First anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, August 1969 (9.1)

«No 9 : 31 August 1969»


On 20 August 1969 a group of Soviet citizens issued the following declaration:

“On 21 August last year a tragic event took place: Czechoslovakia, a friendly country, was invaded by Warsaw Pact Troops.

“The aim of this action was to put a stop to the process of democratisation which had begun in that country. The whole world had been following the post-January developments in Czechoslovakia with hope. It seemed that the idea of socialism, which had been discredited during the Stalin period, would now be rehabilitated. The Warsaw Pact tanks destroyed this hope. On this sad anniversary we declare that we disagree, as before, with the decision to invade, which has endangered the future of socialism.

We declare our solidarity with the Czechoslovak people, who wanted to prove that socialism with a human face was possible.

These lines are prompted by the pain we feel for our homeland, which we wish to see truly great, free and happy.

And we are firmly convinced that a nation which oppresses other nations cannot be free or happy.

T. Bayeva, Yu. Vishnevskaya, I. Gabai, N. Gorbanevskaya, Z. M. Grigorenko, M. Dzhemilev, N. Yemelkina, V. Krasin, S. Kovalyov, A. Levitin-Krasnov, L. Petrovsky, L. Plyushch, G. Podyapolsky, L. Ternovsky, I. Yakir, P. Yakir, A. Yakobson.”


On 21 August leaflets appeared in the housing-blocks where Moscow writers live, near the underground-station “Airport” and at Zyuzino, and also in the Moscow State University hostel on the Lenin Hills, protesting at the continued presence of allied troops in Czechoslovakia. One of the three texts of these leaflets is signed “Union of Communards”.


In August Natalya Gorbanevskaya finished compiling her book Noon: The Case of the Red Square Demonstration of 25 August 1968, and it appeared in samizdat. The book consists of a Prologue and four parts:  “Red Square”, “A case of a breach of public order”, “Kangaroo Court” and “The fate of Victor Fainberg”. Most of the book is taken up with a complete verbatim record of the trial of the demonstrators. Included in the book are, among other things, two previously unknown documents: a sketch by Ilya Gabai, “At the closed doors of an open trial”, and an article by P.G, Grigorenko, “About the Special Psychiatric Hospitals (or madhouses)”. The epilogue, which is devoted to showing that the demonstration of 25 August was not an isolated case of protest against the invasion, makes frequent use of material from issues of the Chronicle.


Recently yet more expressions of protest against the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia have become known. There are grounds for supposing that the number of such incidents is far greater than we have been able to discover.

For instance, in October 1968 it was reported by district Party committees that there had by that time been seventeen acts of protest in Leningrad. The Chronicle has reported only one of them – the inscriptions made by the 20-year-old Boguslavsky [CCE 4.7, item 2]. One more incident has become known: a car drove at high speed across Palace Square, and two packets of leaflets were thrown out of the windows. One of the packets burst, scattering leaflets in all directions; the second fell to the ground without coming open. The car managed to get away. Next day, this request was made in a Leningrad radio programme of announcements:  if anyone had noticed the number of a car out of which “a parcel of valuable documents” fell onto Palace Square, would he please inform the authorities of that number.


In the town of Roshal, in the Moscow Region, 23-year old Valery Lukanin displayed a poster in his window this spring protesting against the continuing presence of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia. He was dispatched to a psychiatric hospital, and, without being informed of the fact, was declared insane, with a diagnosis “a serious form of schizophrenia”. The fact that his case was being investigated was concealed from him: Lukanin’s actions were classified under Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code. Nor was he informed that on 23 June there had been a trial at which compulsory treatment in a special psychiatric hospital was ordered. Lukanin’s mother was threatened that if she told her son about the trial when she visited him, she would in future not be allowed visits. On 18 July Valery Lukanin was sent to the special psychiatric hospital in Kazan.


At the beginning of July, a Doctor of Biological Sciences, Sher, was brought to trial in Rostov-on-Don. He was charged under Articles 65 (Espionage) and 70 of the Russian Criminal Code. In practical terms the charge related to a letter Sher had written to the CPSU Central Committee, in which he protested at the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia, and at the revival of Stalinism. In particular Sher demanded that all those who had worked with Stalin – and especially A. N. Kosygin – should resign their posts. On the grounds that Sher was charged with “industrial espionage”, the trial was declared a closed one at the request of the Procurator. The judicial investigation failed to confirm the charges and the defence demanded a verdict of not guilty. The court reclassified Sher’s actions under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code, and sentenced him to two years in an ordinary regime camp.


In previous issues [CCE 3.1 and 4.7] the Chronicle reported the case of a Tartu student who painted up the slogan CZECHS, WE ARE YOUR BROTHERS [CCE 3.4], and was savagely beaten up while under detention [CCE 4.7, item 3], and had to be put into hospital. Now he has been removed from hospital by KGB men, and so far nothing is known about his fate.


One ironical comment on the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia was made by students of the Estonian Agricultural Academy at the traditional student carnival last autumn in Tartu. The students held up placards with slogans, the following of which are known:  “LONG LIVE THE WISE AND FLEXIBLE FOREIGN POLICY OF THE SOVIET UNION”, “WELCOME, TOURISTS IN YOUR TANKS”, “YANKEES, GET BACK BEHIND LAKE CHUDSKOYE [where Alexander Nevsky halted the Teutonic Knights in 1242, tr.], “WELCOME TO THAT UNSWERVING LENINIST, COMRADE LENTSMAN”, (LENTSMAN is the secretary of the Estonian Communist Party’s Central Committee responsible for ideological work).


The report that the arrests of officers of the Baltic Fleet [CCE 8.14, item 7] were connected with the letter by Alexeyev has been confirmed. The letter was a protest against the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia. According to information we have received, 31 people have been arrested in Estonia, not all of them officers. For example, in Tallinn an engineer, Sergei Soldatov, was arrested. About a quarter of those arrested are Estonians. Although rumours, possibly spread by official circles, say that those arrested are members of a nationalist movement, materials circulating at present in Russian and Estonian samizdat are a convincing proof that the opinions of the arrested people are generally democratic and anti-Stalinist, and that their demand for equal national rights is a logical part of their general system of thought. One of the arrested is a coastguard officer of the Baltic Fleet, Alexeyev.


In one of his articles Anatoly Kuznetsov reported that soon after the demonstration of 25 August 1968 he found a letter in his letterbox in Tula supporting the demonstrators’ action.


On the anniversary of the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia, the mathematician Alexander Volpin, well known for his regular writings in defence of human rights, sent the following proposals to the USSR Supreme Soviet:

  1. “To withdraw the Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia immediately.
  2. “To implement this withdrawal in such a way as to restore in the greatest possible degree to the Czechoslovak people their national rights, and to liquidate all the undesirable consequences of the presence of foreign troops on Czechoslovak territory.
  3. “In memory of the sacrifices made by the Czechoslovak people, the most famous of which is the life of Jan Palach, one of the Moscow streets or squares to be renamed after him, for example Istorichesky Passage. The choice of a suitable street or square for re-naming to be agreed with representatives of the Czechoslovak people.
  4. “Czechoslovakia to receive compensation, for. all material losses, incurred due to the presence of Soviet troops on its territory,”

Hardly expecting his proposals to be speedily accepted, Volpin nevertheless reminds the Supreme Soviet that “any measures it may take to implement these proposals would be in accordance with the principles of international law, which the Soviet Union has many, times supported, and would help to restore its reputation as a country which faithfully follows these principles.”