Soviet tanks move to Poland’s southern border – archive, 1968

31 July 1968: Observers believe the Soviets are doing this to ‘show the flag’ during the Czechoslovak crisis

Soviet tank column in Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968. Soviet tank column in Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968. Photograph: Ullstein Bild/Getty ImagesSoviet tank column in Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968. Photograph: Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

A Soviet tank column stood by today near this frontier town in south Poland as communist leaders from Moscow to Prague continued their fateful talks in neighbouring Slovakia.

The tanks, on transporters, and other column apparently consisting of supply vehicles were parked about 11 miles from Cieszyn on side roads of the main highway to Katowice, the chief town of the industrial region of Upper Silesia.

Although the tanks were hardly discernible from the main road, the Russians appeared to be making no attempts at concealment. Groups of soldiers and officers stood talking on the verge of the main road. Each column appeared to stretch for more than half a mile. At one point a lorry loaded with brass band instruments pulled up and parked on the main road.

It was not clear whether the tanks were taking part in the manoeuvres officially reported to be going on in Poland and East Germany as well as in the Soviet Union. The crews seemed to be relaxing and giving no indication of an early move.

Moving south
Informed sources in Warsaw said that Soviet troops, sighted in areas of north-east, east, and west Poland, had been moving south. Some observers thought they might have been intended to “show the flag” during the Czechoslovak crisis.

Observer picture archive: The Prague Spring, 27 July 1968

In Moscow today, Pravda published the first and only declaration of support for the Soviet position in the conflict with Czechoslovakia from a western European Communist party – that of Luxembourg.

From Belgrade, it is reported that a Bulgarian border official today flatly refused to allow part of the official Czechoslovak delegation to attend the World Communist Youth Festival in Sofia. The 31 youths and girls in the delegation, who had camped on the Yugoslav side of the border since Saturday, returned home.

East Germans ban Czech manifesto

From Norman Crossland
Bonn, 30 July

The House of Czechoslovak Culture in East Berlin has been forbidden by the East German Foreign Ministry from distributing copies of the Prague manifesto “2,000 Words.”

Visitors to the reading room had been able to take copies from a table on which the German language newspaper Prager Volkszeitung was also displayed.

According to West Berlin sources, the East German Ministry had also forbidden the Czech embassy from distributing the manifesto to East Germans who asked for it. But a fair number of copies are thought to be already in East German hands.

The East German Communist party organ Neues Deutschland today published a full-page condemnation of the Czechoslovakian Party leadership. The article stated that counter-revolutionary tendencies in Czechoslovakia had grown stronger since the May meeting of the Praesidium.

It added: “We believe that the deep disquiet expressed in the letter of the five brother parties becomes every day more justified in view of the growing activity of hostile forces.” The paper said that “2,000 words” had laid down the tactics to be used in the next phase of the counter-revolution. The Praesidium had shown that it underestimated the counter-revolutionary character of the document.


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