Masterpieces of History
The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Central European University Press
Table of contents
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Preface and Acknowledgements
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This book is the culmination of an ambitious 15-year project to open up the previously secret Cold War files of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, as well as those of the United States and its allies, and to use those primary sources to produce a new multi-lingual, multi-archival, multi-national history covering...
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This book is based on the materials of a conference that took place in a picturesque spot on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean off the state of Georgia—the Musgrove Plantation—in May 1998. That conference was probably one of the most significant ever held by the National Security Archive. It was organized by Tom...
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The conference held at the Musgrove plantation on Georgia’s southeast coast in 1998 illuminated one of the most important periods in 20th century history: the liberation of the countries in Eastern Europe from Soviet control. The fact that this episode occurred peacefully near the close of a century filled with violence...
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Chronology of Events
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The Logic of 1989: The Soviet Peaceful Withdrawal from Eastern Europe
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The Cold War came to an end in the exact geographical region where it began. In 1989, Eastern Europe became the epicenter of breathtaking changes that went beyond all Western expectations, Soviet fears, and the hopes of the East Europeans themselves. The non-violent and even harmonious nature of the change was...
U.S. Policy and the Revolutions of 1989
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The Cold War met a miraculous end during the late 1980s, with neither a bang nor a whimper. Instead, the lasting images of the Cold War’s demise were almost all peaceful (except in Romania) yet incandescent. Hammers and chisels reduced the Berlin Wall to souvenir rocks while Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” blared out over...
Dialogue: The Musgrove Conference, May 1–3, 1998
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Document No. 1: Transcript of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Conference with CC CPSU Secretaries March 15, 1985
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These minutes, which are as close to an official transcript as can be found in the Soviet archives, provide Gorbachev’s report to and discussion with top CPSU officials about his first meeting as Soviet leader with the East European allies. That encounter occurred immediately following the funeral of General Secretary Konstantin...
Document No. 2: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding the “Vladimirov” Article July 5, 1985
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Anatoly Chernyaev’s diaries, one of the most important documentary sources to come out of the late Soviet period, include almost daily notes of unusual candor, combining quotes gleaned from other officials with Chernyaev’s own observations. This excerpt relates to the domestic politics Gorbachev was forced to deal with, and...
Document No. 3: Memorandum from Anatoly Chernyaev to Aleksandr Yakovlev on Germany and Eastern Europe March 10, 1986
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This memorandum—one of Chernyaev’s very first formal memos after his appointment as Gorbachev’s foreign policy adviser—illustrates both the daring and the caution that characterized the new thinking. The substance of the memo outlines...
Document No. 4: Speech by Mikhail Gorbachev to Ministry of Foreign Affairs May 28, 1986
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This speech to a large gathering of Foreign Ministry officials was intended to send a powerful signal to the bureaucrats directly responsible for day-to-day foreign policy that Moscow would begin to treat Eastern Europe very differently from now on. Aimed at an internal audience, the remarks show that the coming change was...
Document No. 5: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session June 13, 1986
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These notes taken by Chernyaev at the Soviet Politburo provide a detailed assessment from Gorbachev of the economic problems and dependencies that exist within the Warsaw Pact. The meeting takes place just after Gorbachev’s return from the Budapest meeting of the WTO’s Political Consultative Committee. After dismissing...
Document No. 6: Memorandum from Mikhail Gorbachev to the CC CPSU Politburo on Topical Questions regarding Collaboration with Socialist Countries June 26, 1986
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This very rare personal memo from Gorbachev to the Politburo goes much further— and adopts a much more negative tone—than the leadership discussion held only 13 days earlier (see previous document). Drafted by Shakhnazarov and Vadim Medvedev, 6 the document candidly admits that “Moscow was viewed as a kind of...
Document No. 7: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session July 3, 1986
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Gorbachev intentionally provokes this discussion at the very beginning of the Politburo’s regular Thursday meeting—even before the scheduled discussion of Chernobyl—in order to set his line on Eastern Europe and make sure it is taken seriously by the top leadership, which is still dominated by “old thinkers.” (See also the previous...
Document No. 8: Transcript of CC CPSU Politburo Session November 13, 1986
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In this record of the Soviet Politburo meeting immediately following the Political Consultative Committee meeting in Bucharest, Gorbachev gives a markedly positive assessment of the socialist countries’ willingness to reform. He reports that “our friends” have now accepted perestroika, self-reliance, and the changes in relations...
Document No. 9: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session January 29, 1987
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At Gorbachev’s first meeting as general secretary with the leaders of the East European fraternal parties in 1985, his new language was already remarkable (even if his audience did not hear it clearly); but this Politburo session at the beginning of 1987 represents the fullest expression of Gorbachev’s principle of non-interference...
Document No. 10: Proposal from georgy Shakhnazarov to the CPSU for a Partial Soviet Troop Withdrawal from the ČSSR March 1987
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This provocative memorandum shows the essential role played by key reformers—top aides to Gorbachev—in thinking beyond conventional notions and ultimately (but not immediately) seeing their ideas put into action. Here, Shakhnazarov urges Gorbachev to announce unilateral Soviet troop withdrawals from Czechoslovakia...
Document No. 11: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session. Report on Mikhail Gorbachev’s Visit to Czechoslovakia April 16, 1987
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Here Chernyaev captures Gorbachev’s report to the Soviet Politburo about his recent trip to Czechoslovakia and the popular adulation he encountered there. The Soviet leader compares the Czechoslovaks’ newly-positive attitude toward the USSR to that of May 1945, after the defeat of the Nazis. But the downside of Gorbachev’s...
Document No. 12: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session May 8, 1987
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This Politburo discussion about the Warsaw Pact’s doctrine features a notable level of internal disagreement, debate, and substantive argument—quite different from the usual Politburo style of call-and-response and preaching-to-the-choir. Here, Defense Minister Sergey Sokolov and other old guard run headlong into the new thinking on...
Document No. 13: Report on Mikhail Gorbachev’s Visit to Romania June 4, 1987
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Gorbachev’s report to the Politburo about his trip to Romania describes a very different experience from the popular reception he received in April in Prague. Chernyaev’s notes show Gorbachev’s clear discomfort with Ceauşescu, the overall oppressive feeling he found in a country where “human dignity has absolutely no...
Document No. 14: Report on Eduard Shevardnadze’s Visits to Bulgaria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia July 9, 1987
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Here Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze tells the Politburo about his travels to Eastern Europe, and hints of distress sound throughout the report. Bulgaria is “outwardly” all right but inwardly “uncertain.” Hungary faces the possibility of “social turmoil.” Yes, perestroika is popular in Yugoslavia, but new problems accumulate daily...
Document No. 15: State Department Intelligence and Research Report: “Economic Reform in the USSR and Eastern Europe” September 16, 1987
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This succinct assessment from the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research reviews the progress of economic reform in the socialist countries and notes surprisingly that “[t]here is no apparent organized opposition in the USSR to Gorbachev’s reform” although “vested interests” will constrain reform in...
Document No. 16: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session November 19, 1987
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At this meeting of the Politburo, Chairman of the Council of Ministers Nikolay Ryzhkov discusses his talks with the Czechoslovak prime minister, Lubomír Štrougal, the most reform-minded member of the leadership there who in 1988 would be forced into retirement by the hard-line Miloš Jakeš. Ryzhkov says Štrougal...
Document No. 17: Memorandum from Robert Gates, “Gorbachev’s Gameplan: The Long View” November 24, 1987
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Two years into the changed relationship between Moscow and its Eastern European allies, the top U.S. intelligence analyst on the Soviet Union—Robert M. Gates, then the deputy director of CIA—reads Gorbachev almost completely wrong. In this memo for President Reagan (who was about to sign with Gorbachev the treaty that...
Document No. 18: Telegram from Rozanne Ridgeway to All European Diplomatic Posts, “Eastern Europe: Invitation to the Dance” December 1987
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The CIA’s Robert Gates was not alone in his reluctance to advocate a reassessment of U.S. strategy in response to Gorbachev’s new initiatives. In this cable from the State Department to European posts, Assistant Secretary Rozanne Ridgeway coins an attention-getting title—“invitation to the dance”—but includes little substance...
Document No. 19: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session March 10, 1988
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This Politburo discussion memorialized by Chernyaev marks a conspicuous change of tone among the Soviet leadership about their socialist allies. No longer are the Eastern European countries seen on the credit side of the ledger and about to reform, but as significant debits, absorbing Soviet raw materials as well as billions of rubles of foreign...
Document No. 20: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Lazar Moisov March 14, 1988
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This excerpt from Chernyaev’s notes of a Gorbachev meeting with Yugoslav Communist leader Lazar Moisov in Belgrade provides one of the clearest expressions of Gorbachev’s renunciation of intervention in Eastern Europe. Gorbachev says both the United States and the USSR have learned that neither “can impose its will on...
Document No. 21: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session March 24–25, 1988
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This document is fascinating proof that the Soviet leadership was aware of the “spillover” effect of Gorbachev’s liberalization, particularly the “glasnost” publications about Stalin and Soviet history, on the countries of Eastern Europe. By this time there were plenty of signals from the communist leadership and Soviet...
Document No. 22: Record of the Main Content of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and gustáv Husák April 12, 1988
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Gorbachev is committed to leading by example rather than telling the East Europeans what to do, but he is not above lubricating the process of change with his personal diplomacy. Here he commiserates with the former Czechoslovak communist leader, Gustáv Husák, who was replaced in December 1987 by the marginally less...
Document No. 23: Record of the Main Content of a Telephone Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and János Kádár May 19, 1988
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This transcript offers a fascinating view into Moscow’s relations with the fraternal allies during the Gorbachev era. Three days before the Hungarian party conference at which long-time communist leader János Kádár is to be replaced by the reformminded premier, Károly Grósz, Kádár checks in with the Kremlin: “I deemed it my...
Document No. 24: Comments from georgy Shakhnazarov on Viktor Kulikov’s Report at the Warsaw Treaty PCC May 25, 1988
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This biting and often sarcastic memo by top Gorbachev aide Georgy Shakhnazarov deconstructs the inertia and old thinking demonstrated by the Soviet commander of Warsaw Treaty Organization forces, Marshal Viktor Kulikov, and by implication, the entire Soviet military establishment. A year after Gorbachev insisted to the...
Document No. 25: National Intelligence Estimate 11/12-9-88, “Soviet Policy toward Eastern Europe under Gorbachev” May 1988
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At the end of May 1988, Ronald Reagan would walk through Red Square in Moscow and pronounce that the “evil empire” was from “another time, another era.” Judging by this National Intelligence Estimate, the president at this stage is well ahead of his own intelligence community. Because NIEs emerge from a painstaking...
Document No. 26: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session June 20, 1988
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In the Musgrove dialogue, Ambassador Jack Matlock comments that he reached a turning point in his opinion of the Gorbachev reforms—that they were fundamental, not just tactical or public relations moves—when he read in the May 27, 1988, edition of Pravda the texts of the theses for the upcoming XIX Party Conference...
Document No. 27: Speech by Mikhail Gorbachev at a Dinner with Wojciech Jaruzelski July 11, 1988
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In remarks drafted by Georgy Shakhnazarov, Gorbachev toasts his hosts at a private state dinner in Warsaw, then goes beyond the usual thanks for hospitality to provide a detailed explanation of his concept of the common European home. First mentioned by Gorbachev in London in 1984, publicly announced in Prague in April...
Document No. 28: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Józef Czyrek September 23, 1988
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This extraordinary conversation provides additional evidence that Gorbachev had changed Moscow’s relationship with Eastern Europeans much earlier than usually assumed. Here, Polish Politburo member and former Foreign Minister Józef Czyrek has a lengthy discussion with the Soviet leader in Moscow, not asking for his...
Document No. 29: Preparatory Notes from Georgy Shakhnazarov for Mikhail gorbachev for CC CPSU Politburo Meeting October 6, 1988
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This document reveals some of the reasons for Gorbachev’s “non-policy” in Eastern Europe. The USSR “transferred” its own system failure (brought on by “factors rooted in the very economic and political model of socialism”) to Eastern Europe after World War II. After that experience, the Kremlin leadership now appears to...
Document No. 30: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding a Meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl October 28, 1988
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This remarkable diary entry by Chernyaev gives his impressions of Gorbachev’s meeting with Kohl, little more than a month before the seminal U.N. speech. Kohl’s trip to Moscow marks a distinct warming of German–Soviet relations after the chill of the early 1980s, and in particular the establishment of a candid personal...
Document No. 31: Notes of a Meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Policy Advisers October 31, 1988
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In this document Gorbachev in effect brainstorms with a narrow circle of foreign policy experts on the content of his upcoming speech to the U.N. General Assembly. In addition to Shevardnadze and Chernyaev, the group includes Yakovlev, Dobrynin, and Dobrynin’s deputy, Valentin Falin. The major thrust of Gorbachev’s initiative, as...
Document No. 32: Summary of Conversations between Károly Grósz, János Berecz, Miklós Németh, Mátyás Szűrös and Aleksandr Yakovlev November 10–11, 1988
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This extensive document is one of a series of important records from the personal files of Aleksandr Yakovlev which provide extraordinary detail on the relationship between Gorbachev’s regime and the East Europeans—in this case, Hungary. In May 1988, the reformer Károly Grósz had replaced the aged and ailing János Kádár...
Document No. 33: CIA Intelligence Assessment, “Gorbachev’s September Housecleaning: An Early Evaluation” December 1988
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This document provides the CIA’s evaluation—prior to Gorbachev’s U.N. speech—of the radical personnel changes the Soviet leader made at the September Party Plenum. There, Gorbachev consolidated the two Central Committee international departments (covering socialist and non-socialist countries) into a single body;...
Document No. 34: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev on the Situation in the Baltics December 10, 1988
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This diary entry shows that Gorbachev, unlike the CIA analysts in the September “Housecleaning” analysis (see Document No. 33), began as early as December 1988 to sense the rising instability in the Soviet Union, and particularly the spillover effect that the secessionist movements in the Baltics were having on the Russian...
Document No. 35: Transcript of CC CPSU Politburo Session December 27–28, 1988
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This is one of a very few official records of Soviet Politburo proceedings that are available publicly. The December meeting it chronicles was the first following Gorbachev’s return from the United States, having cut short his travels in order to deal with the disastrous earthquake in Armenia. Gorbachev devotes much time to...
Document No. 36: Record of Conversation between Aleksandr Yakovlev and Henry Kissinger January 16, 1989
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The following series of documents from the Kremlin’s talks with Henry Kissinger in Moscow provide the first primary-source evidence ever published on one of the most controversial subplots in the narrative of the end of the Cold War. The former U.S. secretary of state, largely excluded from official roles during the Reagan...
Document No. 37: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Henry Kissinger January 17, 1989
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This discussion between Gorbachev and Kissinger is not nearly the substantive back-and-forth that Kissinger experienced the previous day with Yakovlev (see Document No. 36). The meeting seems almost ceremonial rather than a negotiation, with the focus on the process of how to open a confidential channel rather than the pro’s...
Document No. 38: Letter from George H.W. Bush to Mikhail Gorbachev
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Henry Kissinger hand-delivered this personal letter from President-elect George H.W. Bush to Gorbachev just days before the inauguration. According to Chernyaev’s notes (the letter remains classified at the George Bush Presidential Library), it is interesting for what it says and what it does not say. In Chernyaev’s...
Document No. 39: Report from Mikhail Gorbachev to the CC CPSU Politburo regarding His Meeting with the Trilateral Commission January 21, 1989
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The Trilateral Commission was a powerhouse of statesmen and financiers from the United States, Western Europe and Japan. In his report to the Politburo about his recent meeting with the Commission, Gorbachev takes special note of a comment by former French Prime Minister Giscard d’Estaing, who postulated that “in 10–20...
Document No. 40: Notes of Telephone Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush January 23, 1989
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Chernyaev’s notes of one of the first telephone calls between George Bush and Gorbachev capture the careful and noncommittal tone of the new American president with regard to the Kissinger condominium idea. “Even though Kissinger was on a personal, not on an official trip, we would like very much to hear his story. We do...
Document No. 41: Memorandum from CC CPSU International Department, “On a Strategy for Relations with the European Socialist Countries” February 1989
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This fascinating analysis from the new combined International Department, headed by Valentin Falin, is one of the results of the Politburo’s January 21 discussion (see Document No. 39)—in effect, the first serious attempt at a systematic analysis of possible Soviet strategy towards Eastern Europe. In practical terms, these analyses...
Document No. 42: Memorandum from the Bogomolov Institute, “Changes in Eastern Europe and their Impact on the USSR” February 1989
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Like the International Department memo above, this assessment is sent to Yakovlev (and read by Gorbachev, according to his aides) as part of the analytical process commissioned by the January 21 Politburo discussion. But the think-tank reformers here go much further than the Central Committee staff, both in terms of frank...
Document No. 43: Cable from Jack Matlock to State Department, “The Soviet Union over the Next Four Years” February 3, 1989
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Career foreign service officer and Soviet specialist Jack Matlock became U.S. ambassador to Moscow in April 1987 after almost four years as a key National Security Council staff member during President Reagan’s growing rapprochement with Gorbachev. Now, less than a month into the new Bush administration’s “...
Document No. 44: Memorandum from Anatoly Chernyaev to Vadim Zagladin February 4, 1989
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After the success of the United Nations speech in December 1988, Gorbachev decides his next major audience should be Europe, and the July meeting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg becomes the chosen venue. With this memo, Chernyaev commissions Vadim Zagladin to work on a draft text, a highest-priority assignment direct from...
Document No. 45: Cable from Jack Matlock to State Department, “The Soviet Union over the Next Four Years” February 13, 1989
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Matlock’s second cable in a series (see Document Nos. 43 & 47) echoes the hardline position in Washington held most prominently by Scowcroft and Gates: “New Thinking in Soviet foreign policy probably started as a tactical shift to buttress a limited reform … The intent most likely was to provide a temporary breathing...
Document No. 46: Report on Vadim Medvedev’s Visit to Romania February 16, 1989
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In this document, Politburo member and head of the ideology department Vadim Medvedev reports to the Politburo on his just-completed visit to Romania, where, as he describes it, Ceauşescu has changed his stance 180 degrees. From insisting on independence for each of the allies, to becoming the enforcer of the communist faith,...
Document No. 47: Cable from Jack Matlock to State Department, “U.S.–Soviet Relations: Policy Opportunities” February 22, 1989
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U.S. Ambassador Matlock’s third cable (see Document Nos. 43 & 45) drives home the point that U.S. influence has never been greater, and “[t]hat leverage should be used not to ‘help’ Gorbachev or the Soviet Union, but to promote U.S. interests. The most central of such interests is the long-term transformation of the Soviet Union...
Document No. 48: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Achille Occhetto February 28, 1989
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Gorbachev’s interlocutor at this meeting is the Italian communist leader Achille Occhetto, who in 1994 would declare the communist experiment over and dissolve the Italian party into a social democratic institution. The notes of this conversation, which focus in part on the significance of the Prague Spring of 1968, were probably...
Document No. 49: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session March 3, 1989
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Yet another Politburo member returns from a trip to Eastern Europe and sounds the alarm. In these notes, Ryzhkov describes his talks with the prime minister of Czechoslovakia, Ladislav Adamec, and reports that the country is in total crisis: “half of Czechoslovakia does not support the government, because all of them—and their...
Document No. 50: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Miklós Németh March 3, 1989
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At this juncture, Miklós Németh represents the new, reform-minded crop of Hungarian communists. His visit with Gorbachev comes just as turmoil is spilling out into the streets of the Baltic capitals, in Tbilisi, Georgia, and even in Moscow. Just two days after this conversation, thousands of people would demonstrate to support the...
Document No. 51: Notes of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Meeting with Soviet Ambassadors to Socialist Countries March 3, 1989
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These notes reproduce a remarkable oration by Gorbachev to an audience that traditionally consisted of party functionaries picked for their ideological correctness rather than their diplomatic skills. But by now the Soviet leader and his foreign minister are in the midst of a process of installing more reform-oriented emissaries to...
Document No. 52: Record of Conversations between Mikhail Gorbachev and Károly Grósz March 23–24, 1989
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These Hungarian notes on the meetings between party leader Grósz and Gorbachev reveal plainly the ambiguities that still permeate the Soviet leader’s deliberations with the East Europeans—or perhaps his naïveté about the party’s ability to constrain change. Gorbachev responds to an extended discussion of the events of 1956...
Document No. 53: Transcript of CC CPSU Politburo Session, “Outcome of the USSR People’s Deputies Elections” March 28, 1989
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This weekly Politburo meeting follows the March 26 vote for the USSR’s first popularly- elected national Congress of People’s Deputies. The discussion features both Gorbachev’s positive spin and a thinly veiled sense of shock on the leadership’s part. The new super legislature of 2,250 members—elected by 170 million voters—would...
Document No. 54: CIA Intelligence Assessment, “Rising Political Instability under Gorbachev: Understanding the Problem and Prospects for Resolution” April 1989
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Only four months after concluding that Gorbachev’s process of change “could take decades,” the CIA now concludes that “[e]ven Gorbachev realizes … that it is far from certain that he will be able to control the process he has set in motion.” In this assessment, the Agency’s analysts, primarily in the Office of Soviet Analysis (SOVA),...
Document No. 55: Report from Vadim Zagladin on Conversation with Jan Pudlák April 1, 1989
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Even while working on his secret task of drafting Gorbachev’s Strasbourg speech (see Document No. 44), the International Department’s Vadim Zagladin continues his official role as liaison with “progressive” East and West Europeans. Here, Zagladin’s report on conversations with a leading Czechoslovak official, Jan Pudlák,...
Document No. 56: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher April 6, 1989
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The candor and depth of the conversations that took place between Gorbachev and the British prime minister testify to their close relationship, which contributed to Thatcher’s instrumental role as the first Western leader to take notice of the Soviet party boss (“a man you can do business with,” as she said in 1984). Her voice...
Document No. 57: National Intelligence Estimate 11-4-89, “Soviet Policy toward the West: The Gorbachev Challenge” April 1989
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This remarkable estimate from the U.S. intelligence community provides one of the clearest expressions anywhere in the American documentary record of the split between hardline skeptics of Gorbachev—a group that in 1989 included President Bush as well as his top advisers Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, and Robert...
Document No. 58: Session of the CC CPSU Politburo April 20, 1989
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Gorbachev was out of the country on April 9 when Soviet forces cracked down on pro-independence demonstrators in Tbilisi, Georgia, killing at least 20 and drawing widespread condemnation. Eleven days later, this Politburo meeting is the first sustained high-level discussion of the still-murky affair. Gorbachev denounces the...
Document No. 59: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding Gorbachev’s State of Mind May 2, 1989
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After Tbilisi and the mixed results from the election for the Congress of People’s Deputies, this diary entry reflects the feeling among Gorbachev’s reform-minded assistants that perestroika has lost its bearings and Gorbachev himself is beginning to feel deprived of political levers to control and steer the processes he himself...
Document No. 60: Session of the CC CPSU Politburo May 11, 1989
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The March elections in the Baltics are evidently yet another shock to members of Gorbachev’s circle, such as Vadim Medvedev, who reports on their significance to the Politburo, below. Most of the elected deputies, he notes, “share a separatist and nationalist mood” and contrast the “interests of their individual nations to the...
Document No. 61: Transcript of CC PUWP Secretariat Meeting June 5, 1989
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On the day after Solidarity’s sweep of Poland’s first open elections since communist rule, ultimately netting the union 99 of 100 Senate seats, the Polish party leaders vent their shock and dismay in this transcript from the Polish archives, opened in the 1990s. The Secretariat’s members rant that this has been “a bitter lesson,” “the...
Document No. 62: Record of Conversation between Erich Honecker and Eduard Shevardnadze June 9, 1989
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This is one of many documents that became available in the party archives of the former German Democratic Republic after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The hardline leader of the GDR, Erich Honecker, at this time is surpassed only by Ceauşescu of Romania in his resistance to perestroika and to the new thinking in Moscow represented in...
Document No. 63: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl June 12, 1989
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In June 1989, Gorbachev travels to West Germany in pursuit of his foreign policy strategy of building the “common European home,” and to satisfy concerns over the “pause” in U.S.–Soviet relations. The ensuing “Gorbymania” among West Germans marks the peak of Gorbachev’s popularity in the West and evokes serious...
Document No. 64: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Richard von Weizsäcker June 12, 1989
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This conversation between Gorbachev and West German head of state Richard von Weizsäcker demonstrates the FRG’s role as intermediary, bridge, and messenger between the superpowers. The country’s leaders were eager to see the two sides engaged and talking. Weizsäcker comments that the atmosphere in the United States is...
Document No. 65: Transcript of Opening Full Session of Hungarian National Roundtable Negotiations June 13, 1989
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This remarkable document, transcribed from previously unpublished video recordings of the Hungarian Roundtable process, points to the unwritten “rules” of mutual civility that arose in the nonviolent dissident movements of Eastern Europe and found an echo among the communist reformers during the negotiated revolutions...
Document No. 66: Record of Second Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl June 13, 1989
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In these notes of the continuation of Gorbachev and Kohl’s talks in Bonn, we see the beginnings of the “beautiful friendship” that led to German unification in 1990. Earlier in 1989, Gorbachev wanted to make Bush his main foreign partner, but the “pause” in Washington meant the two leaders would not meet until December. So by...
Document No. 67: Record of Third Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl June 14, 1989
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Friendship blooms as Kohl says to Gorbachev, “I am telling you once again that I like your policy, and I like you as a person.” In turn, Gorbachev reveals to Kohl his worries about America: he has intelligence that a “special group” is now “charged with discrediting perestroika and me personally.” According to various...
Document No. 68: Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl June 15, 1989
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Here we see Kohl in his role as superpower matchmaker, as he debriefs the American president about his discussions with Gorbachev. All the substance in this conversation comes from Kohl while Bush listens and says almost nothing. The chancellor is very positive about Gorbachev, and suggests strongly to Bush that he needs...
Document No. 69: Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl June 23, 1989
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This telephone transcript of another in a succession of conversations between Bush and Kohl seems most remarkable in retrospect for the absence on the American side of any sense of the pace of change in Eastern Europe. President Bush appears simply to be conveying a series of talking points given to him by the bureaucracy about...
Document No. 70: Letter from Helmut Kohl to George H.W. Bush June 28, 1989
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In their telephone conversation on June 23 (see previous document), Bush mentioned his upcoming trip to Poland and Hungary, and asked Kohl for his suggestions and personal views on what the West should be doing to help the transition to democracy. Kohl responded that he would send a letter laying out his views, and Bush assured him it would be treated in strict confidence. That communication, which...
Document No. 71: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev, François Mitterrand and Their Spouses July 4, 1989
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During a sequence of discussions in Paris, the French leader effectively joins Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl as an informal member of Gorbachev’s primary international peer group, the support of which becomes a crucial source of his selfesteem and sense of security. In the conversations reproduced in this volume (see...
Document No. 72: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and François Mitterrand July 5, 1989
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In this congenial and candid conversation, Mitterrand and the Gorbachevs discuss the internal conditions and leaderships of Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. Each participant is highly critical of Ceauşescu, whom Gorbachev is due to visit after leaving Paris. They are more sympathetic to Zhivkov although there is a tacit...
Document No. 73: Address by Mikhail Gorbachev to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg July 6, 1989
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This document may be seen as Gorbachev’s cri de coeur for Soviet integration into Europe and the strongest expression of his vision of the new Europe. When he charged Zagladin with preparing a draft in early February 1989 (see Document No. 44), he intended this speech to be the equivalent of his December 1988 United...
Document No. 74: Record of Concluding Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and François Mitterrand July 6, 1989
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In this conversation, Gorbachev shares with Mitterrand his concern about Bush’s statements during his recent visit to Warsaw calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland. He warns against a situation where “someone would try to behave like an elephant in a china shop” at such a sensitive time in Europe....
Document No. 75: Notes of Meeting of Warsaw Treaty Member-States July 8, 1989
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These notes of Gorbachev’s meeting with the “fraternal” party leaders in Warsaw present an extraordinary contrast—in their shallowness, superficiality, and lack of specifics—with the candor seen earlier in his talks with Kohl and Mitterrand. Gorbachev cannot seem to stop talking, and his remarks are filled with generalities...
Document No. 76: Information Note regarding George H.W. Bush’s Visit to Poland (July 9–11) July 18, 1989
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In this summary of Bush’s conversation with Jaruzelski, prepared by the Polish Foreign Ministry, one sees Bush’s caution and sensitivity about undermining Gorbachev’s policy or destabilizing Eastern Europe in any way. He mentions several times his respect for Gorbachev and his resolve not to interfere in the processes in Poland...
Document No. 77: Record of Conversation between Aleksandr Yakovlev and Jack Matlock July 20, 1989
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This memorandum from the Yakovlev files in the Russian State Archive highlights several significant points relating to U.S.–Soviet ties during the important early period of the Bush presidency. For one, it provides an indication of how extensive the “pause” in the relationship was in 1989 (despite the crush of events in Eastern...
Document No. 78: Report from Rezső Nyers and Károly grósz on Negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev July 24–25, 1989
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During this visit to Moscow, the Hungarian communists are no longer quite the supplicants of the previous year, but they are still probing Moscow’s reactions, still working to ascertain the limits of Gorbachev’s tolerance, still uncertain themselves of how far to go—and receiving very little direction from their Big Brothers in the...
Document No. 79: Transcript of SED Politburo Sessions September 5, 1989
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At this stage, the East German communist leadership is just catching up to the fact that the Hungarian communists have already decided—with some support from Moscow—to open their borders to the West (see Document No. 50). The scenes of East Germans hiking en masse to the Austrian border and flocking to embassies in...
Document No. 80: Memorandum of Conversation between Oskar Fischer and Vyacheslav Kochemassov September 7, 1989
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In this discussion, East German Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer seeks reassurance from the Soviet ambassador to East Berlin in the midst of the refugee crisis precipitated by Hungary’s decision to open its border with Austria. Ambassador Kochemassov tells Fischer that his colleagues are in fact actively rebuking both the West...
Document No. 81: Letter from Gerd Vehres to Oskar Fischer September 10, 198971
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This personal letter from the GDR’s man in Budapest to the foreign minister reports on his recent talks with Rezső Nyers. Responding to East Berlin’s condemnation of Hungary’s émigré policy, Nyers claims that the border openings are “only a temporary measure.” But Ambassador Gerd Vehres dismisses this and other comments...
Document No. 82: Record of Conversation between Evgeny Primakov and Margaret Thatcher September 18, 1989
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These notes capture the congruence between the British prime minister’s attitude towards Eastern Europe and that of Gorbachev’s top aides, including the future Russian foreign minister, Evgeny Primakov. When the Soviet official expresses appreciation for Thatcher’s position “in favor of stability in Europe,” the prime minister...
Document No. 83: CIA Intelligence Assessment, “Gorbachev’s Domestic Gambles and Instability in the USSR” September 1989
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This controversial assessment from the CIA’s Office of Soviet Analysis separates SOVA from the consensus of the rest of the U.S. intelligence community regarding Gorbachev and his chances for success, or even survival.73 The document carries a scope note calling it a “speculative paper” because it goes against the general...
Document No. 84: National Security Directive (NSD) 23, “United States Relations with the Soviet Union” September 22, 1989
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This National Security Directive, representing the formal expression of U.S. foreign policy at the highest levels, was apparently drafted as early as April 1989, and its conclusions duly reflect how divorced U.S. policy in this period is from the radical transformations occurring in Eastern Europe. Among the document’s hesitant...
Document No. 85: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher September 23, 1989
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These notes of Margaret Thatcher’s conversation with Gorbachev contain the British leader’s most sensitive views on Germany—so confidential that she requests no written record be made of them during the meeting. Chernyaev complies but immediately afterwards rushes outside and writes down her comments from memory. The talks...
Document No. 86: Protocol No. 166 of CC CPSU Politburo Session September 28, 1989
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This document reflects the first in-depth Soviet Politburo discussion of Poland after the June elections and the Mazowiecki government’s accession to power in August. The report to the Politburo prepared by Shevardnadze, Yakovlev, Yazov, and Kryuchkov opens with a blunt statement that the Polish “situation is unprecedented for...
Document No. 87: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding Mikhail Gorbachev’s Visit to the GDR October 5, 1989
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This diary entry, written on the eve of Gorbachev’s visit to an East Germany in crisis, describes the Soviet leader as anxious and ambivalent about the radical changes underway in Eastern Europe, yet determined not to say anything that will prop up the hard-line Honecker. Chernyaev knows what the drafters of American national...
Document No. 88: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Members of the CC SED Politburo October 7, 1989
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When Gorbachev visits Berlin in early October, thousands of East Germans are already pressing to leave the GDR and demonstrations against the regime are taking place in Leipzig and elsewhere. Chernyaev’s notes of the discussions with the SED Politburo show the Soviet leader actually pushing for leadership changes—contrary...
Document No. 89: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding German Reunification October 9, 1989
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This diary entry reflects the overestimation, by Gorbachev and his top aides, of the strength of West European opposition to German reunification. Chernyaev notes with approval the chorus of French official voices that have spoken quietly against “one Germany,” as well as the earlier Gorbachev conversations with Margaret...
Document No. 90: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding Erich Honecker October 11, 1989
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Events are moving quickly in the GDR, marked by the beginning of maneuverings in the SED Politburo against Honecker. Here Chernyaev records a conversation with Gorbachev and Shakhnazarov in which the Soviet leader refers to Honecker with an obscenity for not stepping down gracefully and thus preserving “his place in...
Document No. 91: Session of the CC CPSU Politburo, Discussion of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Talk with Mieczysław Rakowski October 12, 1989
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In a telephone call with Gorbachev, former Polish prime minister and current party leader Mieczysław Rakowski bemoans how “helpless” the Polish party is. To this Gorbachev replies: “It is just like ours,” and adds that Poland’s resort to “militaryadministrative methods have yielded the opposite results” from what was intended....
Document No. 92: Record of Conversation between Vadim Medvedev and Kurt Hager October 13, 198976
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Just a week after Gorbachev’s visit to Berlin, senior GDR party leader Kurt Hager and the Soviet Politburo member in charge of ideology, Vadim Medvedev, meet for several hours in Moscow. This memorandum provides an ample dose of the kind of party jargon that was the staple of such “fraternal” conversations in the Soviet...
Document No. 93: Memorandum from Georgy Shakhnazarov to Mikhail Gorbachev regarding Military Détente in Europe October 14, 1989
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This policy memorandum marks a kind of apogee for “new thinking” which combines a vision of a post-Cold War Europe with a concrete proposal for the unilateral withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The author, Georgy Shakhnazarov, is enough of a realist to argue that the Soviet Union needs...
Document No. 94: Record of Telephone Conversation between George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl October 23, 1989
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Not only does Helmut Kohl initiate this telephone call, he also leads the entire conversation, giving the American president a detailed briefing, country-by-country, about the changes in Eastern Europe. Kohl says he is supporting the Hungarian reform communists “quite vigorously,” and that “our Western friends and partners...
Document No. 95: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Mauno Koivisto October 25, 1989
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The first Social Democrat to be elected president of Finland (1982), Mauno Koivisto maintained Helsinki’s traditional deference to Moscow throughout the revolutions of 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, even declining to recognize neighboring Estonia until after major European powers had done so. But he also...
Document No. 96: Record of Conversation between Aleksandr Yakovlev and Zbigniew Brzezinski October 31, 1989
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The leading Soviet reformer on the Politburo finds surprising agreement on the German question in this meeting with the Polish-American observer, Zbigniew Brzezinski, whom the Soviets had vilified as an enemy of détente when he served as President Carter’s national security adviser in the late 1970s. (Cementing his reputation for...
Document No. 97: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Egon Krenz November 1, 1989
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Here the Soviet leader receives the new East German replacement for Honecker, Egon Krenz. As interior minister, Krenz had declined to use force to suppress the Leipzig and other demonstrations, yet he would later serve time in unified German jails (unlike Honecker, who would be excused for health reasons) as punishment for...
Document No. 98: Cable from U.S. Embassy in Sofia to State Department, “The Nov 10 CC Party Plenum: Little Prospect for Major Changes” November 9, 1989
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On the day the Berlin Wall would fall, few could imagine that dramatic events were about to take place across the bloc. Typical of the cautious diplomatic discourse only hours before the ultimate Cold War symbol cracked is this cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria predicting calm and continuity, no “major personnel changes”...
Document No. 99: Session of the CC CPSU Politburo November 9, 1989
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On this historic day featuring the breaching of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Politburo pays no attention at all to Eastern Europe. The leadership’s regular weekly meeting mentions not a word about the changes in East Germany, but the reason becomes understandable when one realizes that the subject is the even more chilling prospect...
Document No. 100: Record of Conversation between Helmut Kohl and Lech Wałęsa November 9, 1989
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When the Berlin Wall is breached, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is out of the country—visiting the new democratic leaders of Poland for the second time this fall. The Poles, represented by Solidarity hero and Nobel Prize winner Lech Wałęsa, are not at all eager for more change in East Germany. Wałęsa is virtually the only...
Document No. 101: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding the Fall of the Berlin Wall November 10, 1989
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This extraordinary diary entry from inside the Kremlin on the day after the Wall’s collapse captures the “snapshot” reaction of one of the closest and most loyal of Gorbachev’s assistants. Chernyaev practically cheers “the end of Yalta” and the “Stalinist legacy” in Europe, and sees “the shift in the world balance of forces”...
Document No. 102: Record of Telephone Conversation between George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl November 10, 1989
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This memorandum of conversation reads as if the agenda had been set before the Berlin Wall fell. The West German chancellor leads off with a report on his trip to Poland, where the new leaders are “fine people” but with “too little professionalism” because they “spent the last couple of years in prison, not a place where one...
Document No. 103: Record of Telephone Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl November 11, 1989
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With the tearing down of the Wall, the West German chancellor takes the initiative in Europe, reaching out to both Moscow and Washington with assurances of stability in the two Germanys—the epicenter of the Cold War—while simultaneously pursuing his ultimately successful campaign for German unification. Here Kohl calls...
Document No. 104: Record of Telephone Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and François Mitterrand November 14, 1989
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Alarmed by “all the excitement that has been raised in the FRG around the issue of German unification,” Gorbachev reaches out to the French president to confirm that “we have a mutual understanding” on this issue. Mitterrand’s tone is reassuring: “There is a certain equilibrium that exists in Europe, and we should not disturb it.”...
Document No. 105: Record of Telephone Conversation between George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl November 17, 1989
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Again, the West German leader initiates this telephone conversation with the president. Here, Kohl reports on his talks with Gorbachev and with East German leader Egon Krenz, and promises “we will do nothing that will destabilize the situation in the GDR.” Bush responds: “The euphoric excitement in the U.S. runs the risk of...
Document No. 106: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Brian Mulroney November 21, 1989
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Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney hears an earful from Gorbachev about the Americans, but the Soviet leader’s annoyance is focused less on Bush and Secretary of State James Baker (“after a difficult period of doubts they came to very realistic positions”) than on the U.S. Congress, which he accuses of interfering in...
Document No. 107: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Tadeusz Mazowiecki November 24, 1989
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This historic meeting is Gorbachev’s first with a non-communist East European leader. The exchange is quite respectful, even at points approaching the peer-to-peer candor found in Gorbachev’s talks with Thatcher or Mitterrand. In this case, Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki is well aware that he was able to take office...
Document No. 108: Speech by Ladislav Adamec at CC CPCz Extraordinary Session November 24, 1989
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The “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia is in full swing when the CPCz’s Central Committee meets in special session to debate whether or not to repress the mass demonstrations with force. A week earlier, the forcible suppression of a student march sparked a general strike and continuing protests that filled Wenceslaus...
Document No. 109: Letter from Helmut Kohl to George H.W. Bush November 28, 1989
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This remarkable letter arrives at the White House at the very moment that Chancellor Kohl is surprising both the allies and the Soviets with his “10 Points” speech at the Bundestag in Bonn, pointing toward reunification. The letter is couched as a response to Bush’s repeated entreaties to Kohl (for example in phone calls on November...
Document No. 110: Soviet Transcript of the Malta Summit December 2–3, 1989
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Originally intended as an “interim” meeting to prepare for a full-scale summit in 1990, the Bush–Gorbachev meeting at Malta would take on a life of its own, symbolically closing the Cold War. Bush came up with the idea for the meeting after his July trip to Hungary and Poland, when Jaruzelski, among others, urged American...
Document No. 111: Memorandum of Conversation of George H.W. Bush, John Sununu, Brent Scowcroft, and Helmut Kohl December 3, 1989
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This conversation immediately after the Malta summit marks a turning point in the process of German unification, where President Bush effectively joins Chancellor Kohl’s program—yet neither man expects unification to happen even in two years, much less by October 1990 when West and East would actually join . Bush gives...
Document No. 112: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Petar Mladenov December 5, 1989
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This record of conversation covers the first meeting between Gorbachev and the new party secretary in Bulgaria, Petar Mladenov, who replaced the longest-serving East European communist leader, Todor Zhivkov, the day after the Berlin Wall fell (termed “the November 10 changes”). Gorbachev applauds Mladenov’s “brave...
Document No. 113: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Hans Dietrich enscher December 5, 1989
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A week has passed since Helmut Kohl announced his “10 Points” in a Bundestag speech, and Gorbachev, unlike his demeanor regarding Germany at Malta, does go “ballistic” in this conversation. This is perhaps because he is receiving the German foreign minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher, who heads a separate political...
Document No. 114: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and François Mitterrand December 6, 1989
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Gorbachev finds the French president seemingly in complete agreement about Kohl, but not much help in doing anything specific to slow down the rush toward German unification. On the common European home idea, Mitterrand’s language is music to Gorbachev’s ears: “We should not change the order of the processes. First and...
Document No. 115: Cable from James Baker to U.S. Embassy Sofia December 19, 1989
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This document represents one of the few pieces of evidence available on an actual behind-the-scenes intervention by Soviet officials in the reform and revolution processes in Eastern Europe. Gorbachev himself would proclaim non-interference over and over, and would only go so far in encouraging the ouster of the old guard—as...
Document No. 116: Four Soviet Foreign Ministry Documents regarding the Situation in Romania December 20–25, 1989
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The final document in this chronological sequence—a conversation between U.S. Ambassador Jack Matlock and Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Aboimov on Christmas Eve 1989—is clearly the headline item of this group, which was declassified and published by the Russian Foreign Ministry in 1994 (with obvious public...
Document No. 117: Memorandum from the CC CPSU International Department, “Towards a New Concept of Relations between the USSR and the States of Central and Eastern Europe” January 5, 1990
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This remarkable critique of Soviet foreign policy would be unimaginable under any regime prior to Gorbachev’s (or subsequent to Yeltsin’s, for that matter). The cleareyed realists and new thinkers (Rybakov and Ozhereliev) in the International Department of the Central Committee offer their boss, Georgy Shakhnazarov, a...
Document No. 118: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding german Reunification January 28, 1990
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This record from Chernyaev’s diary provides an illuminating portrait of internal Soviet deliberations about German unification. The Soviet general secretary calls together his closest foreign policy advisers, three of whom (Kryuchkov, Akhromeyev, and Falin) would subsequently blame Gorbachev for the “loss” of Germany. But...
Document No. 119: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker February 9, 1990
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This Gorbachev Foundation record of the Soviet leader’s meeting with James Baker focuses on the question of German unification, but also includes candid discussion by Gorbachev of the economic and political problems in the Soviet Union, and Baker’s “free advice” (“sometimes the finance minister in me wakes up”) on prices...
Document No. 120: Letter from James Baker to Helmut Kohl February 10, 1990
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Courtesy of Helmut Kohl’s publication of selected documents from the years 1989– 1990, this letter from James Baker to the German chancellor reports on his meeting with Gorbachev (see previous document). It arrives just as Kohl himself is on his way to meet with the Soviet leader. The American briefs the German on Soviet...
Document No. 121: National Intelligence Estimate 12–90, “The Future of Eastern Europe,” (Key Judgments Only) April 1990
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The CIA finally catches up with the march of history in this assessment, five months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Communist party rule in Eastern Europe is finished, and it will not be revived.” The Soviets have no more leverage in Eastern Europe, and even an aggressive Kremlin leadership will not be able to alter the course...
Document No. 122: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Wojciech Jaruzelski April 13, 1990
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This warm conversation between Gorbachev and the East European leader he respects the most, Polish President Wojciech Jaruzelski, provides an epilogue to the process of change that started with Gorbachev’s first meeting as general secretary with bloc leaders in March 1985. Here, Jaruzelski thanks Gorbachev for the way...
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Page Count: 784
Illustrations: 16 B&W photos
Publication Year: 2010