Military Review

Soviet gas project and 1968 events in Czechoslovakia

Soviet gas project and 1968 events in CzechoslovakiaAt present, it is quite obvious that the development of world energy inevitably leads not only to a rapid increase in competition in the economy, but also to the transformation of the energy component into the most important geopolitical factor, to its dominance in international relations. On the basis of the struggle for energy, there is a clash of interests of consumer countries with producer countries, an internal struggle among both producers and consumers, often developing into military-political conflicts. Familiar words are involuntarily remembered: politics is the concentrated expression of economics. This undeniable position manifests itself most clearly in our country, which is a leading player in the energy market and, in essence, claims the status of an “energy superpower”. The energy factor has become one of the main factors in determining the Russian foreign policy, which is not a secret for foreign authors [1].

In this regard, it is appropriate to recall that for the first time the need for political support of economic projects in the energy sector, our country was already in the process of establishing a large-scale Soviet gas project, the formation of which should be attributed to the fiftieth years of the last century. Soon after Stalin's death (which equated the sale of resources to “trade in the motherland”), the idea of ​​organizing energy exports to Europe became real. Its approval in the Soviet political leadership was facilitated by the experience gained in the transportation of hydrocarbons, the end of the “era of cheap oil”, the growing “resource nationalism” and the task of integrating the Soviet Union into the world economic system. However, the practical implementation of the gas project then provoked a sharp increase in international tension and the well-known events of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the result of which, in our opinion, was the military-strategic operation Danube, the largest military operation in Europe since the Second World War [2]. As a result of its implementation, it was possible not only to prevent a major war in Europe and a revision of the postwar world order, but also to minimize the consequences of the implementation of the American project of the transatlantic partnership, which assumed the movement of the Old World in the wake of the New and limited European political subjectivity.

Perhaps, for the first time, a possible direct connection of the entry into Czechoslovakia of troops from a number of Warsaw Pact countries led by the Soviet Union with the provision of a Soviet gas project and the organization of large-scale energy exports to Western Europe were announced by Czech authors [3]. In Russian literature, a similar attempt was also made in 2015 [4]. Although the idea itself, as they say, "lay on the surface," both foreign and domestic official science was completely satisfied with the standard set of stamps that go back to the "ideological approach" characteristic of the Cold War era [5]. Of course, in conditions where sources of stories “Danube” still remain classified; it is impossible to definitively confirm or deny this point of view. Nevertheless, in our opinion, it fits into the historical logic of the epoch and deserves the right to exist, answering at least one of the central questions: why did it take up to half a million soldiers and up to five thousand armored vehicles, if there were many other ways to change the unwelcome Czechoslovak leadership (up to the fatal coincidence that the duke de Richelieu hinted at in the famous novel, speaking of one of those events that change the face of the state)?

The analysis of the international situation of those years, characterized by the then unfolding “battle for domination in Europe”, also speaks in favor of the direct interconnection of 1968 events in Czechoslovakia with the gas project. The struggle between the island Anglo-Saxon and continental powers for hegemony on the European continent and in the capitalist system attracted the attention of far-sighted politicians defending the interests of continental states to the idea of ​​“Greater Europe” expressed by European intellectuals. As a concrete political option, it was implemented by de Gaulle, who in 1959 made a famous speech about “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals” and subsequently turned this slogan into a kind of credo of French politics [6]. Of course, taking into account the existence of the USSR, the least meant was a certain formed political union, it was only assumed a steady build-up of economic, political and cultural ties between continental countries. Despite the fact that initially this project was negatively received by the Soviet leadership headed by Khrushchev, he could rely on certain sympathies in the Soviet Union, at least because of the political orientation of the Soviet leadership to start gas exports to Europe. in terms of its economic growth and the conquest of a market niche.

Indeed, the formation of large-scale energy exports is a fundamentally new feature of the entire Soviet foreign policy of the second half of the 60-s. "Strategically-minded leaders of the USSR oil and gas complex (NK Baibakov, AK Kortunov, B.Ye. Shcherbina, N.S. Patolichev and others) understood that it was short-sighted to use all the oil and gas reserves of the USSR fields for internal needs . True, this theory also had opponents, but the idea of ​​organizing the export of oil and gas to Europe [7] won. Energy cooperation could become a kind of bridge, thrown over ideological barriers, and contribute to the rapprochement of Western Europe and the Eastern bloc. The first gas pipeline was supposed to pass through Czechoslovakia - by that time gasification had already begun in Slovakia and, although its own gas was not enough, it did have some experience and trained personnel. In 1964, an agreement was signed on the construction of the Bratstvo intergovernmental gas pipeline (Dolina - Uzhgorod - Zakkordon - Bratislava), which opened Soviet exports to Europe. An alternative would be to purchase liquefied natural gas in Algeria and transport them by tanker [8]. LNG transportation was actively developed by Americans, British, French, and began in the same 1964. However, business competition was not limited. The movement that started in the direction of “Greater Europe” met with fierce resistance from the Americans. The essence of Washington’s policy was to introduce into practice the theory of conflict management, developed in the same years by US intellectuals. The Americans managed to provoke the “Red May”, as a result of which the credibility of the “obstinate general” (not only coping with the situation, but also ensuring the victory of his party in the early elections) was undermined, and he, being poisoned by the antigollist press, was forced to resign . At the same time, the destabilization of the political situation in Czechoslovakia began.

For the Soviet Union, the “European unrest” carried a direct threat and the development of protest sentiments in Prague could lead to the disruption of the gas project, which had already spent much effort. It was obvious that the same youth-driven energy, directed not only against capitalism, but against communist dogmatism and socialist bureaucracy, would be used to disrupt the Soviet gas project. The aspiration of the Soviet Union (in the context of aggravated confrontation with NATO, the embargo on the supply of large diameter pipes and the appeal of the Government of West Germany to large steel companies with a request to cancel contracts concluded with the USSR) is fully justified to strengthen its position in Central Europe by deploying military contingent in Czechoslovakia. The presence of Soviet troops was a guarantee of stability and opened up broad possibilities for the rapid implementation of this project, which already required the concentration of resources at the expense of other industries and the well-being of the population. The stake was truly historical and in this sense, in our opinion, one should understand the famous words of Brezhnev, who stated that if Czechoslovakia were lost, he would have had to resign as general secretary.

In Czechoslovakia itself, in the second half of the 60s, the illusions preserved from the pre-war period and inspired the Prague Spring were strengthened, according to which the country's role was reduced to the “second Switzerland”, maintaining neutrality and being a kind of mediator between the liberal West and the socialist East, which suggested an eclectic combination of seemingly incompatible political traits of both systems. A long-timed idea has acquired a new sound and has made national pride wise. The need for the ideological justification of these aspirations has brought about such an ideological construction as the notorious “socialism with a human face”. However, all external forces saw the future of Czechoslovakia in a fundamentally different way and assigned him in their geopolitical plans nothing more than the role of a strategic springboard. This became especially evident in connection with the beginning of concentration on the Czechoslovak border of NATO troops and with preparations for special operations inside the country. In general, the pre-war situation repeated itself, when Prague, trying to outwit all the great powers, was itself the victim of its own intrigue.

Such a reversal could easily lead to a big war with the Soviet Union being drawn in, which was in line with the American strategy of fighting the “Greater Europe” project and finally fixed the European split. However, the brilliant planning and implementation of the military-strategic operation "Danube", the courage, endurance and professionalism of the military disrupted these plans. Already 10 in September 1968 in Moscow signed an agreement on the supply of natural gas from the USSR to Czechoslovakia and on cooperation in 1969. As soon as the outlines of interaction with the leadership of Czechoslovakia on the gas project were determined, the troops were immediately withdrawn from Prague. It is curious that potential trade partners from among ideological opponents have reacted very restrainedly to the deployment of troops. After the 1968 year, despite the external strengthening of anti-Soviet rhetoric, relations with Europe have improved so much that we can speak of de Gaulle’s direct continuity with “Big Europe”. The initiative, however, has now passed to Germany, and it is the gas-pipe deal that became the forerunner of the Eastern policy of Willy Brandt. This was followed by a series of historic agreements that changed Europe and defused international tensions, culminating in the signing in 1975 of the Helsinki Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Energy cooperation has become a fait accompli. Over the next two decades, the Soviet Union became a leading producer and exporter of natural gas. At the end of 1960, Soviet gas came to Czechoslovakia, to 1968 — to Austria, to 1972 — 1973 — to Germany and Italy, to 1975 — to Hungary, and a little later - to France and Finland. It was the beginning of gas supply to almost all of Europe. The main gas flows went through Czechoslovakia to Austria, Germany, and Italy. A powerful impulse followed with the beginning of the industrial development of unique resources of Western Siberia. The most insightful Czech authors in this regard note that it was not at all for the struggle against "socialism with a human face", but for the sake of control over the territory necessary for the "big deal" prepared by the Soviet Union, the Soviet troops were introduced and continued to be in Czechoslovakia over this country was far more important than political-ideological control [9].

We emphasize once again that the true nature of 1968 events should be speculated presumably, given that their final assessment is likely to become possible in many years. This circumstance fully applies to both well-established and newly formulated scientific ideas, including those related to the establishment of a direct relationship between the Soviet gas project and the events of 1968 in Czechoslovakia. Only one thing is indisputable: the success of hydrocarbon exports led the Soviet Union to the creation of an "energy empire", which determined both its historical fate and the fate of modern Russia. And let us ask ourselves: was there ever in history so that such a large-scale new reality would be born without a fierce military-political confrontation, quite consonant with our alarming modernity.


1. Högselius P. Red Gas: Russia and the Origins of European Energy Dependence. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 294 p.
2. Sunntsev V.P. Operation Danube: how it was. URL: (the date of the appeal 29.04.2016).
3. Byl příčinou okupace v roce 1968 plynovod? URL: (29.04.2016 access date).
4. Bulgakov V.V., Shevchenko V.V., Baylov A.V. Once again about the "Prague Spring", the operation "Danube" and the threat of a big war in Europe in 1968-m // South Russian lawyer. 2015. No.3. C. 46-49.
5. Davydov M.E. The ideological approach to the origins of the Cold War in modern Western historiography. Bulletin of Tomsk State University. URL: (the date of the appeal 29.04.2016).
6. As General de Gaulle glorified Russia. URL: (the date of the appeal 29.04.2016).
7. Selfless work - the key to overall success. Giprospetsgaz. URL: (the date of the appeal 29.04.2016).
8. Pred 50 rokmi bola podpísaná dohoda o výstavbe plynovodu Bratstvo. URL: (the date of the appeal 29.04.2016).
9. Živý sen o příchodu sovětských vojsk. URL:
(date of the appeal 29.04.2016).
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. ALABAY45
    ALABAY45 31 May 2016 15: 43
    "... of Willy Brandt's eastern policy ...:
    The last adequate German ... In my century, in any case!
    1. sgazeev
      sgazeev 31 May 2016 16: 57
      Quote: ALABAY45
      "... of Willy Brandt's eastern policy ...:
      The last adequate German ... In my century, in any case!

      If you take into account that in his immediate environment was a Stasi employee. lol
  2. iouris
    iouris 31 May 2016 15: 51
    A very interesting version and, most likely, correct. It is always necessary to look for not an ideological, but an economic justification for political processes, then it will be clear where the way out of the apparent impasse is. Perhaps even now the EU needs the "carrot" that we have.
  3. Banishing liberoids
    Banishing liberoids 31 May 2016 15: 54
    How poorly we know our own history — the excessive secrecy of relations between Russia or the USSR with our neighbors gave rise to all sorts of myths.
  4. pigkiller
    pigkiller 31 May 2016 16: 03
    Thus, the USSR in the 70s. XX century in the international division of labor took a place
    supplier of basic raw materials. Perhaps this is the reason for further "restructuring"
    and the collapse of the country?
  5. Eustace
    Eustace 31 May 2016 16: 19
    Interesting information on the topic of Nord Stream 2:
    sti-na-ukraine / soldier
  6. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 31 May 2016 16: 20
    Czech Republic until the 2nd World War was a developed industrial country.
    Their participation in the Socialist community gave nothing,
    only slowed down the natural development.
    After the 91st year, they immediately rushed forward, quickly updated the outdated
    industry. Their average salary is somewhere around $ 1200 a month,
    what is the best indicator in Eastern Europe. 160 billion dollars - annual
    export: machinery, equipment ...
    1. The comment was deleted.
    2. bulvas
      bulvas 31 May 2016 16: 38
      Quote: voyaka uh
      Czech Republic until the 2nd World War was a developed industrial country ...

      In the course, Czech tanks were actively used by the Wehrmacht against the USSR

    3. Brashkin
      Brashkin 31 May 2016 17: 23
      They rushed forward, though having sold (in shares or otherwise) the main machine-building enterprises and some land for the "Germanic tribes". From time immemorial the Czech Republic was controlled by the Germans, the Czechs even collected their own language bit by bit. forgot. And now they are not masters on their own land, hence the attacks of Russophobia
      1. voyaka uh
        voyaka uh 31 May 2016 17: 33
        They have no Russophobia. And other phobias too.
        Slavs live for their pleasure. It's nice to come to Prague
        and to their other cities too.
        1. Ros 56
          Ros 56 31 May 2016 21: 22
          Quote: voyaka uh
          It's nice to come to Prague

          How long will you be so naive, there wouldn’t be Russians at 45, there wouldn’t be Czechs in 2016. You will cut it to yourself on your hunchbacked nose. Is it really unclear that no one in Oyrop can express his opinion without the permission of the black master. But Russophobia is not for everyone from the heart, but nonetheless. hi
    4. Stas157
      Stas157 31 May 2016 19: 19
      Quote: voyaka uh
      Czech Republic until the 2nd World War was a developed industrial country.
      Their participation in the Socialist community gave nothing,
      only slowed down the natural development.

      What a strange logical chain you have! Explain what we did not give to the Czechs and what should have been given? How did the USSR hinder the development of Czechoslovakia? What, deliberately put sticks in the wheels? What is it belittled?
      Well, for the sake of interest, compare the pre-war Czech GDP, and after the military, this also tells you nothing?
  7. LÄRZ
    LÄRZ 31 May 2016 16: 33
    More or less detailed description of the operation "Danube found at the link: Here is an excerpt from the article:
    At the signal about the start of the умumava exercises, two airborne divisions should be ready for landing in Czechoslovakia by parachute and landing methods. At the same time, our paratroopers, who had recently put on “speckled” (red) berets at the parade in November 1967, like most units and special forces around the world, put on blue hats in the summer of 1968. This “move” Judging by the accounts of eyewitnesses, the commander of the Airborne Forces, Colonel General Margelov, later on, during the course of the Danube operation itself, saved more than a dozen lives of our paratroopers - local residents who tried to resist the Soviet troops initially mistook them for peacekeeping representatives UN forces, the so-called “blue helmets.” The commanders of the regiments and divisions, which were supposed to be involved in the invasion operations, got acquainted with the roads and cities of Czechoslovakia, studying the possible ways of troop deployment. Joint Soviet-Czechoslovak exercises were held, after which the Soviet units lingered on Czechoslovakia for a long time and left it only after numerous reminders from the Czech leadership. "Early in the morning of June 18, June 1968, the operational group of the army field control crossed the Czechoslovak border," described the events of those days Head of Political Department of the 38 Army of the Carpathian Military District S. M. Zolotev. - Three days later, the main forces of the army allocated to participate in the exercise crossed the Soviet-Czechoslovak border. From the first meetings on Czechoslovak soil, it became clear that a significant change had occurred in the minds and behavior of a large part of Slovaks and Czechs. We did not feel that brotherly warmth, friendliness with which Czechoslovak friends had been distinguished before, wariness appeared. On July 22, a group of senior officers of the Czechoslovak People's Army arrived at the headquarters of our army ... On behalf of the Minister of National Defense of Czechoslovakia, they asked us questions: why, contrary to the promise made by Marshal I.I. Yakubovsky, the Soviet troops will be withdrawn before July 21, they are still in the area teachings; for what reasons we are delaying and what are our future plans ... We were in a difficult situation. "
    And this article very clearly echoes today's events. Article +++++
  8. 1536
    1536 31 May 2016 16: 37
    Yes, a new reality should be born in confrontation and torment. But why are we all the time losers? And all the time, everything is at our expense. After all, this exaggerated "Prague Spring" was nothing more than a provocation presented as the expression of the will of the people. And, most importantly, the people of Czechoslovakia did not even notice that they were being used blindly, thrown onto the barricades under the tracks of tanks. What was there to do? Thank God, Gorbachevism was just emerging at that time in the Stavropol Territory.
    The little box opens simply: the United States has a desire to extract shale oil, it is profitable for them, so it is necessary to strangle this undertaking in the bud, because it is not profitable for us! Whatever you want, without being embarrassed in the means, attracting all the forces. And without any discussion, who is "for" - a traitor and is subject to ostracism. And so in everything we must act. We ourselves, of course, also have to stay awake and adopt advanced experience. The weak Americans will destroy. And we have an autistic economic program writes ...
    1. sgazeev
      sgazeev 31 May 2016 17: 07
      Russophobian Prague is not the whole nation.
      The so-called “Prague Spring” of 1968 is still surrounded by myths that are politically beneficial to the West, however, like the other major crises of the Cold War. Today's interpretation of these events is approximately as follows: the process of economic and political reforms in Czechoslovakia, which began with the election of Alexander Dubcek as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KPC) in January 1968, was stopped by the invasion of five countries of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (ATS) on August 20-21 1968 year. At the same time, the sympathies of the “free world” and, above all, the USA, of course, were on the side of Czechoslovak reformers.
      In fact, everything was different. The process of real political and economic reforms in Czechoslovakia was started under the influence of developments in the USSR in the first half of the 60s. Under the leadership of the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Czechoslovak Republic (since 1953) and Czechoslovak President Antonin Novotny, the process of rehabilitation of victims of repressions of the early 50s began in Czechoslovakia, censorship was significantly weakened, the “new wave” of Czechoslovak cinema was recognized throughout Europe (one of the young representatives which became the world-famous director Milos Forman with the film "Black Peter"). The main event of that time was the adoption in Czechoslovakia under the direct influence of the “Kosygin reform” in the USSR in 1965, a new concept of economic policy. This concept set the task of weakening central planning and providing enterprises with greater economic independence as part of cost accounting.
      That is, it was the USSR that became the catalyst for real reforms in Czechoslovakia, with the new leadership coming to power in Moscow in October 1964, headed by L.I. Brezhnev only stepped up the transformation in both Moscow and Prague.
      However, at the end of 1967, the internal struggle in the Czechoslovak party leadership intensified sharply. Novotny was not a supporter of federalization
  9. Orionvit
    Orionvit 31 May 2016 17: 22
    The version of the article is interesting, and not devoid of meaning. The events in Czechoslovakia were indeed a provocation, so to speak, probing the Soviet Union for strength. And I don’t even want to listen to the speculation about the "raw material appendage". The USSR was a great industrial power, and it was not its fault that it was practically blockaded by the west. The current sanctions against Russia, this is not news, Russia has always been under sanctions, regardless of who was in power.
  10. Undermined ustoev
    Undermined ustoev 31 May 2016 17: 34
    It was obvious that the same controlled youth energy, directed not against capitalism, but against communist dogmatism and socialist bureaucracy, would be used to disrupt the Soviet gas project.
    This! The whole article revolves around this thesis. It is very convenient to water the communists for their "dogmas" under the dominance of capitalist "dogmas", which boil down to the privatization of successes and the nationalization of failures. It is especially cool to do this when no one from the official tribunes will react to these stuffing and slander. Communists, as the culprit of all ills in the world, under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, are prohibited from defending themselves by law. Well done author. Burn more.
  11. Basil50
    Basil50 31 May 2016 19: 13
    It is interesting for economists to read about the success of a Western market economy, while crises and the redistribution of capital as a result of blackmail or military coups are not considered at all. They always consider the * ideal * development option, and as a contrast to the economy of the SOVIET UNION, which developed until the outright betrayal of Gorbachev and his entourage and the outright theft of state property. It turns out very clearly. Much frankly rigged.
  12. faterdom
    faterdom 31 May 2016 23: 09
    Young, but already completely insidious, Novodvorskaya secretly (!?) pasted up leaflets against the entry of the Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia in protest. And - well, I fell into the clutches of the terrible KGB. And since then does not give Russian. Until death. Russians are sad. She did not leave offspring. Darwin is right - natural selection is a good thing.