INT: Now shall we go on to the invasion, the night of the 20th and 21st. It must therefore... did it come as a surprise when you heard about the invasion and can you tell me how you felt...
EG: (Interrupts) Yes, yes, I'll tell you., you know that there was a meeting of our party leadership and the Soviet Politburo at the end of July in the border railway station, on the border between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, in Cerna. That was the little station there, which became itself a place in world history. because our leadership was warned by the five Warsaw Pact countries, which gathered at the beginning of July, and sent us a letter, more or less a letter threatening... well, more or less an ultimative letter, either to mend our ways or the thing will be taken into the hands of the international brotherhood, whatever the formulation was. The Czechoslovak party leadership refused that Warsaw letter. It was nineteenth of July, I was present at the meeting. And then the Soviet leadership proposed a meeting with our leadership, but the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia decided that after the bad experience they had at such gatherings, where they were put in the dock, so to speak, they refused to go to such encounters outside the territory of the country. So the Soviet Politburo, for the first time in their whole history, had to come and leave the territory of the Soviet Union, to Czechoslovak... to the border station of Cerna. They came with their train. The train remained on the Soviet side. They came over for the meeting and for the night they retreated on their territory and so on. But, that was Cerna. and there they decided that a reconciliation meeting should take place in Bratislava, in a few days after that. And when our delegates came back from Bratislava, some of them with a group of us sat together and we analysed the situation in great detail, all day long. And we came to the conclusion that we gained some time. On the basis of that conclusion, I, as president of the writers' union and so on, took a holiday of three weeks in the Slovak Tetra mountains, where the writers' union had its own house, a holiday house, and there I was surprised by the invasion. And notorious at that time, that everybody when I appeared in the street came to me and so on and so on and so on, so I was immediately persuaded by my colleagues in the house that I had to hide, because we expected or feared that the Soviet invasion will start by a large-scale deportations, as they did in 1940 in the Baltic States, where practically the whole intellectual strata of society was taken to Siberia and partly destroyed and so on. So we expected that they would start something of that sort. And I was very high on their lists, so they persuaded me to hide and found me...
INT: This is roll 10388, interview with Professor Eduard Goldstucker. Right, Professor Goldstucker, you were just saying that you were in the Tetra mountains and you decided to escape, once you heard of the invasion.
EG: Yes, I decided to escape. By chance, I had with me my passport, with an Austrian visa, because I had been invited to come to Vienna for a television programme, on the fourth of September, and I promised to come and after the invasion, it so happened that I was on Vienna on the third of September and made that programme on the fourth. And I came to Vienna with, I don't know, my toothbrush and pyjamas so to speak, had no idea what I'm going to do in my second exile. And I was taken into the house of a friend of a friend, nobody knew where I was living, but next morning, at breakfast, the telephone rang, the lady of the house went to the telephone and came back surprised that it was for me. I went to the telephone, and a British journalist in Vienna, whom I didn't know, introduced himself and asked... and said, 'Professor, if you were accessible, I have the task of putting a question to you'. And I said, 'What is that question?' 'Whether you would accept a visiting professorship at Sussex'.
INT: Right. Can I ask you now more specifically how you did feel about the invasion?
EG: Oh, that was one of the most horrible shocks in my life. You see, I went through the Hitler invasion in 1939, in Prague, and I must say that the Soviet invasion in '68 had a even crueller impact than the Hitler-led one. Because Hitler was our declared enemy, we didn't expect anything from him but the worst. But here, those who for years and decades preached they're our best friends, our brothers, the guarantors of our independence, came with an army of half a million to suppress our drive for a little bit more freedom. It was the most horrible experience and I knew immediately that they came suppress any movement towards any democratic development, because there were various voices saying that the so-called January Policy, the Dubcek Policy, will hto be continued with our means, but I knew that that was empty talk. They cameto crush it, they came to murder it, to murder that attempt to democratise that so-called Socialism.
INT: And did they succeed?
EG: Well, they succeeded, yes, because there was no alternative for the country, there was no alternative. Some people argued that the resistance of the people was so spontaneous and so tremendous, that Dubcek's leadership made a grave mistake that they did not put themselves at the head of that movement, the resistance movement. But I am absolutely convinced that it will be of no avail, because the Soviet leadership came with the express will to... decision to crush it, to crush that movement, not to admit any change in their system. And that is why they sentenced themselves to death as a system.
INT: So, after that, from 1969, what in fact... how was Czech society affected? Where did that spirit go to, that spirit that had...?
EG: (Interrupts) After the invasion, you see, they were very careful for more than a year. They didn't close the borders, for instance. Until they organised the whole new repressive apparatus, inside the country and on the borders of the country, then only in October '69 they closed the borders. Between my departure in September '68 and July '69, I was here three times already from the immigration, as long as I was a member of the Czech parliament National Council, under immunity, and I trusted that they will honour the immunity of a member of the Czech parliament and I came three times to meetings of the parliament, until I was expelled. Against any law, expelled from the National Council, with many of my friends and the repression started. The full repression started on the first anniversary of the invasion, when there were great mass demonstrations in Prague, which were brutally suppressed by the newly-organised repressive power, force.
INT: Do you think something died then in Czechoslovak society after that, as a consequence?
EG: Well, the Czechoslovak society was put into a horrible situation. You see, that society went through, during my lifetime, through three spells of colonial oppression. The first was under Hapsburg, the Czechs not admitted as an equal partner in that multi-national society. Well, that repression was very slight, I must admit, but nevertheless, the colonial situation is characterised by the fact basically that the interest of the colonial people has... it must always make place to the interest of the colony ruler.
INT: And that happened in '69?
EG: That happened under Hitler, where Hitler declared the Czech lands as his protectorate, is a very clear colonial situation. Going as far as to establish here, even before South Africa, a regime of apartheid, because the Germans had different rights from the Czechs, legally introduced. And the third was then the colonial situation which Stalin introduced and Brezhnev renewed. So, that society was in a very bad way, because they knew that they can't do anything against that domination. Because they knew the West will not risk a war for their sake, because the West didn't do anything in the Polish crisis, in the Hungarian crisis, why it should do anything in the Czech crisis. And they were just delivered to that repressive regime. And of course, that repressive regime has had here, native helpers, very enthusiastic native helpers, although, you see, I was being attacked in their media for over twenty years, between '68 and '89 and even at the end, I think it was... at the beginning of '89 in an article in [inaudible], I was attacked that I was the one who introduced the distinction between conservative and progressive Communists. And the conservative Communists were here, were glad to have the backing of the powerful Soviet Union to reinstate them into their positions of power and influence, and the invasion in that sort had a local support from top to bottom, because many people somehow found the possibility of living quite well, under that regime. The effect was, in general, that very many people, just drew back into their own affairs and the regime demanded from them to do what the regime wanted them to do. If they did it, the rest of their lives was free and they could, well... manifest their... reserve vis a vis the regime, by going to their weekend houses and working there every weekend and, I don't know, going fishing and so on and so on, to show that they don't identify with the regime. But in general, the Czechs are very adaptable, very adaptable. Their whole history forced them to adapt if they wanted to survive. And, well... in the twenty-one years after the Soviet invasion, only about eighteen hundred people were found in the whole of Czechoslovakia who were prepared to sign with their own names and give their own address under a petition demanding... asking the government to respect the international obligations it entered concerning human rights. Only eighteen hundred something people, of which some later retracted their signature. But in a country of fifteen million people.
INT: OK. We'll cut there.
END OF INTERVIEW