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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 60: Session of the CC CPSU Politburo May 11, 1989

Traduction de Vladislav Zubok

Texte intégral

1The March elections in the Baltics are evidently yet another shock to members of Gorbachev’s circle, such as Vadim Medvedev, who reports on their significance to the Politburo, below. Most of the elected deputies, he notes, “share a separatist and nationalist mood” and contrast the “interests of their individual nations to the interests of the Union as a whole.” Yet in response Gorbachev argues, “[t]he Popular Fronts are supported by 90 percent of the population of the Republics, we cannot identify them with extremists. And we should learn how to talk with them…” This discussion demonstrates that by May 1989 the Soviet leadership is conscious of the real prospect of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In comparison, developments in Eastern Europe—the dismantling of the barbed wire fences on the Austria-Hungary border, preparations for the Polish elections—occupy relatively little of Moscow’s attention. Most important for the imminent events in Eastern Europe is Gorbachev’s declaration that the use of military force “against people” in the Baltics or in foreign policy is “out of the question.” This is a strong statement, particularly given the serious political problems Gorbachev is facing, and it is clearly connected to the disaster that has just unfolded in Tbilisi.



3Medvedev: Formal data on the outcome of elections for USSR people’s deputies in the Baltic republics (participation in elections, percentage of communists among deputies, etc.) should not create illusions. Most of the elected deputies are members and active participants of Popular Fronts, they share a separatist and nationalist mood, and the Popular Fronts themselves ran as a force opposing the CPSU, opposing the interests of their individual nations to the interests of the Union as a whole. […] The tactic of so-called flexible tacking [lavirovaniie] by the leadership of the Republics has so far been leading to continuous concessions, and negatively affecting the unity and combat-readiness of the party. […] In the emerging situation, the party and state leaderships of the Republics need political will and determination to fulfill the course of the CPSU towards the renewal and consolidation of socialism. At the same time the Republican leadership badly needs our assistance and moral-political support. […]

4Gorbachev: We should look into the roots of the situation. Without [understanding] them we will not figure it out. Within the framework of perestroika there is a stormy process of growing national self-consciousness in those Republics. And a very serious issue arises about a more modern and complete interpretation of the notion of “sovereignty.” This is a real issue. When a population has an intelligentsia, it digs into history and bares its roots. By itself this is a rich process. But it has negative repercussions. […]

5The roots of the situation are in the specifics of history, in particular the history of the 1930-1940s. And this requires a precise ideological characterization. But we are lagging behind. Meanwhile more and more armfuls of wood are being thrown onto the fire. And we are not providing answers to the people.

6Perestroika has demonstrated how many distortions had accumulated in ev-erything—in culture, in language, in our productive forces. Earlier we could somehow muddle through, but now we will not. And force does not help in this business. We have accepted that even in foreign policy force accomplishes nothing. But internally especially—we cannot and will not resort to force. […]

7The leaders of the communist parties of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia who were present at the Politburo meeting, left at this point.

8We trust all three of them, there is no question about that. […] Well, our comrades are at the end of their patience! Omissions were made during the stage when their predecessors ruled. Let us consider that not everything is lost. And we should be careful in our assessments so as not to push them into despair [or] into an open break.

9Voices from the Politburo members: Maybe we should really agree to hold referendums in these Republics? None of them will secede. […]

10Gorbachev concludes: The Popular Fronts are supported by 90 percent of the population of the Republics, we cannot identify them with extremists. And we should learn how to talk with them. […] Trust in the people’s common sense. […] Do not be afraid of experiments with full economic self-accounting in the Republics. […] Do not be afraid of differentiating among the Republics according to the level of sovereignty that is practiced. […] And in general: think, think how in practice to transform our federation. Otherwise everything will really collapse. […] The use of force is out of the question. We have excluded it from our foreign policy, but especially against our people it is out of the question. […]”

11[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 4. Opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Vladislav Zubok.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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