Primary Sources

Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior Memorandum, Information on the Security Situation in the CSSR

Description

In October 1989, the situation was growing dire for the Czechoslovak communists. Increasing unrest and change in other Eastern Bloc countries was quickly isolating conservatives and emboldening the domestic opposition. In the analysis presented here, Federal Minister of the Interior Frantisek Kincl details a number of domestic security threats. The first was the opposition's increased level of organization, to the point that various groups could possibly unite with a common platform. The upcoming anniversary of October 28, the founding of the liberal bourgeois First Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, was a focal point for this activity. However, the opposition was only one of several major problems confronting the Ministry that autumn, another being the flood of emigres from East Germany (GDR) streaming through the country. In September 1989, Hungary opened up its borders for East German citizens to pass freely to the West, and many traveled via neighboring Czechoslovakia. Praguers witnessed the unprecedented sight of thousands of East Germans camped out next to the West German embassy waiting for visas. For many, it was a signal that times were truly changing outside of their country's conservative island. Despite this and other ominous developments, Kincl's report tries to paint a positive picture of the government's ability to manage the situation.

Source

Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior, "Information on the Security Situation in the CSSR," 17 October 1989, trans. Caroline Kovtun, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

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... the opponent [all anti-regime groups] is concentrating his energies, besides the coordinated distribution of various declarations, on the elaboration of a common strategic plan of the opposition in the CSSR ... The purpose of these efforts is the creation of a representative organ of the opposition and to bring the state and party organs to a "round-table" discussion following the Polish and Hungarian models.

Besides the efforts for integration, the tendency of the internal enemy to engage official organizations in their activity, with the intent of gaining their own legalization and achieving a dialog between official and so-called independent organizations, is becoming more pronounced....

The internal enemy is also trying to penetrate into the superstructures of the society. This can especially be seen in the areas of scientific and cultural intelligence, and not only in forced petition signings, but also in the creation of other so-called independent initiatives....

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The simultaneous activity of the internal enemy nevertheless does not fulfill the expectations of the Western ideological centers about the ability of the opposing forces in the CSSR to act. There is pressure from abroad on the Charter-77 and other initiatives to present themselves in public more conspicuously and to "come out of illegality" and politicize their activity, under threat of ending their financial support. The nearest convenient occasion for this is the anniversary of the origin of the CSR [Czechoslovak Republic]....

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The climax of the acts motivated by the anniversary of the origin of the CSR is supposed to be a common demonstration of so-called independent initiatives in the center of Prague on 28 October 1989. For now there are various opinions as to its concrete shape.

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... [D]espite the organizational measures and the continuing efforts for integration, diversity of opinion and disunity on how to organize the anti-social gathering persists in the enemy camp. Especially prevalent are the fears of counter measures by state organs and the subsequent "crash" of the prepared acts, as occured in August. The moderate wing of the opposition is apprehensive of the radicalization of a growing part of the group, especially young members and adherents, which could lead them to a direct clash with the state powers and even impede the long-term goals and plans of the opposition.

On the other hand they are well aware that the current international and internal political conditions provide them with a suitable space for such a gathering, and to not take advantage of them could result in isolation and loss of support not only from abroad, but also from the politicized part of their followers, especially the young.

For these reasons with 28 [October] nearing, it is possible to expect increased activity on the part of the internal enemy trying to correct the "bad impression" from August of this year.

The situation regarding the safe-guarding of the state border of the CSSR was to some extent complicated by the decisions of the Hungarian government on 11 September 1989 to enable citizens from the GDR to travel to any country. As a result of this, the CSSR has practically become a transit stop for them before emigrating to capitalist countries....

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The public security situation in the CSSR in 1989 was basically stabilized, and peace and order were secured. Disciplinary units were dispatched only in the event of provocative gatherings of anti-socialist forces in January, May and August in Prague.

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The number of recorded criminal acts and felonies increased slightly ... The biggest gain in the crime rate was noted in property crimes ...

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There is a very negative situation in the area of non-alcoholic addiction.... About half are individuals 18-25 years of age ...

... The most frequent white-collar crime remains burglary of property in socialist possession. The growing delinquency of work bosses in the economic sector is evidenced in the uncovering of 1,924 crimes against economic order (a growth of 829).

The numerous extraordinary events are causing not insignificant damage to the national economy. They outweighed fires, traffic break-downs and accidents, and mishaps of public rail transportation. The most frequent cause of the extraordinary events is still the disturbance of work procedures, not respecting technical safety, gross violation of policies and regulations on work safety.

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Preventive and destructive measures are undertaken in order to suppress the enemy's activity, frustrate the efforts to unite individual groups and impede the enemy's ability to act, especially that of the organizers of enemy acts.

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How to Cite this Source

Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior, "Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior Memorandum, Information on the Security Situation in the CSSR," Making the History of 1989, Item #427, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/427 (accessed November 24 2014, 10:03 am).