They went to war … (Part 1)

45 years ago, Soviet troops entered Czechoslovakia ("Operation Danube")

Valery Panov

In 1968, the liberal reforms in Czechoslovakia, known as the "Prague Spring" were rapid progress. That’s right, according to the American scenario, always begin and begin preparations for a coup d’etat "peaceful" way. The change of power "angry" the masses are now widely known as the "color revolution". The Soviet Union and the socialist countries, some had already seen in the process threaten the existence of the Warsaw Pact, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, finally, the entire socialist commonwealth. The leaders of the community have considered the events in Czechoslovakia as a dangerous "virus" that can spread to other countries.

History has shown how they were right. As for Czechoslovakia, nearly two decades later, it was under the banner of the "Prague Spring" in the country turned a "velvet revolution". After her victory in 1989 was proclaimed the Czechoslovak Federal Republic (CSFR). In January 1993, officially proclaimed the Czech and Slovak Republics. One country ceased to exist.


If the Soviet Union and its allies have not entered the army in Czechoslovakia, the same thing would have happened in August 1968, then went to Czechoslovakia from the Warsaw Pact, was divided into two states joined NATO Czech and Slovak parts of the European Community (EU) etc. As world practice shows, "socialism with a human face," which decided to build Czechoslovakia, all started and ended the same way — in Poland, Hungary, Romania, East Germany, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia.


It is about the threat of the destruction of European and world security leaders of the socialist countries persistently warned the leaders of the CPC from March to August 1968


This is straight talk and unaffiliated Western researchers. Thus, the author of a book on the activities of Western intelligence agencies against the leaders of the countries of Eastern Europe "Operation" split "the British journalist Stephen Stewart writes:" … in each of these cases (the invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. —Pogorelov.) Russia stood in the face of not only the loss of empire, that would be serious enough value, but in the face of a complete undermining of its strategic position in the military and geo-political map of Europe. And that, more than the fact of the invasion was a real tragedy. " Next, Stewart concludes that is difficult not to agree: "It is rather for military than for political reasons, the counter-revolution in the two countries was doomed to suppression: because when they climbed the uprising, they have ceased to be States, but instead turned into a in the flanks of the military. "

The logic of the Soviet leadership of the time adequately illustrates a small excerpt from the memoirs of "curator" of Czechoslovakia, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU KT Mazurova: "Despite the nuances, the general attitude was common: it is necessary to intervene. It was hard to imagine that our borders will be a bourgeois parliamentary republic, overrun by the Germans of Germany, followed by the Americans. "

At an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party on August 16, it was decided to send troops into Czechoslovakia. The occasion was a letter of request from a group of Czech party and state leaders (their names were not called then) to the governments of the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries to provide "international assistance". August 18 Soviet leadership has made a final decision on the strategic operation "Danube" (invade). The decision was approved at a meeting of the leaders of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) in Moscow, too, August 18.


Gathered on that day all the leaders of the Armed Forces of the USSR Defence Minister Marshal Grechko said: "I have just returned from a meeting of the Politburo. A decision on the invasion of the Warsaw Pact in Czechoslovakia. This decision will be implemented, even if it would lead to a third world war. "


Action stations … announced at 23.00 August 20, 1968 by the close-coupling channels all fronts, armies, divisions, brigades, regiments and battalions were sent a signal to the nomination. At this signal all the commanders were to open one of the five kept their secret packages (the operation was developed in five), and the remaining four in the presence of the chiefs of staff burn without opening. At the opening of the packages contained the order to start the operation "Danube" and to continue fighting (sic) in accordance with the plans "Danube Canal" and "Danube-Canal Globe."

A few hours before all officers were issued on ten sheets of large-scale topographic maps (secret). Sheets glued together into one long strip that crosses Czechoslovakia, Germany, France up to the English Channel. Red arrows denote its own troops and other Warsaw Pact countries. Brown lines mapped out routes that reach the western borders of Czechoslovakia. Everyone was certain — we go to war. None of us (I was then a 20-year-old lieutenant) did not know, will have to go home.

Soldiers and officers of the purpose of the operation was explained simply: the counter-revolutionaries who seized power in Czechoslovakia, opened the border with the Federal Republic of Germany, so the Soviet troops ahead of the invasion of NATO troops, scheduled for the morning of 21 August. The probability of this invasion was, by the way, is sufficiently high. As early May 6, 1968 at the meeting of the Political Bureau of LI Brezhnev said: "… We need to protect themselves and the entire socialist camp in the west, on the border with Germany and Austria. We proceed from the assumption that the part of Germany at that border is 21 divisions, American and German. From Czech friends so we really did not know, but we’re about to present itself, that there is nothing seriously wrong with their hand is not on the border … We know that the introduction of troops and the adoption of other measures that we intend to cause a riot in the bourgeois press. Obviously, in Czech. Well, well, this is not the first time. But we keep the socialist Czechoslovakia, but everyone will think, then, that you can not joke with us. If there are 10 divisions of our stand on the border with Germany, the conversation will be completely different. "


According to Vladimir Belous, a professor of the Academy of Military Science, Major General, retired in 1960-1970. In Europe, the U.S. created a powerful grouping of tactical nuclear weapons, which had about 7,000 ammunition. Only the German army (Bundeswehr) had about 500 thousand people.


From the outset, the Bundeswehr was fully incorporated into NATO’s military structure and subordinate joint command alliance. In the USSR, the Bundeswehr was referred to as "the army of revenge", since its creation actively participated former Nazi generals. By 1957, for example, there has served more than 10 thousand officers, 44 general and admiral, who fought in Hitler’s army.

Back in July 1968, the European NATO forces were put on partial alert. Special U.S. Army armored units advanced to the borders of Czechoslovakia in Bavaria. On Grafenverskom range (training center) in Germany NATO tanks were in columns, ready for immediate action. Hundreds were cast steel shafts can be seen with the naked eye, the Czechoslovak side.

In the night from 20 to 21 August on duty at the main headquarters of NATO, General Parker gave the order to suspend the aircraft atomic bomb. Commanders of aviation units received orders in sealed envelopes that were to be opened at a special signal. They were given targets for bombing in socialist states.

Lieutenant-General of the Soviet Army, retired Alfred Gaponenko, in those years, the regimental commander, recalled: "I was tasked to hit his regiment in the flank of NATO troops who, under the guise of training exercises" Black Lion "focused on the territory of Germany and were preparing to invade Czechoslovakia. Identified lines of deployment regiment, which was to operate as part of the 120th Infantry Division in reserve with the General Headquarters of the Soviet Union. In the area of possible military combat units would be deployed across the territory of Poland. "

When the main headquarters of NATO established a special group, which had in its composition operational units. Task — "Czechoslovakian problem." Beginning in July 1968 in Regensburg (Germany) began to operate, "the headquarters of the strike group," in order that have been allocated more than 300 intelligence officers and policy advisers to NATO. Three times a day the main headquarters of NATO received reports on the situation in Czechoslovakia, collected "headquarters strike group." As stated later in that period in the country were more than 200 experts from NATO and the army of more than 300 people from espionage centers. The CIA and the Pentagon believed that so many "experts" can provide guidance to the 75,000 "insurgents."

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens in the summer of 1968 in Czechoslovakia was about 1,500. By 21 August 1968 the number had risen to 3000. According to the American press, for the most part they were CIA agents.


Only during the first half of 1968, the Czechoslovakian border was crossed by more than 368 thousand tourists from Germany. Such a massive influx of "excellent" from the neighboring country was no longer ever.


In West Germany and Austria were deployed training centers explosives, according to clandestine radio stations, preparing for spies and saboteurs were imported weapons and ammunition. In Czechoslovakia, created caches. The country was overrun by a weapon. Since late August, the Allied forces were taken by truck from Czechoslovakia explosives, machine guns, rifles, pistols, machine guns, ammunition for them, grenade launchers and even light weapons.

And on August 22 the commander of the West German 2nd Corps Lieutenant General Thilo at the direction of Inspector General of the Bundeswehr ordered the creation of a special staff to coordinate a "psychological war" against Czechoslovakia. The official task it means "maintaining the technical connection" to Czechoslovakia. In fact, it was the center "radiovoyny." Supervised activities of staff Colonel I. Trench — a leading expert on the West German part of the "psychological" sabotage. Experience subversive ideological shares he acquired during his counter-revolutionary rebellion in Hungary. Almost all members of staff have visited Czechoslovakia under the guise of "journalists" to reconnaissance upcoming "psychological operations." At that time, most of Czechoslovakia lies, disinformation, defamation clock replicated dozens of clandestine radio stations, print media, TV.

Standard western interpretation of the events in Czechoslovakia in those years is extremely simple: they say, in the wake of spontaneous popular movement reformers of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, led by the first secretary of the Central Committee Alexander Dubcek took the path of building "socialism with a human face." (Gorbachev then also wanted to build something like that, and also with a "human face.) However, it is a socialism did not need the Soviet leadership, and in the interpretation of the West, for political and ideological reasons, it organized a military intervention and interrupted the democratization of socialism, and the acclaimed supported by the West, which sought to prevent this intervention.

In Prague and other major cities were rumors about Western assistance in the event of aggravation. The Czechs and Slovaks believed it, forgetting the lessons of Munich, when the Anglo-Saxons and the French surrendered to Hitler them to provide a springboard to the Fuhrer and additional military and industrial base for an attack on the Soviet Union. In 1968, the West was able to impress upon the top of the country’s intellectuals and confidence that will help, causing further deterioration of relations of Czechoslovakia and the USSR.


Inside the Czechoslovak counter-revolution was preparing to drop the mask guardians of "socialism with a human face."


That’s just one example: "26 July 1968 Top Secret (resident of the KGB). Already known to you the facts detection of weapons caches in various parts of Czechoslovakia suggest that the reaction does not exclude the possibility of an armed clash with supporters of socialism, but is actively preparing to this case. Alliances have beneshevskoy former army officers, "the unification of foreign soldiers." A discussion on the evening at the University of Prague with the participation of several hundred head of the "Club of active non-partisan", officially numbering 40 million members across the country, Ivan Svitak openly stated that in the interest of bringing the democratic process to achieve "absolute freedom" is possible, and the way civil war. "

In mid-July, the leaders of the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary have gathered in Warsaw to discuss the situation in Czechoslovakia. The meeting produced a message to the Central Committee, calling for a vigorous
measures to restore order. It also said that the defense of socialism in Czechoslovakia is not a private matter only of this country, but the direct duty of all socialist countries. The possibility of a "chain reaction" in the neighboring socialist countries that were still fresh in the memory of social upheaval in the GDR (1953) and Hungary (1956), led to a sharply negative attitude to the Czechoslovak "experiment" is not only Soviet, but the East (Walter Ulbricht) , Polish (W. Gomulka) and Bulgarian (Todor Zhivkov) leadership. More moderate position was Kadar (Hungary). Czechs also did not rule out the possibility of using its own armed forces in the country. For example, the Minister of Defence M. Dzur considered the possibility of demonstrations in front of the Central Committee by army armored personnel carriers.


Alexander Dubcek at the meeting of the Presidium of the Central Committee on August 12 said bluntly: "If I come to the conclusion that we are on the verge of the counter-revolution, then he’ll call the Soviet troops."


Option of military intervention in the affairs of Prague discussed in the leadership of the Soviet Union during the whole of 1968. As already described in 1989 by Vasil Bilak (in 1968 — the first secretary of the Communist Party of Slovakia), 3 August 19 prominent partrukovoditeley led him quietly Brezhnev sent a letter asking for military aid against Dubcek. A huge impact (if not decisive) the adoption of a military solution to the contradiction had the position of other socialist countries. According to eyewitnesses, the defense minister, Marshal Grechko, said that the long Brezhnev did not want to send troops, but he pressed on and Ulbricht and Gomulka, and Zhivkov. In the special help of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in this regard it was noted that the leaders of the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and to a lesser extent in Hungary, "considering the events in Czechoslovakia as a direct threat to their regimes, a dangerous infection that could spread to their country." The GDR leadership in a conversation with Soviet officials voiced its concerns "about the feasibility of providing collective support from the fraternal parties of the leadership of Czechoslovakia including the use of extreme measures."

First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ W. Gomulka was even more categorical: "We can not lose Czechoslovakia … It is possible that in it we may lose other countries, such as Hungary and East Germany. Therefore, we should not stop even before the armed intervention. I have already expressed the idea before and now see no other choice but to enter the forces of the Warsaw Pact, including the Polish troops on the territory of Czechoslovakia … It is better to do it now, later it will cost us more. "

A similar position was the leader of Bulgaria Todor Zhivkov. The Hungarian leadership. As already mentioned, was more cautious, but at the same time considered the situation in Czechoslovakia as a "prologue counter-revolutionary rebellion in Hungary." Demanded a solution to the problem by force and the "hawks" in the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of PE Shelest, NV Podgorny, KT Mazur, A. Shelepin and others on August 17 wrote a letter to Brezhnev Dubcek, which argued that the anti-Soviet, anti-socialist propaganda in Czechoslovakia does not stop and that it is contrary to the previous agreement. Dubcek did not respond to the letter. In the night of 20 to August 21, the Warsaw Pact troops entered Czechoslovakia.


In accordance with the concept of command were formed Carpathian and Central fronts. To cover the operating groups in Hungary was deployed southern front.


Carpathian front was created based on the control of the Carpathian Military District and several Polish divisions. It consists of four armies: the 13th, 38th-arms, the 8th Guards Tank and 57th air. In this case, the 8th Guards Tank Army and part of the 13th Army began moving into southern Poland, where their composition were added to the Polish division.

The Central Front was formed on the basis of the control of the Baltic Military District with the inclusion of the Baltic Military District, GSVG and SCCs also some Polish and East German divisions. This front has been deployed in East Germany and Poland. The Central Front was 11 th and 20 th Guards combined-and 37-th Air Army.

Hungarian territory, except for the Southern Front, has been deployed yet operational group "Balaton." It was composed of two Soviet divisions, as well as Bulgarian and Hungarian units. In total, "Operation Danube" was attended by about 500 thousand people. In this case, the 1 st tier there were about 240 thousand soldiers: from the Soviet Union — 170 thousand people, the NDP — 40 thousand people, the GDR — 15 thousand, Hungary — 10 thousand people, NRB — 5 th . persons.

At the close of military training on the technique was applied on top of the longitudinal white stripe — the hallmark of input forces. All other equipment during the operation subject to the "neutralization", preferably without any fire exposure. In the case of resistance tanks and other military equipment subject, according to the instructions brought to the troops, defeat immediately when you open fire on our troops.


At a meeting with NATO troops were ordered to stop immediately and "without a command not to shoot." The destruction of Czech art, opened fire, no "sanctions" was not required.


August 20, 22 hours and 15 minutes to the troops received a signal "Vltava-666": forward! V 1.00 21 August 1968 units and armies crossed the border ATS Czechoslovakia. For 36 hours, they occupied the country in the center of Europe (in Afghanistan, among other things, the Soviet Union fought the forces of only four divisions). In total, the embattled 70 divisions were given ATS. It was the most ambitious in scale strategic military operation that took place in the Soviet Army after the war.

In one of his speeches, Leonid Brezhnev as justified the invasion of Czechoslovakia in ATS: when in any socialist country, the internal and external forces hostile to socialism try to restore capitalism, when socialism is threatened in one country, it is not just a problem of the people and the country, but all the socialist countries. In the West, immediately called it the "Brezhnev doctrine". But the West, as usual, was cunning and here at NATO charter also stipulates that in case of destabilization of the situation in the country — a member of NATO, which threatens to destabilize other countries — members of NATO, the organization has the right to intervene militarily.

Very instructive conclusion made at the meeting of the Consultative Committee of the European Council, which took place in Strasbourg after the invasion of Czechoslovakia. There it was stated that the deployment of troops, and the resultant situation broke Eastern European Strategy Council, because it was assumed that this will be the main Czechoslovakia "mediator" between Western and Eastern Europe. In fact, it was the fact that it is rapidly turning pink edakogo Czechoslovakia was given the role of the "corridor" through which NATO troops unhindered access directly to the borders of the USSR.


In fact, this "corridor" in half "cut" socialist commonwealth than radically changed not only the political map of Europe, but also worldwide. But, more importantly, creating a real threat to our national security.


However, analysis of statements of Western politicians suggest that the U.S. and NATO in the crucial moment will not intervene in the conflict. The main reason for this conclusion was the statement by U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk that the events in Czechoslovakia — this is a private matter, first of all, the Czechs themselves, as well as other countries of the Warsaw Pact (similar statement sounded and during the Hungarian crisis, while the Americans are not officially intervened). Final U.S. position on this issue has been fixed in the message of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, LI Brezhnev on August 18, where confirmed Washington’s intention not to intervene in the situation in Czechoslovakia under any circumstances.

Here’s what it said on Aug. 26 LI Brezhnev (as a member of the Central Committee Z. Mlynar): "Results of the Second World War to our firm, and we will stand on their guard, even if we would face a new conflict." He unequivocally stated that a military invasion of Czechoslovakia would be undertaken at the cost of any risk. But then he added: "However, at present there is no danger of such a conflict. I asked President Johnson’s recognition of, and today the U.S. government in full agreement, signed in Yalta and Potsdam. And on August 18 I received the answer: in the case of Czechoslovakia, and Romania — entirely, discussion requires only a question of Yugoslavia. "


However, on the eve of August 21 the Soviet leadership has informed the U.S. President Johnson about the action.


At the same time, it seems that the Czechoslovak events were a touchstone for the West dual-probe the USSR, its new — and post-Khrushchev poslekaribskoe — a guide to the strength and, if possible, to discourage Czechoslovakia, and if it does not, then the trigger for the invasion of the USSR and lay a bomb on the method of operation "split." Load the second option, and, unfortunately, holistic and long-term lessons from the events in Czechoslovakia Soviet leadership did not: the Soviet Union collapsed. But intervention in the conflict armed forces of NATO and the United States was not expected, at least initially, until you have a serious resistance, that is absolutely not excluded, given the following fact, that the Czechoslovak "fifth column" was not only the protesters intellectuals but tens of thousands of people possessing weapons.

The Soviet Union and four other countries — members of the Warsaw Pact also acted then, in full compliance with the pragmatic principles of "realpolitik." As written in his publication "The Czechoslovak events of 1968 through the eyes of Red Army sergeant and a lawyer," State Duma deputy, member of the Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Law YP Sinel’shchikov, "the Soviet Union had acted in accordance with Art. 5 Warsaw Pact, which stated that the parties to the treaty had "agreed on the establishment of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, which will be allocated by agreement between the Parties to the jurisdiction of the Command, acting on the basis of a jointly established principles. They will also take other agreed measures needed to strengthen their defense capabilities in order to protect the peaceful labor of their peoples, guarantee the inviolability of their borders and territories, and to provide protection against possible aggression. "


In March 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia may take moral responsibility for the invasion of the Warsaw Pact in Czechoslovakia in 1968, but in any case not assume legal responsibility.


According to Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president Boris Yeltsin during his visit to Prague, which took place 13 years ago, has already said that Russia does not take responsibility for the events of 1968 he said that the words do not reflect the Yeltsin his personal position, but proceed on behalf of Russia. The Russian president also said that Russia is concerned that these tragic events are used today by political forces to stir up anti-Russian sentiment.

The next year, too, after a meeting with the Czech president Vaclav Klaus Vladimir Putin has effectively confirmed his position. "The Russian Federation is the legal successor of the USSR formally, but modern Russia — a totally different state inherently political system. We not only condemn what has been negative in the past — I am referring to the events of 1968, but also feel a moral responsibility for it, "- said Putin. A little earlier, we note, he spoke sharply to place in Poland and the Czech Republic U.S. missile defense system.

Vladimir Bulgakov, Colonel-General, Candidate of Military Sciences, Hero of Russia, Czechoslovakia in 1968 a platoon commander, now says it is "When a question arises about the invasion of Czechoslovakia, then the charges imposed only reason the Soviet leadership, oblivious to the fact that it was a collective decision of the heads of states that were part of the Warsaw Pact. In the 60 years the world was bipolar. There were two camps, the continued arms race, the Cold War was in full swing. U.S. created in all parts of the world blocks, military-political alliances directed against the Soviet Union, Western Europe, building up nuclear capacity, was an active subversive activities to split the socialist camp. And here in the heart of the Czech Republic, the country is on the verge of a split. How can NATO people like to use this opportunity! The Soviet Union and other socialist countries had good reason for the invasion. Because it was not only the right but the duty — is to raise points of the Warsaw Pact. "

Especially for the Century

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