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“Proposals for a Number of Major Political Measures to Facilitate the Process of Mutual Understanding in Relations with the USSR,” by Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiří Hájek, April 17, 1968
Our Source: Navratil,
Jaromir. "The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press,
1998, pp. 105-107
Original Source: ÚSD, AÚD KSČ, F. 07/15.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: These are some excerpts from a written proposal made by the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister. He is aware of the growing tensions between his home country and Soviet and proposes that Dubček accepts the Soviet invitation for bilateral talks.
Proposal for a Number of Major Political Measures to Facilitate the Process of Mutual Understanding in Relations with the USSR
Relations between the ČSSR and the USSR have existed on a purely formal basis over recent years. This situation was undoubtedly caused by the position adopted by the CPCz CC regarding the dismissal of Cde. Khrushchev.
Transformations in the Czechoslovak economy and certain traits in Czechoslovak culture have aroused doubts among several leading officials in the USSR, more often than not because of insufficient and inaccurate information.
Consequently, recent developments (from the plenum in October) have been followed with unusual attention.
In general one might say that, on the one hand, there are many people in the USSR who are keenly interested in the recent developments in Czechoslovakia, but on the other hand, the public at large is not properly informed. The result is a wide spectrum of views and responses, ranging from fears and fundamentally negative views to restraint and even great optimism. /.../
Response to the January Session of the CPCz Central Committee
The results of the January session of the CPCz CC, and the measures adopted there, have made a strong impression in the USSR. It is understandable that in such an agitated atmosphere a number of inaccurate or distorted views emerged. For example, concerns were expressed that Czechoslovakia had set out on the road of revisionism and was following the example of Yugoslavia or Romania. There were even suggestions that our policies were being driven by the difficult economic situation in our country or that our decisions were meant solely to alleviate nationality problems in the ČSSR. In these circumstances, it was a good thing that the Soviet press published the resolution of the January session of the CPCz CC along with Cde. Dubček’s biography. That helped dispel the concerns mentioned above, though it by no means totally eliminated them. It is worth noting that after the January session of the CPCz CC, officials at the Czechoslovak embassy in Moscow and Czechoslovak delegations arriving in the USSR found that their Soviet counterparts bad considerable misgivings and reservations when they talked about recent developments in Czechoslovakia. Soviet officials were extraordinarily unwilling to discuss or even listen to information from Czechoslovakia. This situation did not change even after Cde. Dubček’s visit to Moscow. The visit received almost no publicity, except for a brief mention of it by Cde. Brezhnev in his speech in Leningrad. /.../
/…/ For a long time the Soviet press refrained from commenting about subsequent developments in Czechoslovakia. This led to a variety of interpretations in the USSR: for example, that the silence was intended to convey the Soviet leadership's disagreement, or that Soviet officials were maintaining a wait-and-see attitude and that this carried over to the Soviet press, or that Soviet officials wanted to avoid making hasty judgements, or some other explanation. For the Soviet public, and particularly among CPSU activists, any development in the socialist countries arouses immediate concern about the USSR's allies. The causes of the rifts with Albania, the People's Republic of China, and Romania are not fully understood even now, and frequently one can hear remarks addressed to the CPSU leadership stating that a more intelligent policy would have averted these breaks.
Based on information at our disposal, we can report that the efforts to democratize our party and Czechoslovak society as a whole have been received with little understanding in the USSR, especially among officials at medium levels and even, judging by recent information, at higher levels. A distinct segment of the Soviet intelligentsia, however, welcomes events in the ČSSR, stirring hopes that have created frictions in Soviet society.
It is evident that, with few exceptions, the Soviet comrades do not understand the situation in our country. They are not familiar with Czechoslovak history, the composition of Czechoslovak society, the mentality of our people, or our democratic traditions. That is why the openness of the Czechoslovak press and radio has evoked such bewilderment, and why opinions have even been expressed that this development is abetting the enemies of socialism. The situation in the ČSSR also has met with an unfavorable response in the upper levels of the Soviet army.
It can be said that even after Cde. Dubček’s visit to Moscow and after the Dresden meeting, the leaders of the CPSU and of the Soviet state have still not been convinced of the overwhelmingly positive nature of the developments in our country.
It is essential that we make vigorous efforts to influence the state of Czechoslovak-Soviet relations, which affect the attitude of some other socialist countries toward the developments in our country. /.../
/…/ It is, therefore, proposed to comply as soon as possible (by the middle of May) with the invitation conveyed to Cde. Dubček in February for a Czechoslovak party and government delegation to visit the USSR. The situation in the ČSSR should once again be explained during the talks and the party's Action Program should be elucidated in detail.
There is a particular lack of clarity on the following issues:
1) The internal situation in the party in connection with the progress and results of conferences
held so far, and the removal of officials.
2) The concept of the leading role of the party, the Czechoslovak road to socialism, and the growing activity of non-communist parties and of some internal reactionary forces.
3) Rehabilitations in cases where the Soviet organs and the activities of Soviet advisers were involved; the impact this may have on bilateral relations-, the newly-established organisation consisting of those who suffered, known as "K-231"; and the possible effect on the USSR.
4) The situation in the Czechoslovak economy and its possible influence on Czechoslovak foreign policy (foreign credits, licenses, a greater orientation toward the capitalist states, etc.).
5) Economic reform: the new system of management and the ease of control from the center.
6) Issues of conflict in Czechoslovak-Soviet economic cooperation.
7) Czechoslovak foreign policy (lack of clarity about the meaning of our own image, our independent policy, our desire to respect our own interests and Czechoslovakia’s specific conditions, etc. Among concrete issues, the greatest attention is devoted to future policy toward the FRO).
8) A solution to the nationality problem in the ČSSR.
Ibis state of affairs necessitates a meeting of Czechoslovak and Soviet representatives. These visits may be of great help in overcoming a variety of doubts and ambiguities in the
ČSSR's relations with both the USSR and the other socialist countries.