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The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev
Former Top Soviet Adviser's Journal Chronicles Final Years of the Cold War

Archive Publishes First Installment on Author's 85th Birthday

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 192
For more information contact:
Svetlana Savranskaya
Posted - May 25, 2006

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Washington, DC, May 25, 2006 - Today the National Security Archive is publishing the first installment of the diary of one of the key behind-the-scenes figures of the Gorbachev era - Anatoly Sergeevich Chernyaev. This document is being published in English here for the first time.

It is hard to overestimate the uniqueness and importance of this diary for our understanding of the end of the Cold War - and specifically for the peaceful withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The document allows the reader a rare opportunity to become a fly on the wall during the heady discussions of early perestroika, and to witness such fascinating phenomena as how the dying ideology of Soviet-style communism held sway over the hearts and minds of Soviet society.

In 2004, Anatoly Chernyaev donated the originals of his diaries from 1972 to 1991 to the National Security Archive in order to ensure full and permanent public access to his notes - beyond the reach of the political uncertainties of contemporary Russia. The Archive is planning to publish the complete English translation of the diaries in regular installments.

This first installment covers the year 1985, which saw the election of Mikhail Gorbachev to the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the beginning of the changes that were evident first in the "style," and then in the practice of Soviet domestic and foreign policy. The diary gives a detailed account of Gorbachev's election and of the political struggle associated with it. The author is observing the changes in 1985 from his position as a senior analyst in the International Department of the Central Committee (CC), where Chernyaev was in charge of relations with West European Communist parties.

The author documents all the major developments of 1985 - beginning from the first revelations about the sad state of the Soviet economy and the extent of such societal problems as alcoholism, to anguished discussions about the war in Afghanistan, to the first summit with President Ronald Reagan in Geneva. Throughout the year, the most noticeable change is the process of radical "cleansing" of the party - the great turnover of personnel designed to replace the old dogmatic Brezhnevite elite. The diary sheds light on how, gradually but persistently, Gorbachev built his reform coalition, making such fateful decisions as appointing Eduard Shevardnadze to the post of Foreign Minister, and bringing Boris Yeltsin to Moscow.

The pages of the diary provide a gallery of living portraits of all the influential figures in the highest echelons of the Soviet elite who in 1985 were engaged in a struggle for political survival under the new leadership. Chernyaev observes his colleagues in the Central Committee trying to reconcile their ingrained ideology with the new "Gorbachev style," or "Gorbachev thinking." He himself, as is clear from his notes, remained committed to the Leninist romanticism of communist ideology and argued for going back to Lenin in an effort to purify and reform the Soviet society.

One line of Chernyaev's narrative follows developments in the influential International Department of the CC CPSU as its staff tried to find answers about the future of the international communist movement as the Soviet Union itself began to change. Gorbachev at that time chose to renounce Moscow's Big Brother role with regard to socialist countries and non-ruling Communist parties, both in terms of dictating to them but also bankrolling them. Chernyaev presents us with an intimate portrait of one of the most influential figures in the Soviet leadership - the head of the International Department, Boris N. Ponomarev.

The diary gives a detailed account about one of the most important (and long poorly-understood) dynamics of foreign policy making in the Soviet Union - the interaction between the Central Committee and the Foreign Ministry in every step of the preparation of major events and decisions. From its pages, one can see the tremendous role of experts and consultants - the free-thinking intellectuals of the Soviet elite - in forming policy priorities for the leadership. The International Department was a major oasis of enlightened thinking in the Soviet nomenklatura; it provided Gorbachev with people on whom he could rely for new ideas and honest estimates of the situation after coming to power - beginning with Anatoly Chernyaev, whom Gorbachev chose as his foreign policy adviser in March 1986. One can confidently say that every bold foreign policy initiative advanced by Gorbachev in the years 1986-1991 bears Chernyaev's mark on it. Thus, the diary gives insights into the thought processes of one of most influential new thinkers in Moscow.

Anatoly Sergeevich Chernyaev was born on May 25, 1921 in Moscow. He fought in World War II beginning in 1941. After the war, he returned to his studies at Moscow State University in the Department of History, which he completed in 1948. From 1950-1958, he taught contemporary history at Moscow State University. From 1958-1961, Chernyaev worked in Prague on the editorial board of the theoretical journal Problems of Peace and Socialism, joining the International Department in 1961. In 1986, he became foreign policy adviser to the General Secretary, and later to the first and the last President of the USSR. A prolific writer, Chernyaev has published five monographs in addition to numerous articles in Soviet, Russian, European and U.S. journals.

The National Security Archive takes great pleasure in wishing a happy birthday to Anatoly Sergeevich, who for years has been our partner in the mission to fight government secrecy through glasnost. Anatoly Sergeevich turns 85 today.

The Chernyaev Diary was translated by Anna Melyakova and edited by Svetlana Savranskaya for the National Security Archive.

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