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Svetlana Savranskaya
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Thomas Blanton
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Vladislav Zubok

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Document No. 1: Transcript of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Conference with CC CPSU Secretaries, March 15, 1985

Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya

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1These 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 Chernenko, Gorbachev’s predecessor. Interesting hints emerge here about Gorbachev’s attitude to the various leaders. For example, he is very positive about Poland’s Wojciech Jaruzelski, Hungary’s János Kádár, and Czechoslovakia’s Gustáv Husák, but negative to the point of sarcasm about Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu. Ironically, the meeting also discussed renewal of the Warsaw Pact for another 20 years. In his memoirs, Gorbachev describes this meeting as a watershed, as the moment when he talked to each of his counterparts about the need to “revitalize” relations and to take full responsibility for their own countries. In this retrospective view, his statement to his fellow leaders signified no less than “a shift to new realities, a rejection of the Brezhnev Doctrine.” Similarly, Anatoly Chernyaev would later comment at the Musgrove conference that the meeting was a turning point. Yet the document below does not entirely bear the weight of such a claim, and one wonders whether the East European leaders heard Gorbachev’s message quite so clearly.

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2Gorbachev: I think that we gave a fitting farewell to Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko. It was well received by the party and the people. I spoke with Kon-stantin Ustinovich’s family yesterday. The family is very grateful. Now we have to think through all the questions related to memorializing K. U. Chernenko’s legacy. Let us entrust comrades [Yegor K.] Ligachev and [Mikhail V.] Zimyanin to work these issues through. At the same time, we should make decisions on all the issues regarding material support for K. U. Chernenko’s family. We already have a draft of this decision. Today, the flow of condolences in connection with the death of Konstantin Ustinovich continues, and many of these condolences have important content.

3The people and the party as a whole received the decisions of the March Plenum of the CC CPSU with high approval. Responses and greetings are coming from all parts of the country and from abroad.

4Dolgikh: Very positive responses.

5Gorbachev: The people support the party’s policy and are expressing their satisfaction with the unanimity that was exhibited at the Politburo session and the CC CPSU Plenum. This undermines completely the slanderous allegations of the Western press, which in recent months has expended rivers of ink to prove that there was a rivalry, a struggle for power and so on, within the Soviet leadership.

6Zimyanin: Now they have bitten their tongues.

7Gorbachev: The overall reaction of working people to the decisions of the Plenum is positive. The Soviet people support actively the thoughts expressed at the Plenum about the need to concentrate on practical work, on discipline and order, and on the continuation of our Leninist party line.

8Zimyanin: Yesterday, the scholars who took part in the USSR Academy of Sciences session were talking about it very actively.

9Gorbachev: Such support from the working people gives us strength and places many obligations upon us.

10As far as the international resonance of the decisions of the Plenum is concerned, I felt it especially during conversations with the foreign leaders who arrived for Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko’s funeral. Almost all of them tried to meet with our leadership and spoke about the need to develop contacts and cooperation.

11The meeting of the leaders of the member-states of the Warsaw Treaty Organization took place in an exceptionally warm, comradely, and business-like atmosphere.

12Romanov: Comrade [Janós] Kádár spoke very positively about that meeting and its business-like, constructive character.

13Gorbachev: Kádár was the first to speak at the meeting. He gave a very good, I would say internationalist, speech. [Erich] Honecker supported him actively. Comrade [Gustáv] Husák’s speech at the meeting was exceptionally important.

14Rusakov: Husák’s speech was the best.

15Gorbachev: The leaders of all the fraternal countries spoke about the need to hold regular meetings at the level of first secretaries of the communist and workers’ parties of the socialist commonwealth. Comrade [Wojciech] Jaruzelski said directly that we should meet much more often, maybe even without preparing for such meetings, without reading speeches in front of one another.

16As a whole, the meeting was conducted in a spirit of great unity and mutual understanding. Comrade Husák, touching upon the question of the renewal of the Warsaw Treaty, proposed to renew this Treaty up to the celebration of the 40th [sic] anniversary of the victory over Hitler’s Germany. Other leaders of the fraternal countries supported him. When it came to [Nicolae] Ceauşescu’s turn, he started vacillating, stating that the term for which we renew the Treaty is not all that important. He said that we could renew it for 10 years, not for 20 years. Therefore, we had to respond to him quite decisively, saying that we were all united on the issue of signing the protocol of the Warsaw Treaty’s renewal, and that this was our common point of view. One has to say that Ceauşescu swallowed those words and remained silent.

17Rusakov: However, upon leaving the room, he said that this issue would be decided finally after the conversations Chairman of the Romanian Council of Ministers Dăscălescu will have in Moscow.

18Gorbachev: But in general, I responded to him quite firmly. Summing up the results of this conference of the fraternal countries, I believe the time has come to think seriously about how we can develop a system for meeting with the leadership of the states of the socialist commonwealth. We have to think through this issue very well. […]

19[Source: Volkogonov Collection, Reel 17, Container 25. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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