“We sincerely hope that the Central Committee of the Czech Communist Party, together with the Government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and other competent authorities will: - appraise the situation and take all necessary political measures to lead the party as well as the working people in the right direction, and – with the party in mind – evaluate the anti-social and anti-Soviet activities related to the provocative campaign launched by the incident in Wenceslas Square.”
From a letter sent by Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev and Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin, 22 January 1969
In the second half of January 1969, the primary aim of the government and party representatives was to ease the volatile situation in Czechoslovakia and to keep the shocked people under control. Although most politicians expressed their regrets about Jan Palach’s suicide, they did not agree with the form of his protest, and after several meetings with student activists, they refused their “non-negotiable” demands.
On 19 January 1969, the state security service was put on the highest alert since the occupation in August 1968. On the following day, the Federal Office of Press and Information instructed editors to publish only official announcements. Sixteen foreign journalists were deported. On the same day, the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Slovak Communist Party met in Bratislava; it was chaired by Gustáv Husák and resulted in the adoption of a resolution that was bluntly intimidating. On the other hand, the Czech government, following an agreement with university students, consented to organizing a funeral procession through Prague and even a public funeral ceremony.
Some Czech Communist Party members from Libeň (a Prague district) questioned the nature of the suicide, insisting that it was the alleged “abuse” of Jan Palach. On 29 February 1969, MP Vilém Nový introduced a “cold fire” theory in his interview to the AFP news agency. According to his mendacious statement, Jan Palach should have believed that the liquid was flammable but would not burn him. However, his ostensible suicide attempt went wrong. Jan Palach burnt himself, and right-wing writers and journalists then distorted the “facts”.
The letter of Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (CPSU First Secretary) and Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin (Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers) to Alexander Dubček and Oldřich Černík from 23 January 1969 proves the origin of this theory. The Soviet representatives expressed their deep anxiety about the situation in Czechoslovakia in the letter and described Jan Palach as a victim of instigators.