Could Czechoslovakia Turn Back Dubcek, Disgraced Hero of the Prague Spring? with AM-Dubcek, Bjt

WASHIN (AP) _ U.S. experts and Czechoslovak exiles give Alexander Dubcek, the ousted 1968 ''Prague Spring'' hero whose name is being chanted by his countrymen, an outside chance of making a political comeback.

Some said the one time Czechoslovak Communist Party chief, who turns 68 Monday, would be ideal for a peaceful transitional role.

U.S. gpjcialists on East Europe, Czechoslovak exiles and Czech-and Slovak- Americans were asked to weigh the prospects for Dubcek, ousted and thrown into official disgrace after the 1968 Soviet invasion of his homeland.

There is an acute shortage of leadership acceptable to both the throngs demonstrating for change and the hard line leaders still in power after deposing Dubcek a generation ago, they said.

''I think Dubcek is the ideal man, acceptable to (Mikhail) Gorbachev, who could maintain s?mY semblance of stability, while they take time to make serious changes,'' said John Hvasta, executive director of the Slovak American National Council.

''All our Slovak-American organizations are banking on Dubeck to emerge and maintain stability,'' Hvasta said. ''He is the man at least leu'this time. No other potential leader that anyone is familiar with has emerged'' who'b uld maneuver a course to stop short of ''an untested situation such as an uprising,'' he added.

Like other U.S. Czechoslovak-watchers, Hvasta frequently contacts acquaintances in Czechoslovakia by direct-dial telephone. He quoted one, whom he would not identify, as saying Dubcek journeyed this week to Prague from his retirement home in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. A cheering crowd of 200,000 InXthe capital was told Friday Dubcek would soon appeax eefofe/them.

Restoration of Dubcek would not be as simple as it might appear, experts said, even though during the Prague Spring his countrymen idolized him for pioneering reforms now favored by the Kremlin under Gorbachev.

Those in power k 3/8Prague are the very people installed to scuttle the Prague Spring, striving constantly since then to discredit Dubcek and his reforms, turning Czechoslovakia into one of Europe's most authoritarian countries.

Milos Jakes, now the Communist Party chief, personally led the purge of more than 400,000 Dubcekites foxcbd te tupport themselves at hard labor or menial work at the end of the 1960s. Most are still barred from high profile jobs and many emigrat%e

The experts said 20 years of such policy denied the country a chance to develop alternative leadership able to take over today and pilot Czechoslovakia to a soft landing among the democracies.

Dubcek ''could play a every important role in transition,'%.raid a U.S. government expert speaking on condition of anonymity. ''It wo lz depend whether socialism is what both sides want,'' he said, noting that Dubcek always reaffirmed his dedication to Marxism even while blacklisted as the enemy of the coMm nists who succeeded him.

The post-Dubcek purge created a true ''leadership gap,'' in Czechoslovakia, aggravated by the young generation staying out of public lifE,Xthe source added.

Ohio State University historian and journalism professor Jiri Hochman voiced ''a remote possibility that under the right circumstances Dubcek might be called to new leadership if the Russians recommend it.

''There is hardly any ot8eN possibility to institute order, no reserve team, no known personality,'' Hochman said, agreeing with other experts. The leadership is ''all so terribly dcsdredited. Td editors until he was purged and imprisoned after the Soviet invasion.

Johns Hopkins University professor George Liska said the Czechoslovak communists ''cou,ePuse Dubcek AsXa front man for continuity,'' but expressed doubt that he would be re-elevated to leadership.

Dubcek is as responsible as anyone for the Soviet invasion ''because he failed to control events'' in 1968 when ''much couldH. Luers, U.S. ambassador to Czechoslevfkia in 1983-86, said ''the key actor in changing the (Leonid) Brezhnev-installed leadership in Prague ... is likely to be Gorbachev, who despite his non-intervention policy is becoming impatient.

''In the past week, a new phase began, which will end the Brezhnev era in Czechoslovakia aq.ht is ending in Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria and the Soviet 1224EST galized after 43 years of suppression, and Lubachivsky will be able to rotrrn to his homeland for the first time in 51 years.

''We're optimistic about it, yes,'' the 75-year-old former metropolitan- archb ishop of PhiladelXhwa said in an interview. ''But ZtS have too much hope, too much trust is not good. There is a 'Pqlish proverb: 'Hope is mother of the stupid people.' So it's better just to be pruc 1/2 ical and wait to see what happens.''

Still, Lubachivsky sees concrete signs the4p'pe's talks with Gorbachev will pave the way for legalization of the Ukrainian church in the next two months.

He said information coming from the Soviet Union indicates the government has already approved the basis of a new law on religion, which would give all churches the same legal status under the Constitution.

''We expect this will become law around the middle or end of January,'' Lubachivsky said.

He v 3/8zs Soviet authorities have adopted a much more tolerant att9tIde toward the Ukrainian Catholics in the past few months, allowing them to celebrate Mass in zuelic, import Bibles and communicate by fax with church groups in the West.

It is in Gorbachev's interests to legalize the church of more than 4 million followers in the Soviet Union's second largMsj republic, the cardinal said.

''If Mr. Gorbachev would like to have the moral support of the Holy Father, this is the condition that he could get it,'' Lubachivsky said. ''He needs this. He'll also have the support from the Western countries. He needs the m/o y from the W%r Porto 0 Thursday's Game .. .. ...

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