Soviets spied on their friends in Czechoslovakia

Archive confirms that KGB had ears inside communist Czechoslovakia’s halls of power

Prague/Cambridge, Britain, Aug. 13 (ČTK special correspondent) — The KGB Soviet secret service collected detailed information about the relations among the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) leaders in the 1970s and 80s because it mistrusted them after 1968, historian Prokop Tomek has told the Czech News Agency.

He commented on the documents from the Mitrokhin Archive that was opened to the public in Cambridge in the summer.

The Mitrokhin Archive is a collection of handwritten notes made secretly by KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin from 1972 to 1984, during his years as a KGB archivist. The British intelligence helped Mitrokhin with his family and the documents to flee to Britain. He died in 2004.

“It [the KGB] monitored the situation in the KSČ mainly after 1968, which was a great, certain upheaval. There was a permanent mistrust,” Tomek, renowned Czech expert in communist secret services, said.

He explained that the Soviet leaders did not trust Czechoslovak politicians following the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact troops’ invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, which crushed the reform movement, known as the Prague Spring. This is why the KGB kept voluminous records on the KSČ senior officials, such as Gustav Husák (1913–92), the last Czechoslovak communist president in 1975-1989, and Miloš Jakeš, KSČ general secretary in 1987–89.

The Mitrokhin Archive includes, for instance, a report from 1973, saying then-KSČ Control Commission Chairman Jakeš complained in December 1972 that then–KSČ General Secretary Husák had introduced a tough regime in the party’s Central Committee and had even organized wiretapping of the leadership members’ phones.

Mitrokhin’s notes of this kind are very interesting, because such information cannot be found in Czech archives, Tomek noted.

According to its internal directives, the StB communist secret police was banned from recruiting its collaborators among the KSČ members, and this is why StB documents do not include reports on events in the KSČ, Tomek said, adding that the reason was fears of the StB having powers that would be too excessive after the political trial of leading Communists in the 1950s.

“StB was not monitoring political views inside the KSČ,” he said.

The KGB records sometimes show skepticism about what was happening in the ranks of Czechoslovak Communists, for instance, about the KSČ getting rid of the “Communists-Internationalists” at the beginning of “Normalization” in the early 1970s when a tough communist regime was re-installed.

Agents often informed the KGB headquarters in Moscow about Husák. One of the reports says his psychological condition was affected by the nine years he spent in prison in the 1950s.

Another archived document reflects the criticism of the low level of the KSČ’s ideological work, which “does not correspond to the current needs.”

Working relations in the KSČ leadership were reportedly possible only because its members knew about Moscow’s clear support to Husák and Vasiľ Biľak (1917–2014). “The situation in the KSČ presidium depends to a high extent on their relation,” one report says.

Biľak, KSČ secretary and chief party ideologist in 1968–1988, was one of the officials who “had invited” the Warsaw Pact troops to Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring.

The Mitrokhin Archive also reveals that both Husák and the KGB were interested in Alexandr Dubček (1921–92), one of the Prague Spring reform Communist leaders. In 1982, a Prague KGB branch reported to Moscow that the Czechoslovak authorities had deployed five agents and technicians to shadow Dubček.

The archive documents also show that the KGB closely watched Czechoslovak Communists, even during their visits to Moscow.

One report complains that a delegation of the Czechoslovak Culture Ministry visiting Moscow in 1978 intentionally left behind the souvenirs from the Soviet Culture Ministry in the hotel room, including a biography of then–supreme Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

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