Two Letters from Czechoslovakia

The plenipotentiary of Boris Yeltzin, the President of the Russian Federation handed over to Vaclav Havel, the President of the Czechoslovak Federative Republic a collection of seven verified copies of documents on 16 July 1992 that had up to then been only available at the Archive of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The collection included two undated letters that had played the key role in the political scenario of the intervention of five Soviet Bloc states against the Czechoslovak pro-reform movement in 1968. These letters were signed by representatives of the Czechoslovak state and party apparatus and were intended to help legalise the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact armies. The existence of the letter had been speculated about since the very beginning, but the actual evidence – an authentic source was lacking for the whole twenty-four years. It now came out, and even in two different versions.

The first letter opens with “Dear Leonid Ilyich”, was typewritten in Russian and includes five signatures of the leading officials of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, namely Alois Indra, Drahomir Kolder, Antonin Kapek, Oldrich Svestka and Vasil Bilak. The other letter, typewritten in Czech with a Slovak keyboard on a piece of paper torn out from a notebook, and opening with “Dear Comrade”, was a surprise for historians. It includes only Antonin Kapek’s signature and was probably made on his own initiative a few days earlier than the first letter.

The only living signatory in 1992 was Vasil Bilak, then already facing charges of crimes against peace as per Sect. 1 Par. 1 of Act 165/1950 Coll. and investigated by the Federal Police Corps. After the discovery of the letters was presented, he resolutely denied contributing to the preparation of these documents in his interview for the Czechoslovak TV and claimed they could be counterfeit.

It was now apparent beyond doubt that the veracity of the letters and signatures must be confirmed. It required a scientific analysis that would give a clear outcome in an expert statement. The Institute of Criminology of the Federal Police Corps was therefore engaged in the case, commencing as of 28 September 1992, to carry out a comprehensive examination of the documents. It was obviously impossible to make it with the copies. Russia denied lending the originals to Prague, but allowed the examination to be made at the Russian Federation’s Supreme Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow. The expert group, consisting of Vladimir Nechanicky, the General Prosecutor of Czechoslovak Federation, two investigators and three experts from the Institute of Criminology (the graphologist Jiri Valeska, the criminological photography expert Jaroslav Tichy, and video documentalist Milan Cikan), went to Moscow early in October 1992, provided with technical equipment and a sufficient number of samples from the archives of the Central Committee and the government.

Russia demanded that examination be made solely using non-destructive methods. It was therefore impossible, for instance, to take samples of the pens and paper. The specialists used only visual, optical, analytical, comparative and physical methods with stereoscopic microscope, taking also the UV and IR samples, and special measurement devices. A very detailed photographical documentation of the findings was made. Vide recording of the whole course of work was also taken.

The expert assessment in criminologist technology was completed on 4 November 1992. The comprehensive analysis of all the available data gave the following conclusions:

  1. The signatures appearing as “Indra, Kapek, Švestka, V. Biľak” in the letter opening with “Dear Leonid Ilyich” are the true signatures of Alois Indra, Antonin Kapek, Oldrich Svestka and Vasil Bilak, former members of the Central Committee. The signature appearing as “Kolder Drahomir” is most probably the true signature of Drahomir Kolder, a former member of the Central Committee.
  2. The signature appearing as “Kapek” in the letter opening with “Dear Comrade” is the true signature of Antonin Kapek, a former member of the Central Committee.
  3. No signs questioning their veracity were found with any of the examined letters, even though the fact that they originated in the year 1968 cannot be proven for technical reasons.
  4. The letter to “Dear Leonid Ilyich” was written on a portable typewriter of Czechoslovak produce, trade mark CONSUL, with the Russian alphabet (AZBUKA font), with the clearance of 2.50 mm, which was in production in 1965–1972. The letter to “Dear Comrade” was written on a Czechoslovak typewriter, trade mark CONSUL, with the PICA font and the clearance of 2.60 mm, which was in production in 1965–1972 in the Slovak version.