“Operation Danube”. That was the name in the documents of the strategic exercises of the troops of five member countries of the Warsaw Pact, the purpose of which was “protection of the socialist gains in Czechoslovakia.”
Under Gorbachev, the introduction of troops into Czechoslovakia on 21 August 1968, wrote about “the suppression of the construction of socialism with a human face”, and after the collapse of the USSR, these events are only in sharply condemning, and sometimes rudely, the foreign policy of the USSR is considered to be aggressive, Soviet soldiers are called “invaders”, etc.
The current writers don’t want to reckon with the fact that all events in the world happen, and happen in a specific international or domestic environment in a given period of time, and judge the past by today’s standards. Question: could the leaders of the countries of the socialist camp and, first and foremost, the Soviet Union at that time to make another decision?
The international situation
There were two opposing military blocs – NATO and the Warsaw Pact. I remember only that in 1968 in the GDR was the Group of Soviet forces in Germany, in Poland Northern group of Soviet troops in Hungary’s southern group of forces. But for some reason do not remember that in Germany deployed troops to the USA, the UK, Belgium and was ready to go in case of need the army corps of the Netherlands and France. Both military groups were in a state of full combat readiness.
The socio-political situation in Czechoslovakia
At the January 1968 Plenum of the Central Committee was subjected to fair criticism of mistakes and shortcomings of the country’s leadership, as well as the decision on necessary changes in the governance of the state’s economy. The General Secretary of the Central Committee, was elected Alexander Dubcek, who led the reforms, later called the “construction of socialism with a human face”. Changed the country’s top leadership (except for President L. Svoboda), and with it began to change domestic and foreign policy.
French weekly “Express” may 6 gave the statement of the editor of the foreign Department of the newspaper “Literarni sheets” Antonina Lima: “Today Czechoslovakia is the question of the seizure of power”. Underground revived the activities of the Social democratic party and the labor Party.
Serious attacks from positions of “common economic calculation” was made against the Council for Mutual Economic assistance.
A direct blow to the national interests of Czechoslovakia were calling for “rapprochement” with Germany, expressed not only in media but also in the speeches of some leaders of the country.
The Western border of Czechoslovakia was opened, began to liquidate the border barriers and fortifications. At the direction of the Minister of state security Pavel identified by counterintelligence spies of Western countries are not detained, and gave them the opportunity to leave. (In 1969, the authorities of Czechoslovakia, Paul was put on trial and executed.)
The activities of foreign governments, military and media
This period was the Advisory meeting of representatives of NATO countries, which examined possible actions to bring Czechoslovakia from the socialist camp. The United States expressed readiness to exert influence on Czechoslovakia on the question of the loan from the capitalist countries, using the interest of Czechoslovakia in return for her gold reserves.
And the editor of the Czech trade Union newspaper “Pratsya” Irick stated by the German television: — “our country is home To about 150 thousand Germans. It is hoped that the remaining 100-200 thousand would return home later”. Of course, no one and nowhere recalled the persecution of the Sudeten Germans by the Czechs.
Article in Finnish newspaper “Paiwan Sanomat” on 6 September 1968 it was reported that in the area of Regensburg (FRG) “has worked and continues to function on to track of the events in Czechoslovakia. In July started to operate a special Center for monitoring and control, which American officers called “Staff strike group”. In its structure more than 300 employees, including officers-intelligence officers and policy advisers. Centre three times a day reported information about the situation in Czechoslovakia to the NATO headquarters”. Interesting the comment of the representative of NATO headquarters: — “Although the invasion of the Warsaw Pact into Czechoslovakia and the conclusion of the Moscow agreement, a special centre has not decided the issues before him, his work still has been and continues to be a valuable experience for the future.”
Thus, by the spring of 1968, the socialist countries faced a choice:
— allow opposition forces to push Czechoslovakia from the socialist path;
— open to a potential enemy the road to the East, jeopardize not only the troops of the Warsaw Pact but also the end of the Second world war;
— forces of Commonwealth countries to protect the socialist system in Czechoslovakia and to assist the development of its economy;
once and for all put an end to the Munich policy of rejecting all claims of the heirs of the revanchist war.
— to put a barrier in front of the new “Drang nach Osten”, to show the world that nobody will be able to redraw post-war borders, established in the result of the struggle of many Nations against fascism.
“At that period, the situation in Czechoslovakia was as follows.
… To the fore began to leave not even the “progressives” of the HRC, a non-partisan forces — members of various “social” and “political” clubs, which is different from the orientation to the West and the hatred of the Russian. June was the beginning of a new phase of aggravation of the situation in Czechoslovakia and the leadership of the HRC, and in mid-August, the team Oak-check completely lost control over the situation in the country.
It is also noteworthy that some leaders of the “Prague spring” thought that the sympathy of the West certainly materialists in the form of hard anti-Soviet position of the United States in the event of a military action by the Soviet Union.”
… According to Czech historians, when troops killed about a hundred people and injured and injured nearly a thousand.
The attitude of the local population
Sometimes in a military unit secretly came to the locals and asked what was the Soviet troops. And okay, some Russian came, and then another, and “Caucasians” from “gook” brought. In the center of Europe(!) people were surprised that the Soviet army was multinational.
The actions of the opposition forces
Soviet radionuclidic surprised at first that a number of anti-government stations planguide in the West, but their guesses on 8 September confirmed the magazine “stern” (Germany). The journal reported that on 23 August the newspaper “Literarni sheets”, and behind it, and clandestine radio reported that “allied troops fired at the children’s hospital at Karlovo square. Broken Windows, ceilings, expensive medical equipment…” the Reporter on the television of Germany rushed to the area, but the hospital building was intact. According to the magazine “stern”, “this false information was passed with Czech and West German territory.” The magazine noted that the events of these days “provided the perfect opportunity for practical training 701 battalion”.
A change of scenery
Was formed by the Central group of troops, Soviet military units began to settle in the liberated for them by the Czech military camps, where chimneys were littered with bricks, clogged sewer, and the glass shattered. In April 1969, A. Dubcek was replaced by Gustav Husak, the new leadership of the country. Were enacted emergency laws, which, in particular, shows the Russian fist “cost” up to three months imprisonment and provoked a fight with the Russians – six. At the end of 1969, in garrison, where the battalion built housing, servicemen were allowed to bring family. The construction of housing for families continued until 1972.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia by troops of the Warsaw Pact was a necessary measure aimed at preserving the unity of the socialist countries, as well as to prevent exit of NATO troops on the borders of the USSR.
The soldiers, who were the first(!) was called the “Soldiers-internationalists”, such in Russia is not even recognized, even by Order of the Minister of defence Marshal Grechko No. 242 of 17.10.1968 it was gratitude for the fulfillment of international duty. By order of the Minister of defense of the USSR № 220 from 05.07.1990 G. “a List of States, cities, territories and periods of warfare with participation of citizens of the Russian Federation” was supplemented by the Republic of Cuba. For unknown reasons, Czechoslovakia (only!) the list was not included, and, as a consequence, the relevant documents were not given to former servicemen, carrying out international duty in the country.
A group of scientists, analyzing the available for studying the materials and after meeting with the direct participants of the events in Czechoslovakia, said that “in 1968 in Czechoslovakia was carried out superbly planned and flawlessly implemented forces combat operation, in which it was conducted is fighting. Both from the point of view of military science, and real world application of forces and means”. And the soldiers and officers who performed their duty during operation “Danube”, have every right to be called soldiers-internationalists and fall under the category of “combatant”.