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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 50: Record of Conversation between Mikhail gorbachev and Miklós Németh March 3, 1989

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1At this juncture, Miklós Németh represents the new, reform-minded crop of Hungarian communists. His visit with Gorbachev comes just as turmoil is spilling out into the streets of the Baltic capitals, in Tbilisi, Georgia, and even in Moscow. Just two days after this conversation, thousands of people would demonstrate to support the candidacy of Boris Yeltsin for the Congress of People’s Deputies. Gorbachev and his top advisers are being increasingly engulfed by the political struggle at home, and are not paying close attention to Eastern Europe. This together with his long-standing non-interference policy may explain his casual attitude when Németh probes his reaction to the Hungarian decision to remove the “Iron Curtain” (the barbed wire fence) on their border. Németh clearly realizes that the issue touches on the stability of the entire bloc, especially the GDR. Yet, Gorbachev gives a non-response: “We have a strict regime on our borders, but we are also becoming more open.”

2Thus we are already seeing interesting differences in the Big Brother relationship. Whereas a few months earlier Károly Grósz had gingerly solicited Moscow’s understanding on the question of recognizing Israel (see Document No. 32), here Németh merely informs the Soviets of what Hungary is doing—and Gorbachev’s advice is simply “not to sell my trump cards too cheap.” In the second excerpt below, Gorbachev supports Németh’s attempt to occupy the Hungarian political center, which he is willing to concede “does not exclude the existence of some opinions on the right and on the left.” Németh comments in this connection that the events of 1956 “turned into a counterrevolution and bloodshed,” even though it started with “genuine dissatisfaction among the people.”

3Németh: One more question. We made a decision—to completely remove the electronic and technological defenses from the Western and Southern borders of Hungary. They have outlived their usefulness and now serve only to catch citizens from Romania and the gDR who are trying to escape illegally to the West through Hungary. Hungarians no longer violate the border, they have an opportu­nity to leave the country legally. Of course, we will have to talk to the comrades from the gDR.

4Gorbachev: We have a strict regime on our borders, but we are also becoming more open.

5Németh: About relations with Israel. At the end of April–beginning of May, if nothing bad happens in the Middle East, we plan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. […]

6Gorbachev: You know that Eduard Shevardnadze just returned from the Middle East. He met with the Israeli foreign minister. The Israelis put a lot of presure on us, but we are not in a hurry because establishing diplomatic relations is currently our strongest argument. Therefore we tell them: go to the Arabs, agree to an international conference, and we are ready for normalization. The Soviet Union will recognize the state of Israel and its security on an equal basis with the security of other states of the region; we are even ready to give our guarantees. We have a lot of contacts, as you do. However, now we, together with the West Europeans—for example the British and the French—want to pressure Israel to take a more constructive position. Something of that kind is going to happen, and I would not want to sell my trump cards too cheap, so to speak. Maybe it would be helpful for your foreign minister to meet with our foreign minister and discuss this issue. […]

7Gorbachev: It is important to be honest everywhere—in the Central Commit-tee and in the Parliament, in conversations with people, and with oneself, with one’s own conscience. Otherwise, a disintegration and collapse of personality is unavoidable.

8Németh: We believe that now it is most important to create a majority in the Central Committee, which would unite around a single program.

9Gorbachev: This, of course, does not exclude the existence of some opinions on the right and on the left.

10Németh: Yes, it is important that the center stays strong. […]

11Németh: I think that in this sense there are some extreme moments among [Imre] Pozsgay’s statements. At the beginning of the events of 1956, there was genuine dissatisfaction among the people. However, later, the events turned into a counterrevolution and bloodshed. You cannot discount that.

12[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 2. Opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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