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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 5: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session, June 13, 1986

Übersetzt von Anna Melyakova


1These 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 Ceauşescu’s speech to the allies (“to hell with him”), the Soviet leader remarks that economic issues took up a third of the session and that the Pact’s relations need to be organized more on the basis of mutual benefit than on one-sided support from Moscow. Although his presentation shows a profound awareness of existing problems, Gorbachev is optimistic about the prospects of reform and genuine integration within the CMEA. There is not yet a sense that the East European countries have become a burden on the USSR that outweighs their benefit. Gorbachev even recounts a conversation with János Kádár in which he told the Hungarian leader to “lean on our shoulder…”—advice that would change completely within a year. Also remarkable is Gorbachev’s comment that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had “a silver lining” in that it raised the question: “what if a nuclear war were to happen?” Immediately offering his own answer, he exclaims: “That would be it!” Compared to subsequent discussions following the 1986 decline in the price of oil, there is little talk here of fuel issues or the role of the Soviet Union as a “spigot” for the socialist community.


2Gorbachev: On the outcomes of the PCC in Budapest. It is important that this agency has started to really function in parallel with bilateral communication, which must not be underestimated. It is a good forum for coming to agreement on our foreign policy.

3The recent meeting left a good impression: the speeches were more interesting, with a broader scope. Our friends value independence very much, but this does not make the situation worse, it makes it better. They are still drawn to us.

  • 1 First secretary of the PUWP CC, chairman of the PPR State Council. [Footnote in the original.]

4The significance of the XXVII Congress is becoming clearer to everybody. With time, its significance for the fate of socialism, for the victory of a new way of thinking will come to light. The response to the XXVII Congress continues to grow. As Jaruzelski1 said, “the phantom of the XXVII Congress is making its way around the capitalist world.”

5At the Congress in the GDR, Honecker did not have much on our Congress. I asked him: what bothers you about our Congress? He even blushed. But that was in Berlin at their Party Congress. Now he is already using our terminology and is demonstrating very friendly relations.

  • 2 General secretary of the RCP CC, president of Romania. [Footnote in the original.]

6There is a lot of confusion and running ahead in Ceauşescu’s2 speech. In relation to us he is always trying to steal the march, as if he has already done everything before us.

7Well, to hell with him! We are talking about the fate of humanity here! Don’t we have enough problems with America? And he keeps trying to teach us. It’s a mess in his head, a jumble. Nevertheless, in general the atmosphere was productive.

8It seems like everybody agrees that we need to maintain a dialogue with the West, that we need to expand the channels of communication, that we should not interrupt the negotiations, and keep a hold on the situation, especially when positions critical of the United States surface in Western Europe.

9What do we need in essence: the policy of dialogue is objectively isolating the United States in Europe.

10Relations with the socialist countries have come to the point where connections need to be made exclusively on mutually beneficial grounds. The leaders of the socialist countries strongly agreed on the necessity for new forms of relations within the framework of our community.

11On the FRG. There is general agreement at meetings with friendly nations that we need to work with the FRG. They are strongly connected with the FRG, economically above all. Husák is especially close to our position. Everyone agreed when we said that we taught Kohl a lesson. But we must not drive it to extremes. Kohl has already begun to get nervous, and that is good. Honecker said this, and Kádár did as well. But on no account should we ruin our relations.

12However, everyone wants to get closer to the FRG, and as a result everyone rushed to the window we created by saying that we “need to work [with the FRG].” […]

13Our policy aimed at Europe is yielding great reserves. Everybody thinks so. Our work here is having an influence on the United States and on all world developments.

  • 3 Álvaro Cunhal, general secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party from 1961-1992.

14On the PRC. There was nothing new at the conference. I reminded them of Deng Xiaoping’s statement on the “incompatibility of core interests.” Deng Xiaoping’s position is well known: national interests are the most important. But I feel something will be changing. Cunhal3 will be going there; he asked me for advice. That could be a possible approach. But we should not wait until it comes to the stage of normalization along party lines.

15We would like each side (in the WTO) to come forward with initiatives. We need to act on a coordinated basis, but everyone has the right to propose initiatives and to act independently. The centrifugal processes in our community also come from weak agreements. We must overcome artificial unity in the PCC and create comradely cooperation.

16Everyone is very concerned with the economy and our relations in this sphere. In all the speeches this theme took up a third of the time.

17They are looking for new solutions. Many new aspects of the issue were brought out. This is the strongest element in the pressure they are putting on us. And it is understandable. Our relations are bureaucratic, when they should be dynamic. Everything right now is slack, slow, and gets lost in all kinds of committees and departments. We have reached the point where we need to build connections on mutually beneficial grounds, and where we need to press our friends on the quality of the goods they are supplying us.

18This is what the basis for diplomatic work and for propaganda should be. Propaganda support for our foreign policy is very weak.

19How do the Americans do it? As soon as they accept some resolution or think of something, messengers go to all ends of the country to explain and convince people. We need to develop a similar operational mechanism.

20(To [Aleksandr N.] Yakovlev and [Anatoly] Dobrynin): Propaganda support is your work. The journalists did a good job in Budapest. Consider that 500 journalists came from the West to cover the PCC.

21At a separate meeting of general secretaries I spoke about Chernobyl. They were dumbfounded by the losses: 3 billion [rubles] as of now. And with Europe’s population concentration, what if a nuclear war were to happen? That would be it! So, my friends, every cloud has a silver lining.

22I told them about my meeting with the MFA diplomatic staff. They told me that they hold similar conferences annually. The content of our conference interested them a great deal. In a word, everybody is for collaboration. We developed closer relations with many people.

23Husák thanked me for changing the atmosphere in his country. But everyone has one question: as soon as the matter of summit talks within the framework of CMEA comes up, people’s faces change. Better to do it within the framework of the Warsaw Treaty, they say. The nature of relations is different there. Why? Because in the framework of the Warsaw Treaty we see something resembling integration; outside of it, it’s whoever gives more.

24Nevertheless, we agreed to liven up our work within the framework of CMEA as well. We could, for example, convene a special CMEA forum. However, everyone prefers to make agreements on a bilateral basis. They avoid questions of integration. But we need to try to clear this CMEA-level conference of bilateral problems. Only the most important issues should be brought before this general conference.

25On the International Communist Movement. Honecker supports a conference of communist parties on questions of peace. His idea is that whoever does not want to come does not have to. We should first work through this problem within the framework of the socialist countries in preparation for the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution, since then we will have to organize some general activities for the delegations anyway. Grand rallies alone will not be enough.

26We could do it this way: let them know that we are in favor of a frank discussion. Let them think about it and propose their formula.

27Ryzhkov: Right now everybody is speaking resolutely about the new format of relations within the International Communist Movement.

28Gorbachev: The situation in Hungary is very critical. They are taking their cue from the West. Is this a political choice, or are they forced to do this? Kádár is a deep and complex person, and he is devoted to us and to socialism. There is no doubt about that. That is why it was important to give him moral support, so that the government does not split up.

29There are two wings in their government. One is practically in favor of abandoning the framework of socialism. The other is for real socialism together with the USSR. Kádár is getting weaker physically. We need to support him politically. In that way we will support the healthy powers that are in the majority. But we can’t say to him: Kádár, dear, here is the situation and here is the course, and here is the April 1985 CC CPSU Plenum’s example. The Romanian way represents a decrease in the standard of living. Kádár will not go that way. The Hungarians could not bear it. On the outside, they have plenty of goods in their stores. But in reality Hungary is in a dangerous position. Their prices are at the same level as our cooperative ones.

30I told him: lean on our shoulder, it will be easier with the West as well. Their economic mechanism works pretty well in certain directions, but it is directed at distribution, not production. It is not imbued with a general strategy, it is not closely tied to the STR [scientific and technological revolution]. Depending on how relations develop with us, they will adjust their course; otherwise they will just have to halt production.

31[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 2. Opis 2. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Anna Melyakova.]


1 First secretary of the PUWP CC, chairman of the PPR State Council. [Footnote in the original.]

2 General secretary of the RCP CC, president of Romania. [Footnote in the original.]

3 Álvaro Cunhal, general secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party from 1961-1992.

© Central European University Press, 2010