Czechoslovak Secret Police Memorandum, "Information Regarding the Situation in the CSSR"
As a result of the intensifying public demonstrations in the first half of 1989, the Czechoslovak Communist Party increased its surveillance and suppression of independent and opposition groups, particularly in anticipation of politically-charged anniversaries. This Secret Police (StB) memorandum details preparations by various groups to commemorate the August 21st anniversary of the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion. The neo-Stalinist Czechoslovak government had based its legitimacy on this invasion—which officials called "international assistance"—and had banned any public observance that undermined its interpretation of the event. The high stakes are reflected in the StB's uncompromising attitude towards all non-official demonstrations. The report demonstrates the Secret Police's intimate knowledge of the main opposition community, including its internal divisions over protest strategies. It also shows the proliferation of activity beyond the established opposition to include initiatives outside of Prague and trans-national cooperation with groups in Poland and Hungary, among others. In the end, the August 21 demonstrations were effectively muffled through preemptive arrests by the Secret Police and self-restraint on the part of the main opposition groups. But these measures would become less effective at controlling the expanding circle of public activism in the months to follow.
Czechoslovak Secret Police (StB) Memorandum, “Information Regarding the
Situation in the CSSR up to 20 August 1989”
20 August 1989
Information regarding the security situation in the C598oSSR up to 20 August 1989
In recent days (Friday and Saturday) the so-called protest marches, organized by
the so-called Independent Peace Association, have continued in the pedestrian zones in
Prague. Approximately 100 individuals attended these activities. Saturday’s marches
were video-recorded by accredited employees of the British and Austrian television
Internally, “Charter-77” has been somewhat divided over questions of policy and
tactics in preparation for a confrontational rally. The older “charter-77” signatories are
determined to stop any activities on 21 August while the more radically oriented youth
groups are contemplating an open clash with state authority, even at the cost of
provocation. They have declared they are even willing to allow themselves to be shot for
their cause. Within the internal enemy groups, a strong moderate center exists which has
been pushing for a peaceful demonstration in the form of a procession around the
There are confirmed efforts by employees of Western media organizations to
incite [Charter 77 activists and other to give] a confrontational character to the antisocialist rally of 21 August. To this end, they have been spending time with and
emphatically [trying to] convince individual prominent “Charter-77” activists. The
editors of the BBC are particularly active in doing this.
Further, information has been confirmed regarding preparations for the antisocialist rally on 21 August, organized by activists of the so-called Independent
Initiatives in certain cities in the western Bohemian, southern Bohemian, southern
Moravian, northern Moravian, central Slovakian, and eastern Slovakian regions. From the
perspective of the internal enemy, this has the effect of enlisting additional supporters for
demonstrations in Prague and in other cities. Their common goal, among other things, is
to aggravate as much as possible [attempts by] security to intervene—for instance, by
organizing a scattered march through Prague. The effort of the enemy will be to draw the
attention of security services away from Prague to other regions or, as the case may be,
Appreciable activity in support of the so-called Czechoslovak Independent
Initiatives is being generated by Polish and Hungarian opposition groups, which are
encouraging large-scale participation at the anti-socialist rally, particularly in Prague.
Their intentions have been confirmed by the arrival of Polish opposition groups in Prague
on 15 August, which ensures that the activated Polish groups can remain through 21
August. The delegation even visited J. HAJEK 13 who familiarized them with the
“Charter-77” provision requiring signatories to distance themselves from open
confrontational acts and reminded them that if they chose to remain until 21 August, they
were under no circumstances to portray themselves as guests invited by “Charter-77.”
The Hungarian contingent has similarly organized the arrival of their members in
Prague to participate in the anti-socialist rallies of the FIDESZ (Young Democrats’
League) organization, whose activists are preparing a demonstration on August 21 in
front of the Czechoslovak embassy in Budapest, where they intend to hold the protest. On
19 August, Hungarian radio broadcast an interview with a FIDESZ representative who
indicated that a large number of members of the organization would be leaving for the
CSSR to support activities through 21 August.
In an effort to prevent the arrival of individuals with such intentions from Poland
and Hungary, the necessary precautions have been put in place at the state borders. Thus
far, 15 suspicious individuals have been turned back at the rail station on the Hungarian
border, of whom 14 were Hungarians and one was French. At the Polish border crossings
there has thus far been a total of 13 Solidarity activists and [other] suspicious Polish
citizens turned back.
In order to expose the aims of the Hungarian opposition groups to organize
specific unfriendly acts on Czechoslovak territory, cooperation has been established with
Consul TABA at the Hungarian embassy.
In connection with 21 August, the Polish Solidarity movement is making
preparations at certain Polish-Czechoslovak border crossings, for instance, at Vysny
Komarnik (district of Svidnik), Palota (district of Humenny), for a so-called quiet,
passive sit-in demonstration using banners and signs with slogans. Participants are to sign
a written declaration calling for mutual cooperation with the Independent Initiatives, the
denouncement of international aid from Warsaw Pact troops, and a declaration of support
for the anti-socialist forces in the CSSR. On 21 August at 4:00 p.m., on the town square
of the Polish border town of Cieszyna, a protest demonstration has been planned, at
which time a declaration from the Polish [Sejm] is to be read denouncing the entry of
Polish troops into Czechoslovakia (according to Polish border guard intelligence organs,
security will be intensified in the above stated areas to prevent Polish citizens from
crossing illegally into Czechoslovakia).
According to routinely gathered intelligence, one may assume, as a consequence
of the anti-Czechoslovak campaign in the West and the anti-government demonstrations
announced in Prague, that there will be an influx of tourists from the West. Within only
the past few days there has been an enormous volume of visas granted to Italian citizens
(totaling more than 440), at a time when there was no reason to deny their applications.
According to intelligence gathered, members of the Italian Radical Party plan to
arrive soon in Prague with the typical aim, as has been the case in the past, to elicit anti-
socialist provocation through the use of banners and leaflets. This intention was even
confirmed by the president of this party, STANCERI, at their rally.
In the effort to thwart these aims, the appropriate measures have been taken at
border crossings as well as general security measures for the territory of Czechoslovakia.
Each case of provocation by Italian or other foreigners [who have been] granted visas
will be documented and will incur the appropriate legal measures.
Currently there are noteworthy efforts by certain individuals to obtain weapons
and bomb-making materials. Nine cases with a total of 250 CZ parabellum 9 mm semiautomatic pistols were distributed through PZO Merkuria to Britain V. Upon carrying out
an inspection of the contents of the shipment it was discovered that a total of 30 pistols
had been stolen prior to distribution to Britain V. On 12 August, there was a break-in at
the —SPA [Czechoslovak People’s Army] ammunition depot in the community of Cakov
(district of Ceske Budejovice), from which a significant amount of plastic explosives,
charges, detonators, and other bomb-making materials was taken. The perpetrators were
discovered to be basic service recruits L[…] Michal (born 1969) and N[…] Milan (born
1968), both from Military Unit 4445 of Ceske Budejovice[,] and a civilian named K[…]
Radek (born 1971) from Ceske Budejovice. The motive behind the act is under
Within the last two days on state territory there have been more than 150 leaflets
discovered, which have made a particular call for participation in the protest rally on 21
August and the denouncement of the international assistance provided in 1968; the
majority were discovered in the cities of Prague (33), Brno (26), Cesky Krumlov (20) and
Gottwaldov (19). This involves only those cases discovered by NSC [National Security
Committee] organs and informers; the actual number is likely much higher. During the
same period, 15 opprobrious signs were discovered at public locations and promptly
removed. In Brno, an unknown perpetrator made a telephone call threatening the
destruction of the MC CPCz building (Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of
Today, during the hours between 9:15 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., Mass was held at St.
Vitus Cathedral. It was officiated by cleric KORINEK and was not misused for anti-
socialist provocation. The departure of members of the congregation was recorded by the
staffs of ARD [television] (German Federal Republic) and ABC [television] (United
States of America), with the above mentioned staffs conducting no interviews with our
citizens. Attendance at the first Mass celebration fluctuated around 1,300 individuals and
the second around 2,000 individuals.
[Source: A. Lorenc et al., T8/91 vol. XIX., envelope 1, #79-84 (also vol. XXI, #2242-
2247). Published in Czech in Organizace a Rizeni, Represe v CSSR: Operaeni Staby
Generala Lorence 1988-1989, Edice Dokumentu Vol. 4/II (Úrad Dokumentace a
Vysetrovani Zlocinu Komunismu 1998). Translated for CWIHP by Vance Whitby.]
Czechoslovak Secret Police(StB), memorandum, "Information Regarding the Situation in the CSSR up to 20 August 1989," 20 August 1989, trans. Vance Whitby, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).