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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 13: Report on Mikhail Gorbachev’s Visit to Romania, June 4, 1987

Traduction de Anna Melyakova

Texte intégral

1Gorbachev’s report to the Politburo about his trip to Romania describes a very different experience from the popular reception he received in April in Prague. Chernyaev’s notes show Gorbachev’s clear discomfort with Ceauşescu, the overall oppressive feeling he found in a country where “human dignity has absolutely no value,” where the robotic chanting by the crowds “makes one’s head burst,” and where there are shortages of virtually everything. Still, Gorbachev believes he must show support for all the allied leaders, even though in this case he “feel[s] like a fool.” Unlike in Czechoslovakia where the cheers for Gorbachev were for reform and against the existing communist leadership, in Romania Ceauşescu made sure the orchestrated chants wrapped the Soviet leader tightly together with the dicta-tor—and Gorbachev did not like it.


2Gorbachev: Our patience and adherence to principles in relation to Ceauşescu in particular and the country in general have paid off.

3I was impressed by the construction in Bucharest. Ambitious architecture. Ceauşescu said that by 1990 housing construction will be completed. But the people’s situation is very difficult. The consumption of meat per capita is 10 kilograms per year. Foreign debt is around 3 billion dollars. There are constant shortages of power, heat, food products, consumer goods. And Ceauşescu has been telling me all this time that he has already achieved everything.

4I look at him and feel like a fool. He already has everything decided in terms of democracy, free elections, and the cooperation of free labor collectives.

5When Ceauşescu and I went out to the people, their reaction was like a wound-up music box: “Ceauşescu—Gorbachev!” “Ceauşescu—peace!” When I came closer to the people I would ask them: do you know any other words? Later I was told that these criers were brought there on a bus for this purpose. All of this produces an oppressive feeling.

6Human dignity has absolutely no value. I was not able to have a normal conversation with people anywhere: neither on the street, nor at the factory I visited. They just kept yelling “Ceauşescu—Gorbachev!” “Gorbachev—Ceaus.escu!” It makes one’s head burst. [I] was taken to a store and a market. There is window dressing everywhere. People say that after I left, masses of people rushed to get the goods.

7Ceauşescu was terribly offended when I spoke publicly about glasnost, about perestroika, when I allowed myself to speak concretely about what we are doing in the USSR. He was put out of temper by that.

8Therefore we need to act carefully, step by step, without rushing and overestimating our possibilities. At the same time we need to consider that the Romanian leadership wants very much to get closer to us.

9Ceauşescu tried to blame us for punishing him economically for his independent policies. In return I also asked him a question: you went to the West for help and support and wanted to get its sympathies at our expense. So what claims can you have of us now? And what is stopping you from making contacts with us, the USSR, at least through social and district organizations?

  • 1 The Gorbachev leadership tried to replace the concept in Soviet military doctrine of strict numeri (...)

10He is unbelievably impudent. His self-assurance and self-praise are simply monumental, comparable only with his attempts to teach and admonish everybody. On international issues he exhibits chaos and confusion [krutezh]. By the way, he spoke sharply against the idea of “sufficiency” in our military doctrine.1

11The question might arise whether it was necessary to visit him at all. I think that specifically in this situation it was necessary.

12[Source: V Politburo TsK KPSS. Po zapisyam Anatoliya Chernyaeva, Vadima Medvedeva, Georgiya Shakhnazarova (1985-1991) (Moscow: Alpina Business Books, 2006), pp. 194-195 Translated by Anna Melyakova.]


1 The Gorbachev leadership tried to replace the concept in Soviet military doctrine of strict numerical balancing of armaments with the West with the concept of reasonable sufficiency based on the minimum level of armaments required for basic nuclear deterrence.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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