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Letter from Leonid Brehznev to Alexander Dubček Expressing Concern about Events in Czechoslovakia, April 11, 1968
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir. "The
Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998, pp. 98-100
Original Source: ÚSD, AÚD KSČ, F. 07/15; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 132-135.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: This is the second letter written to Dubček by Brezhnev and it reveals some concern about the situation in Czechoslovakia. The letter led to the bilateral talks between the two countries in Moscow in May.
11 April 1968
Dear Alexander Stepanovich!
It's already late at night, but I'm not yet asleep. Obviously I won't be able to fall asleep for a long time yet. My mind is filled with impressions from the CPSU CC plenum that has just ended and from the conversations I had with secretaries of the republic-level CCs and regional party committees. The plenary session went well. In brief, we talked about the current intensification of the class struggle between the two world systems, and about the place and historical role in this struggle of the communist parties, the working class, the socialist camp, and the bulwarks of world communism.
And, as always, in such cases one thinks not only about one's own affairs, but also about one's friends and brothers who are fighting side by side in a single line along our common, wide, and complicated front.
I would like to have a conversation with you and ask your advice, but it's too late now even to call by phone. I want to put my thoughts down on paper, not bothering too much about how I express them.
I want to tell you frankly that in my speech as well as in the speeches of my comrades, we paid special attention, naturally, to the events in Czechoslovakia and expressed friendly concern in that regard. Alexander Stepanovich, you know very well what enormous respect our party and the Soviet people have for the Czechoslovak Communist Party and for your people. This is well known both to our friends and to our enemies.
The fraternal ties between our countries and peoples were consummated in the brutal clashes with the class enemy, and were sealed by the blood we jointly lost.
And we, you and I, Alexander Stepanovich, were not merely disinterested bystanders during those harsh and heroic days when the intense battles with the enemy solidified our countries' friendship, which will remain forever sacred.
In the twenty years of our friendship, there has been, as you well know, no cloud that has overshadowed our friendship, even though both you and we have encountered many difficulties and disappointments.
Our mutual confidence was always firm. It is still firm now, and I believe that in the end no one will be able to disrupt or cause irreparable damage to our nations' friendship. I very well understand how great your responsibilities and concerns are now that your party has elevated you to such a high office.
The fate of your party and state are now directly connected with your actions and your personal responsibilities. I was glad to learn that even in the complicated situation that has now emerged in Czechoslovakia, you received expressions of full confidence and support.
I read your speech, the closing speech at the plenum and your other speeches very carefully. I admit that I haven't yet read the full text of the Action Program that you adopted at the plenum. We don't yet have the full text.
As I see it, you and your comrades are now trying to find the most effective route for the further development of your socialist society and the development of socialist democracy. I understand very well that your work is aimed at overcoming certain difficulties, the most important of which is that amidst the healthy trends, revisionist and hostile forces are seeking to divert Czechoslovakia from the socialist path. However, this poses not only difficulties for you, but great dangers as well.
We couldn't help but notice that in your speeches, as well as in those of several of your comrades on the CPCz CC, you alluded to this danger.
Now, when I think back on and try to draw conclusions from the exchanges at our own plenum, I always come back to the prudent Leninist warning that as long as imperialism exists, it will fight with great tenacity for every position it holds and will try to attack the positions of socialism, looking for weak links in the chain.
Not long ago we jointly celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Great October Revolution. When we look back on the way our people have developed, we can see that along the entire way the main strength and support for new socialist relations came from the working class. Even now the working class still provides our main strength. The experiences of the revolution and subsequent years show that when the communists firmly relied on the working class, they emerged from these bard tests even stronger than before.
Dear Alexander Stepanovich!
I sincerely hope that you will understand and excuse my frankness, knowing that it stems from the best of feelings. As your comrade I wish to share with you some of the thoughts that disturb me. I realize that you're now busy in dealing with the problems that were mentioned in your recent plenum. When reading over your materials, I get the impression that in the current situation you're attempting to find immediate solutions to all the problems that have accumulated. This desire is understandable. But I can tell you quite frankly that life and experience show that overly hasty corrections of past mistakes and imperfections, and the desire to solve everything at once, can make for new and even greater mistakes and consequences. That's why I want to point out the danger that the current emphasis on immediately solving a broad array of complicated questions, which can evoke disagreements, could possibly undermine the very important process of consolidation that you've just started.
I and my comrades noticed that at your plenary session many spoke about the leading role of the party. It is very important that precisely this matter – the party's position in the country – be secured as soon as possible. It seems to me that this very issue is the key to solving your fundamental problems.
I'd like to divulge another matter to which the participants in our plenum devoted much attention. This concerns the ideological work of the party. Imperialism is now poised with its propaganda, attempting to launch an attack on the ideological front. The forms and methods of its actions are, as you well know, diverse and treacherous. After the plenum I studied the most recent information about what is happening in the ČSSR. I also read what is being written about this in the bourgeois press. I can't help but think that events are still not unfolding in quite the way that the CPCz CC and all your friends in the fraternal parties would like. What especially strikes me is that some people in your country, who clearly do not subscribe to socialist positions, are continuing to make statements that are contrary to the measures adopted by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia to stabilize the situation in the country.
This cannot but be worrying. The current moment for all of us is serious and demanding. I keep on thinking just how much we, as communists, now have to be vigilant and united!
Dear Alexander Stepanovich!
Judging from what your press, radio, and television are saying, and even from the speeches by some of your leading officials – in which, incidentally, some important and fundamental questions are interpreted differently –we get the impression that the longer this situation lasts, the more likely it is that internal and external enemies will be tempted to exploit this situation in fighting for their goals.
One thought keeps coming to the forefront at this time.
It seems that now, after the new leadership has been formed, the necessary conditions have been created to display unity of will and action and to forestall any opportunity for the revisionist and anti-socialist elements to influence the course of events. Alexander Stepanovich, when I sat down to write this friendly letter, as my heart was telling me to, I did not intend to touch on all problems. That would be hard to do in such a short letter.
I merely wanted to focus on the most important things – about the party, socialism, friendship, and the working class. The motive for this letter to you was precisely that feeling.
In closing this letter, I return in my thoughts to the many discussions I've had with you and your comrades in Prague, Sofia, and Dresden, in which we expressed complete confidence that neither the socialist gains of the Czechoslovak people nor friendship with socialist countries and between our peoples and parties can ever be shaken. The party will be in the forefront, relying on the working class as the leading force of your society. All this, as well as loyalty to the Warsaw Pact, is the guarantee of national independence and the security of the Czechoslovak Republic and the entire socialist community.
From the bottom of my heart I wish you and your comrades success in solving the problems you are facing.
In closing, I want to assure you from myself and, literally, from all our comrades that you can always count on our full support in the struggle to bolster the cause of socialism, the cohesion of the socialist countries, and the unity of the world communist movement.
I am sending you this letter unofficially. Feel free to do with it whatever you like and think is necessary.
In a friendly spirit I firmly shake your hand.