Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Gives Secret Files To Prague

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Russia has released more secret files on the buildup to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, including details of a previously unknown warning by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.


Rudolf Pikhoya, Russia's chief archivist, handed over Monday what he called "materials of outstanding importance" to Czech President Vaclav Havel.


It is the second batch of materials turned over to the Czechs. Soviet diplomatic dispatches were released in December 1991.


On Aug. 21, 1968, armies of five Warsaw Pact countries crushed the democratic reforms of Alexander Dubcek, known as the "Prague Spring."


Dubcek and several other Communist Party leaders were hijacked to Moscow and kept in isolation until they publicly complied with the invasion.


The invasion served as proof of Moscow's readiness to use force to maintain its empire and helped to prolong the Communist era in Eastern and Central Europe for another two decades.


The new files include a transcript of a secret telephone conversation between Dubcek and Brezhnev on Aug. 13, in which Dubcek rejected Soviet demands and threatened to resign, said participants in a seminar analyzing the invasion.


"The materials are extremely interesting and illustrative of how top politicians in Moscow thought at the time," said Vojtech Mencl, a Czech specialist who is investigating the events.


"In this telephone call Brezhnev warned of the invasion, but Dubcek thought he was bluffing," Mencl revealed.


Dubcek instead believed Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, who faced down the Soviet Union 20 years earlier, and told him the Soviets would not invade.


Dubcek's conversation with Brezhnev had been unknown to Czech historians and politicians.


Zdenek Mlynar, a prominent member of the party's Central Committee in 1968, said Dubcek mentioned the call and informed Politburo members "only in general."


Dubcek lived in isolation until the Czechoslovak revolution of 1989, which swept away the old Communist order and bestowed on him to the post of parliamentary president.


He died on Nov. 7, 1992, of injuries he received in a car accident.