Almost 50 years of Operation Danube. A look at the facts about the "defense of socialist conquests in Czechoslovakia"
Operation "Danube". That was precisely what the strategic doctrine of the troops of the five Warsaw Pact member countries was called in the documents, the purpose of which was “to defend socialist gains in Czechoslovakia”.
Under Gorbachev, on August 21, 1968, the entry of troops into Czechoslovakia was described as “suppressing the construction of socialism with a human face”, and after the collapse of the USSR these events are described only in harshly condemning, and sometimes even rude, Soviet foreign policy is considered aggressive, Soviet soldiers are called "Occupiers", etc.
The current publicists do not want to reckon with the fact that all events in the world took place, and they do, in a specific international or domestic situation at a given period of time, and judge the past by today's standards.The question is: could the leadership of the countries of the socialist camp and, above all, of the Soviet Union, take a different decision at that time?
At that time there were two worlds in Europe opposite in their ideologies — the socialist and the capitalist. The two economic organizations are the so-called Common Market in the West and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance in the East.
There were two opposing military blocs - NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Now they only remember that in 1968 in the GDR there was a Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, in Poland - the Northern Group of Soviet Forces and in Hungary - the Southern Group of Forces. But for some reason they don’t remember that the troops of the USA, Great Britain, Belgium were stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands and France army corps were ready to advance if necessary. Both military groups were in a state of full combat readiness.
Each of the parties defended its interests and, observing external decency, by any means tried to weaken the other.
Socio-political situation in Czechoslovakia
At the January 1968 Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the mistakes and shortcomings of the country's leadership were rightly criticizedand a decision was made on the need for changes in the management of the state’s economy. Alexander Dubchek was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, who led the reforms, later called "building socialism with a human face." The country's top leadership changed (except for President L. Svoboda), and with it internal and foreign policies began to change.
Using the criticism of the leadership voiced at the Plenum, the opposition political forces, speculating on the requirements of "expanding" democracy, began to discredit the Communist Party, the authorities, the state security bodies and socialism in general. Began a hidden preparation for the change of the state system.
In the media, on behalf of the people, the following was required: the abolition of the leadership of the party in economic and political life, the declaration of the CPC as a criminal organization, a ban on its activities, the dissolution of the state security organs and the People's Militia. (The people's militia is the name of the armed party workers detachments that remained since 1948 and was directly subordinate to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.)
Various “clubs” (“Club 231”, “Active non-party club”) and other organizations arose throughout the country, the main purpose and task of which was to blacken the history of the country after 1945, rally the opposition, and conduct anti-constitutional propaganda. By mid-1968, the Ministry of Internal Affairs received about 70 applications for registration of new organizations and associations. Thus, the “Club 231” (on the basis of article 231 of the Law on the Protection of the Constitution, anti-state and anti-constitutional activities were punished) was established in Prague on March 31, 1968, although it did not have permission from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The club has united over 40 thousand people, among whom were former criminal and state criminals. As the newspaper Rude Pravo noted, among the members of the club were former Nazis, SS men, Henleins, ministers of the puppet Slovak state, representatives of the reactionary clergy. At one of the meetings, the secretary general of the club, Yaroslav Brodsky, said: “The best communist is a dead communist, and if he is still alive, he should pull out his legs.” Branches of the club were created at enterprises and in various organizations, which were called "Societies in defense of the word and the press."
One of the most prominent anti-constitutional materials can be considered the appeal of the underground organization “Revolutionary Committee of the Democratic Party of Slovakia”, distributed in June in organizations and enterprises of Svit. There were demands: to dissolve the collective farms and cooperatives, distribute land to the peasants, hold elections under the control of England, USA, Italy and France, stop criticizing Western states in the press, and focus it on the USSR, allow legal activities of political parties that existed in bourgeois Czechoslovakia, Already in 1968, “Transcarpathian Rus” should be added to Czechoslovakia. The appeal ended with a call: “Death of the Communist Party!”
On May 6, the French weekly Express brought a statement by Antonin Lima, editor of the foreign department of the Literary Sheets newspaper: "Today in Czechoslovakia there is a question of taking power." The Social-Democratic Party and the Labor Party were revived.
In order to create a certain counterbalance to the Warsaw Pact, the idea of creating the Little Entente as a regional bloc of socialist and capitalist states and a buffer between the great powers was revived.Publications on this topic were picked up by the Western press. Noteworthy was the analyst’s commentary from the French newspaper Le Figaro: “The geographical position of Czechoslovakia can turn it into a bolt of the Warsaw Pact, a pact, or a breach opening the entire military system of the Eastern bloc.” In May, a group of employees of the Prague Military-Political Academy published "Comments on the development of the Program of Action of the Czechoslovak People's Army". The authors proposed "the withdrawal of Czechoslovakia from the Warsaw Pact, or perhaps joint actions of Czechoslovakia with other socialist countries to liquidate the Warsaw Pact as a whole and replace it with a system of bilateral relations." Alternatively, there was a proposal to take a position of "consistent neutrality" in foreign policy.
Serious attacks from the standpoint of "sound economic accounting" were made against the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.
On June 14, Czechoslovak oppositionists invited the famous “Sovietologist” Zbigniew Brzezinski to give lectures in Prague, in which he outlined his strategy of “liberalization”, called for the destruction of the CPC, and the elimination of the police and state security.According to him, he completely "supported the interesting Czechoslovak experiment."
The direct undermining of the national interests of Czechoslovakia was calls for “rapprochement” with the FRG, which were sounded not only in the media, but also in the speeches of some leaders of the country.
Business was not limited only to words.
The western borders of Czechoslovakia were opened, and border barriers and fortifications began to be liquidated. According to the instructions of the Minister of State Security Pavel, the counterintelligence of Western countries did not detain the spies, but gave them the opportunity to leave. (In 1969, the authorities of Czechoslovakia Pavel was put on trial and executed.)
Activities of foreign authorities, military and media
During this period, consultative meetings of representatives of NATO countries took place, at which possible measures were studied in order to withdraw Czechoslovakia from the socialist camp. The United States expressed readiness to influence Czechoslovakia on the issue of obtaining a loan from capitalist countries, using the interest of Czechoslovakia in returning the gold reserve to it.
In 1968, its activities in Czechoslovakia intensified the Vatican. His leadership recommended that the activities of the Catholic Church be directed toto merge with the movement for "independence" and "liberalization", as well as to assume the role of "support and freedom in the countries of Eastern Europe", focusing on Czechoslovakia, Poland and the GDR.
The population of Czechoslovakia insistently instilled the idea that there was no danger of revanchism on the part of the Federal Republic of Germany, that one might think about the return of the Sudeten Germans to the country. The newspaper “General Antsiger” (FRG) wrote: “Sudeten Germans will expect from Czechoslovakia, liberated from communism, a return to the Munich Agreement, according to which in the fall of 1938 the Sudetenland was ceded to Germany.” In the program of the National Democratic Party of Germany, one of the points said: "The Sudetenland must again become German, for they were acquired by Nazi Germany under the Munich Treaty, which is an effective international agreement." This program was actively supported by the Zemkomstvo of Sudeten Germans and the neo-fascist organization Viticobund.
And the editor of the Czech trade union newspaper Pratze, Jirčík, told German television: - “About 150,000 Germans live in our country. One can hope that the remaining 100-200 thousand could return to their homeland a little later. ”Of course, no one ever mentioned the Czechs being persecuted by the Sudeten Germans.
The correspondence of the ADN agency reported that the officers of the Bundeswehr were repeatedly sent to Czechoslovakia for reconnaissance purposes. This applied primarily to the officers of the 2nd Army Corps, whose formations were stationed near the border of Czechoslovakia. Later it became known that in preparation for the Black Leo troops exercise planned for autumn, the entire commanding staff of the 2nd corps, before the battalion commander inclusive, visited Czechoslovakia as tourists and traveled along the likely routes of their units. With the start of the "exercise", it was planned to take a short throw to occupy the territories, which were torn off by Germany in 1938, and put the international community before a fact. The calculation was based on the fact that if the USSR and the United States did not begin to fight because of the Arab territories seized by Israel in 1967, then they will not become now.
In order to create a situation in Czechoslovakia that would facilitate the withdrawal of Czechoslovakia from the Warsaw Pact, the NATO Council developed the Zephyr program.
The September 6, 1968 article of the Finnish newspaper Pyaivyan Sanomat reported that in the region of Regensburg (FRG) “a body worked and continues to function to monitor Czechoslovak events.In July, a special Observation and Control Center, which the American officers call the “Shock Force Headquarters”, began to operate. It has more than 300 employees, including intelligence officers and political advisers. The center reported three times a day on the situation in Czechoslovakia to the NATO headquarters. ” It is interesting to note the representative of the NATO headquarters: - “Although due to the introduction of the Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia and the conclusion of the Moscow Agreement, the special center did not solve the tasks assigned to it, its activities were and continue to be valuable experience for the future.”
Thus, by the spring of 1968, the countries of the socialist camp faced a choice:
- allow opposition forces to push Czechoslovakia from the socialist path;
- to open the way to the potential enemy to the East, putting at risk not only the groups of the Warsaw Pact troops, but also the results of the Second World War;
- by the forces of the Commonwealth countries to defend the socialist system in Czechoslovakia and to assist the development of its economy;
- once and for all put an end to the Munich policy, rejecting all the claims of Hitler’s revanchist heirs;
- put an obstacle in front of the new “Drang nah Osten”, showing the whole world that no one will be able to redraw the post-war borders established as a result of the struggle of many peoples against fascism.
Based on the current situation, at the end of July 1968, the latter was chosen. However, if the leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia had not shown such weakness and tolerance towards the enemies of the ruling party and the existing state system, nothing of the kind would have happened. The military-political leadership of the USSR and other Warsaw Pact countries closely followed the events in Czechoslovakia and tried to bring their assessment to the Czechoslovak authorities. Meetings of the top leadership of the Warsaw Pact countries took place in Prague, Dresden, Warsaw, Cierna nad Tisou. During the meetings, the current situation was discussed, recommendations were made to the Czech leadership, but to no avail.
In the last days of July, at the meeting in Čierna nad Tisoy, A. Dubcek, it was announced that in case of refusal to carry out the recommended measures, the socialist countries would join Czechoslovakia. Dubcek not only did not take any measures, but did not convey this warning to members of the Central Committee and the government of the country.From a military point of view, there could be no other solution. The rejection of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, and especially from the whole country, from the Warsaw Pact and its alliance with NATO was placed under a flank attack by the forces of the Commonwealth in the GDR, Poland and Hungary. A potential adversary received direct access to the border of the Soviet Union.
From the memoirs of the commander of the Alpha group of the KGB of the USSR, Hero of the Soviet Union, retired Major General Gennady Zaitsev (in 1968 - the head of the group of the 7th Directorate of the KGB of the USSR during Operation Danube):
“At that time, the situation in Czechoslovakia looked as follows.
... In the foreground, not even the “progressives” from the Communist Party of the Communist Party began to emerge, but non-partisan forces - members of various “public” and “political” clubs, distinguished by their orientation towards the West and their hatred of the Russians. June marked the beginning of a new phase of exacerbation of the situation in Czechoslovakia and the leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and in mid-August the Oak-check team completely lost control of the situation in the country.
It is also noteworthy that some of the leaders of the Prague Spring believed that the sympathies of the West would certainly materialize in the form of the tough anti-Soviet stance of the United States in the case of forceful actions on the part of the Soviet Union. ”
The task was set: a group under the leadership of G.N.Zaitsev enter the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Czechoslovakia and take it under control. Interior Minister I. Paul managed to escape the day before. According to numerous testimonies, I. Pavel, as the Prague Spring developed, gradually eliminated the state security organs, getting rid of the communist cadres and supporters of Moscow. He threatened reprisals against his employees who tried to work to neutralize the so-called “progressists” (the Club of non-party activists and the K-231 organization). Before the government’s decision, they were given the order: to immediately stop jamming foreign transmissions and begin dismantling equipment.
... The documents contained information that Interior Minister I. Pavel and General Prhlik, head of the department of the Central Committee of the KPCH, “prepared a project for the creation of a governing center, which should take all state power into its hands during political tensions in the country” It also spoke about the implementation of "preventive security measures aimed against the actions of conservative forces, including the creation of labor camps." In other words, in the country there was a hidden, but very real preparation for the creation of concentration camps,where all the opposition forces “with a human face” were supposed to be hidden ... And if we add to this the titanic efforts of some foreign intelligence agencies and Western agents of influence, intending to tear Czechoslovakia away from the Eastern bloc at all costs, then the overall picture of events did not look as unequivocal as we trying to convince of it.
... How did you manage to capture by no means a small European country in the shortest possible time and with minimal losses? A significant role in this course of events was played by the neutral position of the Czechoslovak army (about 200 thousand people armed with modern military equipment at the time). I want to emphasize that General Martin Dzur played a key role in that very difficult situation. But the main reason for the small number of casualties was the behavior of Soviet soldiers, who showed amazing restraint in Czechoslovakia.
... According to Czech historians, about a hundred people were killed while entering the troops, about a thousand were injured and injured.
... I am convinced that in that period there was simply no other way out of the crisis. In my opinion, the results of the Prague Spring are very instructive.If it were not for the tough actions of the USSR and its allies, then the Czech leadership, instantly passing the stage of “socialism with a human face”, would have been in the arms of the West. The Warsaw bloc would have lost a strategically important state in the center of Europe, NATO would have been at the borders of the USSR. Let us be completely honest: the operation in Czechoslovakia presented the world to two generations of Soviet children. Or not? After all, “releasing” Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union would inevitably encounter the effect of a house of cards. Unrest would break out in Poland and Hungary. Then it would be the turn of the Baltic states, and after it the Transcaucasus. ”
On the night of August 21, troops of the five countries of the Warsaw Pact entered the territory of Czechoslovakia, a landing force landed on the Prague airfield. The troops received orders not to open fire until they were fired. The columns were going at elevated speeds, the stopped cars were pushed off the roadway so as not to interfere with the traffic. By the morning, all advanced military units of the Commonwealth countries reached the specified areas. Czechoslovak troops were ordered not to leave the barracks. Their military camps were blocked, batteries were removed from the armored vehicles, fuel was drained from the towing vehicles.
Interestingly, in early August, representatives of the People’s Militia detachments met with their commander A. Dubcek and presented an ultimatum: either he changes the leadership policy, or on August 22, the People’s Militia will put all important objects under control, take power in his hands Secretary General and will require the convening of a party congress. Dubcek listened to them, but did not answer anything concrete. Most importantly, he did not tell the subordinate commanders of the armed detachments of the party personally about the ultimatum he received at Cierna nad Tisou from the leaders of the GDR, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and the USSR. Apparently, he counted on something. And when the troops of the Warsaw Pact entered Czechoslovakia on August 21, then the leadership of the detachments and the rank and file Communists considered this an insult. They believed that they could themselves cope with the situation in the country without entering foreign troops. Life has shown that then they overestimated their strength. Only after the defeat of the opposition in August 1969 did the opponents of the regime go underground for a long time.
Attitude of the local population
At first, the attitude of the local population towards the military personnel of the Commonwealth countries was bad.Stunned by hostile propaganda, the duplicitous behavior of top state officials, the lack of information about the true causes of the troops, and sometimes people intimidated by local opposition, not only looked askance at foreign soldiers. Stones flew into the cars, at night the locations of the troops were fired from small arms. Signs and signs were torn down on the roads, and the walls of houses were painted with slogans like “Occupants, get home!”, “Strehle the occupier!”, Etc.
Sometimes locals secretly came to military units and asked why Soviet troops had come. And it would be okay, some Russians would come, and even “Caucasians” with “narrow-eyed” brought with them. In the center of Europe (!), People were amazed that the Soviet army was multinational.
The entry of allied forces showed the Czech opposition forces and their foreign inspirers that hopes of seizing power had collapsed. However, they decided not to surrender, but called for armed resistance. In addition to the shelling of motor vehicles, helicopters and places of deployment of Allied forces, terrorist attacks began against Czech employees of party organs and security forces.The evening edition of the English newspaper Sunday Times, August 27, published an interview with one of the leaders of the underground. He said that by August “the underground had about 40 thousand people armed with automatic weapons”. A significant part of the weapon was secretly supplied from the West, primarily from the Federal Republic of Germany. However, they could not use it.
In the first days after the entry of the Allied forces, in cooperation with the Czech security agencies, several thousand machine guns, hundreds of machine guns and grenade launchers were removed from a multitude of hiding places and cellars. Even mortars were found. So, even in the Prague House of Journalists, which was led by extremely opposition figures, 13 machine guns, 81 machine guns and 150 boxes of ammunition were found. At the beginning of 1969 a concentration camp was discovered in the Tatra Mountains. Who built it and for whom, at that time was unknown.
Information and psychological war
Another evidence of the existence of organized anti-constitutional forces in Czechoslovakia is the fact that by 8 o'clock on August 21 in all regions of the country underground radio stations began to work, on some days up to 30-35 units.Not only radio stations installed in advance on cars, trains and secret shelters were used, but equipment captured in the local air defense system, in branches of the Union of Cooperation with the Army (such as DOSAAF in the USSR), in large farms. Underground radio transmitters were integrated into the system, which determined the time and duration of work. Capture groups found working radio stations deployed in apartments, hidden in the vaults of managers of various organizations. There were also radio stations in special suitcases, along with tables of the passage of waves at different times of the day. Install the antenna attached to the station and work. Radio stations, as well as four channels of underground television, spread false information, rumors, calls for the destruction of Allied troops, sabotage, and sabotage. They also transmitted encrypted information and code signals for underground forces.
Radio transmitters of the West German 701th battalion of psychological warfare fit well into this “chorus”.
At first, Soviet radio intelligence officers were surprised that a number of anti-government stations were bearing in the west, but their guesswork was confirmed on September 8 by Stern magazine (Germany).The magazine reported that on 23 August, the newspaper Literary Sheets, and behind it, and the underground radio reported that “Allied forces had shot at the children's hospital in Charles Square. Windows, ceilings, expensive medical equipment are broken ... ”A German television reporter rushed into the area, but the hospital building was unharmed. According to Stern magazine, “this false information was transmitted not from Czech, but from West German territory”. The magazine noted that the events of these days "provided an ideal opportunity for the practical preparation of the 701st battalion."
If the first leaflets with a message about the entry of allied forces were issued by official authorities or party organs and printing houses, then there were no output data on subsequent ones. In many cases, the texts and appeals in different parts of the country were the same.
A change of scenery
Slowly, but the situation changed.
The Central Group of Forces was formed, the Soviet military units began to settle in the liberated for them Czech military camps, where the chimneys were littered with bricks, the sewage system was clogged, and the windows were broken. In April 1969, A. Dubcek replaced G. Gusak, the country's leadership changed.Emergency laws were passed, according to which, in particular, the Russian fist shown to “cost” up to three months of imprisonment, and the provoked fight with the Russians - six. At the end of 1969, soldiers were allowed to bring families to the garrisons where the construction battalions built housing. Construction of housing for families continued until 1972.
So, what are these “occupiers” who sacrificed their lives so that civilians did not die, did not answer with a shot at the most brazen provocations, saved unknown people from reprisals? Who lived in hangars and warehouses, and the beds, even in the officers and women (for the medical staff, typists, waitresses) hostels, stood in two tiers? Who preferred to act not as soldiers, but as agitators, explaining the situation and their tasks to the population?
The entry of troops of the Warsaw Pact countries into Czechoslovakia was a forced measure aimed at preserving the unity of the countries of the socialist camp, as well as at preventing the withdrawal of NATO troops to the borders of the USSR.
Soviet soldiers were not occupiers and did not behave like invaders. No matter how pathetic it sounds, but in August 1968, they defended their country on the front lines of the socialist camp. The tasks assigned to the army were completed with minimal losses.
No matter what modern political scientists say, but in that situation the government of the USSR and other countries of the socialist camp made a decision adequate to the situation. Even the current generation of Czechs should be grateful to the Soviet army for the fact that the Sudetenland remained part of Czechoslovakia and their state exists within modern borders.
But what is interesting and raises questions.
The soldiers, who were the first (!) To be called “Internationalist Warriors”, were not even recognized as such in Russia, although Order of the Minister of Defense of Marshal of the Soviet Union A. Grechko No. 242 dated 10.17.1968 gave them thanks for their international duty. By the Order of the Minister of Defense of the USSR No. 220 of July 5, 1990, the List of States, Cities, Territories, and Periods of Conducting Hostilities with the Participation of Citizens of the Russian Federation was supplemented by the Republic of Cuba. For unknown reasons, Czechoslovakia (the only one!) Was not included in the list, and, as a result, the relevant documents were not handed over to former servicemen who performed international duty in this country.
At various levels, it was discussed at various levels whether or not to recognize the participants in the operation as soldiers-internationalists and war veterans.
A group of scientists, analyzing the materials available for study after the meetings with the direct participants of the Czechoslovak events, stated that “in 1968 a superbly planned and flawlessly military operation was carried out in Czechoslovakia, during which combat operations were conducted. Both from the point of view of military science and the real situation of the use of forces and means. ” And the soldiers and officers who fulfilled their duty during the operation of the “Danube” have every right to be called internationalist warriors and fall under the category of “combatant”.
However, the Russian Ministry of Defense does not recognize them as such, and responds to questions and appeals from regional organizations of participants in Operation Danube that there were “only clashes”, and they were thanked for “fulfilling international duty” and not for participating in hostilities.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine included Czechoslovakia in the relevant list, and the President issued Decree No. 180/2004 of February 11, 2004, “On the Day of Honoring Participants in Hostilities on the Territory of Other States”.According to the Decree, former soldiers and officers who took part in the defense of social conquests in Czechoslovakia in 1968 were given the status of “Participant in hostilities”, “War veteran”, and provided benefits under the Law of Ukraine “On the status of war veterans, guarantees of their social protection” .
To date, the youngest participants of Operation Danube are already 64 years old, and every year their numbers are becoming less frequent. The latter, according to the author of the article, the appeal only by the Rostov organization of participants in Operation Danube was sent to the address of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation in January of this year. Let's wait for the new minister to respond. (The post was written in September 2013.