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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 52: Record of Conversations between Mikhail Gorbachev and Karóly Grósz March 23-24, 1989

Traduction de Csaba Farkas

Texte intégral

1These Hungarian notes on the meetings between party leader Grósz and Gorbachev reveal plainly the ambiguities that still permeate the Soviet leader’s deliberations with the East Europeans—or perhaps his naïveté about the party’s ability to constrain change. Gorbachev responds to an extended discussion of the events of 1956 and 1968 by insisting again that “we have to preclude the possibility of repeated foreign intervention in the internal affairs of socialist countries” and that reassessing 1956 “is entirely up to you.” Yet the Hungarians take special note that Gorbachev “emphasized that we clearly have to draw boundaries. The limit, however, is the safekeeping of socialism and assurance of stability. “ Of course, any such boundaries would soon crumble along with the Berlin Wall, and the warning signs are here in Grósz’s presentation, not simply in his remark that “we have to face our past, hard and painful as it is,” but in the observation that a “lack of self-confidence is palpable enough in the party. “ Grósz claims somewhat lamely that the direction of change is “according to our intentions,” while the “pace is somewhat disconcerting.” The pace would soon quicken.


2Comrade Grósz informed the negotiators about the Hungarian situation. He said that events in Hungary have lately accelerated. Their direction is according to our intentions, while their pace is somewhat disconcerting. Comrade Grósz emphasized that we wish to retain political power and find a solution to our problems by political means, avoiding armed conflict.

3We have a good opportunity to reach our goals. People are afraid of a possible armed conflict. Workers, peasants and professionals want to work and live in peace and security, safeguarding their property. […]

4Another major concern is the history of the last 30 years. We have to face our past, hard and painful as it is, since the participants are still alive. On the other hand, by drawing the necessary conclusions, we might dishearten certain strata among the active supporters of our policy within the party. A lack of self-confidence is palpable enough in the party anyway. […]

5Comrade Gorbachev agreed that the Western world does not want instability in Eastern Europe, including Hungary, because in the present situation it would be adverse to their interests. Nonetheless, it is quite apparent that they intend to facilitate the realization and strengthening of developments which suit their own political ideas.

6Comrade Gorbachev emphasized: “The assessment of the events of 1956 is entirely up to you.” You have to stand on firm ground; you have to examine what really happened then and there. The Soviet leadership has recently analyzed the events of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, and they continue to maintain that what happened there was a counterrevolution, with all the idiosyncratic traits of such an event. There were different periods within the Czechoslovak events, but the Dubček regime was unable to prevent counterrevolutionary forces from gaining ground through them. […]

7Comrade Gorbachev emphasized that we clearly have to draw boundaries, thinking about others and ourselves at the same time. Democracy is much needed, and interests have to be harmonized. The limit, however, is the safekeeping of socialism and assurance of stability.

8Comrade Grósz emphasized that when referring to 1956 we adhere to the original evaluation that the party endorsed in December 1956. The process is described in three consecutive words [sic]: student protest, uprising, and counterrevolution.

9Comrade Gorbachev agreed with the above. He emphasized that today we have to preclude the possibility of repeated foreign interventions in the internal affairs of socialist countries. […]

10[Source: MOL M-KS-288-11/4458 o.e. Document obtained by Magdolna Bardth. From Political Transition in Hungary, 1989-1990; International Conference, June 12, 1999, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest; A Compendium of Declassified Documents and Chronology of Events. Translated by Csaba Farkas.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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