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Anatoly S. Chernyaev Diary, 1975

The Uncertain Future of Détente

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 516

Posted May 25, 2015

Translated and edited by Anna Melyakova

For more information contact:
Anna Melyakova 202/994-7000 or annamelyakova@gmail.com

"Anatoly Chernyaev's diary is one of the great internal records of the Gorbachev years, a trove of irreplaceable observations about a turning point in history. There is nothing else quite like it, allowing the reader to sit at Gorbachev's elbow at the time of perestroika and glasnost, experiencing the breakthroughs and setbacks. It is a major contribution to our understanding of this momentous period."
— David E. Hoffman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Dead Hand

"Remarkable diary ..."
— Historian Amy Knight, New York Review of Books, April 6, 2012

Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989

Previous Chernyaev Diary Postings

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1974
Ideological Superpower with Empty Stores

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1973
Eigth Installment of Former Top Soviet Adviser's Journal Available in English for First Time

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1972
Seventh Installment of Former Top Soviet Adviser's Journal Available in English for First Time

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1991
Sixth Installment of Former Top Soviet Adviser's Journal Available in English for First Time

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1990
Fifth Installment of Former Top Soviet Adviser's Journal Available in English for First Time

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev 1989
Archive Publishes Fourth Installment of Former Top Soviet Adviser's Journal

The Diary of Anatoly S. Chernyaev: 1987-1988

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev
Archive Publishes Second Installment of Former Top Soviet Adviser's Journal

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



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Washington, DC, May 25, 2015 - The Soviet Union 40 years ago already faced a declining economy, contradictions between its policy of détente and its leadership of the international communist movement, and "senility" in its leadership, according to the diary of senior Soviet official Anatoly S. Chernyaev published today by the National Security Archive (the Russian version can be found at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/rus/Chernyaev.html). The excerpts posted today - for the first time in English - cover the year 1975, along with edits and a postscript by the author. This is the tenth set of extracts the Archive has posted from the Chernyaev diary covering critical years from the 1970s through 1991 (see links at left).

Anatoly Chernyaev, the deputy head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) - and later the senior foreign policy aide to Mikhail Gorbachev - started keeping a systematic diary in 1972, in which he recorded the highlights (and low points) of his work at the International Department, his attendance at Politburo meetings, participation in speech - and report - writing sessions at state dachas, as well as his philosophical reflections on daily life in the Soviet Union from the point of view of a high-level Soviet apparatchik.

Today, on his 94th birthday, Anatoly Sergeyevich remains a champion of glasnost, sharing his notes, documents and first-hand insights with scholars seeking a view into the inner workings of the Soviet government, the peaceful end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 2004, he donated the originals of his detailed diaries, covering the years 1972 through 1991, to the National Security Archive in order to ensure permanent public access to this record - beyond the reach of political uncertainties in contemporary Russia.

In the 1975 installment of the diary, Anatoly Chernyaev writes about the International Department's work on the European Conference of Communist Parties, as well as the internal workings of the Soviet government and the state of its leadership, particularly the health and mental state of the General Secretary, Leonid Brezhnev. In the second half of 1975, as preparations begin for the 25th Congress of the CPSU, Chernyaev participates in the drafting of numerous texts and reports and deeply reflects on the state of the Soviet Union's economy. Throughout the year, the author considers the future of détente and how it would affect the economic and political position of the Soviet Union.

One of the main projects of the Central Committee's International Department in 1975 was preparation of the European Conference of Communist Parties, which ultimately failed to be held in 1975. Unlike many of his colleagues in the Department, Chernyaev analyzes critically the state of the international communist movement and motivations behind the actions of the CPSU's fraternal parties, especially the Italian and French Communist Parties. He observes that European communists are eager to disassociate themselves from Moscow, concludes that the European Conference of Communist Parties would provide the stage to expose the disintegration of the movement, and over and over attempts to alert his boss, Boris Ponomarev, to the contradictions between the Soviet Union's position in the international communist movement and Brezhnev's détente and practical foreign policy.

Surprisingly, Chernyaev does not devote much space in his 1975 diary to the main political event of the year - the negotiations and signing of the Helsinki Final Act. However, after the document is signed, Chernyaev reflects on its significance, "After Helsinki (which was truly a milestone in the social sense, I am sure of this) it is absurd and stupid to continue with communist initiatives []." The author realizes that the developments in Helsinki essentially make the work on the European Conference of Communist Parties irrelevant. He perceives that the Soviet Union's role as an ideological superpower and leader of the communist countries clashes with the goals of détente, the cause of peace and normalization of relations with the West.

Throughout the year, the author analyzes the future of détente and considers whether the Soviet Union will take the next step of slowing down the arms race in order to ease the burden on the Soviet economy. The slowing down of the Soviet economy in 1975 is palpable in the diary, as Chernyaev describes the pitiable state of Soviet consumer goods production, the grain purchases from the West, and the glaring differences between Soviet and Western standards of living. The diary entry from September 24, 1975, provides a fascinating look into the speechwriters' attempts creatively to interpret data to present the failures of the Ninth Five Year Plan as successes.

As Chernyaev thinks about the state of affairs in the Soviet Union in 1975, he often writes about the state of its leader, Leonid Brezhnev, and his colleagues in the top circle of leadership. On more than one occasion, the author wonders whether Brezhnev may be getting ready to retire due to his failing health and disengagement from affairs. Chernyaev writes, "People are openly talking about the 'senility of the government.' Indeed, probably no other civilization in all of human history had such an elderly 'body' in the government." In December of 1975, Chernyaev spends nearly two weeks at a dacha with Brezhnev and other advisers, preparing Brezhnev's speech for the 25th Congress. His notes from this time give a glimpse into the deteriorated mental and physical condition of the superpower's leader, who would be at the helm for seven more years.

Finally, the Chernyaev diary from the year 1975 contains glimpses into the everyday life of a Soviet intellectual as he interacts with his friends and colleagues, attends cultural events, reads and reacts to the latest journals and books. As always, the author has in mind the bigger picture and places his experiences in the context of Soviet and world affairs, with insights that resonate not only among scholars of the period but with any reader interested to see the Soviet system from the inside.

 


THE DOCUMENT

Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1975

 

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