Primary Sources

Excerpt From the Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev


Anatoly Chernyaev was Mikhail Gorbachev's chief foreign policy advisor during the dramatic events of 1989. In this excerpt from his personal diary, Chernyaev speaks about preparing Gorbachev for his official state visit to East Germany on the occasion of the GDR's 40th anniversary in October 1989.

There are several interesting elements that can be seen in this short excerpt. The first is the reluctance that Gorbachev has expressed to go to East German and his unwillingness to show any sort of public support for the waning East German government. Yet, at the same time, Gorbachev (and Chernyaev) seem to support the protesters on the ground. It is clear that the tide of protest has turned and (at least from the perspective of Moscow) the final days of the East German communist regime are near. The second major item to note here is Chernyaev's assessment that the changes in Eastern Europe were not only bringing new political parties into power, but marked the end of socialism as the dominant postwar ideology in Eastern Europe.


Anatoly Chernyaev, diary entry, 5 October 1989, trans. Vladislav Zubok, Notes of Anatoly Chernyaev, Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed July 8, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

M.S. [Gorbachev] is flying to the GDR [to celebrate] its 40th anniversary. He is very reluctant. Called me two times. Today [he called and said]: I polished the text (of the speech) to the last letter-you know, they will scrutinize it under a microscope... I will not say a word in support of [East German leader Erich] Honecker. But I will support the Republic and the Revolution. Today in Dresden—20,000 demonstrate. Yesterday there was a demonstration in Leipzig. Information is coming in that in the presence of Gorbachev people will storm the Wall. Awful scenes when a special train [with East German refugees] passed from Prague to the GDR via Dresden. West German television shot everything and now is broadcasting this all over the GDR. All Western media are full of articles about German reunification. Tomorrow the congress of the H[ungarian] S[ocialist] W[orkers'] P[arty] will announce the self-liquidation of "socialist PRH" [People's Republic of Hungary]. Not to mention Poland: the P[olish] U[nited] W[orkers'] P[arty] not only lost power—it will hardly survive till its next congress in February. In a word, the total dismantling of socialism as a world phenomenon has been proceeding... Perhaps it is inevitable and good... For this is a reunification of mankind on the basis of common sense. And a common fellow from Stavropol [Gorbachev] set this process in motion.

How to Cite this Source

Anatoly Chernyaev, "Excerpt From the Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev," Making the History of 1989, Item #420, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:26 pm).

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