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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 3: Memorandum from Anatoly Chernyaev to Aleksandr Yakovlev on Germany and Eastern Europe, March 10, 1986

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1This 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 Chernyaev’s vision of Europe as the center of the new Soviet foreign policy and Germany as the key issue in Europe. Remarkably, after calling Erich Honecker “somewhat uncontrollable,” a novel characterization of the hard-line East German leader by a Soviet official, Chernyaev suggests that Gorbachev should take the initiative in resolving the issue of German unification himself, which would serve as a “trump card” in drawing the Federal Republic closer to Moscow. At the same time, however, the memo maintains a rather cautious and traditional tone—warning of “many underwater rocks;” quoting Lenin on bringing Germany and Russia closer together; and falling back on great power rhetoric rather than invoking a demilitarized “common European home”—a notion which would only take hold somewhat later.


  • 1 General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain (1976-1989).

2On relations with Thatcher. It seems like we turn to Great Britain as an important factor in European policy only from time to time. Obviously we don’t have the necessary systematic and persistent [approach in place] yet. McLennan1 and the Labour [Party] both told us that there was an opportunity to “encourage” England to pursue a more independent policy, “to distance” itself somewhat from Reagan. We should urgently think about that, especially in connection with [Eduard] Shevardnadze’s forthcoming visit there. Gradually, Labour’s positions are getting stronger. One should not exclude their coming to power in a year-and-a-half or two. We should energize our relations with them, and give them something for the elections.

  • 2 The Treaty of Rapallo of 1922 was an agreement between Soviet Russia and Germany, which dealt with (...)

3And still, it is not England that can serve us as the key power in European affairs. It appears expedient to pay more attention to the FRG, in the most comprehensive terms. If we succeed in drawing it closer to us—and there would be more opportunities for that under the Social Democrats—that would be the greatest achievement of our European and global policy. Everyone would begin to stir instantly—from Washington to Paris to other capitals. “The spirit of Rapallo”2 is still alive and still terrifies some people. One should also not forget Lenin’s instructions about the importance of a rapprochement between Germany and Russia.

4It is well known that Comrade Honecker is somewhat uncontrollable on the so-called “German-German question.” Here we require a certain caution. Our position regarding his visit to the FRG a year-and-a-half ago was absolutely correct. However, now it would hardly be appropriate to repeat it. We should start thinking seriously—maybe we should just saddle this entire “German-German question” in such a way that it would benefit the socialist commonwealth, socialism, and our policy. Because the most important trump card here—resolution of the so-called question of “German unification”—is in our hands. And we could use this fact as the basis of our entire effort to pull the Federal Republic in our direction. There are many underwater rocks here.

5[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 2. Opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]


1 General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain (1976-1989).

2 The Treaty of Rapallo of 1922 was an agreement between Soviet Russia and Germany, which dealt with pre-war and World War I debts and claims. The agreement enabled Germany to circumvent certain clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and represented the first time the Soviet regime was recognized de jure as a state.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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