Prague crisis, 1968
- The KGB was instrumental in persuading Leonid Brezhnev to intervene in 1968 in Czechoslovakia, where a reformist party leadership had reduced press censorship and was publishing details of the political repression of the 1940s and 1950s. KGB Chair Yuri Andropov was quick to see the danger of the “Prague Spring,” and in Politburo meetings in 1968 he called for direct Soviet action. The KGB presented very slanted reporting to the leadership, exaggerating the anti-Soviet tendencies of Czech leader Alexander Dubcek, and pointing out that liberalism in Prague was infecting the Ukraine, Moldavia, and the Baltic republics with similar viruses. To ensure a bloodless putsch, Andropov dispatched teams of illegals to Prague in what were known as Progress Operations, to develop dossiers on Czech dissidents and allow the targeting of enemies. The KGB played a key role in the coup de main that seized Prague in August as well. KGB teams took control of radio stations, police offices, and the headquarters of the Czech Communist Party. Dubcek and his colleagues were detained by KGB teams and shipped off to a secret location inside the Soviet Union, where they could first reconsider and then publicly confess their sins in documents published around the world. The Czech security and intelligence services were purged of those suspected of liberalism, which caused a number of good intelligence officers to defect to the West.The Prague Spring was no threat to either Moscow or the Warsaw Pact. Andropov and party reactionaries apparently feared that Dubcek’s gospel of communism with a human face could spread to Moscow and lead to demands for greater intellectual freedom. One of the Czech communists who later defected to the West said that he had expected narrow dogmatists in Moscow, but not “vulgar thugs.” The KGB continued to work closely with the Czechoslovak services until the “Velvet Revolution” ended Communist Party control in 1989.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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