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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 22: Record of the Main Content of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Gustáv Husák, April 12, 1988

Traduction de Anna Melyakova

Texte intégral

1Gorbachev is committed to leading by example rather than telling the East Europeans what to do, but he is not above lubricating the process of change with his personal diplomacy. Here he commiserates with the former Czechoslovak communist leader, Gustáv Husák, who was replaced in December 1987 by the marginally less hardline Miloš Jakeš, about the “difficult but timely step” of leadership transition. “Our support was simple,” Gorbachev says, “we just told you to make the decision yourself.” Husák remarks that the Czechoslovaks are lagging “by a stage or half a stage” on perestroika (leaving unmentioned his own resistance to reform), while Gorbachev comments quite candidly that “[g]lasnost is rubbing some people painfully, and some are panicking and getting lost.”


2Gorbachev: I welcome you, Cde. Husák, our old and good friend, on behalf of the entire Soviet leadership. A great deal connects us; our relations have been tested by history. We value your enormous contribution to socialism and we are glad that today you are in good health and actively participating in the work of your party.

3Here, in our close circle, we can say that you did a great thing and took a difficult but timely step, which has ensured the continuity of the leadership. We know that M. Jakeš values you and consults with you.

4G. Husák expresses thanks for the support during “that difficult time.”

5Gorbachev: Our support was simple: we just told you to make the decision yourself.

6Husák: I do not regret the decision I made, it was the right one. At the CC CPCz Presidium and at the Plenum everything went smoothly. Now I fully support Jakeš, he needs it. After all, authority is not acquired overnight.

7Gorbachev: M. Jakeš should be supported. He is a diligent, honest person; he was by your side during a difficult time of crisis.

8Husák: Yes, his actions are energetic, even better than I expected.

9Gorbachev: What are the attitudes in the party and in society?

10Husák: Overall they are not bad. People support the direction of the leadership, and they understand the slogans of perestroika and democratization. But these ideas have not seeped into people’s souls yet.

11Gorbachev: From our personal experience we know that it is a long process. It won’t happen that you fall asleep before perestroika and wake up after it.

12Husák: At the April Plenum Jakeš said that we should not expect quick results. The Plenum has become the mobilizing factor for all party organs. In April we will have regional party conferences, and in May oblast party conferences.

13Gorbachev: At the June Plenum the CC decided to prepare reports by party organs at the end of the year, where the party organs would report to communists on the progress of perestroika. In some places such meetings began to revert to the old ways, so we had to stop. We unfurled a program in the press, stirred up the party, and then a real, serious conversation started.

14Husák: We can say that we are behind you by a stage or half a stage, but our people are accepting the perestroika slogans.

15Gorbachev: The nature of stages, of course, is very relative. But right now is just such a moment when the difference between them is clear. During the first stage everyone here actively made speeches for this or that aim of perestroika, although by far not everybody understood exactly what they were talking about. Now the time has come to introduce directly a self-supporting basis for the economy and elections for the leadership. Glasnost is rubbing some people painfully, and some are panicking and getting lost.

16Husák: I am following your work very carefully.


18[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 1. Opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Anna Melyakova.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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