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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 4: Speech by Mikhail Gorbachev to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 28, 1986

Traduction de Anna Melyakova

Texte intégral

1This 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 genuine and that Gorbachev expected his new policies to be enforced. As early as October 1985, according to memoirs by Chernyaev and by Medvedev, Gorbachev had discussed with the Politburo the idea of a non-interventionist approach, saying that the USSR would now reject the “policing” of its socialist allies. The document below is further evidence of this new thinking, and features the striking phrase: “It is impermissible to think that we can teach everyone. No one gave us that right.”


2We have to understand that relations with the socialist countries have entered a new historical era. The time when we helped them to form their economy, their parties, and their political institutions is past. Countries and states that have 40 years of independent development have their own parties, their own political institutions, their own way of life, and they have achievements—in many areas greater than our own. These are full-fledged states, and we cannot lead them by the hand to kindergarten as we would little children. We need a different type of relationship now. If we understand this then it will become clear what our relationship with them should be.

3There are objective interests, which require the socialist countries to be united and consolidated. But they are not fulfilled on their own, automatically. More and more, their fulfillment comes by means of economic interests. Our friends’ situations largely depend on the state of our affairs. This means that we need the convincing power of example and mutual economic gain to strengthen our cooperation, consolidation, and unity.

4We are building our relations with the countries of the socialist community on the basis of respect for their experience, understanding of national specifics, and trust in the search for national approaches, even though some of the steps that our friends take may be detrimental to the common cause.

5Our friends should feel that they are walking alongside us, rather than being towed behind. Regrettably, a well-known gap has formed between what is said on this matter and the real character and quality of the work. This does not allow us to draw our allies most effectively toward our common cause. In order for the relationship with our friends to truly be a high priority our contacts with them need to be efficient and informal. It seems that we have been able to achieve this at the highest level. Political collaboration and an institution for multilateral working meetings for the leaders of fraternal parties are forming. But we must go further [and reach] a preliminary agreement on the essence of our foreign policy actions.

6What is preventing us from coordinating our foreign policy plans, and from sharing the foreign policy efforts of the fraternal parties? Why do we have to come forward with all the initiatives? Sometimes it is better if they bring something forward. This would stimulate our friends’ foreign policy activity.

7After all, they know that if we do not support their initiative and it has not been coordinated with us it will not play out; it is doomed. Such an understanding exists. And this opens up an opportunity for new approaches. We should consider our allies’ sense of self-worth—even if we are talking about the smallest countries—and not ignore their interests. It is impermissible to think that we can teach everyone. No one gave us that right.

8On the contrary, as the most powerful country in the socialist community we should show modesty, respect for the experience of others and for their striving to find resolutions to problems on their own. The new quality of our work requires us to overcome the preconceptions, smugness and inertness that still exist in our consciousness.

9One should have an interest in one’s host country. A priori plans are harmful; before our eyes they turn into spurs. There are no uninteresting countries. There are uninteresting people, who do not know how to see and hear what is going on in another country, but who think that they know everything anyway and can give advice to everyone. This is the source of the uninteresting information that is sent to Headquarters […]

10[Source: Mikhail Gorbachev, Gody trudnykh reshenii, izbrannoe 1985-1992. [The Years of Difficult Decisions, Selected 1985-1992], Alfa-Print: 1993, pp. 50-51. Translated by Anna Melyakova.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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