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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 2: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding the “Vladimirov” Article, July 5, 1985

Traduction de Anna Melyakova

Texte intégral

1Anatoly 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 points up the way in which Gorbachev’s personnel choices drove change. The context for this entry was the publication in Pravda on June 21, 1985, of an article under the pseudonym “Vladimirov.” In reality, the author was Oleg Rakhmanin, the hard-line deputy head of the Central Committee’s Socialist Countries Department Rakhmanin criticized the pursuit of independence and innovation in the socialist community, especially in Hungary and Romania, making particular mention of nationalist sentiments and unnecessary reforms. Western and East European press coverage immediately noted the contradiction between these views and the new Gorbachev course toward the socialist countries. According to Chernyaev’s diary, Gorbachev used the occasion of the next Politburo meeting to blast Rakhmanin’s boss, Konstantin Rusakov, commenting that he had been obliged to make telephone calls to the socialist leaders to dissociate himself from the article. Rusakov lost his position soon after this incident, and was replaced by Vadim Medvedev. Rakhmanin was eventually replaced by Georgy Shakhnazarov.


2And this is what happened: on July [sic] 21, Pravda published an article by “Vladimirov” on the socialist commonwealth; an edifying article and with obvious critical implications for Hungary and the GDR, not to mention Romania. It mentioned the “nationalistic movements,” and even “Russophobia,” and the “models” and “reforms,” and even “discipline,” not to mention proletarian internationalism in its classic form!

3The article was immediately noticed by the American, English, FRG, French, and Italian press. What, they said, could this mean? Are these Gorbachev’s true thoughts, or opposition to Gorbachev? He allows himself reforms, but for his vassals—no way, [they must] toe the line. The feeling of bewilderment was felt also coming from Berlin and Budapest […]

4And so on Saturday (July [sic] 29) Gorbachev said at the PB: what is this turning out to be! We say that the consolidation of the socialist commonwealth is our first priority, we display maximum resourcefulness and tact in order to consolidate this orientation, to eliminate misunderstandings, to strengthen trust, etc.; and all of a sudden all this comes to nothing. I have already had to come up with excuses—I made up a pretext to call Kádár and Honecker, and among other things let them know that “this article does not reflect the opinion of the leadership.” That is how I have to extricate myself.

  • Did you know about this article, M.S. [Mikhail Sergeyevich] asks [Konstantin V.] Rusakov, about the fact that it was being prepared in your department? Do you know that its author, “Vladimirov,” is your first deputy, CC member [Oleg B.] Rakhmanin?!
  • No, replies Rusakov.
  • And did you, M.S. addresses [Mikhail V.] Zimyanin, know that the central CC organ—Pravda—was given such an article?
  • No, replies another CC Secretary responsible for the press.
  • And you, he says to [Viktor G.] Afanas’ev, did you not understand what you were doing? Why didn’t you send this article around the PB, or at least around to the secretaries?

5The editor-in-chief of Pravda mumbles something, referring to Rakhmanin’s go-ahead power and to the fact that he is first deputy of the Socialist Countries Department and that he should understand what he is doing.

  • So, Gorbachev counters. […] Firstly, it is an absolute disgrace that the department deputy (Rusakov) does not know what is going on in his department. Secondly, why do we need such workers in the CC apparatus who act as they wish on the most important political questions, and we have to clean up the mess for them afterwards. Such behavior deserves immediate dismissal from the CC. […] However, since this is the first time (here M.S. wasn’t telling the truth […] he cannot fail to know that Rakhmanin runs “his own” policy on, for example, issues with China—countering the CC and harming state interests!) […] we will limit the measures to a strict warning.

6I think if it was anyone else but Rakhmanin, he would have been dismissed immediately. Something, somebody is backing him. […]

7Still, one thing is clear: now there is no chance for Oleg Borisovich [Rakhmanin] to become not only a CC Secretary, which, judging by his actions, he clearly aimed to do, but even a department deputy in place of his ailing chief, Rusakov.

8[Source: Anatoly Chernyaev’s Diary, Manuscript. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Anna Melyakova.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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