David Hoffman

Gorbachev’s Year of Trouble

The National Security Archive has released a fresh installment of the diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, who was the top advisor on foreign affairs to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Translated into English, the diary for 1990 is a fascinating read. Chernyaev admired Gorbachev greatly, and he recounts moods, trends, and his long talks with Gorbachev in ...

The National Security Archive has released a fresh installment of the diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, who was the top advisor on foreign affairs to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Translated into English, the diary for 1990 is a fascinating read. Chernyaev admired Gorbachev greatly, and he recounts moods, trends, and his long talks with Gorbachev in a way that is understanding, sympathetic, yet realistic.

This was the year that Gorbachev tried to satisfy the hardliners. Chernyaev could see the drift and was disappointed. He wrote in an entry March 3, 1990:

There is confusion in my heart. Society is falling apart; so far the rudiments of a new society are nowhere in sight. Judging by my latest observations, Gorbachev is losing a sense of control over the processes. It seems also has “gotten lost” (one of his favorite expressions) in what is going on and is beginning to look for “simple solutions” (another favorite formula)."

 

On April 12:

Gorbachev is active and seems cheerful and confident. This is impressive, although mostly to foreigners. It is deceptive. It is the result of his physical and moral health, not of political confidence. Things keep getting worse. Though I do not believe in civil war, unless we want it “ourselves.” So far only the generals want it, they are spewing hatred for everything related to Gorbachev.

And on May 20, Chernyaev recounts a meeting with Gorbachev and several others on a Saturday at the presidential dacha at Novo-Ogarevo.

“What is life?” Gorbachev asked his assistants, Chernyaev recalls.

We only get one… I don’t regret anything. I’ve moved such a country. They cry: chaos, empty shelves! He destroyed the Party, there is no order! But how could it be otherwise? There is no other way to make history. As a rule, such major changes are accompanied by a great deal of bloodshed. We have managed to avoid it so far. This alone is a monumental achievement. The whole world is thinking in the spirit of New Thinking now. What about that?…As for the deficits and empty shelves, we will make it through. We will have sausage on the shelves again.”

There’s plenty more. See the diary translation (pdf) here.

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