Washington, D.C., March 13, 2017 – The National Security Archive mourns the passing of our dear friend, mentor, inspiration, and colleague, Anatoly Chernyaev, in Moscow at the age of 95.
Anatoly Sergeyevich ranks as a leading protagonist of the peaceful end of the Cold War, a pioneer of “new thinking” on mutual security in international relations, and a transformative visionary for a demilitarized and democratic Soviet Union and a new Russia that tragically never came to be.
He served as the national security adviser to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from March 1986 through the end of the USSR in December 1991, preparing, participating, and often taking the official Soviet notes at summit meetings with U.S. presidents Reagan and Bush, and with world leaders ranging from Margaret Thatcher to Rajiv Gandhi.
A fount of wisdom about new ways to understand real security and competition in international affairs, Anatoly Sergeyevich drafted and co-authored many of Gorbachev’s most memorable speeches and statements, including the landmark “anti-Fulton” speech at the United Nations in December 1988 that for many observers marked the actual end of the Cold War.
Previously, as a senior member (from 1961) and as Deputy Director (from 1972 to 1985) of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, Anatoly Sergeyevich played a leading role in the group of experts and consultants on foreign policy on whom Soviet leaders Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko relied for speech drafts, talking points, and ideas about reform.
Gorbachev’s choice of Chernyaev as his diplomatic adviser in early 1986 marked a decisive break from old-style Soviet foreign policy, and a new emphasis on getting out of Afghanistan, getting rid of nuclear weapons, integrating into Europe, and settling regional disputes such in Southern Africa and Central America.
Born in Moscow on May 25, 1921, Anatoly Sergeyevich was a voracious reader who attended Moscow State University and ultimately earned a doctorate in history in 1948 with a dissertation on the British trade union movement. But before that, as a student in 1941, he dug anti-tank ditches against the German invasion, and then commanded a mortar platoon in a ski battalion that fought the Nazis in the Great Patriotic War.
Anatoly Sergeyevich taught at Moscow State in the History faculty from 1950 to 1958, before going to Prague to serve on the editorial board of the journal Problems of Peace and Socialism from 1958 to 1961, where he gained a great deal of sympathy for criticisms of the Stalinist system that culminated in the Prague Spring of 1968.
He began writing a systematic diary of his professional and personal life in 1972, after episodic diaries dating back to the war, and continued the diary through his service at Gorbachev’s right hand, producing what Pulitzer-Prize-winner David Hoffman has characterized as “a trove of irreplaceable observations about a turning point in history.”
In 2004, Anatoly Sergeyevich donated the handwritten originals of the Chernyaev Diary and the transcriptions typed by his partner Lyudmila Pavlovna Rudakova to the National Security Archive, in order to ensure permanent public access to this invaluable record beyond the reach of political uncertainties in contemporary Russia. With translations by Anna Melyakova and Svetlana Savranskaya, the Archive has published online the Chernyaev diary covering the Gorbachev years 1985-91 and the 1972-1976 détente period.
During the 1990s and well into the 2000s, Anatoly Sergeyevich helped lead the landmark publications and conferences program of the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow, which opened so many of the most important and highest-level primary sources on the Soviet Union and the Gorbachev era. He provided extraordinarily insightful guidance to scholars and even made time for lowly graduate students who sought to understand the end of the Cold War.
His voice forms a centerpiece of the award-winning National Security Archive book Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989 (Central European University Press, 2010), and his expert guidance has informed the Archive’s work for two decades to open sources on the USSR and the Cold War.
His own publications and memoirs provide acute analysis, essential context, and often self-critical assessments of his own and Gorbachev’s fateful decisions. Chernyaev’s English-language memoir, My Six Years With Gorbachev, came out from Pennsylvania State University Press in 2000 (based on a Russian version in 1993); and he is the author of multiple other Russian-language books and articles, include a volume Letters from the Front and a prize-winning extended version of his diary/memoir published in 2010.
A champion of glasnost and access to sources, Anatoly Chernyaev was a luminary of the Gorbachev Foundation at its finest. His generosity put all scholars who study the end of the Cold War in his debt. He remains our hero.
Our condolences go out to his dear partner, Lyudmila Pavlovna Rudakova, and his whole family.
-- Svetlana Savranskaya and Tom Blanton
Tributes to Anatoly Chernyaev
Sir Rodric Braithwaite
British Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Russia, 1988-1991
I first met Anatoli Chernyaev in January 1989 - to discuss arrangements for Gorbachev’s forthcoming visit to London - when I was the British ambassador in Moscow and he was Gorbachev’s diplomatic adviser. On that first occasion the Foreign Ministry insisted on providing a chaperone: I did not let them do it again. I was charmed to discover a man with a bristling moustache, the courteous look and air of a colonel of an English county regiment, twinkling eyes, a wicked sense of ironic humour and a gurgling chuckle, and a penetrating intelligence. He was a man one felt one could trust - always frank, always judicious, never indiscreet, silent when it would have been wrong to speak, but careful never to mislead; in short, in the words of his idol Margaret Thatcher, a man with whom one could do business - with pleasure.
Over the next three years I did do a fair amount of business with him, mostly routine, but occasionally not. In May 1989 I brought him a letter from Mrs Thatcher saying that we had just expelled thirteen Soviet citizens from Britain because we thought they were spies. His reaction was typical: “Are you sure you’ve got the right ones?” I said “Yes”, of course, even though I was not at all sure.
Much more dramatic was the discussion we had some days after the shootings in Vilnius in January 1991. Chernyaev was more tired and depressed that I had ever seen him, and bitter about the way Gorbachev's liberal advisers were deserting him. He told me with great emotion that he himself was sticking by Gorbachev because he knew that Gorbachev's policies had not really changed: if he thought a change were taking place, he too would leave. He was uncharacteristically touchy and defensive, though he was as courteous as ever. The incident demonstrated some of his most sterling characteristics: intense loyalty to a man he admired; but a loyalty tempered by criticism where he thought it justified, because in no circumstances was he prepared to abandon his own independence of mind.
Securely rooted by inclination and education in the Moscow intelligentsia, he showed that independence at school, in the army, at university, and in the International Department of the Central Committee Secretariat where he spent much of his career before becoming Gorbachev’s foreign policy adviser in 1986. From then on he was at the centre of foreign policy making as long as the Soviet Union existed. He has left a unique record and witness of his time: a memoir of his earlier years, another of his time with Gorbachev. He has published much of the diary which he kept throughout his life. With his colleagues at the Gorbachev Foundation he has published notes on the meetings of the Politburo and a volume of extracts from the records of Gorbachev’s meetings with foreign leaders. All these are indispensable sources for anyone who wants to write the history of those momentous days. They alone would be sufficient to secure his place in history.
In the years since then I often saw him in Moscow. He came to stay with us twice in London, once with a colleague and once with his indispensable and splendid partner, Ludmila Rudakova. He himself used to say that it was thanks to her that he maintained his vitality of mind and spirit right into his advanced age. He was a man of high intelligence, high culture, great integrity, great good sense, and a reliable sense of humour. For me he represented all that was best in Russia. His historical role, and perhaps at least as important, his contribution to historiography and the clarity of his writing, will ensure that he is remembered by all who want to understand those momentous years. I count myself privileged to have known such a remarkable man. I was very fond of him indeed. I thought of him as a dear friend, and I hope that he felt something of the same in return.
Amherst College, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era and Gorbachev: His Life and Times.
Anatoly Sergeyevich Chernyaev is one of the wonders of the world. Born just after the Bolshevik revolution and survivor of its horrors, he tried for decades to get the Communist party to live up to the best of its ideals, all the while recording his doubts and the party’s failures in a marvelously revealing diary. Then, he served as one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s top aides, helping his boss transform their country and end the cold war, while continuing to record and explain perestroika’s successes and shortcomings. After the fall of the USSR, Anatoly Sergeyevich worked at the Gorbachev Foundation, applying his unique experience and perspective to document and make sense of the USSR’s last years. For all these contributions, for his courage, integrity and ability to see the world both as it is and as it might become, Anatoly Sergeyevich deserves the highest praise and tribute. I am deeply grateful for all the help Anatoly Sergeyevich offered as I worked on my biography of Gorbachev. Getting to know him was a privilege, not only because of his personal virtues, but because he personified an era. Without access to him, his diary and his other publications, the history of his time would be much harder to understand.
Emeritus Professor of Politics, University of Oxford, author of The Gorbachev Factor, The Rise and Fall of Communism, The Myth of the Strong Leader, etc.
It was with great sadness that I learned that the long and remarkable life of Anatoliy Sergeevich Chernyaev has come to an end. He was an amazing man. For someone who fought throughout World War Two in the Soviet army – an army which played by far the greatest part in winning the ground war in Europe against Nazi Germany – to live on until 2017 was an achievement in itself and demonstrated heroic resilience. It was, however, what he did in the years that were left to him – and, in particular, from 1986 onwards – that will be long and deservedly remembered.
Two parts he played will be noted by historians even centuries from now, assuming we have managed to save life in this planet. The first was his enlightened influence on Soviet foreign policy during perestroika. Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev chose the perfect foreign policy adviser, giving Chernyaev the freedom to say exactly what he thought and to play a highly significant role in the foreign policy-making process and in the development and implementation of the New Political Thinking.
The second great service Anatoliy Sergeevich performed was as a witness, participant-observer, and recorder of history in the making. His books, diaries, notes of Politburo and other high-level meetings, and his contributions to scholarly conferences are outstandingly important primary sources for all who have studied Soviet politics, perestroika, the transformation of Soviet foreign policy under Gorbachev, and the end of the Cold War. Those of us who were lucky enough to have numerous meetings with Anatoliy Sergeevich can add something else that we shall treasure. Although he had earned his own place in history, he combined a self-effacing modesty with great generosity in his willingness to share his knowledge with those who sought to learn from him.
The better and more peaceful world Chernyaev sought may seem as far away as ever, but his intellectual and moral legacy lives on.
Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Princeton and New York University, author of Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, The Victims Return and Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives.
Living in Soviet Russia in the 1970s, long before I met Anatoly Chernyaev personally in the late 1980s, I heard about him from Moscow friends -- most of them political nonconformists, even dissidents. He was the only person in high official circles they ever spoke about as a "truly decent and honorable" (poriadochnyi) man.
For me, Anatoly Chernyaev exemplifieD what were once the highest qualities of a Russian intelligent and of a citizen in the finest sense of the word, in four respects:
First, he was a good man in good political times but also, unlike so many others, in bad political times.
Second, he remained true to his humanistic and democratic beliefs, even when these beliefs were dangerous.
Third, though his "ideological" beliefs were strong, they never clouded his common sense or wisdom about events.
And fourth, he told truth to power, even to his friend and the leader he served so long and well, Mikhail Gorbachev.
As a result, Russia and the world are better today because of the role played by Chernyaev.
In short, Anatoly Chernyaev's life was a model to which we all should aspire but which few of us will ever attain.