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Report by Czechoslovak Television Reporter on Soviet Reactions to the Events in the ČSSR, February 28, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir. "The
Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998, pp. 55-57
Original Source: ÚSD, AÚD KSČ, F. 07/15; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 52-54.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: This is the report written by a Czechoslovak journalist some months after Dubček´s election. It concerns the assessments made by the Soviet people about the situation in Czechoslovakia and about Dubček.
The response in the USSR can be divided into two categories:
1. highly negative
2. highly positive
In between the two is a large section (a third undifferentiated group) of those who, because of a total lack of information or covert reports by Western radio stations, are unable to find their bearings in the present situation and thus cannot characterize events in our country correctly. It can be said that their assessment of what is going on in our country depends on the extent of their knowledge.
Negative assessments are not confined to a specific group. One comes across them in the highest places as well as among ordinary people. Those who hold this view have been frightened by the developments in our country. They disagree with the results of our plenum and are worried about future developments. They compare our situation with the Yugoslav road, and regard it as revisionist and dangerous. They are afraid that just as in Yugoslavia, our party will become no more than a political education center and will not be the leading force in the state. They allege that Czechoslovak policy is becoming nationalist; they believe we are exaggerating our attempt to set out on our "own road to socialism." Instead, they point to the USSR, which consistently sticks to positions of internationalism.
They furthermore regard our new road as concealed criticism of the old road-the road pursued by the USSR-and fear that we will deviate from this path. They criticize us for our faltering struggle against petty bourgeois tendencies, and they maintain that the voices of the latter have been particularly conspicuous in recent events. Some point to the nationalist factor; they interpret the plenary sessions as attempts by the Slovaks to achieve a political and economic settlement. They are concerned lest these tendencies be taken up in the USSR as well. They emphasize their own problems with nationalist tendencies: for example, in the Transcaucasian and Baltic republics and in Ukraine.
These adverse assessments of our plenum account for the attitude of certain comrades toward their own economic reform. They do not want to hurry its implementation, and they point to the bad experience of the USSR. In addition to the political impact, they focus also on the economic impact. They believe that certain inflationary tendencies have arisen precisely because of the economic reform.
This group has curtailed and restricted all substantive information. The press has published only the TASS, [the Soviet Union News Agency, authors note] report about the plenary session, which was transmitted by ČTK, along with Dubček's biography and his speech on the February anniversary. The powers that be are guided by the old Soviet dictum: If I provide information it means that I agree. If I do not give information, it means that I disagree.
All substantive Rudé právo articles are carried only in the white TASS. Although our embassy used to receive this version of TASS regularly, it is no longer made available to the embassy. Nor is it sent to the embassies of the other socialist countries.
TASS has issued two versions of Cde. Dubček's speech – one with omissions for the press, the other without omissions for the white TASS.
People in this category welcome events in our country and hope that they will have some influence on domestic developments in the USSR as well. They merely warn against criticism of the USSR and against any unfavorable assessment of past relations with the USSR. They realize that such criticism would immediately be exploited by conservative comrades. They believe we will be in an extremely isolated position: Apart from Hungary, where a transition is under way to highly unusual forms of management, the socialist countries (Poland, Bulgaria, etc.) are experiencing the opposite sort of trend. Certain people have their doubts whether Dubček will be able to cope with all the demands put by various groups; they are aware of the complex situation and understand that the January session has no more than publicized all the problems, and that now they will have to be solved.
They hail the speeches and the discussion that have appeared in our press, especially the fact that these have been published by members of the Central Committee and that they are airing their views so openly. They believe it is healthy and democratic that everyone should be able to express their opinion alongside the official party statement. They regard this as free discussion. They consider efforts by the ČSSR to move along its own road to socialism, based on its own traditions and experiences, to be correct. They do not think that this represents a turning away from the USSR.
The events in our country have done much to increase interest about us in the USSR; this interest must be kept up.
Problems Connected with the Work of Correspondents in the
Correspondents in Moscow now find themselves at a disadvantage. Although in our country greater scope bas been given to reporters, in the USSR it is actually being narrowed. The availability of information has become more restricted and there is no access to places that in the past were open. Rumor has it that screws will be tightened still further in the cultural sphere to put an end to free discussion and curtail excessive relaxation.
We, too, are encountering difficulties in reporting from the USSR. There are still no opinion polls in our country, and it is not clear to whom we are speaking or what exactly people want to hear from us. The younger generation no longer sees our relationship with the USSR as an emotional matter the way our generation used to. On what is the new generation's thinking based? In reality nothing is known about the current state of our friendship with the USSR. This problem should be neither overlooked nor dealt with spontaneously, but should be approached on a genuine scientific basis.
Under the circumstances, Moscow correspondents will have to show a great deal of skill and tact in telling our people about the problems encountered by the USSR while not offending the Soviet authorities; they will have to reconcile their own remarks and commentaries with the atmosphere in our country.