarships for future education, an apartment, and early retirement with a generous pension. He was a police officer during both the Communist and the capitalist governments, and particularly enjoyed forensics. He did many types of work, including tracking political criminals, although he says he never encountered resistance demonstrations or samizdat (but knew of their existence). He retired in 2001 at age 44 after 20 years as a policeman and is now a sometime disc jockey [DJ].

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background—education and work as a carpenter—Army career—joining the police, police training and work, courses in politics—training and work in criminal policing, general and political crime, differences in police work with political changes—retirement and pension

Eva Schleicher (b. 7/28/39)
Eva Schleicher is consultant and the retired general manager of the famous Hungarian distillery, Zwack Unicum. She worked her way up in the company from physical laborer, and along the way graduated from the university as a chemical engineer after six years of night school. She held various positions in the state-owned company during Communism and re-created the private Zwack Unicum under the new free market system after 1989.

Discursive Table of Contents: Family background—education and work—travel: Poland, Paris, Croatia—career at Unicum—political and economic changes in the 1980's—political situation in Hungary after “the change”

Related Links and Reference Materials

Denes, Magda. Castles Burning. New York: Touchstone, 1997.

Dent, Bob. Budapest. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Drakulic, Slavenka. Cafe Europa: Life After Communism. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

Engel, Jeffrey A., ed. The Fall of the Berlin Wall. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Hoffman, Eva. Exit into History. New York: Viking, 1993.

Hollis, Wendy. Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe. Boulder, Colorado: Eastern European Monographs, distributed by Columbia University Press, New York, 1999.

Judt, Tony. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1946. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

Kenney, Pradraic. The Burdens of Freedom. London: Zed Press, 2006.

Marton, Kati. The Great Escape. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006.
Enemies of the People. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Rev, Istvan. Retroactive Justice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Rosenberg, Tina. The Haunted Land. New York: Random House, 1995.

Schopflin, George. " The Political Traditions of Eastern Europe" in Eastern Europe. Central Europe. Europe. Graubard, Stephen, ed. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1991, pp. 59-94.

“Survival: Lives of Hungarians under Communist and Capitalist Governments, 1956-2006” is a collection of oral histories containing accounts of the everyday lives, thoughts, and reactions of ordinary Hungarians under two different political and economic regimes from 1956 to 2009. Because they are intended to present personal experiences and responses, the interviews are not scripted. There are therefore few predetermined questions, and the interviewees describe situations and conditions that they remember or experience now as most important and memorable to them. The collection is intended for use as a primary source by students and teachers of this region of Europe and this period in history.

The interviews are in English, either originally or translated “on the spot.” The interviewees are almost evenly divided between men and women, ranging in age from 42 to 80. They are predominantly middle-class from a variety of occupations, including teaching, medicine, tourism, administration, waiting tables, journalism, and the police

The collection has been partly financed by grants from the American-Hungarian Foundation.

The transcriptions from the cassette tapes were made by the interviewer except for one, which was checked against the tape by the interviewer. In all cases, before the transcript was sent to the narrators in Hungary, the interviewer did some light editing. This consisted of deleting accidental repetitions not intended to emphasize a word or phrase, or repetitions of habitual “fill-in” phrases such as “you know.” The interviewer also corrected simple grammatical mistakes, for example using a plural verb with a single subject.

Two interviewees, Emil Pasztor and Gabor Drexler, corrected the transcriptions sent to them by almost completely rewriting them. Their rewritings have not been altered at all. Others edited their transcripts lightly, and some did no editing of any kind. The interviewer edited all of the latter two kinds of to obtain the clearest, most correct grammar possible without changing the speaker’s original meaning.
In a few cases, when the name of a person or place was not understandable on the tape and the interviewee, when editing, did not provide it, it has been omitted from the transcription.
If you would like more information regarding this oral history project, or you are a Hungarian who lived in Hungary during this period and are interested in being interviewed, please contact Virginia Major Thomas.


21 August 1989 - Resolution of the CPSU CC Politburo 132, 'Regarding the Appeal of Cde. Ceauşescu'

Source: RGANI, F. 3, Op. 103, D. 180, L. 63, and RGANI, F. 3, Op. 103, D. 181, Ll. 140-141.

Realities versus Obfuscations

Mark Kramer

In several articles I have published over the past 15-20 years I have cited declassified Polish and Hungarian documents from August 1989 indicating that the leader of the Romanian Communist Party (RCP), Nicolae Ceauşescu, was so alarmed by the prospect of a Solidarity-led government in Poland that on 19 August 1989 he secretly urged the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries to embark on joint action against Poland, including military intervention if all other attempts to prevent the emergence of a Solidarity-led government proved of no avail.[1] In December 2010 I obtained crucial Soviet documents pertaining to the same topic and cited them in an article I published in 2011, “The Demise of the Soviet Bloc,” which has since been republished in several anthologies.[2] The Soviet documents dispel any doubt that what Ceauşescu wanted on 19 August 1989 was joint Warsaw Pact action, including military intervention if other options failed, to keep the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) in power and prevent Solidarity from gaining control of the Polish government.

In late July 2014 I discovered, to my surprise, that a videotape of a lecture given by Larry Watts in Romanian at a conference in Bucharest in June 2014 had been posted on the youtube website under the title “Larry Watts explica de ce a fost impuscat Ceausescu la lansarea ‘Exorting [sic] Peace.’”[3] I was particularly intrigued to see that around 37 minutes into the lecture Watts insisted that Ceauşescu in August 1989 was not in fact calling for joint Warsaw Pact action vis-à-vis Poland. Watts cited me by name as someone who had supposedly been duped by Polish and Hungarian “disinformation.” Watts offered no evidence to back up his contention that the Polish and Hungarian documents were merely part of a Soviet-led disinformation campaign against Ceauşescu, nor did he evince any familiarity with the Soviet documents I cited in “The Demise of the Soviet Bloc.”

In e-Dossier No. 60 for the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP), Watts provides translations of four Romanian documents, three of which have already been published. Two were published fifteen years ago in an anthology put out by two well-known Romanian scholars who, unlike Watts, believe that Ceauşescu was calling for joint Warsaw Pact intervention in Poland, including military intervention if necessary.[4] Another was published in 2005 on the website of the Parallel History Project, and an English translation of it (albeit a slightly earlier version) appeared in a book edited by Vojtech Mastny and Malcolm Byrne.[5] The only document translated by Watts that has not yet been published — the notes from a meeting of the RCP Executive Political Bureau on 21 August 1989 — has long been familiar to scholars who know Romanian. The document corroborates rather than refutes the notion that Ceauşescu on 19 August 1989 was calling for joint Warsaw Pact action in Poland to prevent a Solidarity-led government from taking power. Watts claims that his translations shed new light on the events of August 1989, but this is simply untrue. He presents no new evidence and is still unaware of the Soviet documents I used in “The Demise of the Soviet Bloc.” Hence, I am publishing my translations of the two most important of those Soviet documents here.

The first of these, a cable sent by the Soviet ambassador in Bucharest, Evgenii Tyazhel’nikov, to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Mikhail Gorbachev, late in the evening on 19 August 1989, reproduces Ceauşescu’s appeal to the USSR in full [Document 1]. Anyone who is familiar with the internal deliberations of Soviet and East European leaders before their invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 will quickly see the similarity of the phrasing used by Ceauşescu here with regard to Poland, including his mention of the Soviet military forces in Poland. In the appeal, Ceauşescu stresses the urgent need for joint Warsaw Pact action, including military intervention if other options prove futile, to keep Solidarity from gaining control of the Polish government. Speaking in “an extremely agitated state,” he warns that the advent of a Solidarity-led government will mean “the death of socialism in Poland” and will “deal a savage blow to the Warsaw Pact.” Such a development, he repeatedly emphasizes, will pose “a mortal danger to the entire cause of socialism” worldwide and be “an immense victory for the forces of reaction and imperialism,” thus “playing into the hands of the USA and NATO.” This impending “subversion of the Warsaw Pact from within,” he argues, compels the alliance’s other member-states to act:

At this moment of severe tribulation for the fate of socialism, the RCP, the fraternal parties of allied states, and all socialist countries cannot remain mere observers on the sidelines. What is happening in Poland is not just an internal matter for the Poles themselves (emphasis added).

Over and over, Ceauşescu calls for “vigorous joint measures [by the Warsaw Pact member-states] to prevent the ‘death of socialism’ in Poland and to prevent world socialism from being undermined.” He repeatedly conveys his “extraordinary alarm” about the “catastrophic deterioration of the situation” and warns that “‘history will not forgive’ the fraternal parties of allied states if the PZPR is wrenched from power and if socialism is destroyed in Poland.” He stakes all his hopes on the Soviet Union, which “bears enormous internationalist responsibility for the fate of socialism, including in Poland,” and “has its troops deployed in Poland.” Calling on Gorbachev to act immediately, Ceauşescu expresses his “firmest certainty that the CPSU and the USSR will take the most urgent measures possible to prevent the removal of the PZPR from power and the destruction of socialism in Poland.”

The second document I have translated here, a resolution of the CPSU Politburo from 21 August 1989, authorizes Ambassador Tyazhel’nikov to transmit a formal response to Ceauşescu’s appeal [Document 2]. The response pointedly turns down Ceauşescu’s calls for urgent action and warns that if the Romanian leader’s advice is heeded, it will “undoubtedly be exploited by ‘Solidarity’ and other opposition circles as grounds for depicting the PZPR as a force that represents the interests of foreign parties and states rather than the interests of Poland.” Rebuffing’s Ceauşescu’s desperate appeal for intervention in Poland, the CPSU Politburo emphasizes that it will not condone any measures that “are in violation of Poland’s sovereignty.” This response from the Soviet authorities was read aloud by Romanian Foreign Minister Ioan Totu at the meeting of the RCP Executive Political Bureau on 21 August. Even before the document was read out, Ceauşescu himself was obviously aware that his appeal had been rejected, and he was therefore trying his best to find a way of salvaging the situation and to keep from losing face completely.

These documents should put to rest the notion that Ceauşescu on 19 August 1989 was merely calling for a benign meeting to discuss general problems of socialism, as Watts would have us believe. At a session of the Warsaw Pact’s Political Consultative in July 1989, the Soviet Union and its allies had agreed to convene a meeting at some future date that would analyze “current issues of socialist construction.” In the response to Ceauşescu’s appeal, the Soviet authorities made clear that they were still willing to take part in such a meeting. But they realized that Ceauşescu on 19 August was referring to something entirely different. The Romanian leader was exhorting the Soviet Union to undertake “the most urgent measures possible to prevent the removal of the PZPR from power and the destruction of socialism in Poland.” Reversing his long-standing support of “non-interference in internal affairs,” Ceauşescu insisted that the makeup of the Polish government was “not just an internal matter for the Poles themselves” and had to be determined by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact member-states. In an ironic reversal of roles, Soviet leaders by this point had abandoned and buried the Brezhnev Doctrine, whereas Ceauşescu was trying urgently to resurrect and enforce it.

In short, the allegations made by the Polish authorities in August 1989 about Ceauşescu’s appeal were fully accurate, contrary to what Watts asserts. Watts expresses concern about the risk of “simply replacing one set of myths with another.” The greater risk, at least in his case, is in disregarding evidence and sticking to hoary myths.

Mark Kramer is Director of the Cold War Studies Program at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow of Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies

[1] See, for example, Mark Kramer, “Realism, Ideology, and the End of the Cold War,” Review of International Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (January 2001), pp. 119-130 Mark Kramer, “The Demise of East European Communism and the Repercussions within the Soviet Union (Part 1),” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Fall 2003), pp. 178-256 and Mark Kramer, “Gorbachev and the Demise of East European Communism,” in Silvio Pons and Federico Romero, eds., Reinterpreting the End of the Cold War: Issues, Interpretations, Periodizations (New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 179-200.

[2] Mark Kramer, “The Demise of the Soviet Bloc,” Journal of Modern History, Vol. 83, No. 4 (December 2011), pp. 788-854. Expanded versions of the essay were published in Vladimir Tismaneanu with Bogdan C. Iacob, eds., The End and the Beginning: The Revolutions of 1989 and the Resurgence of History (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2012), pp. 171-255 Terry Cox, ed., Reflections on 1989 in Eastern Europe (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 7-62 and Mark Kramer and Vít Smetana, eds., Imposing, Maintaining, and Tearing Open the Iron Curtain: The Cold War and East-Central Europe, 1945-1990 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), pp. 369-436.

[3] The video can be viewed online at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In0bocTGxvc>.

[4] Dumitru Preda and Mihai Retegan, eds., 1989 principiul dominoului: Prăbuşirea regimurilor comuniste europene (Bucharest: Fundaţia Culturală Română, 2000).

[5] Vojtech Mastny and Malcolm Byrne, eds., A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991 (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2005), pp. 600-601.

Larry Watts

There are three related but separate issues here. The first pertains to the degree to which all doubt as to one’s intentions can be dispelled using only third-party sources. It is worth underscoring that the case made by Prof. Kramer is based on non-Romanian sources. I would argue that the internal Romanian transcripts and reports – none of which even hint at the possibility of considering military intervention – constitute the “best evidence” for assessing Romanian intent.

The second issue pertains to the degree to which Soviet and other bloc sources accurately reported Romanian behavior and intent. This is a central theme in two of my books about Romania in the Cold War and several of my other writings.[1] Examples of Soviet bloc misrepresentation are also documented in this e-dossier, including the oddly coincident campaign to portray Romania as harboring aggressive military intentions against Hungary during May-July 1989, which was summarily debunked by U.S. authorities and analysts at the time.

Along similar lines, Soviet bloc sources reported after the December 1989 Pact meeting in Moscow that Ceausescu refused to condemn the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, and that the main Romanian-Soviet dispute had been over liberalization. These themes reappeared in Western media and intelligence reports.[2] However, according to the transcript of the RCP Political Executive Committee meeting convened immediately afterwards, and confirmed by the other two delegates, the dispute erupted first because Ceausescu refused to accept joint responsibility for something Romania had always condemned and then because he insisted that Soviet troops be withdrawn not only from Czechoslovakia but from all of Eastern Europe.[3] In short, Soviet bloc sources on Romania are often unreliable.

The third and most important issue regards the substance of the evidence allegedly proving Romanian advocacy of military intervention, and in particular joint Warsaw Pact military intervention. I present in the e-dossier Romania’s continuing insistence on no use of force and non-intervention, which strongly argues against any “about-face” in security policy. It is also worth emphasizing that Ceausescu advocated urgent action not only of Warsaw Pact members but of “all socialist countries” as well.

According to Hungarian documents from 1989, which I cite in the e-dossier, this included Yugoslavia and Albania, which, like Romania, had strategies of homeland defense designed primarily to deter and repel invaders. Neither supported foreign military intervention and their inclusion makes no sense if military action was contemplated.

It is also worth recalling that the Romanian Armed Forces had been structured, trained, deployed and equipped solely for the purpose of homeland defense since the mid-1960s. Constitutional and legal barriers had been raised specifically to render their deployment abroad virtually impossible. And Romania continued to refuse to allow their troops to participate in joint Pact training or exercises. None of these military realities had been modified, or was undergoing modification, in 1989.

The Soviet response of August 21, 1989 provided by Prof. Kramer appears to confirm that the Romanians were requesting a meeting. The document shows that Soviet officials were rejecting a “proposal by the Romanian leadership to convene a meeting of the leaders of the Communist and workers’ parties,” and denying any “need to hold a multilateral meeting.”

In conclusion, several clarifications are necessary. The two documents from the volume by Dumitru Preda and Mihai Retegan are indeed published in English translation in this e-dossier for the first time. I duly cited the Parallel History Project as source for the Romanian original of the 1988 reform proposal. The English translation in the Mastny-Byrne volume, although very close to that presented here, is in fact a translation from the German version and not from the Romanian original.

And finally, in their 1999 book “1989 – The Domino Principle,” the Romanian historians Preda and Retegan neither suggest nor imply that Ceausescu called for military intervention in Poland. On the contrary, they report that on 19 August, “Nicolae Ceausescu sent a letter to the Central Committees of the communist parties in which he requested the urgent discussion of the situation in Poland and offered support to Jaruzelski and the PUWP for the ‘victory of socialism.’” (page 26) Professors Dumitru and Retegan recently confirmed to this author via email that, according to his research, Ceausescu “never approved military intervention,” neither within nor outside of the Warsaw Pact. I am authorized to provide their contact information to anyone interested in checking this independently.

Larry L. Watts is associate professor at the National School for Political Studies and Public Administration and teaches Cold War History at the University of Bucharest. He served as security sector reform advisor to Romania’s Presidential Counselor for National Security and the Romanian Defense Ministry during 1991-2004, and to Romania’s Senate Committee for Defense, Internal Order and National Security during 2005-2009. He is the author of With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania (2010) Extorting Peace: Romania and the End of the Cold War 1978-1989 (2013), and Incompatible Allies: Romania, Finland, Hungary And The Third Reich (2014). His books have been translated and published in Romanian. He is currently working on Romanian Mediation In The Vietnam War, which will be published in 2015.

[1] Larry L. Watts, With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania (2010) and Larry L. Watts, Extorting Peace: Romania And The End Of The Cold War, 1978-1989 (2013). See also Larry L. Watts, “Romania and the Wartime Statute,” 5 April 2011, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Watts%20-%20Romania%20%26%20Statute.pdf.

[2] AFP in English, 23 December 1989, 1500 GMT, in FBIS-SOV-89-246, 26 December 1989:13 and “Warsaw Pact: Condemning Invasion of Czechoslovakia” in U.S. Central Intelligence Directorate, National Intelligence Daily, Tuesday, 5 December 1989: 10.

[3] Transcript of the Meeting of the RCP CC Political Executive Committee Permanent Bureau, December 5, 1989, Romanian National Archive, Fond CC al PCR, Sectia Cancelarie, dosar 68/1989: 1-4. Foreign Minister Ion Stoian’s account is in Costache Codrescu, coordinator, Armata Română în revoluţia din decembrie 1989: Studiu documentar [The Romanian Army in the Revolution of December 1989: A Documentary Study], revised 2 nd ed, (Bucharest: Editura Militară, 1998), 41-42. The account of the CC International Department secretary (and former defense minister) is at Constantin Olteanu, O viaţă de om: Dialog cu jurnalistul Dan Constantin [A Man’s Life: Dialogue with Journalist Dan Constantinescu], (Bucharest: Niculescu, 2013), 540-550.

A Brief Reply to Larry Watts

Mark Kramer

Normally when scholars try to understand and reassess historical events, they propose an argument, weigh all the available evidence, and attempt to falsify their argument. Only if the argument holds up after rigorous tests have been conducted can scholars have confidence that the argument is well-founded. This is standard procedure in the social sciences. Larry Watts, however, has a different approach. He sticks doggedly to a preconceived argument, selectively chooses evidence, and thus makes his argument unfalsifiable. Whenever crucial disconfirming evidence comes along, he dismisses it as part of a grand anti-Ceaușescu conspiracy. His argument thus cannot be falsified, no matter how convincing the evidence is against it.

The Soviet officials who prepared the documents I translated here (from 19 and 21 August 1989) never dreamed that the materials would someday become public. They had been brought up in a culture of official secrecy, and they knew that Soviet archives were off-limits to scholars. They expected that these highly sensitive documents, like other classified materials, would be kept sealed. Hence, Ambassador Evgenii Tyazhel’nikov had no reason to misrepresent what Nicolae Ceaușescu said. On the contrary, Tyazhel’nikov would have felt obliged to reproduce it exactly as it was conveyed.

Watts cites practices in the Warsaw Pact dating back to the era of Leonid Brezhnev to explain what was going on under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989. As I demonstrate at length in “The Demise of the Soviet Bloc,” Gorbachev in 1988-1989 fundamentally changed Soviet policy toward the Warsaw Pact. The crucial changes were all in place well before August 1989, and events from August through December underscored the magnitude of those changes. Hence, Watts’s references to Brezhnev-era practices are irrelevant in judging the Gorbachev era.

Watts gives the impression that Soviet officials “reported after the December 1989 Pact meeting in Moscow that Ceauşescu refused to condemn the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.” This is nonsense. In late 2010, I obtained the full declassified transcripts from the Warsaw Pact’s December 1989 meeting (including the transcript of Ceauşescu’s remarks there), and I also obtained the detailed notes taken by the chief aide to Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who took part in the meeting.[1] These documents very clearly indicate that the plan all along was to have the condemnation of the 1968 invasion issued only by the five countries that sent troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968. Neither Gorbachev nor Ceauşescu nor anyone else there ever expected that Romania and Czechoslovakia would also join in condemning the invasion.

One final small point: Watts would have us believe that Gorbachev’s uneasy relationship with Ceauşescu was a sign of unique hostility and malevolence toward Romania. Actually, Gorbachev had uneasy ties with several of the aging East European leaders, particularly Erich Honecker (whom he privately derided as a “jackass”) and Todor Zhivkov as well as Ceauşescu. The Soviet leader was promoting a liberalized form of socialism, and he saw the old-line dictators as nettlesome obstacles to his goals. Gorbachev’s often testy relationship with Ceauşescu was hardly a secret, but the strains in the relationship were by no means unique to Romania, which in that sense was no different from East Germany, Bulgaria, or Czechoslovakia.

Mark Kramer is Director of the Cold War Studies Program at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow of Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies

[1] “Vstrecha rukovoditeleeigosudarstv-uchastikov Varshavskogo dogovora 4 dekabrya 1989 g., Moskva: Stenogramma, in Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Noveishei Istorii, Fond (F.) 10, Opis’ (Op.) 3, Dela (Dd.) 163-165 “Vystupleniya rukovoditelei gosudarstv: Bolgarii, Vengrii, GDR, Pol’shi, Rumynii, Chekhoslovakii – uchastnikov Varshavskogo dogovora, 4.122.1989 g.,” in RGANI, F. 10, Op. 3, D. 166, Listy (Ll.) 1-13 and “Vstrecha Varshavskogo dogovora,” in “Tetrad’ No. 10 (4 avg. 89 – 10 apr. 90),” Notebook No. 10 of Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze, 4 December 1990, in Hoover Institution Archives (Stanford University), T. G. Stepanov-Mamaladze Diaries and Notes, 1985-1998, Box 3, Folder 1, esp. pp. 12-14.


Nicolae Ceauşescu: 'Nimbus of Victory,' Megalomaniacal Tyrant, Friend of America

One of the more depressing aspects of last week's appraisals of Mandela was how it revealed a depressing willingness to ignore world history, in general, and American history particularly. The constant harping on Mandela's alliance with communists, ignores this country's alliance with everyone from Louis XVI to Josef Stalin. This would not even be worth mentioning were it not for some peculiar need for some to present America as a beacon of democracy ever untrammeled by statecraft and politics.

One need not look past living memory to find our partnerships in conflict with our stated ideals:

This morning the people of the United States are honored by having as our guest a great leader of a great country. President Ceausescu comes here from Romania with his wife, Elena, and it is a great personal pleasure for me on behalf of our country to welcome them.

There are differences, obviously, between the United States and Romania, in our political system and also in our military alliances. But the factors which bind us together are much more profound and of much greater benefit to our countries. We share common beliefs. We believe in strong national sovereignty. We believe in preserving the independence of our nations and also of our people. We believe in the importance of honoring territorial integrity throughout the world. We believe in equality among nations in bilateral dealings, one with another, and also in international councils. We believe in the right of every country to be free from interference in its own internal affairs by another country. And we believe that world peace can come—which we both devoutly hope to see—through mutual respect, even among those who have some differences between us.

Our goals are also the same, to have a just system of economics and politics, to let the people of the world share in growth, in peace, in personal freedom, and in the benefits to be derived from the proper utilization of natural resources.

We believe in enhancing human rights. We believe that we should enhance, as independent nations, the freedom of our own people.

That is president Jimmy Carter greeting Romania's communist president Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1978. Again Tony Judt paints the picture of what Ceauşescu's belief in "enhancing human rights" actually looked like:

In 1966, to increase the population—a traditional ‘Romanianist’ obsession—he prohibited abortion for women under forty with fewer than four children (in 1986 the age barrier was raised to forty-five). In 1984 the minimum marriage age for women was reduced to fifteen. Compulsory monthly medical examinations for all women of childbearing age were introduced to prevent abortions, which were permitted, if at all, only in the presence of a Party representative. Doctors in districts with a declining birth rate had their salaries cut.

The population did not increase, but the death rate from abortions far exceeded that of any other European country: as the only available form of birth control, illegal abortions were widely performed, often under the most appalling and dangerous conditions. Over the ensuing twenty-three years the 1966 law resulted in the death of at least ten thousand women. The real infant mortality rate was so high that after 1985 births were not officially recorded until a child had survived to its fourth week—the apotheosis of Communist control of knowledge. By the time Ceauşescu was overthrown the death rate of new-born babies was twenty-five per thousand and there were upward of 100,000 institutionalized children.

One gets some sense of Ceauşescu's reign by looking at the names awarded him--"The Architect," "The Creed-Shaper," "The Wise Helmsman," "The Tallest Mast," The Nimbus of Victory," "The Sun Of The Son." If Nicolae Ceauşescu hadn't been a totalitarian, he surely would have been an MC.


Contents

1921–45 Edit

The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was founded at the congress of the Czechoslovak Social-Democratic Party (Left), held in Prague May 14–16, 1921. [1] Rudé právo, previously the organ of the Left Social-Democrats, became the main organ of the new party. As a first chairman was elected Václav Šturc, first vice-chairman was Bohumír Šmeral and second vice-chairman was Vaclav Bolen. The party was one of some twenty political parties that competed within the democratic framework of the First Czechoslovak Republic, but it was never in government. In 1925 parliamentary election the party gained 934,223 votes (13.2%, 2nd place) and 41 seats.

The party was the Czechoslovak section of the Communist International. As of 1928 the party was the second-largest section of the International, with an estimated membership of around 138,000, [2] more than twice the membership of the French Communist Party and nearly five times the membership of the Communist Party of China at the time. [3]

In 1929 Klement Gottwald became party Secretary-General after the purging from it of various oppositional elements some of whom allied themselves to Trotsky and the International Left Opposition. In 1929 parliamentary election the party gained 753,220 votes (10.2%, 4th place) and 30 seats. In 1935 parliamentary election the party held its 30 seats with 849,495 votes (10.32%, 4th place).

The party was banned in October 1938, [4] [5] [6] but continued to exist as an underground organisation. [7] Following the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, anti-German protests broke out in Prague in October 1939. In response, the Comintern ordered the party to oppose the protests, which they blamed on "chauvinist elements". [7]

During World War II many KSČ leaders sought refuge in the Soviet Union, where they prepared to broaden the party's power base once the war ended. In the early postwar period the Soviet-supported Czechoslovak communists launched a sustained drive that culminated in their seizure of power in 1948. Once in control, KSČ developed an organizational structure and mode of rule patterned closely after those of CPSU.

1945–69 Edit

The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was in a coalition government from 1945 to 1948. After the war the party grew rapidly, reaching one million members by the time of the 1946 elections: [3] at these elections it became the largest party in Parliament, and party chairman Klement Gottwald became prime minister in a free election.

Following the Communist coup d'état of 1948, when free elections and other political freedoms were effectively abolished, power was formally held by the National Front, a coalition in which the KSČ held two-thirds of the seats while the remaining one-third were shared among five other political parties. However, KSČ held a de facto absolute monopoly on political power, and the other parties within the National Front were little more than auxiliaries. Even the governmental structure of Czechoslovakia existed primarily to implement policy decisions made within the KSČ.

A dispute broke out between Gottwald and the second most-powerful man in the country, party General Secretary Rudolf Slánský, over the extent to which Czechoslovakia should conform with the Soviet model. In 1951, Slánský and several other senior Communists were arrested and charged with participating in a "Trotskyite-Titoite-Zionist conspiracy". They were subjected to a show trial in 1952 (the Prague Trials) and Slánský and 10 other defendants were executed. [8]

In the early 1960s, Czechoslovakia underwent an economic downturn, and in 1968, the KSČ was taken over by reformers led by Alexander Dubček. [9] He started a period of liberalization known as the Prague Spring in which he attempted to implement "socialism with a human face".

The Soviet Union believed the process of liberalization would end state socialism in the country and on 21 August 1968, Warsaw Pact forces invaded. Subsequently, the Soviet justification for the invasion would become known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.

1969–92 Edit

In April 1969, Dubček was removed as party General Secretary (replaced by Gustáv Husák) and expelled in 1970. During the period of normalization that followed, the party was dominated by two factions: moderates and hardliners.

Moderates and pragmatists Edit

Moderates and pragmatists were represented by Gustáv Husák who led the neostalinist wing of KSČ leadership. As a moderate or pragmatic, he was pressed by hardliners, most notably Vasil Biľak. An important Slovak Communist Party functionary from 1943 to 1950, Husák was arrested in 1951 and sentenced to three years, later increased to life imprisonment, for "bourgeois nationalism" during the Stalinist purges of the era. Released in 1960 and rehabilitated in 1963, Husák refused any political position in Antonín Novotný's régime but after Novotný's fall he became deputy prime minister during the Prague Spring. After Dubček's resignation Husák was named KSČ First Secretary in April 1969 and president of the republic in July 1975. Above all, Husák was a survivor who learned to accommodate the powerful political forces surrounding him and he denounced Dubček after 1969.

Other prominent moderates/pragmatics who were still in power by 1987 included:

    , Premier of Czechoslovakia , Premier of the Slovak Socialist Republic , First Secretary of the KSS
  • Josef Kempný, Chairman of the Czech National Council.

These leaders generally supported the reforms instituted under Dubček during the late 1960s but successfully made the transition to orthodox party rule following the invasion and Dubček's decline from power. Subsequently, they adopted a more flexible stance regarding economic reform and dissident activity.

Hardliners Edit

Key members of this faction included:

    , their leader, was a Rusyn from Eastern Slovakia who had been member of the Presidium since 1968 and was Chairman of the party's Ideological Commission , a Central Committee Secretary and Presidium member , Presidium member , Secretary , Presidium member and Chairman of the Federal Assembly (replaced the National Assembly under 1968 federation law) and , Chairman of the Central Supervisory and Auditing Commission and Presidium member (replaced Gustáv Husák as the Party's General Secretary in 1987).

These hardliners opposed economic and political reforms and took a harsh stand on dissent.

The party's hegemony ended with the Velvet Revolution in 1989. In November, Jakeš and the entire Presidium resigned. Jakeš was succeeded by Karel Urbanek, who only held power for about a month before the party formally abandoned power in December. Later that month, Husák, who retained the presidency after standing down as general secretary, was forced to swear in the country's first non-Communist government in 41 years.

Federal party and dissolution Edit

At the 18th party congress held November 3–4, 1990, the party was rebaptized as KSČS and became a federation of two parties: the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) and the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS). [10] [11] Pavol Kanis served as the chairman of the Federal Council of KSČS. [12] However, the two constituent organizations of the federal party were moving in different directions politically and there was great tension between them. [11] KSS, the Slovak constituent party of KSČS, was renamed as Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) on January 26, 1991. Whilst no longer a communist party per se, SDL formally remained as the Slovak constituent party of KSČS. [10]

In August 1991, upon the request of SDL, the party mutated into the Federation of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and the Party of the Democratic Left (Federácie KSČM a SDĽ). [13] KSČM unsuccessfully appealed to two Slovak communist splinter parties, the Communist Party of Slovakia – 91 (KSS '91) and the Union of Communists of Slovakia (ZKS), to join the Federation. [14] At the first SDL congress in December 1991, SDL formally withdrew from the Federation with the KSČM. [10] The Federation was formally declared dissolved in April 1992. [15]

National Edit

KSČ organization was based on the Leninist concept of democratic centralism, which provided for the election of party leaders at all levels but required that each level be fully subject to the control of the next higher unit. Accordingly, party programs and policies were directed from the top, and resolutions of higher organs were unconditionally binding on all lower organs and individual party members. In theory, policy matters were freely and openly discussed at congresses, conferences, membership meetings, and in the party press. In practice, however, these discussions merely reflected decisions made by a small contingent of top party officials. [ citation needed ]

The supreme KSČ organ was the party congress, which normally convened every five years for a session lasting less than one week. An exception was made with respect to the 14th Party Congress, which was held in August 1968 under Dubček's leadership. Held in semi-secrecy in a tractor factory in the opening days of the Soviet occupation, this congress denounced the invasion, and was later declared illegal, its proceedings stricken from party records, and a second, "legal" 14th Party Congress held in May 1971. Subsequent numbered congresses were held in April 1976, April 1981 and March 1986. Party congress theoretically was responsible for making basic policy decisions in practice, however, it was the Presidium of the Central Committee that held the decision-making and policy-making responsibilities. The congress merely endorsed the reports and directives of the top party leadership. The statutory duties assigned the party congress included determination of the party's domestic and foreign policies approval of the party program and statutes and election of the Central Committee and the Central Supervisory and Auditing Commission, as well as discussion and approval of their reports.

Between congresses, KSČ's Central Committee (CC) was responsible for directing party activities and implementing general policy decisions. Party statutes also provided that CC functioned as the primary arm of KSČ control over the organs of federal government and the republics, National Front, and all cultural and professional organizations. Party members holding leading positions in these bodies were responsible directly to CC for the implementation of KSČ policies. In addition, CC screened nominations for all important government and party positions and selected the editor-in-chief of Rudé právo, the principal party newspaper. CC generally met in full session at least twice a year. In 1976, CC had 115 members and 45 candidates in 1986, these figures were 135 and 62, respectively. In terms of composition, CC normally included leading party and government officials, military officials, and some celebrities.

CC, like the party congress, rarely acted as more than a rubber stamp of policy decisions made by KSČ's Presidium, except when factional infighting developed within the Presidium in 1968 and CC assumed crucial importance in resolving the dispute to oust First Secretary Novotný in favour of Dubček. Generally, decisions on which CC voted were reached beforehand so that votes taken at the sessions were unanimous. The Presidium, which conducted party work between full committee sessions, formally was elected by the CC in reality, top party leaders determined its composition. In 1986, there were 11 full members and 6 candidate members.

CC's Secretariat acted as the party's highest administrative authority and as the nerve centre of the party's extensive control mechanism. The Secretariat supervised implementation of decisions made in the Presidium, controlled any movement up and down the party ladder, and directed work within the party and government apparatus. Under Husák, composition of the Secretariat, like that of the Presidium, remained rather constant. Many secretaries were also members of the Presidium.

The Central Supervisory and Auditing Commission played a dual role, overseeing party discipline and supervising party finances, but it did not control anything. As an organ for enforcement of party standards, Central Supervisory and Auditing Commission frequently wielded its power to suspend or expel "deviant" party members. It was this commission that directed the massive purges in party membership during the early and late 1970s. Members were elected at each party congress (45 members in 1986). These members then elected from among themselves a chairman, deputy chairmen, and a small presidium. Sub-units of the commission existed at the republic, regional and district levels of the party structure.

Other KSČ commissions in 1987 included People's Supervisory Commission, Agriculture and Food Commission, Economic Commission, Ideological Commission, and Youth Commission.

In 1987 the party also had 18 departments (agitation and propaganda agriculture, food industry, forestry and water management Comecon cooperation culture economic administration economics education and science elected state organs external economic relations fuels and energy industry transport and communications international affairs mass media political organisation science and technology social organisations and national committees state administration and a general department). In most instances the party departments paralleled agencies and ministries of the government and supervised their activities to ensure conformity with KSČ norms and programmes.

Also under CC supervision were two party training centres: the Advanced School of Politics and the Institute of Marxism-Leninism (see below).

Republic level Edit

Down on republic level party structure deviated from the government organisation in that a separate communist party unit existed in the Slovak Socialist Republic (see Communist Party of Slovakia) but not in the Czech Socialist Republic. KSS emerged from World War II as a party distinct from KSČ, but the two were united after the communist takeover in 1948. The reformer movement of the 1960s advocated a return to a system of autonomous parties for the two republics. Bureau for the Conduct of Party Work in the Czech Lands was created as a counterpart to KSS, but it was suppressed after the 1968 invasion and by 1971 had been stricken from party records.

Regional level Edit

KSČ had ten regional subdivisions [ when? ] (seven in the Czech lands, three in Slovakia) identical to kraje, the ten major governmental administrative divisions. In addition, however, the Prague and Bratislava municipal party organs, because of their size, were given regional status within KSČ. Regional conferences selected regional committees, which in turn selected a leading secretary, a number of secretaries and a regional Supervisory and Auditing Commission.

Regional units were broken down into a total of 114 district-level (Czech: okresní) organisations. District conferences were held simultaneously every two to three years, at which time each conference selected a district committee that subsequently selected a secretariat to be headed by a district secretary.

Local level Edit

At local level, KSČ was structured according to what it called "territorial and production principle" basic party units were organised in work sites and residences where there are at least five KSČ members. In enterprises or communities where party membership was more numerous, smaller units functioned under larger city, village or factorywide committees. Highest authority of the local organisation was, theoretically, the monthly membership meeting, attendance at which was a basic duty of every member. Each group selected its own leadership, consisting of a chairman and one or more secretaries. It also named delegates to the conference of the next higher unit, be it at municipal (like in case of larger cities) or district level.

Since assuming power in 1948, KSČ had one of the largest per capita membership rolls in the communist world (11 percent of the entire population). The membership roll was often alleged by party ideologues to contain a large component of inactive, opportunistic, and "counterrevolutionary" elements. These charges were used on two occasions, between 1948 and 1950 and again from 1969 to 1971, as a pretext to conduct massive purges of the membership. In the first case, during the great Stalinist purges, nearly 1 million members were removed in the wake of the Prague Spring and subsequent invasion, about half that number either resigned or were purged from KSČ.

Purges following the 1968 invasion hit especially the Czechs, the youth and the blue-collar workers, as well as the intelligentsia within the party membership. By the end of 1970, KSČ had lost approx. 27.8% of its members compared to January 1968 figures as a result of forced removal or voluntary resignation. [16] Despite this attrition, a membership of "almost 1,200,000" was claimed in the spring of 1971 for a country with an estimated population of approx. 14.5 million — still one of the highest Communist party membership rates in the world on a percentage basis at that time. [16] Owing to this membership decline, accelerated recruitment efforts were targeted at youth and factory workers for the rest of the 1970s.

The party's membership efforts in the 1980s focused on recruiting politically and professionally qualified people willing to exercise greater activism in implementing the party's program. Party leaders at the 17th Party Congress (1986) urged recruitment of more workers, young people, and women. In 1981 it had 1,538,179 members (10% of the population) [17]

KSČ membership was contingent upon completion of a one year period as a candidate member. Candidate members could not vote or be elected to party committees. In addition to candidates for party membership, there were also candidates for party leadership groups from the local levels to the Presidium. These candidates, already party members, were considered interns training for the future assumption of particular leadership responsibilities.

Training of members Edit

Indoctrination and training of party members was one of the basic responsibilities of regional and district organizations, and party training was mostly conducted on these levels. Regional and district units worked with local party organizations in setting up training programs and determining which members would be enrolled in particular courses of study. On the whole, the system of party schooling changed little since it was established in 1949. A district or city organization provided weekly classes in the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, history of communism, socialist economics, and current party position on domestic and international affairs.

Members training for positions as party functionaries attended seminars at schools for Marxism-Leninism set up in local areas or at more advanced institutes for Marxism-Leninism found in Prague, Brno and Bratislava. The highest level of party training was offered at the Advanced School of Politics in Prague. Designed to train the top echelon of party leadership, the three-year curriculum had the official status of a university program and was said to be one of the best programs in political science in Eastern Europe. These institutions were under the direction of KSČ Central Committee.

Membership demographics Edit

Because of KSČ's mandate to be a workers' party, questions about social background of party members took on a particular salience. KSČ was often reticent with precise details about its members, and the question of how many in the party actually belonged to the revolutionary proletariat proper became a delicate one. Official statements appeared to overstate the percentage of workers within the party's ranks. Nonetheless, a number of trends were clear. The proportion of workers in KSČ was at its highest (approximately 60% of total membership) after World War II but before the party took power in 1948. After that time, percentage of workers fell steadily to a low of an estimated one-quarter of the membership in 1970.

In the early 1970s, government media decried the "grave imbalance," noting that "[the] present class and social structure of party membership is not in conformity with the party's role as a vanguard for the working class." In highly industrialized central Bohemia, for example, only 1 in every 35 workers was party member, while 1 in every 5 administrators was. In 1976, after intensive efforts to recruit workers, number of workers rose to one-third of the KSČ membership, i.e., approx. its 1962 level. In the 1980s, driven by a need for "intensive" economic development, the party relaxed its rigid rule about young workers' priority in admissions and allowed district and regional committees to be flexible in their recruitment policy, as long as the overall proportion of workers did not decrease.

Average age of party members showed a comparable trend. In the late 1960s, fewer than 30% of party members were under 35 years of age, nearly 20% were over 60, and roughly half were 45 or older. The quip in 1971, a half-century after the party's founding in Czechoslovakia, was "After fifty years, a party of fifty-year-olds." There was a determined effort to attract younger members to the party in the middle to late 1970s one strategy was to recruit children of parents who were KSČ members. The party sent letters to the youngsters' schools and their parents' employers, encouraging the children to join. By early 1980 approximately one-third of KSČ members were 35 years of age or younger. In 1983, average age of the "leading cadre" was still estimated at 50.

Lack of party loyalty in the 1970s and 1980s Edit

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, government media denounced party members' lack of devotion to the pursuit of KSČ policies and goals. Complaints ranged from members' refusal to display flags from their apartment windows on festive occasions to their failure to show up for party work brigades, attend meetings, or pay dues a significant minority of members tended to underreport their incomes (the basis for assessing dues). In 1970, after a purge of approximately one-third of the membership, an average of less than half the remaining members attended meetings. Perhaps one-third of members were consistently recalcitrant in participating in KSČ activities. In 1983, one primary party branch in the Prague-West district was so unmoved by admonishments that it had to be disbanded and its members dispersed among other organizations. In part, this was a measure of disaffection with Czechoslovakia's thoroughgoing subservience to Soviet hegemony, a Švejkian response to the lack of political and economic autonomy. It was also a reflection of the purge's targets. Those expelled were often the ideologically motivated, the ones for whom developing socialism with a human face represented a significant goal those who were simply opportunistic survived the purges more easily.


Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia

Initial invasion:
250,000 (20 divisions) [9]
2,000 tanks [10]
800 aircraft
Peak strength:
500,000 [11] 350,000–400,000 Soviet troops, 70,000–80,000 from Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary [12]
6,300 tanks [13]

235,000 (18 divisions) [14] [15]
2,500–3,000 tanks
(No units engaged)

The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, officially known as Operation Danube, was a joint invasion of Czechoslovakia by four Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary – on the night of 20–21 August 1968. [22] Approximately 500,000 [9] Warsaw Pact troops attacked Czechoslovakia that night, with Romania and Albania refusing to participate. [23] [24] East German forces, except for a small number of specialists, did not participate in the invasion because they were ordered from Moscow not to cross the Czechoslovak border just hours before the invasion. [25] 137 Czechoslovakian civilians were killed [19] and 500 seriously wounded during the occupation. [20]

The invasion successfully stopped Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring liberalisation reforms and strengthened the authority of the authoritarian wing within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). The foreign policy of the Soviet Union during this era was known as the Brezhnev Doctrine. [26]

Public reaction to the invasion was widespread and divided. Although the majority of the Warsaw Pact supported the invasion along with several other communist parties worldwide, Western nations, along with Albania, Romania, and particularly China condemned the attack, and many other communist parties either lost influence, denounced the USSR or split up/dissolved due to conflicting opinions. The invasion started a series of events that would ultimately see Brezhnev establishing peace with U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972 after the latter's historic visit to China earlier that year.

The legacy of the invasion of Czechoslovakia remains widely talked about among historians and has been seen as an important moment in the Cold War. Analysts believe that the invasion caused the worldwide communist movement to fracture, ultimately leading to the Revolutions of 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Background

Novotný's regime: late 1950s – early 1960s

The process of de-Stalinization in Czechoslovakia had begun under Antonín Novotný in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but had progressed more slowly than in most other states of the Eastern Bloc. [27] Following the lead of Nikita Khrushchev, Novotný proclaimed the completion of socialism, and the new constitution, [28] accordingly, adopted the name Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The pace of change, however, was sluggish the rehabilitation of Stalinist-era victims, such as those convicted in the Slánský trials, may have been considered as early as 1963, but did not take place until 1967.

In the early 1960s, Czechoslovakia underwent an economic downturn. The Soviet model of industrialization applied unsuccessfully since Czechoslovakia was already entirely industrialized before World War II, and the Soviet model mainly took into account less developed economies. Novotný's attempt at restructuring the economy, the 1965 New Economic Model , spurred increased demand for political reform as well.

1967 Writers' Congress

As the strict regime eased its rules, the Union of Czechoslovak Writers cautiously began to air discontent, and in the union's gazette, Literární noviny [cs] , members suggested that literature should be independent of Party doctrine. In June 1967, a small fraction of the Czech writer's union sympathized with radical socialists, specifically Ludvík Vaculík, Milan Kundera, Jan Procházka, Antonín Jaroslav Liehm, Pavel Kohout and Ivan Klíma. A few months later, at a party meeting, it was decided that administrative actions against the writers who openly expressed support of reformation would be taken. Since only a small part of the union held these beliefs, the remaining members were relied upon to discipline their colleagues. Control over Literární noviny and several other publishing houses was transferred to the Ministry of Culture, and even members of the party who later became significant reformers, including Dubček, which endorsed these moves.

Prague Spring

The Prague Spring (Czech: Pražské jaro, Slovak: Pražská jar) was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), and continued until 21 August when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to halt the reforms.

The Prague Spring reforms were a strong attempt by Dubček to grant additional rights to the citizens of Czechoslovakia in an act of partial decentralization of the economy and democratization. The freedoms granted included a loosening of restrictions on the media, speech and travel. After national discussion of dividing the country into a federation of three republics, Bohemia, Moravia–Silesia and Slovakia, Dubček oversaw the decision to split into two, the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. [29] This was the only formal change that survived the end of Prague Spring, though the relative success of the nonviolent resistance undoubtedly prefigured and facilitated the peaceful transition to liberal democracy with the collapse of Soviet hegemony in 1989. [ citation needed ]

The reforms, especially the decentralization of administrative authority, were not received well by the Soviets, who, after failed negotiations, sent half a million Warsaw Pact troops and tanks to occupy the country. The Soviet military invasion was aided by the KGB's Operation Progress, in which illegal agents helped report on security conditions for the invasion starting in May 1968. [30] A large wave of emigration swept the nation. A spirited non-violent resistance was mounted throughout the country, involving attempted fraternization, painting over and turning street signs (on one occasion an entire invasion force from Poland was routed back out of the country after a day's wandering, another force went around in a circle), defiance of various curfews, etc. While the Soviet military had predicted that it would take four days to subdue the country the resistance held out for eight months and was finally circumvented by diplomatic maneuvers. There were sporadic acts of violence and several suicides by self-immolation (such as that of Jan Palach), but there was no military resistance. Czechoslovakia remained controlled until 1989, when the velvet revolution ended pro-Soviet rule peacefully, undoubtedly drawing upon the successes of the non-violent resistance twenty years earlier. The resistance also became an iconic example of civilian-based defense, which, along with unarmed civilian peacekeeping constitute the two ways that nonviolence can be and occasionally has been applied directly to military or paramilitary threats.

After the invasion, Czechoslovakia entered a period of normalization: subsequent leaders attempted to restore the political and economic values that had prevailed before Dubček gained control of the KSČ. Gustáv Husák, who replaced Dubček and also became president, reversed almost all of Dubček's reforms. The Prague Spring inspired music and literature such as the work of Václav Havel, Karel Husa, Karel Kryl, and Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Brezhnev's government

Leonid Brezhnev and the leadership of the Warsaw Pact countries were worried that the unfolding liberalizations in Czechoslovakia, including the ending of censorship and political surveillance by the secret police, would be detrimental to their interests. The first such fear was that Czechoslovakia would defect from the bloc, injuring the Soviet Union's position in a possible war with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Not only would the loss result in a lack of strategic depth for the USSR, [31] but it would also mean that it could not tap Czechoslovakia's industrial base in a potential war. [32] Czechoslovak leaders had no intention of leaving the Warsaw Pact, but Moscow felt it could not be certain exactly of Prague's intentions. However, the Soviet government was initially hesitant to approve an invasion, due to Czechoslovakia's continued loyalty to the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union's recent diplomatic gains with the West as détente began. [33]

Other fears included the spread of liberalization and unrest elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact countries feared that if the Prague Spring reforms went unchecked, then those ideals might very well spread to Poland and East Germany, upsetting the status quo there as well. Within the Soviet Union, nationalism in the republics of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine was already causing problems, and many were worried that events in Prague might exacerbate those problems. [34]

According to documents from the Ukrainian Archives, compiled by Mark Kramer, KGB chairman Yuri Andropov and Ukrainian leaders Petro Shelest and Nikolai Podgorny were the most vehement proponents of military intervention. [35] The other version says that the initiative for the invasion came originally from Poland as the Polish First Secretary Władysław Gomułka and later his collaborator, East German First Secretary Walter Ulbricht, pressured Brezhnev to agree on the Warsaw Letter and on ensued military involvement. [36] [37] Władysław Gomułka accused Brezhnev for being blind and looking at the situation in Czechoslovakia with too much of emotion. Walter Ulbricht, in turn, insisted upon the necessity to enact military action in Czechoslovakia while Brezhnev was still doubting. Poland's foreign policy on the issue is still unknown. The deliberation that took place in Warsaw meeting, resulted in a majority consensus rather than unanimity. [ citation needed ] According to Soviet politician Konstantin Katushev, "our allies were even more worried than we were by what was going on in Prague. (Polish leader) Gomulka, (GDR leader) Ulbricht, (Bulgarian leader) Zhivkov, even (Hungarian leader) Kádár, all assessed the Prague Spring very negatively." [38]

In addition, part of Czechoslovakia bordered Austria and West Germany, which were on the other side of the Iron Curtain. This meant both that foreign agents could potentially slip into Czechoslovakia and into any member of the Communist Bloc and that defectors could slip out to the West. [39] The final concern emerged directly from the lack of censorship writers whose work had been censored in the Soviet Union could simply go to Prague or Bratislava and air their grievances there, circumventing the Soviet Union's censorship.

Dubček rise to power

As President Antonín Novotný was losing support, Alexander Dubček, First Secretary of the regional Communist Party of Slovakia, and economist Ota Šik challenged him at a meeting of the Central Committee. Novotný then invited Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev to Prague that December, seeking support but Brezhnev was surprised at the extent of the opposition to Novotný and thus supported his removal as Czechoslovakia's leader. Dubček replaced Novotný as First Secretary on 5 January 1968. On 22 March 1968, Novotný resigned his presidency and was replaced by Ludvík Svoboda, who later gave consent to the reforms.

Early signs of change were few. [ citation needed ] When the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) Presidium member Josef Smrkovský was interviewed in a Rudé Právo article, entitled "What Lies Ahead", he insisted that Dubček's appointment at the January Plenum would further the goals of socialism and maintain the working class nature of the Communist Party.

Socialism with a human face

On the 20th anniversary of Czechoslovakia's "Victorious February", Dubček delivered a speech explaining the need for change following the triumph of socialism. He emphasized the need to "enforce the leading role of the party more effectively" [40] and acknowledged that, despite Klement Gottwald's urgings for better relations with society, the Party had too often made heavy-handed rulings on trivial issues. Dubček declared the party's mission was "to build an advanced socialist society on sound economic foundations . a socialism that corresponds to the historical democratic traditions of Czechoslovakia, in accordance with the experience of other communist parties . " [40]

In April, Dubček launched an "Action Programme" of liberalizations, which included increasing freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of movement, with economic emphasis on consumer goods and the possibility of a multiparty government. The programme was based on the view that "Socialism cannot mean only liberation of the working people from the domination of exploiting class relations, but must make more provisions for a fuller life of the personality than any bourgeois democracy." [41] It would limit the power of the secret police [42] and provide for the federalization of the ČSSR into two equal nations. [43] The programme also covered foreign policy, including both the maintenance of good relations with Western countries and cooperation with the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc nations. [44] It spoke of a ten-year transition through which democratic elections would be made possible and a new form of democratic socialism would replace the status quo. [45]

Those who drafted the Action Programme were careful not to criticize the actions of the post-war Communist regime, only to point out policies that they felt had outlived their usefulness. [46] For instance, the immediate post-war situation had required "centralist and directive-administrative methods" [46] to fight against the "remnants of the bourgeoisie." [46] Since the "antagonistic classes" [46] were said to have been defeated with the achievement of socialism, these methods were no longer necessary. Reform was needed, for the Czechoslovak economy to join the "scientific-technical revolution in the world" [46] rather than relying on Stalinist-era heavy industry, labour power, and raw materials. [46] Furthermore, since internal class conflict had been overcome, workers could now be duly rewarded for their qualifications and technical skills without contravening Marxism-Leninism. The Programme suggested it was now necessary to ensure important positions were "filled by capable, educated socialist expert cadres" in order to compete with capitalism. [46]

Although it was stipulated that reform must proceed under KSČ direction, popular pressure mounted to implement reforms immediately. [47] Radical elements became more vocal: anti-Soviet polemics appeared in the press (after the abolishment of censorship was formally confirmed by law of 26 June 1968), [45] the Social Democrats began to form a separate party, and new unaffiliated political clubs were created. Party conservatives urged repressive measures, but Dubček counselled moderation and re-emphasized KSČ leadership. [48] At the Presidium of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in April, Dubček announced a political programme of "socialism with a human face". [49] In May, he announced that the Fourteenth Party Congress would convene in an early session on 9 September. The congress would incorporate the Action Programme into the party statutes, draft a federalization law, and elect a new Central Committee. [50]

Dubček's reforms guaranteed freedom of the press, and political commentary was allowed for the first time in mainstream media. [51] At the time of the Prague Spring, Czechoslovak exports were declining in competitiveness, and Dubček's reforms planned to solve these troubles by mixing planned and market economies. Within the party, there were varying opinions on how this should proceed certain economists wished for a more mixed economy while others wanted the economy to remain mostly socialist. Dubček continued to stress the importance of economic reform proceeding under Communist Party rule. [52]

On 27 June Ludvík Vaculík, a leading author and journalist, published a manifesto titled The Two Thousand Words. It expressed concern about conservative elements within the KSČ and so-called "foreign" forces. Vaculík called on the people to take the initiative in implementing the reform programme. [53] Dubček, the party Presidium, the National Front, and the cabinet denounced this manifesto. [54]

Publications and media

Dubček's relaxation of censorship ushered in a brief period of freedom of speech and the press. [55] The first tangible manifestation of this new policy of openness was the production of the previously hard-line communist weekly Literarni noviny, renamed Literarni listy. [56] [57]

The reduction and later complete abolition of the censorship on 4 March 1968 was one of the most important steps towards the reforms. It was for the first time in Czech history the censorship was abolished and it was probably the only reform fully implemented, albeit only for a short period. From the instrument of Party's propaganda media quickly became the instrument of criticism of the regime. [58] [59]

Freedom of the press also opened the door for the first honest look at Czechoslovakia's past by Czechoslovakia's people. Many of the investigations centered on the country's history under communism, especially in the instance of the Joseph Stalin-period. [56] In another television appearance, Goldstucker presented both doctored and undoctored photographs of former communist leaders who had been purged, imprisoned, or executed and thus erased from communist history. [57] The Writer's Union also formed a committee in April 1968, headed by the poet Jaroslav Seifert, to investigate the persecution of writers after the Communist takeover in February 1948 and rehabilitate the literary figures into the Union, bookstores and libraries, and the literary world. [60] [61] Discussions on the current state of communism and abstract ideas such as freedom and identity were also becoming more common soon, non-party publications began appearing, such as the trade union daily Prace (Labour). This was also helped by the Journalists Union, which by March 1968 had already convinced the Central Publication Board, the government censor, to allow editors to receive uncensored subscriptions for foreign papers, allowing for a more international dialogue around the news. [62]

The press, the radio, and the television also contributed to these discussions by hosting meetings where students and young workers could ask questions of writers such as Goldstucker, Pavel Kohout, and Jan Prochazka and political victims such as Josef Smrkovský, Zdenek Hejzlar, and Gustav Husak. [63] Television also broadcast meetings between former political prisoners and the communist leaders from the secret police or prisons where they were held. [57] Most importantly, this new freedom of the press and the introduction of television into the lives of everyday Czechoslovak citizens moved the political dialogue from the intellectual to the popular sphere.

Czechoslovak negotiations with the USSR and other Warsaw Pact states

The Soviet leadership at first tried to stop or limit the impact of Dubček's initiatives through a series of negotiations. the Czechoslovak and Soviet Presidiums agreed to bilateral meeting to be held in July 1968 at Čierna nad Tisou, near the Slovak-Soviet border. [64] The meeting was the first time the Soviet Presidium met outside Soviet territory. [33]

At the meeting, with attendance of Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin, Nikolai Podgorny, Mikhail Suslov and others on the Soviet side and Dubček, Ludvík Svoboda, Oldřich Černík, Josef Smrkovský and others on the Czechoslovak side, Dubček defended the program of the reformist wing of the KSČ while pledging commitment to the Warsaw Pact and Comecon. The KSČ leadership, however, was divided between vigorous reformers (Josef Smrkovský, Oldřich Černík, Josef Špaček and František Kriegel) who supported Dubček, and conservatives (Vasil Biľak, Drahomír Kolder, and Oldřich Švestka) who represented an anti-reformist stance. Brezhnev decided on compromise. The KSČ delegates reaffirmed their loyalty to the Warsaw Pact and promised to curb "anti-socialist" tendencies, prevent the revival of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, and control the press by the re-imposition of a higher level of censorship. [64] In return the USSR agreed to withdraw their troops (still stationed in Czechoslovakia since the June 1968 maneuvers) and permit 9 September party congress. Dubček appeared on television shortly afterwards reaffirming Czechoslovakia's alliance with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. [33]

On 3 August, representatives from the Soviet Union, East Germany, People's Republic of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia met in Bratislava and signed the Bratislava Declaration. [65] The declaration affirmed unshakable fidelity to Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism and declared an implacable struggle against bourgeois ideology and all "antisocialist" forces. [66] The Soviet Union expressed its intention to intervene in a Warsaw Pact country if a bourgeois system – a pluralist system of several political parties representing different factions of the capitalist class – was ever established. [67] After the Bratislava conference, Soviet troops left Czechoslovak territory but remained along Czechoslovak borders. [66]

As these talks proved unsatisfactory, the USSR began to consider a military alternative. The Soviet Union's policy of compelling the socialist governments of its satellite states to subordinate their national interests to those of the Eastern Bloc (through military force if needed) became known as the Brezhnev Doctrine. [67]

United States

The United States and NATO largely ignored the situation in Czechoslovakia. While the Soviet Union was worried that it might lose an ally, the United States had absolutely no desire to gain it. President Lyndon B. Johnson had already involved the United States in the Vietnam War and was unlikely to be able to drum up support for a potential conflict in Czechoslovakia. Also, he wanted to pursue an arms control treaty with the Soviets, SALT. He needed a willing partner in Moscow in order to reach such an agreement, and he did not wish to potentially risk that treaty for Czechoslovakia. [68] For these reasons, the United States made it clear [ how? ] that it would not intervene on behalf of the Prague Spring, giving the USSR a free hand to do as it pleased.

Invasion and intervention

At approximately 11 pm on 20 August 1968, [69] Eastern Bloc armies from four Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, [70] Poland and Hungary – invaded Czechoslovakia. That night, 250,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 2,000 tanks entered the country. [10] The total number of invading troops eventually reached 500,000. [11] Brezhnev was determined to give the operation a multilateral appearance (unlike during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956), but the invasion was dominated by Soviet forces, which outnumbered other troops participating in it roughly five times over. The invading armies were under the direct control of the Soviet High Command at all times. [12] Among them were 28,000 soldiers [71] of the Polish 2nd Army from the Silesian Military District, commanded by general Florian Siwicki. All invading Hungarian troops were withdrawn by 31 October. [72]

Romania did not take part in the invasion, [23] nor did Albania, which subsequently withdrew from the Warsaw Pact over the matter the following month. [24] The participation of the German Democratic Republic was cancelled just hours before the invasion. [25] The decision for the non-participation of the East German Army in the invasion was made on short notice by Brezhnev at the request of high-ranking Czechoslovak opponents of Dubček who feared much larger Czechoslovak resistance if German troops were present on the Czechoslovak territory, due to previous Czech experience with the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. [73]

The invasion was well planned and coordinated simultaneously with the border crossing by ground forces, a Soviet spetsnaz task force of the GRU (Spetsnaz GRU) captured Ruzyne International Airport in the early hours of the invasion. It began with a flight from Moscow which carried more than 100 agents in plain clothes and requested an emergency landing at the airport due to "engine failure". They quickly secured the airport and prepared the way for the huge forthcoming airlift, in which An-12 transport aircraft began arriving and unloading VDV equipped with artillery and light tanks. [74]

As the operation at the airport continued, columns of tanks and motorized rifle troops headed toward Prague and other major centers, meeting no resistance. Despite the fact that the Czechoslovak People's Army was one of the most advanced militaries in Eastern Europe, it did not resist the invasion due to its lack of a chain of command and the government's fears that it would side with the invaders as the Hungarian People's Army did during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.

During the attack of the Warsaw Pact armies, 137 Czechs and Slovaks were killed, [19] and hundreds were wounded. Alexander Dubček called upon his people not to resist. The Central Committee, including Dubček, hunkered down at its headquarters as Soviet forces seized control of Prague. Eventually, paratroopers cut the building's telephone lines and stormed the building. Dubček was promptly arrested by the KGB and taken to Moscow along with several of his colleagues. [33] Dubček and most of the reformers were returned to Prague on 27 August, and Dubček retained his post as the party's first secretary until he was forced to resign in April 1969 following the Czechoslovak Hockey Riots.

The invasion was followed by a wave of emigration, largely of highly qualified people, unseen before and stopped shortly after (estimate: 70,000 immediately, 300,000 in total). [75] Western countries allowed these people to immigrate without complications.

Failure to prepare

The Dubček regime took no steps to forestall a potential invasion, despite ominous troop movements by the Warsaw Pact. The Czechoslovak leadership believed that the Soviet Union and its allies would not invade, having believed that the summit at Čierna nad Tisou had smoothed out the differences between the two sides. [76] They also believed that any invasion would be too costly, both because of domestic support for the reforms and because the international political outcry would be too significant, especially with the World Communist Conference coming up in November of that year. Czechoslovakia could have raised the costs of such an invasion by drumming up international support or making military preparations such as blocking roads and ramping up security of their airports, but they decided not to, paving the way for the invasion. [77]

Letter of invitation

Although on the night of the invasion, the Czechoslovak Presidium declared that Warsaw Pact troops had crossed the border without the knowledge of the ČSSR Government, the Eastern Bloc press printed an unsigned request, allegedly by Czechoslovak party and state leaders, for "immediate assistance, including assistance with armed forces". [33] [78] At the 14th KSČ Party Congress (conducted secretly, immediately following the intervention), it was emphasized that no member of the leadership had invited the intervention. At the time, a number of commentators believed the letter was fake or non-existent.

In the early 1990s, however, the Russian government gave the new Czechoslovak President, Václav Havel, a copy of a letter of invitation addressed to Soviet authorities and signed by KSČ members Biľak, Švestka , Kolder , Indra , and Kapek . It claimed that "right-wing" media were "fomenting a wave of nationalism and chauvinism, and are provoking an anti-communist and anti-Soviet psychosis". It formally asked the Soviets to "lend support and assistance with all means at your disposal" to save the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic "from the imminent danger of counterrevolution". [79]

A 1992 Izvestia article claimed that candidate Presidium member Antonin Kapek gave Leonid Brezhnev a letter at the Soviet-Czechoslovak Čierna nad Tisou talks in late July which appealed for "fraternal help". A second letter was supposedly delivered by Biľak to Ukrainian Party leader Petro Shelest during the August Bratislava conference "in a lavatory rendezvous arranged through the KGB station chief". [79] This letter was signed by the same five as Kapek's letter, mentioned above.

Internal plot

Long before the invasion, planning for a coup was undertaken by Indra, Kolder and Biľak, among others, often at the Soviet embassy and at the Party recreation centre at Orlík Dam. [79] When these men had managed to convince a majority of the Presidium (six of eleven voting members) to side with them against Alexander Dubček's reformists, they asked the USSR to launch a military invasion. The USSR leadership was even considering waiting until the 26 August Slovak Party Congress, but the Czechoslovak conspirators "specifically requested the night of the 20th". [79]

The plan was to unfold as follows. A debate would unfold in response to the Kašpar report on the state of the country, during which conservative members would insist that Dubček present two letters he had received from the USSR letters which listed promises he had made at the Čierna nad Tisou talks but had failed to keep. Dubček's concealment of such important letters, and his unwillingness to keep his promises would lead to a vote of confidence which the now conservative majority would win, seizing power, and issue a request for Soviet assistance in preventing a counterrevolution. It was this formal request, drafted in Moscow, which was published in Pravda on 22 August without the signatories. All the USSR needed to do was suppress the Czechoslovak military and any violent resistance. [80]

With this plan in mind, the 16 to 17 August Soviet Politburo meeting unanimously passed a resolution to "provide help to the Communist Party and people of Czechoslovakia through military force". [80] [12] At an 18 August Warsaw Pact meeting, Brezhnev announced that the intervention would go ahead on the night of 20 August, and asked for "fraternal support", which the national leaders of Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland duly offered.

Failure of the plot

The coup, however, did not go according to plan. Kolder intended to review the Kašpar report early on in the meeting, but Dubček and Špaček, suspicious of Kolder, adjusted the agenda so the upcoming 14th Party Congress could be covered before any discussion on recent reforms or Kašpar's report. Discussion of the Congress dragged on, and before the conspirators had a chance to request a confidence vote, early news of the invasion reached the Presidium. [78]

An anonymous warning was transmitted by the Czechoslovak Ambassador to Hungary, Jozef Púčik, approximately six hours before Soviet troops crossed the border at midnight. [78] When the news arrived, the solidarity of the conservative coalition crumbled. When the Presidium proposed a declaration condemning the invasion, two key members of the conspiracy, Jan Pillar and František Barbírek , switched sides to support Dubček. With their help, the declaration against the invasion won with a 7:4 majority. [79]

Moscow Protocol

By the morning of 21 August, Dubček and other prominent reformists had been arrested and were later flown to Moscow. There they were held in secret and interrogated for days. [81]

The conservatives asked Svoboda to create an "emergency government" but since they had not won a clear majority of support, he refused. Instead, he and Gustáv Husák traveled to Moscow on 23 August to insist Dubček and Černík should be included in a solution to the conflict. After days of negotiations, all members of the Czechoslovak delegation (including all the highest-ranked officials President Svoboda, First Secretary Dubček, Prime Minister Černík and Chairman of the National Assembly Smrkovský) but one (František Kriegel) [82] accepted the "Moscow Protocol", and signed their commitment to its fifteen points. The Protocol demanded the suppression of opposition groups, the full reinstatement of censorship, and the dismissal of specific reformist officials. [80] It did not, however, refer to the situation in the ČSSR as "counterrevolutionary" nor did it demand a reversal of the post-January course. [80]

Reactions in Czechoslovakia

Popular opposition was expressed in numerous spontaneous acts of nonviolent resistance. In Prague and other cities throughout the republic, Czechs and Slovaks greeted Warsaw Pact soldiers with arguments and reproaches. Every form of assistance, including the provision of food and water, was denied to the invaders. Signs, placards, and graffiti drawn on walls and pavements denounced the invaders, the Soviet leaders, and suspected collaborationists. Pictures of Dubček and Svoboda appeared in the streets. Citizens gave wrong directions to soldiers and even removed street signs (except for those giving the direction back to Moscow). [83]

Initially, some civilians tried to argue with the invading troops, but this met with little or no success. After the USSR used photographs of these discussions as proof that the invasion troops were being greeted amicably, secret Czechoslovak broadcasting stations discouraged the practice, reminding the people that "pictures are silent". [84] The protests in reaction to the invasion lasted only about seven days. Explanations for the fizzling of these public outbursts mostly centre on demoralisation of the population, whether from the intimidation of all the enemy troops and tanks or from being abandoned by their leaders. Many Czechoslovaks saw the signing of the Moscow Protocol as treasonous. [85] Another common explanation is that, due to the fact that most of Czech society was middle class, the cost of continued resistance meant giving up a comfortable lifestyle, which was too high a price to pay. [86]

The generalised resistance caused the Soviet Union to abandon its original plan to oust the First Secretary. Dubček, who had been arrested on the night of 20 August, was taken to Moscow for negotiations. It was agreed that Dubček would remain in office, but he was no longer free to pursue liberalisation as he had before the invasion.

On 19 January 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in Prague to protest the renewed suppression of free speech.

Finally, on 17 April 1969, Dubček was replaced as First Secretary by Gustáv Husák, and a period of "Normalization" began. Pressure from the Soviet Union pushed politicians to either switch loyalties or simply give up. In fact, the very group that voted in Dubček and put the reforms in place were mostly the same people who annulled the program and replaced Dubček with Husák. Husák reversed Dubček's reforms, purged the party of its liberal members, and dismissed the professional and intellectual elites who openly expressed disagreement with the political turnaround from public offices and jobs.

Reactions in other Warsaw Pact countries

Soviet Union

On 25 August, at the Red Square, eight protesters carried banners with anti-invasion slogans. The demonstrators were arrested and later punished, as the protest was dubbed "anti-Soviet". [87] [88]

One unintended consequence of the invasion was that many within the Soviet State security apparatus and Intelligence Services were shocked and outraged at the invasion and several KGB/GRU defectors and spies such as Oleg Gordievsky, Vasili Mitrokhin, and Dmitri Polyakov have pointed out the 1968 invasion as their motivation for cooperating with the Western Intelligence agencies.

Poland

In the People's Republic of Poland, on 8 September 1968, Ryszard Siwiec immolated himself in Warsaw during a harvest festival at the 10th-Anniversary Stadium in protest against the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia and the totalitarianism of the Communist regime. [89] [90] Siwiec did not survive. [89] After his death, Soviets and Polish communists attempted to discredit his act by claiming that he was psychologically ill and mentally unstable.

Romania

A more pronounced effect took place in the Socialist Republic of Romania, which did not take part in the invasion. Nicolae Ceauşescu, who was already a staunch opponent of Soviet influence and had previously declared himself on Dubček's side, held a public speech in Bucharest on the day of the invasion, depicting Soviet policies in harsh terms. This response consolidated Romania's independent voice in the next two decades, especially after Ceauşescu encouraged the population to take up arms in order to meet any similar manoeuvre in the country: he received an enthusiastic initial response, with many people, who were by no means Communist, willing to enroll in the newly formed paramilitary Patriotic Guards. [ citation needed ]

East Germany

In the German Democratic Republic, the invasion aroused discontent mostly among young people who had hoped that Czechoslovakia would pave the way for a more liberal socialism. [91] However, isolated protests were quickly stopped by the Volkspolizei and Stasi. [92]

Albania

Albania responded in opposite fashion. It was already feuding with Moscow over suggestions that Albania should focus on agriculture to the detriment of industrial development, and felt that the Soviet Union had become too liberal since the death of Joseph Stalin and also in its dealings with Yugoslavia (which, by that time, Albania regarded as a threatening neighbor and had branded in propaganda as "imperialist"). The invasion served as the tipping point, and in September 1968 Albania formally withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. [24] Economic fallout from this move was mitigated somewhat by a strengthening of Albanian relations with the People's Republic of China, which was itself on increasingly strained terms with the Soviet Union.

Reactions around the world

The night of the invasion, Canada, Denmark, France, Paraguay, the United Kingdom, and the United States all requested a session of the United Nations Security Council. [93] That afternoon, the council met to hear the Czechoslovak Ambassador Jan Muzik denounce the invasion. Soviet Ambassador Jacob Malik insisted the Warsaw Pact actions were those of "fraternal assistance" against "antisocial forces". [93] The next day, several countries suggested a resolution condemning the intervention and calling for immediate withdrawal. US Ambassador George Ball suggested that "the kind of fraternal assistance that the Soviet Union is according to Czechoslovakia is exactly the same kind that Cain gave to Abel". [93]

Ball accused Soviet delegates of filibustering to put off the vote until the occupation was complete. Malik continued to speak, ranging in topics from US exploitation of Latin America's raw materials to statistics on Czech commodity trading. [93] Eventually, a vote was taken. Ten members supported the motion Algeria, India, and Pakistan abstained the USSR (with veto power) and Hungary opposed it. Canadian delegates immediately introduced another motion asking for a UN representative to travel to Prague and work for the release of the imprisoned Czechoslovak leaders. [93] Malik accused Western countries of hypocrisy, asking "who drowned the fields, villages, and cities of Vietnam in blood?" [93] By 26 August, another vote had not taken place, but a new Czechoslovak representative requested the whole issue be removed from the Security Council's agenda. [ citation needed ]

Although the United States insisted at the UN that Warsaw Pact aggression was unjustifiable, its position was weakened by its own actions. Only three years earlier, US delegates to the UN had insisted that the overthrow of the leftist government of the Dominican Republic, as part of Operation Power Pack, was an issue to be worked out by the Organization of American States (OAS) without UN interference. When UN Secretary-General U Thant called for an end to the bombing of Vietnam, the Americans questioned why he didn't similarly intervene on the matter of Czechoslovakia, to which he responded that "if Russians were bombing and napalming the villages of Czechoslovakia" he might have called for an end to the occupation. [93]

The United States government sent Shirley Temple Black, the famous child movie star, who became a diplomat in later life, to Prague in August 1968 to prepare to become the first United States Ambassador to a post-Communist Czechoslovakia. Two decades later, when the Warsaw Pact forces left Czechoslovakia in 1989, Temple Black was recognized as the first American ambassador to a democratic Czechoslovakia. [94]

In Finland, a neutral country under some Soviet political influence at that time, the occupation caused a major scandal. [95]

The People's Republic of China objected furiously to the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, which declared the Soviet Union alone had the right to determine what nations were properly Communist and could invade those Communist nations whose communism did not meet the Kremlin's approval. [7] Mao Zedong saw the Brezhnev doctrine as the ideological justification for a would-be Soviet invasion of China and launched a massive propaganda campaign condemning the invasion of Czechoslovakia, despite his own earlier opposition to the Prague Spring. [96] Speaking at a banquet held at the Romanian Embassy in Beijing on 23 August 1968, the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai denounced the Soviet Union for "fascist politics, great power chauvinism, national egoism and social imperialism", going on to compare the invasion of Czechoslovakia to the American war in Vietnam and more pointedly to the policies of Adolf Hitler towards Czechoslovakia in 1938–39. [7] Zhou ended his speech with a barely veiled call for the people of Czechoslovakia to wage guerrilla war against the Red Army. [7]

Communist parties worldwide

Reactions from communist parties outside the Warsaw Pact were generally split. The Eurocommunist parties of Italy and Spain firmly denounced the occupation, [97] and even the Communist Party of France, which had pleaded for conciliation, expressed its disapproval about the Soviet intervention, [98] thereby publicly criticizing a Soviet action for the first time in its history. [ citation needed ] The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) suffered a major split over the internal disputes over the Prague Spring, [97] with the pro-Czech faction breaking ties with the Soviet leadership and founding the Eurocommunist KKE Interior. The Eurocommunist leadership of the Communist Party of Finland denounced the invasion as well, thereby however fuelling the internal disputes with its pro-Soviet minority faction, which eventually led to the party's disintegration. [99] Others, including the Portuguese Communist Party, the South African Communist Party and the Communist Party USA, however supported the Soviet position. [97]

Christopher Hitchens recapitulized the repercussions of the Prague Spring to western Communism in 2008: "What became clear, however, was that there was no longer something that could be called the world Communist movement. It was utterly, irretrievably, hopelessly split. The main spring had broken. And the Prague Spring had broken it." [97]

Normalization (1969–1971)

In the history of Czechoslovakia, normalization (Czech: normalizace, Slovak: normalizácia) is a name commonly given to the period 1969–87. It was characterized by initial restoration of the conditions prevailing before the reform period led by Alexander Dubček (1963/1967–68), first of all, the firm rule of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and subsequent preservation of this new status quo.

"Normalization" is sometimes used in a narrower sense to refer only to the period 1969 to 1971.

The official ideology of normalization is sometimes called Husakism after the Czechoslovak leader Gustáv Husák.

Removing the reforms and reformers

When Gustáv Husák replaced Alexander Dubček as leader of the KSČ in April 1969 after the military intervention of Warsaw Pact armies, his regime acted quickly to "normalize" the country's political situation. The chief objectives of Husák's normalization were the restoration of firm party rule and the reestablishment of Czechoslovakia's status as a committed member of the socialist bloc. The normalization process involved five interrelated steps:

  • consolidate the Husák leadership and remove reformers from leadership positions
  • revoke or modify the laws enacted by the reform movement
  • reestablish centralized control over the economy
  • reinstate the power of police authorities and
  • expand Czechoslovakia's ties with other socialist nations.

Within a week of assuming power, Husák began to consolidate his leadership by ordering extensive purges of reformists still occupying key positions in the mass media, judiciary, social and mass organizations, lower party organs, and, finally, the highest levels of the KSČ. In the fall of 1969, twenty-nine liberals on the Central Committee of the KSČ were replaced by conservatives. Among the liberals ousted was Dubček, who was dropped from the Presidium (the following year Dubček was expelled from the party he subsequently became a minor functionary in Slovakia, where he still lived in 1987). Husák also consolidated his leadership by appointing potential rivals to the new government positions created as a result of the 1968 Constitutional Law of Federation (which created the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic).

Once it had consolidated power, the regime moved quickly to implement other normalization policies. In the two years following the invasion, the new leadership revoked some reformist laws (such as the National Front Act and the Press Act) and simply did not enforce others. It returned economic enterprises, which had been given substantial independence during the Prague Spring, to centralized control through contracts based on central planning and production quotas. It reinstated extreme police control, a step that was reflected in the harsh treatment of demonstrators marking the first anniversary of the August intervention.

Finally, Husák stabilized Czechoslovakia's relations with its allies by arranging frequent intrabloc exchanges and visits and redirecting Czechoslovakia's foreign economic ties toward greater involvement with socialist nations.

By May 1971, Husák could report to the delegates attending the officially sanctioned Fourteenth Party Congress that the process of normalization had been completed satisfactorily and that Czechoslovakia was ready to proceed toward higher forms of socialism.

Later reactions and revisionism

The first government to offer an apology was Hungary, on 11 August 1989. The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party publicly published its opinion on the fundamentally wrong decision to invade Czechoslovakia. The House of the National Assembly of Poland in 1989, on the 21st anniversary of military intervention, adopted a resolution condemning the armed intervention. Another apology was issued by the People's Assembly of East Germany on 1 December 1989, where they apologized to the Czechoslovak people for their involvement in the military intervention. An apology from Bulgaria came on 2 December 1989. [100]

On 4 December 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev and other Warsaw Pact leaders drafted a statement calling the 1968 invasion a mistake. The statement, carried by the Soviet news agency Tass, said that sending in troops constituted "interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign Czechoslovakia and must be condemned." [101] The Soviet government also said that the 1968 action was "an unbalanced, inadequate approach, an interference in the affairs of a friendly country". [102] Gorbachev later said that Dubček "believed he could build socialism with a human face. I have only a good opinion of him." [38]

This acknowledgement likely helped to encourage the popular revolutions that overthrew Communist regimes in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Romania at the end of 1989 by providing assurance that no similar Soviet intervention would be repeated were such uprisings to occur. [ citation needed ]

The invasion was also condemned by the newly appointed Russian President Boris Yeltsin ("We condemn it as an aggression, as an attack on a sovereign, stand-up state as interference in its internal affairs"). [100] During a state visit to Prague, on 1 March 2006, also Vladimir Putin said that the Russian Federation bore moral responsibility for the invasion, referring to his predecessor Boris Yeltsin's description of 1968 as an act of aggression: "When President Yeltsin visited the Czech Republic in 1993 he was not speaking just for himself, he was speaking for the Russian Federation and for the Russian people. Today, not only do we respect all agreements signed previously – we also share all the evaluations that were made at the beginning of the 1990s. I must tell you with absolute frankness – we do not, of course, bear any legal responsibility. But the moral responsibility is there, of course". [103]


New Evidence on Romania and the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1989

Romania's position in the Warsaw Pact was initially one of utmost fidelity to its Soviet master but by the early years of the 1960s that servility had virtually disappeared. Romania's behaviour within the Pact reflected its increasingly autonomous foreign policy. This policy was pursued with consummate diplomatic skill within limits for which Romania's leaders judged they could gain acceptance from the Soviet Union. In testing those limits Romania stance attracted the descriptions 'ambiguous', paradoxical', and 'maverick'.

In 1956, during the Hungarian uprising, Romania was the Soviet Union's most active ally. Eight years later, in 1964, the Romanian Workers' Party publicly declared its right to follow its own path to Communism without interference from outside. This meant the exercise of choices, and those choices had economic and foreign policy implications. The architects of this autonomous policy were Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, secretary general of the RWP, and Ion Gheorghe Maurer, the prime minister. Upon Dej's death in March 1965 his successor Nicolae Ceausescu continued the policy. In adopting this stance Ceausescu was able not only to offer the West an opportunity to exploit an apparent breach in the Communist bloc, but also to draw on his people's dislike for their Soviet overlord. Romania was the first country in the Eastern bloc to establish diplomatic relations with West Germany (in 1967), and was the only country from the group to have diplomatic ties with Israel. In 1971, she adhered to GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) and in the following year joined the Internaitional Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Romania's commercial position was further enhanced when she acquired preferential trading status with the European Common Market in 1973, whilst remaining a member of the CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance), popularly known as Comecon.

Ceausescu's political agility ensured him undisputed leadership of the Romanian Communist Party between 1965 and 1989. He appealed to Romanian nationalism in an effort to increase his regime's popularity and at the same time to put a distance between himself and the Soviet Union. His condemnation in August 1968 of the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia was a courageous act which gained him and his country worldwide respect. In August 1969, Richard Nixon accepted Ceausescu's invitation to visit Bucharest, the first US President to make such a visit to a Warsaw Pact member-state. Ceausescu's autonomy in foreign affairs was encouraged and supported by the United States throughout the 1970s, and Ceausescu ably exploited this position in order to deflect criticism of his internal policies, criticism which the Romanian authorities termed 'intrusion into domestic affairs'. In 1979, Ceausescu attacked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1981, he counselled caution in the Warsaw Pact's response to the crisis in Poland in the following year he opposed Pact plans to increase defence spending and in fact reduced Romania's defence budget. In 1983, he repeated his call for a halt to the arms race and advocated multilateral nuclear disarmament in Europe. In the following year, he proposed a moratorium on the deployment of new nuclear weapons in Europe and at the same time refused to join the Soviet-led boycott of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Ceausescu sought to use his unique position in international affairs to act as a broker on the world stage, thereby hoping to acquire the status of a world statesman, but his failure in the economic field led to domestic disillusionment with his regime.

Ceausescu's reaction to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 drew its political justification from the Romanian Central Committee declaration of 1964. This declaration remained throughout the period of Ceausescu's rule the fundamental premise upon which Romanian autonomy within the Warsaw Pact and Comecon was based. Romanian foreign policy under Ceausescu thus showed a continuity after 1968 which, by contrast, domestic policy lacked. In foreign policy, Ceausescu demonstrated the same skill, sensitivity and resourcefulness that had been displayed by Gheorghiu-Dej and Maurer in taking Romania on its autonomous course. In domestic policy, he showed the opposite, becoming tyrannical and insensitive to the needs of the population.

To a certain extent, he became a victim of the regime's economic achievements of the 1960s. Expectations of an ever-brighter economic future were raised by the increasingly availability of consumer goods in the late 1960s and when cut-backs became the order of the day in the 1970s and 1980s, these hopes were rudely shattered. In the light of Ceausescu's admiration for Stalin, it is not surprising that economic policy should have been characterized by the former's obsession with industrialization and total opposition to any form of private ownership. He was, therefore, all the more irritated that the champion of economic reforms in the Eastern bloc in 1985 should be the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his implacable opposition to change was expressed at the November 1985 Central Committee meeting of the Romanian Communist Party.[1]

Ceausescu had turned to the West for loans but the country's creditworthiness had been assessed on over-optimistic estimates of its ability to repay through exports, for these proved to be of poor quality. Not only did the exports fail to generate the anticipated income, but the energy-intensive heavy industry plants became increasingly voracious due to inefficient running. In the mid-1970s, Ceausescu expanded Romania's oil-refining capacity in excess of the country's own domestic output and in 1976 was forced to begin the import of crude oil. When the price of oil soared on the international market in 1978 Romania was caught out and soon faced a major trade deficit. Her problem was exacerbated by the revolution in Iran, a chief supplier to Romania of oil, which put a halt to deliveries.

Nature was also against the régime. A severe earthquake of 1977, followed by floods in 1980 and 1981, disrupted industrial production and reduced the exports of foodstuffs which Ceausescu now looked to in order to pay off the foreign debt incurred through industrialization. In late 1981, the country's foreign debt rose to $10.2 billions - in 1977 it stood at only $3.6 billions - and Ceausescu requested its rescheduling. On the recommendation of the IMF imports were reduced and exports, especially of machinery, equipment and petroleum products, increased. The implications of this reduction of imports were not fully appreciated by foreign analysts at the time since 1981 Romania had been a net importer of food from the West - food imports from the West in that year totaled $644 millions and exports $158 millions. In the same year, Soviet statistics show that Romania exported 106,000 tons of frozen meat to the Soviet Union. Cutting back on food imports, while at the same time continuing to export meat to the Soviet Union, forced Ceausescu to introduce meat rationing.

More importantly, the very act of having to accept conditions from the Western banks was a great blow to the Romanian leader's inflated pride. On its heels came political isolation which made him less dependent on the support of foreign governments that might have exercised some influence in persuading him to moderate his policies towards his people. He declared defiantly in December 1982 that he would pay off the foreign debt by 1990, and to achieve this introduced a series of austerity measures unparalleled even in the bleak history of East-Central European Communist regimes. Rationing of bread, flour, sugar and milk was introduced in some provincial towns in early 1982, and in 1983 it was extended to most of the country, with the exception of the capital. The monthly personal rations were progressively reduced to the point where, on the eve of the 1989 revolution, they were in some regions of the country one kilo of sugar, one kilo of flour, a 500-gram pack of margarine, and five eggs. At the same time, heavy industry was also called upon to contribute to the export drive, but because its energy needs outstripped the country's generating capacity drastic energy saving measures were introduced in 1981, which included a petrol ration of 30 litres (about 7 gallons) per month for private car owners. Other strictures stipulated a maximum temperature of 14 degrees centigrade (57 F) in offices and periods of provision of hot water (normally one day a week in flats). In the winter of 1983, these restrictions were extended, causing the interruption of the electricity supply in major cities and reduction of gas pressure during the day so that meals could only be cooked at night. During the severe winter of 1984-85 it was calculated from medical sources in the capital's hospitals that over 30 children had died as a result of unannounced power cuts affecting incubators.

In the face of the severe austerity measures which Ceausescu had introduced in order to pay off the country's foreign debt, most Romanians began to ask whether autonomy was worth the price. The question was put even more frequently after Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet party leader in March 1985. By the time Gorbachev visited Romania in May 1987, a remarkable one hundred and eighty degree turn had occurred in Romanians' perception of the Soviet Union and its relationship to Romania. This change in attitude hinged on the evolution of Ceausescu himself: if in 1965 Ceausescu presented a young, dynamic face of Communism compared with the ageing, reactionary Brezhnev, now, thirty years later, it was Gorbachev who had assumed Ceausescu's mantle and the latter that of Brezhnev. In a speech broadcast live during his visit to Bucharest on 26 May 1987, Gorbachev presented to the Romanian public his concepts of glasnost and perestroika and in doing so offered an implicit criticism of Ceausescu's resistance to reform. The enthusiasm for reform could be seen in the queues that formed in July 1988 in front of the Soviet airline Aeroflot offices in Bucharest as Romanians were admitted five at a time not to purchase airline tickets, but to pick up free copies in Romanian of the Soviet leader's report to the nineteenth conference of the Soviet Communist Party, coverage of which had been restricted in the Romanian media to those measures which had already been taken in Romania. Here was yet another irony of Ceausescu's continued rule: the arch-nationalist had succeeded in making Romanians look to Soviet Union for hope !

Ceausescu's 'neo-stalinism' also caused severe friction with the other superpower, the United States. Since the granting of Most-Favored-Nation tariff treatment in 1975, the US Congress had been able to hold Ceausescu's feet to the fire over human rights issues in Romania, most notably the right or opportunity to emigrate. It was in recognition of Ceausescu's success in 'tweaking the nose of the Russians'[2] that in early 1975, Congress, in passing the Trade Act of 1974, permitted the president to extend MFN to Communist countries. Section 402 of this act, known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment, prohibited the extension of MFN to any country that denied its citizens the right to emigrate, but also allowed the president to waive this provision if he found that such a waiver would 'substantially promote the objectives of freedom of emigration'. The initial 18-month waiver could be renewed for 12-month periods by the president, but either house of Congress could reverse such a decision. This annual review of Romania's performance on emigration was to prove a key factor in Romania's relations with the United States in the 1980s. President Ford took the decision to grant Romania MFN status in 1975 after receiving an oral 'assurance' from Ceausescu that he would 'contribute to the solution of humanitarian problems on the basis of mutual confidence and goodwill.'[3] Quite apart from its considerable trade benefits to Romania - Romanian exports to the US almost doubled from $133 to $233 million between 1975 and 1977 - which the award of MFN brought, of even greater value to Ceausescu was the certificate of respectability that it implied not only for his emigration policies, but also for his treatment of wider human rights issues in Romania.

It was the deteriorating human rights situation in Romania that threatened US-Romanian relations in the early 1980s. The resulting US alienation from Romania in 1987 and Ceausescu's growing irritation with American expressions of concern about Ceausescu's treatment of his opponents, led Ceausescu in February 1988 to renounce MFN status before suffering the indignity of having it withdrawn by Congress or by President Reagan. Ceausescu's action showed that he would not submit to pressure from any direction, West or East. He appears, however, to have cherished hopes that Reagan would grant MFN treatment without the Jackson-Vanik but in doing so completely failed to appreciate how negative his image had become in Congress as well the constitutional impediments facing the US president.

Two criteria have guided the selection of the documents presented here. The first is that they provide a snapshot of the Romanian reaction to major crises which confronted the Warsaw Pact - Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Poland in 1981 - and offer an insight into Romanian reaction to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Romania in 1958. In respect of 1968 and 1981, they illustrate how the Romanian declaration of 1964 remained throughout the period of Ceausescu's rule the cornerstone of Romanian autonomy within the Warsaw Pact. The second criterion is that while these documents have been previously published in Romanian secondary sources, they have not been available in English. Understanding Romania's unique position within the Pact requires a foray into the past.

Soviet military occupation in September 1944 brought Romania firmly within the orbit of the USSR and provided the underpinning for the imposition of Communist rule there. Under the terms of the Peace Treaty of February 1947 between Romania and the Allies, the right was recognized of the Soviet Union 'to keep on Romanian territory such armed forces as it may need for the maintenance of the lines of communication of the Soviet Army with the Soviet zone of occupation in Austria'.[4] That justification for the continued presence of Soviet troops on Romanian soil was removed by the conclusion of the Austrian peace treaty on 15 May 1955 Austria undertook not to join any military alliance, nor to permit the establishment by any foreign power of bases on her territory. The Soviet Union, in return, committed herself to the evacuation of her zone of occupation by 31 December 1955.

However, the presence of Soviet troops in Romania - and Hungary - buttressed the Communist parties there against any internal challenge to their rule. It was therefore in the Soviet Union's interest to find another mechanism for 'legalizing' a Soviet military presence in these two countries. The creation of the Warsaw Pact in May 1955 provided that mechanism. As a riposte to the establishment of the Western European Union in October 1954, the Soviet Union convened a meeting of its satellites in Warsaw on 11 May and four days later the Warsaw Treaty was signed. Under article 5 a unified command of the armed forces of the member states was created and the Soviet Marshal Koniev was appointed commander-in-chief. The Warsaw Treaty thus provided a legal framework for the continued presence of Soviet troops in Romania and Hungary.

The Hungarian uprising allowed the Romanian leadership to amply demonstrate its fidelity to the Soviet Union. The repercussions of the revolt, which began with a massive popular demonstration in Budapest on 23 October 1956 during which the Stalin monument was destroyed and the national flag hoisted with the emblem of the People's Republic removed, were soon felt in Romania. On 27 October, there were student and workers' demonstrations in Bucharest, Cluj, Iasi and Timisoara. The emphasis of the student protests was upon the abolition of the teaching of Russian in schools and universities. On 29 October, railwaymen in Bucharest held a protest meeting calling for improved conditions of work and in Iasi there were street demonstrations in support of better food supplies. An exceptionally poor harvest had drastically cut food production and queues in Bucharest and the other main towns were commonplace. Gheorghiu-Dej and a Romanian delegation cut short a visit to Yugoslavia on 28 October to address the crisis. Thousands of arrests were made in the centres of protest, especially amongst students who participated in meetings in the Transylvanian capital of Cluj and in Timisoara. One of the largest meetings took place in Bucharest. On 30 October, the Timisoara, Oradea and Iasi regions were placed under military rule as Soviet troops were brought in across the Romanian border in the east and concentrated on the frontier with Hungary in the west. To placate the workers the government announced on 29 October that the minimum wage would be raised, and special concessions were given to railway men in the form of free travel.

Convergence of interest with the Soviet Union and not just slavish obedience determined the stance adopted by Dej and his colleagues. They had two main concerns: a successful revolt in Budapest against Communist rule might spread to the almost two-million strong Hungarian community in Transylvania, thus sparking an anti-Communist rising in Romania and a non-Communist Hungary might lay claim to parts of Transylvania. Their fears had been fuelled by the participation of Hungarian students and workers in demonstrations in Cluj, Timisoara and the Autonomous Magyar Region.

Khrushchev and Malenkov paid a secret visit to Bucharest on 1 November 1956 to discuss the Hungarian crisis with Romanian, Bulgarian and Czechoslovak leaders. The Romanian trio of Dej, Emil Bodnaras and Ceausescu that participated in the secret meeting pushed for firm military intervention against Imre Nagy's government - the Soviet troops based in Romania had been among the first to cross the Hungarian border on 26 October to reinforce the Soviet presence. A key figure in the Romanian Party's support for Soviet intervention in Hungary was Emil Bodnaras, who had been imprisoned before the war as a Soviet agent. During the uprising he was appointed Minister of Transport and Communications and in this capacity he supervised the widening of roads of strategic importance to Soviet troops for their transit through Romania. He was probably instrumental in making arrangements for the detention of Imre Nagy in Romania for on 21 November he and Dej paid a visit to Janos Kadar, the new First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, and on the following day Nagy was abducted by KGB officers and flown to Bucharest where he was granted what the Romanian Foreign Minister Grigore Preoteasa termed 'asylum'. In fact, he was held, along with other members of his government, in a safe house in a locality just north of Bucharest, where their interrogation was coordinated by Boris Shumilin, chief KGB adviser 'for counter-revolutionary affairs', and not allowed the visits from UN officials promised by Preoteasa to prove that he was not under duress.[5] Shumilin permitted a senior RCP member, Valter Roman, who had fought in the International Brigade in Spain and was believed to be an NKVD officer, to question Nagy's associates.[6] Many other prominent supporters of Nagy were interrogated in Romania, among them the Marxist critic Georgy Lukacs.

Romania was the Soviet Union's most obedient ally during the Hungarian crisis. Its support of the Soviet Union went beyond the political arena into the domain of practical assistance and open encouragement. Dej and Bodnaras were the first foreign leaders to visit Budapest after the Soviet invasion and in their official communiqué they opined that the Soviet action 'was necessary and correct'.[7] The Romanian government echoed Soviet propaganda, denouncing the 'counter-revolution' as the work of 'reactionary Fascists' provoked by 'Western imperialists'. Additional bases were provided on Romanian soil to the Soviet forces, roads were widened, and railway traffic interrupted to carry military transport. Soviet satisfaction with Romania's role during October and November 1956 stood to the country's advantage two years later when Khrushchev decided to withdraw Soviet troops.

According to Khrushchev's memoirs it was Bodnaras who, as Minister of War, first raised the question of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Romania during Khrushchev's visit in August 1955.[8] Khrushchev was convinced that the matter had already been discussed by the Romanian Party leadership and Bodnaras was no doubt chosen to broach the subject because of his impeccable credentials: his past services to the Soviet Union, the confidence and respect which Khrushchev acknowledged he enjoyed amongst the Soviet leaders and the senior position - he was one of the first three Vice Prime Ministers - he occupied. Khrushchev records that Bodnaras justified the subject by pointing out that there was little threat to Soviet security interests because Romania was hemmed in by other Socialist countries and that there was 'nobody across the Black Sea from us except the Turks'.[9] The international situation in 1955 did not permit the Soviet leader to act on the idea straightaway but the idea of withdrawal had been planted in his mind and he used it at the time he regarded most appropriate.

That judgement had to be made first, in the context of a wider scenario composed by Khrushchev for his policy of a new opening towards the West, and second, with regard to the Romanian Party's ability to ensure internal security. The key foreign policy element was the unilateral Soviet move to withdraw a limited number of troops from Eastern Europe as a whole which, Khrushchev hoped, might prompt a similar response from NATO. Romania's strategic position, flanked as it was by other Warsaw Pact states, made it a safer proposition for the Soviet Union on security grounds for a troop withdrawal, and any fears about Romania's reliability as an ally had been dispelled by its actions during the Hungarian revolution. By the same token, the precautionary measure of keeping a large number of Soviet troops in Hungary after the revolution allowed Khrushchev to partially offset any overall reduction of Soviet troops in the area.

The most significant impact of Soviet withdrawal upon the Romanian leadership was its psychological one. Romania was still tied firmly within the Soviet bloc. Soviet divisions in southern Ukraine and across the Prut in the Moldavian Republic could descend at once in an emergency. Nevertheless, whatever the Soviet motives for the withdrawal, Dej could regard it as a concession wrought from the Soviets and with the confidence thus gained could embark, albeitly cautiously, on policies which placed Romanian above Soviet interests.

His campaign was at once active and reactive. It was not only in furtherance of a foreign policy aim to distance Romania from the Soviet Union, but was also a reaction to two major developments which posed a threat to Romania's new course. The first was Khrushchev's plan, presented in Moscow on 3-5 August 1961 to members of Comecon, to give the body a supranational planning role which, if accepted by Romania, would have obliged her to remain a supplier of raw materials, and to abandon her programme of rapid industrialization. The second was the Sino-Soviet rift, which first emerged at the Third Congress of the Romanian Communist Party in June 1960. Dej used the Chinese formula of equality of all socialist states to justify his own autonomous policies towards the Soviet Union and received Chinese backing for his rejection of the Comecon plan. The rift was indispensible to Dej's challenge to Khrushchev, but the Romanian leader was careful to preserve neutrality in the dispute. In an effort to mediate in the conflict a Romanian delegation visited Peking in February 1964, but it returned empty-handed and this led only to further arm-twisting by Khrushchev to bring the Romanians back into line. One source states that Khrushchev formally, but not publicly, raised the question of territorial revision in Transylvania during the Romanians' stopover in Moscow on their return from China, and even indicated a willingness to hold a plebiscite in Bessarabia as well as in Transylvania.[10] This linkage of the Transylvanian issue with the Sino-Soviet conflict unnerved the Romanians and pressure from Moscow was stepped up in the same month when a plan to create an economic region encompassing much of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, half of Romania, and part of Bulgaria was launched in the Soviet capital. Known as the Valev plan after its author who was a professor of economics at Moscow university, it met with a hostile response from the Romanian government which publicly condemned it in the Romanian media.[11]

These signals from Khrushchev, coupled with the realization that the Chinese were unable to help the Romanians economically, drove the Romanians into a public declaration of their autonomy which, apart from pre-empting any move by the Kremlin, would also stake a claim to Western political and economic support against Moscow. The Romanian policy was formally legitimized in the 'Statement on the Stand of the Romanian Workers' Party Concerning the Problems of the World Communist and Working Class Movement' which was published in Scînteia on 23 April 1964. Khrushchev's removal on 14 October 1964 as Soviet leader offered Dej a further chance to consolidate his break with Moscow. According to Ion Pacepa, Dej exploited the change in the Soviet leadership by summoning the Soviet ambassador on 21 October and requested him to withdraw the KGB counsellors from Romania.[12] The discussions between Dej and Leonid Brezhnev in connection with the withdrawal of KGB counsellors went on until the end of November and also involved Aleksandr Shelepin, who until December 1961 had been KGB chairman and had been moved to head the Committee of Party and State Control which oversaw the work of the KGB. Eventually the Soviet leadership relented and in December 1964 the counsellors were withdrawn, being allowed to take all the contents of the flats which they had requisitioned. Thus the Romanian security and intelligence services became the first such agencies of a Warsaw Pact country to have its Soviet counselors withdrawn, and, as regards the Foreign Intelligence Directorate, the DGIE, the only foreign intelligence agency in the Eastern bloc to enjoy this privilege down to the collapse of Communism in 1989. This did not mean, of course, that it ceased to collaborate with the KGB.

The most forceful affirmation of independence from Soviet dictates was Ceausescu's refusal to participate in, and condemnation of, the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. In view of the Romanian party's policy of 'non-intervention in the domestic affairs of another state', propounded in 1964 during its rift with the Soviet Union, Ceausescu's refusal to join the other East European members of the Warsaw Pact in their invasion of Czechoslovakia on 21 August was hardly surprising his denunciation of the invasion was. It was an act of courage for which he and his country gained a worldwide respect. Ceausescu's defiance of the Soviet Union seems all the more remarkable if we are to believe claims from Romanian military intelligence, the DIMSM, that at the meeting of Warsaw Pact heads of state in the Crimea in July, to which Ceausescu and the Czech Party leader Alexander Dubcek were not invited, a decision was taken to invade Romania as well as Czechoslovakia, on 22 August.[13] An invasion was averted only as a result of delicate crisis-management talks between Ceausescu and Leonid Brehnev, and their military chiefs of staff.

How seriously the threat of a Warsaw Pact invasion was taken by Ceausescu can be gauged from two decisions: his announcement on 21 August 1968, the day of the invasion, of the setting up of the Patriotic Guards, a workers' militia, in which the majority of adult men and women were mobilized, and his secret order given at the same time that an escape plan for him be drawn up by the Council of State Security. Work on the plan started immediately in Directorate XI (Technical Directorate) of the Council for State Security and was completed in 1970. The main thrust of the plan, codenamed Rovine-IS-70, was that in the event of an invasion, the CSS should organize armed resistance on a nationwide scale involving the whole population. If this failed, then Ceausescu would flee to a foreign country. Over the years the plan was continually modified, in particular when Ceausescu was told by his foreign intelligence service (DIE) of the Soviet plot, codenamed Dnestr, to replace him with a leader more sympathetic to Moscow.[14] Few could have predicted that within three years of his triumph of 1968, Ceausescu would reveal the autocratic, intolerant and capricious tendencies which were later to become dominant.


Watch the video: Why didnt Romania join the invasion of Czechoslovakia of 1968? (January 2022).