Invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968

Cold War tensions were at their peak in the 1960s. The U.S. and  Western Europe had formed into an alliance of collective defense called NATO, while the Soviet Union and the communist countries of Eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia, allied under the Warsaw Pact. In the summer of 1968, a series of liberalizing reforms in Czechoslovakia, including increasing freedoms of the press and the loosening of political censorship, raised concern among Warsaw Pact leaders that the removal of press censorship and surveillance would pose security risks to all of the Eastern bloc countries. Because Czechoslovakia bordered Austria and West Germany, which formed part of the Western bloc, the Soviet Union feared that liberal ideas from the West would filter into the East through the Czech border. Warsaw Pact leader Brezhnev sent repeated warnings to the Czech government to end its liberalizing reforms, while Czech president Dubček defended these reforms and asserted that Czechoslovakia remained committed to the communist ideology and the Warsaw Pact. Brezhnev argued that the collective security interests of the Eastern bloc should be put above any one country’s national objectives. Under this claim of authority, a policy that would become known as the Brezhnev doctrine, the forces from the Soviet Union and four other Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968. Dubček and other Czech leaders did not believe that the Soviet Union would invade and failed to prepare; they were quickly arrested and sent to Moscow to be interrogated. The Soviet Union managed to quickly stamp out Czech resistance, but the incident spurred a number of protests and resistance movements across the Eastern bloc.

pragueRussian tanks encounter Czech protesters in Prague, August 1968


The Warsaw Letter, 18 July 1968
Speech by Leonid Brezhnev to the CPSU Central Committee on the Proceedings and Results of the Warsaw Meeting, 17 July 1968
Soviet Government Diplomatic Note to the Czechoslovak Government, 20 July 1968
Leonid Brezhnev’s Speech at a Meeting of the Warsaw Five in Moscow, 18 August 1968
Message from the CPSU CC Politburo to Members of the CPSU CC and Other Top Party Officials Regarding the Decision to Intervene in Czechoslovakia, 19 August 1968
Soviet Union public statement on the reasons for the invasion of Czechoslovakia, 21 August 1968
The Brezhnev Doctrine, 25 September 1968

The Warsaw Letter, 18 July 1968 Top

Source: Jaromír Navràtil,  ed. 1998. The Prague Spring, 1968: A National Security Documents Reader. Budapest: Central European Press. Pp. 234-238.

Dear Comrades:

On behalf of the Central Committees of the communist and workers’ parties of Bulgaria, Hungary, the GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union, we are sending you this letter, which is motivated by sincere friendship based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism, and by concern for our common aim of strengthening the positions of socialism and the security of the commonwealth of socialist states.

The course of events in your country arouses great apprehension. We are firmly convinced that the stance adopted by reactionaries against your party and the foundations of the social system in the ČSSR, a stance backed by imperialism, is threatening to divert your country from the road of socialism and, consequently, is endangering the interests of the whole socialist commonwealth as in the letters that our parties recently addressed to the CPCz CC Presidium.

Recently we suggested that the CPCz CC Presidium hold another joint meeting on 14 July in order to exchange information and views on the situation in our countries, including the events in Czechoslovakia.

Unfortunately, the CPCz CC Presidium did not attend that meeting and thus did not take advantage of the possibility of the joint, collective, and comradely appraisal of the situation that has arisen. We therefore deemed it necessary to tell you sincerely and frankly our common point of view in this letter.

We want you to understand us well and evaluate our intentions correctly.

It was not and is not our intention to interfere in matters that are purely the internal affair of your party and state, or to violate the principles of respect for independence and equality in relations between communist parties and socialist countries.

We are not speaking to you as representatives of an old order that would seek to prevent you from remedying mistakes and shortcomings as well as the violations of socialist legality that have occurred.

We are not interfering in the methods of planning and running Czechoslovakia’s socialist economy, nor are we interfering in the measures you have adopted to improve the structure of your economy and promote socialist democracy.

We welcome the basing of relations between Czechs and Slovaks on sound foundations of fraternal cooperation within the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

But at the same time we cannot agree that hostile forces should push your country off the socialist path and threaten to detach Czechoslovakia from the socialist community. This is no longer your affair alone. It is the common cause of all communist and workers’ parties and stats, which are bound by alliance, cooperation, and friendship. It is the common cause of our countries, which have united in the Warsaw Pact to safeguard their independence, to preserve peace, to maintain security in Europe, and to erect an impregnable barrier to the intrigues of aggressive and vengeful imperialist forces.

The peoples of our countries won a victory over Hitlerite fascism at the price of immense sacrifices. They have won freedom and independence and the opportunity to advance on the road of progress and socialism. The borders of the socialist world have been transferred to the center of Europe, to the Elbe and the Šumava mountains. We can never agree that these historic gains of socialism and the independence and security of all our peoples should be threatened. We can never agree that imperialism should break through the socialist system by peaceful or violent means, from within or from without, and change the balance of power in Europe to its advantage.

The strength and solidity of our ties depend on the internal strength of the socialist system of each of our fraternal countries, as well on the Marxist-Leninist policy of our parties, which are playing a leading role in the political and social life of their peoples and states. Policies that undermine the leading role of the communist party will lead to the destruction of socialist democracy and of the socialist system. Thus, the foundations of our ties and the security of the community of our countries will be placed in danger.

You know that the fraternal parties reacted to the decisions of the CPCz CC’s January plenum with understanding, believing that your party, with a firm grip on all levers of power, would direct the entire process to serve the interest of socialism and would not permit anti-communist reaction to exploit the process for its own objectives. We were convinced that you would defend the Leninist principle of democratic centralism as the thing closest to your hearts. Ignoring either aspect of this principle, whether democracy or centralism, inevitably weakens the party and its leading role, and changes it into either a bureaucratic organization or a debating club. We spoke of these matters more than once at our meetings and always received your assurances that you were aware of all these dangers and were determined to deal with them.

Unfortunately, events have moved in a different direction.

By exploiting the party’s weakened leadership in the country and by demagogically using the slogan of “democratization,” reactionary forces have unleashed a campaign against the CPCz and against it’s honest and dedicated cadres, with the evident intention of destroying the leading role of the party, undermining the socialist system, and setting Czechoslovakia against the other socialist countries….

This has brought about a situation totally unacceptable for the socialist countries.

In this atmosphere, attacks also are being launched against the ČSSR’s foreign policy, and abusive comments are being made about the ČSSR’s alliance and friendship with the socialist countries. Voices are heard demanding a revision of our common and coordinated policy vis-a-vis Federal Germany, even though the West German government has been pursuing a grim course hostile to the security interests of our countries. The enticing appeals by the FRG authorities and revenge-seekers are meeting with a positive response from leading circles in your country.

The entire course of events in your country during recent months demonstrates that the forces of counterrevolution, backed by imperialist centers, have launched a comprehensive assault on the socialist system and have not been rebuffed or opposed by the party and the people’s regime. There is no doubt that centers of international imperialist reaction have become involved in the events in Czechoslovakia, doing everything possible to aggravate and complicate the situation and to incite anti-socialist forces. Under the guise of praising “democratization” and “liberalization” in the ČSSR, the bourgeois press is conducting a subversive campaign against fraternal events in Czechoslovakia, to provoke friction between the socialist countries, to isolate the GDR, and to carry out their revanchist objectives.

Comrades, can you not see this danger? Is it possible to remain passive under the circumstances and to confine yourselves to declarations and assurances of loyalty to the cause of socialism and commitments of alliance? Can you not see that counterrevolution is seizing one position after another from you? And that the party is losing control over the course of events and is retreating further and further under pressure from the anti-communist forces?….

The inspirers of this hostile campaign, as is self-evident wish to poison the minds of the Czechoslovak people, disorient them, and deflect attention from the fact that Czechoslovakia is able to preserve its independence and sovereignty only as a socialist country and as a member of the socialist community. Only the enemies of socialism can today put forward the slogan on “the defense of sovereignty” of the ČSSR against the socialist countries – that is, against the very countries whose alliance and fraternal cooperation create the most reliable foundations of the independence and free progress of each of our nations.

We are convinced that a situation has arisen in which the threat to the foundations of socialism in Czechoslovakia also threatens the common vital interests of the other socialist states. The peoples of our countries would never forgive us if we remained indifferent and passive in the face of such a threat.

We live at a time when peace, security and the freedom of peoples require the unity of all socialist forces more than ever. International tension is not lessening….We all are responsible for the strength and unity of the socialist countries and for the destiny of peace.

Our countries are linked by treaties and agreements. These major commitments of states and peoples are based on a common effort to defend socialism and guarantee collective security of the socialist states. Our parties and peoples have historic responsibility not to permit the revolutionary gains we have achieved to be shattered.

Each of our parties is responsible not only to its working class and its people but to the international working class and the world communist movement, and we cannot escape the commitments this entails. That is why we must show solidarity and be united in defending the achievements of socialism, our security, and the international positions of the socialist commonwealth.

That is precisely why we maintain that firm resistance to anti-communist forces and a decisive battle for the preservation of the socialist system in Czechoslovakia are not only your duty but ours as well.

The defense of the power of the working class, of all working people, and of socialist achievements in Czechoslovakia demands:

-a decisive and bold stand against right-wing and anti-socialist forces, and the mobilization of all means of defense created by the socialist state;
-an end to the activities of all political organizations acting against socialism;
-a reassertion of control by the party over the mass media – the press, radio, and television – so that they will be used in the interests of the working class, of all working people, and of socialism;
-a closing of the ranks of the party on the foundations of the principles of Marxism-Leninism, unflinching adherence to the principles of democratic centralism, and a struggle against those whose activity aids hostile forces.

We know that in Czechoslovakia there are forces capable of defending the socialist system and defeating anti-socialist elements. The working class, working peasants, the progressive intelligentsia, and the overwhelming majority of the working people of the republic are prepared to do all that is inevitable for the future advancement of socialist society. The task of the day is to give these healthy forces a clear perspective, lift them into action, and mobilize their energies in the struggle against the forces of counterrevolution in order to save and consolidate socialism in Czechoslovakia.

Confronted by the threat of counterrevolution, the voice of the working class must resound with full strength in response to a call by the communist party. The working class together with the working peasantry has expended maximum efforts for the victory of the socialist revolution. The preservation of the socialist achievements is something they cherish most.

We are convinced that the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, aware of its responsibility, will take urgent measures to block the road to reaction. In this struggle you can count on the solidarity and comprehensive assistance of the fraternal socialist parties.

Speech by Leonid Brezhnev to the CPSU Central Committee on the Proceedings and Results of the Warsaw Meeting, 17 July 1968 Top

Source: Jaromír Navràtil,  ed. 1998. The Prague Spring, 1968: A National Security Documents Reader. Budapest: Central European Press. Pp. 234-238.


The CPSU CC Politburo believes it is necessary to convene this plenum in order to represent the results of the meeting that took place in Warsaw on 14-15 July among the party and government leaders of Bulgaria, Hungary, the GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union.

At the center of attention – that is, the basic question considered at this meeting – was the dangerous course of events in Czechoslovakia. Before presenting materials from the conference, let me explain that after the CPSU Central Committee plenum in April, which dealt with the Czechoslovak events, the CPSU CC Politburo believed at the time, as expressed at the April plenum, that it should help the health forces and above all the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia to prevent the loss of socialist achievements in Czechoslovakia and a repture in the socialist community. In the meantime, the Politburo informed our part about the dangerous twists and turns in the political processes and political life of Czechoslovakia that had taken place recently.

There is no doubt that the situation in Czechoslovakia since the April plenum has become more and more complicated. We carefully followed the course of events and adopted a number of measures aimed at helping the leadership of the CPCz, in a comradely way, to correct the situation and thwart the danger looming over the socialist gains of a fraternal people. All the members of the Politburo and the CPSU CC Secretariat are taking part in this work….

The development of events increasingly confirms that the CPCz CC Presidium is not in control of the situation and is not taking decisive measures. The fundamental principle of democratic centralism in the party is being violated. As a result, a situation has arisen in which individual district or municipal party branches instead of carrying out Central Committee decisions, adopt measures deliberately opposed to the party line, and in individual instances speak out openly against Central Committee directives. The main role in this is played by the anti-socialist elements.

You must remember, comrades, that the mass replacement of cadres and vile defamation of honest and devoted communists has created an atmosphere of mistrust throughout the party, as well as confusion and lack of faith within the party’s ranks. This is especially true among the leading party workers against whom the rightists are concentrating their particular attacks, thereby creating an atmosphere of moral terror, labeling these comrades with such terms as “conservatives” and so on….

Comrades, one must call attention to the tactics of the imperialist circles. Our class enemies are trying to convince the whole world that one should not even dare to think there is a threat to the socialist gains of Czechoslovakia. The bourgeois press quotes anti-socialist comments taken from the Czechoslovak press as the “creative treatment of Marxism,” and it praises the right-wing elements as “progressive Marxists.”

At the same time the centers of imperialist propaganda are not sparing in their advice to the right-wing forces about where they are to strike, against which members of the CPCz leadership they should concentrate their fire, and so on. In recent times counterrevolutionary elements in the ČSSR have been urged from abroad to change their tactics by reducing the strident tone of anti-socialism in their remarks, by conducting their subversive work in a more subtle manner, and by disguising the intentions of the reactionary forces more carefully.

Evidently, this is intended to lull the vigilance of communists, to create a heated atmosphere for the weeds of counterrevolution in Czechoslovakia to sprout, to give them a chance to grow stronger and proliferate, and then to stifle the healthy forces of the country.

The tactics of imperialism, as you can see, are distinguished by their cunning and insidiousness, and we must vigilantly confront their devious schemes to undercut and expose them in good time. We cannot but see a direct link between the tactics of imperialist reactionary forces and the actions of the anti-socialist and counterrevolutionary forces in Czechoslovakia.

Comrades! We do not know how the CPCz CC Presidium will respond to the collective letter from the fraternal parties. As before, we will vigilantly follow the course of events, and we will act in the spirit of the decisions taken at our April plenum, where the members of the CEntral Committee expressed their full support for the CPSU CC Politburo determination not to permit the loss of socialist gains in Czechoslovakia. Before adopting any extreme measures, we will expend all efforts so that by pursuing a political path the actions of the healthy forces in the COmmunist Party of Czechoslovakia will themselves offer the necessary resistance to anti-socialist and counterrevolutionary elements, preserve the CPCz as the leading force in Czechoslovakia, and uphold the cause of socialism in Czechoslovakia. We count on you, comrades, for your full support and we await your remarks here.

Soviet Government Diplomatic Note to the Czechoslovak Government, 20 July 1968 Top

Source: Jaromír Navràtil,  ed. 1998. The Prague Spring, 1968: A National Security Documents Reader. Budapest: Central European Press. Pp. 234-238.

The Soviet government believes it is obliged to draw the attention of the ČSSR government once again to several serious matters affecting the vital interests and security of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in the Warsaw Pact.

1. Earlier on, the Soviet government drew the attention of the Czechoslovak side to the fact that actions are being taken in the ČSSR aimed at undermining the Warsaw Pact. It must be said that such actions are not a one-time occurrence, and far from decreasing, they have recently been stepped up in pursuit of a fully defined objective: namely, to undermine the obligations assumed by Czechoslovakia along with the other socialist states in the Warsaw Pact. All these actions cannot be regarded as matters relating solely to the internal affairs of a country; for they directly affect the security interests of the Soviet Union and all the other socialist countries.

In this regard, one cannot help noticing that leading officials in the ČSSR, while stressing their loyalty to Czechoslovakia’s alliance treaties and obligations, are doing nothing to rebuff all sorts of developments that are eroding the structure and principles of the Warsaw Pact. This inaction does great harm to the common interests of the socialist countries….

Czechoslovak leaders and officials have more than once proclaimed their loyalty to the Warsaw Pact and called for the strengthening of this organization. NEvertheless, the events and actions that one finds nowadays in the ČSSR run contrary to all these statements and are, in fact, aimed at undermining this organization. It cannot be forgotten that membership in the Warsaw Pact obliges the participating states of this organization to move in unison and to operate together in a united front in the struggle for security and for the prevention of any attempts by the imperialists to weaken or threaten the unity of the socialist countries, to to drive a wedge in between them.

BEcause the government of the USSR attaches great importance to the security of the Warsaw Pact countries and wants to ensure that these countries fulfill their allied obligations, it draw the attention of the ČSSR government to the fact that at the present time anti-Soviet and anti-socialist forces in the Czechoslovakia are openly striving to undermine the Warsaw Pact, and that in pursuit of these aims they have even been willing to divulge interstate secrets concerning the security of the socialist countries.

The Soviet government expects that the ČSSR government will take the necessary steps to prevent a repetition of matters of this kind and will exact the requisite measures against people who divulge secret information, with a view to the common interests of security of the Warsaw Pact member states.

2. As is known, on 0 May 1968 the chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, Cde. A.N. Kosygin, in a letter to the premier of the ČSSR government, Cde. O. Černíc, drew the latter’s attention to the absolutely abnormal and dangerous situation on the borders of Czechoslovakia with the FRG and Austria. Thanks to the laxity of those responsible for Czechoslovakia, its western borders are virtually open. This was immediately exploited by the intelligence organs of the imperialist states, especially those of the FRG and the USA, which began sending their own spies and subversive elements into the ČSSR under the guise of tourists, so that they could carry out subversive work not only against Czechoslovakia but against the other socialist countries as well….

Considering that the situation on the borders of the ČSSR with the FRG and Austria remains as unsatisfactory as ever, that the borders in fact remain open, and that this is being widely exploited by forces hostile to socialism in order to carry out subversive activities, the Soviet government believes it necessary once again to draw the attention of the ČSSR government to the danger of such a situation. Bearing in mind that Czechoslovakia has a responsibility to the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet government expects that effective measures will be taken to establish the necessary border control system on the frontiers with the FRG and Austria.

Leonid Brezhnev’s Speech at a Meeting of the Warsaw Five in Moscow, 18 August 1968 Top

Source: Jaromír Navràtil,  ed. 1998. The Prague Spring, 1968: A National Security Documents Reader. Budapest: Central European Press. Pp. 234-238.

….All of us had counted on serious changes in the actions of the CPCz CC Presidium and had expected that events would be turned around in a way that would reflect our joint declaration.

Unfortunately, we must affirm that this didn’t happen. It is clear to all of us that the attacks of the Right not only haven’t ceased, but in some respects have grown even stronger, that anti-socialist tendencies have not weakened, that the attacks and slander against the Soviet Union and the other fraternal countries have not been curbed, and that attacks and slanderous denunciations against the healthy forces in the CPCz have also continued….

Nothing new has occurred from 3 August to this day in the decisions of the CPCz CC Presidium to indicate that even the most preliminary steps are being taken to implement what was agreed on and to carry out the document we adopted, along with you all, in Bratislava. No changes have taken place with regard to personnel even though during this time there was a session of the CPCz CC Presidium.

Throughout this period we not only followed the course of events but considered it our duty, in one form or another which I will speak about later, to ask the CPCz leadership how they are fulfilling their commitments, what is being done, when the Central Committee plenum will meet, and when the personnel questions will be taken care of….

Yesterday, the day before yesterday, and three days ago the CPSU CC Politburo comprehensively examined and debated these questions. After a thoroughgoing analysis, we reached the conclusion that Dubček is not going to fulfill his commitments, that he has gone over completely to the side of the Right, and that in these circumstances a failure to support the healthy forces would cause the situation to become extremely difficult.

Having weighed all these circumstances, we unanimously – the whole Politburo and the CC Secretariat – have decided to provide military assistance to the healthy forces and to agree to their plan of action, since we believe they are correct in arguing that there is and will be no more suitable time than now to do so. Of course, we understand that today or tomorrow the anticipated step will not be easy for us, but we see nothing else that would be any easier. We could only expect to find ourselves in an even more difficult situation. Therefore we came to this decisions.

We were deeply convinced that the appeal of the healthy forces – this group of honest communists, including members of the CPCz Central Committee and members of the CPCz Presidium – would find ardent internationalist and fraternal support form all the other participants in the Bratislava conference. That’s the first thing. And therefore we considered it our solemn duty to consult with you. And because so little time was left, we couldn’t afford to delay and requested yesterday that you come today.

I think you will excuse us and will understand that we had no other choice in handling things.

That, in effect, is the essence of the issue and the decision of our Politburo about which we have informed you ….

Message from the CPSU CC Politburo to Members of the CPSU CC and Other Top Party Officials Regarding the Decision to Intervene in Czechoslovakia, 19 August 1968 Top

Source: Jaromír Navràtil,  ed. 1998. The Prague Spring, 1968: A National Security Documents Reader. Budapest: Central European Press. Pp. 234-238.


The CPSU CC Politburo has systematically informed party activists about the situation in Czechoslovakia and about the emergence there of counterrevolutionary events that have endangered the socialist achievements of the Czechoslovak working people and the fate of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

The CPSU CC Politburo, basing itself on the decisions of the April and July plenary sessions of the Central Committee, has used all possible political measures to influence the development of events in the ČSSR and to assist the healthy forces of the CPCz to sustain socialism and to prevent Czechoslovakia from moving into the imperialist camp.

In recent days events have assumed a most ominous character. The country was on the threshold of a counterrevolutionary coup. By relying on the overt and covert support of the reactionary imperialist forces and by exploiting the levers they had seized to run society and the mass media, right-wing forces have attempted to force the party and government of Czechoslovakia to follow a pro-Western policy and return Czechoslovakia to a bourgeois republic. They did not receive the support of a majority in the CPCz CC Presidium, the National Assembly, or the government. Instead, a majority who wish to defend the cause of socialism and the cause of the working class, the peasantry, and the working intelligentsia, have appealed to the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, the Polish People’s Republic, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the Hungarian People’s Republic, and the German Democratic Republic with a request to give them military assistance in the struggle against counterrevolution.

The CPSU CC Politburo, having considered this appeal, has concluded that the moment has arrived to undertake active measures in defense of socialism in the ČSSR.

Our assessment and conclusions are shared unanimously and supported by the leadership of the fraternal parties and socialist countries: the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the Hungarian People’s Republic, the German Democratic Republic, and the Polish People’s Republic.

Guided by feelings of internationalist duty and fraternal solidarity, the governments of the five countries have ordered their military units to take all necessary measures on 21 August to help the Czechoslovak working people in their struggle against reactionary forces and to protect Czechoslovakia’s security against the intrigues of imperialism.

We have undertaken this decisive step on the basis of a deep and unwavering conviction that it will fully meet the desires and interests of the working people, the peasants, the people’s intelligentsia, and all our Czechoslovak brothers.

The troops of our countries will not interfere in the internal affairs of fraternal Czechoslovakia. They will be withdrawn from this territory as soon as the danger to the independence and security of Czechoslovakia and to the socialist future of the Czechoslovak people is eliminated.

Our enemies should be fully aware that no one can or will ever be allowed to disrupt the inviolability of the borders of the allied socialist countries, and that no one will ever be permitted to break a single link in the community of socialist states.

Give serious attention to explanatory and mass political work among all segments of the public in order to promote the further cohesion of the party and people and to strengthen the moral and political unity of Soviet society.

Soviet Union public statement on the reasons for the invasion of Czechoslovakia, 21 August 1968 Top

Source: Jaromír Navràtil,  ed. 1998. The Prague Spring, 1968: A National Security Documents Reader. Budapest: Central European Press. Pp. 234-238.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, the Tass Agency had published a statement in the early morning alleging that “party and government leaders” in Czechoslovakia had asked the Soviet Union and other allied States “to render the fraternal Czechoslovak people urgent assistance, including assistance with armed forces.” The Tass statement continued:

“This request was brought about by the threat which has arisen to the socialist system in Czechoslovakia, a threat emanating from the counter-revolutionary forces which have entered into collusion with foreign forces hostile to socialism.

“The events in Czechoslovakia and around her have repeatedly been the subject of exchanges of views between leaders of fraternal socialist countries, including the leaders of Czechoslovakia. These countries are unanimous that the support, consolidation, and defence of the peoples’ socialist gains is a common internationalist duty of all the socialist States. This common stand of theirs was solemnly proclaimed in the Bratislava statement.“The further aggravation of the situation in Czechoslovakia affects the vital interests of the Soviet Union and other socialist States and the security interests of the States of the socialist community. The threat to the socialist system in Czechoslovakia at the same time constitutes a threat to the foundations of peace in Europe.

“The Soviet Government and the Governments of the allied countries—the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the Hungarian People’s Republic, the German Democratic Republic, and the Polish People’s Republic—proceeding from the principles of unbreakable friendship and co-operation and in accordance with existing contractual commitments, have decided to meet the above-mentioned request to render the necessary help to the fraternal Czechoslovak people.
“This decision is fully in accord with the right of States to individual and collective self-defence envisaged in the treaties of alliance concluded between the fraternal socialist countries. This decision is also in line with the vital interests of our countries in safeguarding peace in Europe against the forces of militarism, aggression, and revanche, which have more than once plunged the peoples of Europe into war.

“Soviet armed units, together with armed units of the above-mentioned allied countries, entered the territory of Czechoslovakia on Aug. 21. They will be immediately withdrawn from the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic as soon as the threat that exists to the gains of socialism in Czechoslovakia and the threat to the security of the countries of the socialist community is eliminated and the lawful authorities find that the further presence of these armed units is no longer necessary there.

“The actions which are being taken are not directed against any State and in no measure infringe the State interests of anyone. They serve the purpose of peace and have been prompted by concern for its consolidation.

“The fraternal countries firmly and resolutely counterpose their unbreakable solidarity to any threat from outside. Nobody will ever be allowed to wrest a single link from the community of socialist States.”

The Brezhnev Doctrine, 25 September 1968 Top

Source: Modern History Sourcebook. “The Brezhnev Doctrine, 1968.” Fordham University.

In connection with the events in Czechoslovakia the question of the correlation and interdependence of the national interests of the socialist countries and their international duties acquire particular topical and acute importance. The measures taken by the Soviet Union, jointly with other socialist countries, in defending the socialist gains of the Czechoslovak people are of great significance for strengthening the socialist community, which is the main achievement of the international working class. We cannot ignore the assertions, held in some places, that the actions of the five socialist countries run counter to the Marxist­Leninist principle of sovereignty and the rights of nations to self­determination. The groundlessness of such reasoning consists primarily in that it is based on an abstract, nonclass approach to the question of sovereignty and the rights of nations to self­determination. The peoples of the socialist countries and Communist parties certainly do have and should have freedom for determining the ways of advance of their respective countries. However, none of their decisions should damage either socialism in their country or the fundamental interests of other socialist countries, and the whole working class movement, which is working for socialism. This means that each Communist party is responsible not only to its own people, but also to all the socialist countries, to the entire Communist movement. Whoever forget this, in stressing only the independence of the Communist party, becomes one­sided. He deviates from his international duty. Marxist dialectics are opposed to one­sidedness. They demand that each phenomenon be examined concretely, in general connection with other phenomena, with other processes. Just as, in Lenin’s words, a man living in a society cannot be free from the society, one or another socialist state, staying in a system of other states composing the socialist community, cannot be free from the common interests of that community. The sovereignty of each socialist country cannot be opposed to the interests of the world of socialism, of the world revolutionary movement. Lenin demanded that all Communists fight against small nation narrow mindedness, seclusion and isolation, consider the whole and the general, subordinate the particular to the general interest. The socialist states respect the democratic norms of international law. They have proved this more than once in practice, by coming out resolutely against the attempts of imperialism to violate the sovereignty and independence of nations. It is from these same positions that they reject the leftist, adventurist conception of “exporting revolution,” of “bringing happiness” to other peoples. However, from a Marxist point of view, the norms of law, including the norms of mutual relations of the socialist countries, cannot be interpreted narrowly, formally, and in isolation from the general context of class struggle in the modern world. The socialist countries resolutely come out against the exporting and importing of counterrevolution Each Communist party is free to apply the basic principles of Marxism Leninism and of socialism in its country, but it cannot depart from these principles (assuming, naturally, that it remains a Communist party). Concretely, this means, first of all, that, in its activity, each Communist party cannot but take into account such a decisive fact of our time as the struggle between two opposing social systems-capitalism and socialism. This is an objective struggle, a fact not depending on the will of the people, and stipulated by the world’s being split into two opposite social systems. Lenin said: “Each man must choose between joining our side or the other side. Any attempt to avoid taking sides in this issue must end in fiasco.” It has got to be emphasized that when a socialist country seems to adopt a “non­affiliated” stand, it retains its national independence, in effect, precisely because of the might of the socialist community, and above all the Soviet Union as a central force, which also includes the might of its armed forces. The weakening of any of the links in the world system of socialism directly affects all the socialist countries, which cannot look indifferently upon this. The antisocialist elements in Czechoslovakia actually covered up the demand for so­called neutrality and Czechoslovakia’s withdrawal from the socialist community with talking about the right of nations to self­determination. However, the implementation of such “self­determination,” in other words, Czechoslovakia’s detachment from the socialist community, would have come into conflict with its own vital interests and would have been detrimental to the other socialist states. Such “self­determination,” as a result of which NATO troops would have been able to come up to the Soviet border, while the community of European socialist countries would have been split, in effect encroaches upon the vital interests of the peoples of these countries and conflicts, as the very root of it, with the right of these people to socialist self­determination. Discharging their internationalist duty toward the fraternal peoples of Czechoslovakia and defending their own socialist gains, the U.S.S.R. and the other socialist states had to act decisively and they did act against the antisocialist forces in Czechoslovakia.

From Pravda, September 25, 1968; translated by Novosti, Soviet press agency. Reprinted in L. S. Stavrianos, The Epic of Man (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice ­Hall, 1971), pp. 465­466.


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