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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 16: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session, November 19, 1987

Traduction de Anna Melyakova

Texte intégral

1At this meeting of the Politburo, Chairman of the Council of Ministers Nikolay Ryzhkov discusses his talks with the Czechoslovak prime minister, Lubomir Štrougal, the most reform-minded member of the leadership there who in 1988 would be forced into retirement by the hard-line Miloš Jakeš. Ryzhkov says Štrougal “stands above” all the other socialist prime ministers, while Gorbachev speaks approvingly of the “cultured government” in Prague. These notes provide further inside evidence of Gorbachev’s consistent refusal to interfere with the allies, even as they faced political challenges to implementing reforms, allowing them instead to decide their own personnel matters. As Gorbachev puts it here, “God forbid we go to them with our own jumble of thoughts on the theme of their perestroika.” To the extent there was a Gorbachev vision for Eastern Europe, it seems to have been simply that of encouraging “little Gorbachevs” (like Štrougal) in place of the “little Brezhnevs” (like Honecker).



2Ryzhkov: Czechoslovakia is heavy with perestroika. Štrougal said that the reforms should have been started in the 1970s. And if perestroika begins for them results will appear sooner than in any other country.

3Gorbachev: Yes, culture means a great deal.

4Ryzhkov: Štrougal said to me: What did we do? We took your Congress resolution, and took the prepared formulas. (Ryzhkov goes on to read what he said to Štrougal). Štrougal told me that the CPCz Plenum is coming up soon. But one cannot go to the Plenum without a ready conception of perestroika, with only a draft plan for reforms, especially in this time of struggle for power; it would be risky. I cannot imagine the Czechoslovak leadership without Štrougal.

5Gorbachev: We should meet this cultured government halfway. Our line will be: to participate in the discussion of everything in a friendly manner. But only they must make the decisions. If the question of distributing posts there arises, let them think through everything themselves and decide […] God forbid we go to them with our own jumble of thoughts on the theme of their perestroika. It could destroy everything.

6Ryzhkov: We were careful in speaking with Štrougal.

  • 1 Vasíl Bil’ak, a hard-line Slovak communist politician and party ideologist, was a member of the CP (...)

7Gorbachev: Štrougal is a good prime minister, but it is unlikely that he would be able to unite the leadership as a general secretary. The split there is coming from Bil’ak.1 I hinted at this to him.

8Ryzhkov: Against the background of the other socialist countries’ prime ministers, Štrougal stands above everyone. But the struggle for power consumes everything and distracts from important affairs. And the ethnic question has come up as well. Before, Slovakia was the periphery, now it is in command. They come to us for advice. This is very important. But now we must not tell them who goes where. Let them decide everything for themselves.

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


1 Vasíl Bil’ak, a hard-line Slovak communist politician and party ideologist, was a member of the CPCz CC Presidium from April 1968 until he resigned in December 1988. After the communists fell out of power in 1989, he was expelled from the party and later faced charges for his role in the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and its aftermath.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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