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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 95: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Mauno Koivisto, October 25, 1989

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1The first Social Democrat to be elected president of Finland (1982), Mauno Koivisto maintained Helsinki’s traditional deference to Moscow throughout the revolutions of 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, even declining to recognize neighboring Estonia until after major European powers had done so. But he also led Finland’s move to join the European Union before ending his tenure in 1994, even though in this 1989 conversation in the Finnish capital, he is pleased with Gorbachev’s idea for a new Helsinki conference, perhaps in 1992, leading to a convocation of all 35 European countries. Here, just at the time that Eastern Europe is moving toward the West, Koivisto repeats U.S. and West European assurances that they do not want to take advantage of developments such as the Baltic independence movements or otherwise provoke the Soviet Union. Gorbachev is moved to reiterate his commitment to non-interference, referring to “friends” (no doubt Ceauşescu and others) who are urging him “not to allow” the Polish developments: “But what does ‘not to allow’ mean? To interfere in their internal affairs, to take all the responsibility for the future of Poland, and also for all its debts.” Here, yet again, the “fraternal allies” are a drain, not a benefit, for Moscow. The real news from Gorbachev’s trip to Finland came from his public comments that the Soviet Union (as well as the West) has “no right, moral or political,” to interfere in Eastern Europe—at which point Soviet spokesman Gennadii Gerasimov joked that the Brezhnev Doctrine had given way to the “Sinatra Doctrine,” referring to the 1969 hit song, “My Way.”


2Koivisto: […] As far as the Baltics are concerned, we are, indeed as well as Sweden, interested in what is happening there. The Swedes pay more attention to Latvia and to Estonia. It appears that the situation in Latvia is deteriorating. The Estonians have approved programs, according to which they are switching to economic self-sufficiency beginning next year. Last summer the Supreme Soviet approved the economic self-sufficiency of the republics in general. But the law has not been worked out yet. Plus, the elections are coming, and everything will deteriorate again.

3What could we do in this situation? We have tried to send you signals repeatedly: we need clarity—in case of problems we need one political line, and in case of the complete success of your policy another [line].

4I am glad that [Estonian party leader] Vaino Valjas is here now. I hope that I can talk to him. If those in the Baltics believe they will find general sympathy if they push their demands far enough, they are mistaken. Even Baker said that they did not base their calculations on the disorders in the USSR. He put it in even stronger words. The governments of the West European countries are thinking along the same lines. They do not want to take part in an activity that would be provocative toward the USSR. That is why it is important to know now how the situation will develop in the future.

5Besides, from the point of view of the environment and resources, we have an interest in Karelia and the Kola Peninsula. The Kola Peninsula has resources that we do not have, and we would like to take part in industrial cooperation there. Gorbachev: I share your ideas and accept your opinion. […] The society is very tense as it is. And if there are outside attempts to profit from these tensions, there could be the most negative consequences. We firmly stand for non-interference in the internal affairs of socialist countries. As far as the situation in Poland is concerned, we have received some letters from our friends in other countries with appeals “not to allow it!” But what does “not to allow” mean? To interfere in their internal affairs, to take all the responsibility for the future of Poland, and also for all its debts. We have a firm position here—non-interference. But the West should not interfere either, it should not provoke them. […]

6All in all, Mr. President, it seems to me it would be important to think about how to lift the entire European security process to a new level. Recently, I noted the fact that of all the people who signed the Helsinki Final Act, only Zhivkov, Ceauşescu and [Agostino] Cardinal Casaroli [Vatican secretary of state] are still in power. Almost 15 years have passed since that moment. It would probably be interesting for the new generation of leaders of the 35 states to get together and see what horizons of the European security and cooperation process are opening up now, and what the possibilities for building the common European home are. From my point of view, it would be natural to meet again in Helsinki in 1992.

7Koivisto: (with irony, but evidently pleased). I would like to think hard about that. […] You mean to meet in 1992 in the framework of the forthcoming all-European forum?

8Gorbachev: Yes, exactly. It would be natural to meet again in the location where the original act was signed. If you do not have any problems with that, I will make the proposal tomorrow in my speech.

9Koivisto: (Laughing) Let’s say that it took you a great deal of effort to convince me to agree. […]

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

© Central European University Press, 2010

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