click for full sizeFirst trip with Gorbachev. Chernyaev in Belgium, October 1972.
Anatoly S. Chernyaev Diary, 1972
Soviet government official Anatoly Chernyaev records an insider’s view of the Brezhnev era
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 379
|Translated and edited by Anna Melyakova and Svetlana Savranskaya “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 …”
Washington, D.C., May 25, 2012 – Today the National Security Archive publishes excerpts from Anatoly S. Chernyaev’s diary of 1972 for the first time in English translation with edits and postscript by the author. While the diary for the Gorbachev years, 1985-1991, published before and widely used in scholarly work on the end of the Cold War provided a major source on the Gorbachev reforms, the earlier years of the diary give the reader a very rare window into the workings of the Brezhnev inner circle in the 1970s.
The portrait of the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, whom most Americans remember from his later years as frail and incomprehensible, emerges very differently from the earliest in the series of diaries donated by Anatoly Sergeyevich Chernyaev to the National Security Archive. In 1972, Chernyaev, deputy head of the International Department of the Central Committee, started keeping a systematic diary, recording his attendance at Politburo meetings, his participation in meetings at the state dacha in Zavidovo (where the experts and speechwriters met to draft speeches and reports for the General Secretary), visits abroad, and the daily life of a high-level Soviet apparatchik.
In 1972, Brezhnev is a skillful negotiator, who prepares seriously for Richard Nixon’s first visit to Moscow, who discusses texts of his speeches with leading Moscow intellectuals whom he brought into his inner circle as speechwriters and consultants, who is essentially non-ideological in his dealings with foreign leaders-negotiating arms control and economic agreements with Nixon while the U.S. forces are bombing the Soviet communist ally Vietnam, preferring Georges Pompidou to the leader of French communists Georges Marchais, and”brainwashing” Pakistani leader Bhutto. The two most striking differences between the aging Brezhnev of the late 1970s-early 1980s and the Brezhnev of this diary are that the General Secretary is clearly in charge of the Politburo sessions and that he actively consults with leading experts and intellectuals, such as Georgy Arbatov, Nikolai Inozemtsev, Alexander Bovin and Chernyaev himself.
Chernyaev’s daily duties are centered around the international communist movement, interactions with representatives from European communist parties. The reader sees Chernyaev’s emerging disillusionment with his work, which in comparison to real foreign policy, like preparation for Nixon’s visit, feels meaningless. Chernyaev comes to believe that “the Communist Movement right now is nothing more than an ideological addendum to our foreign policy,” and that the Soviet authority in the progressive movements in the world is shrinking: “nobody believes us anymore, no matter how we portray the Chinese and try to explain our Marxist-Leninist purity.”
He sees the future in a different direction. After Nixon’s visit, Chernyaev is asked to draft Brezhnev’s speech on Soviet-American relations and thus is allowed to see all the materials from the meeting, including all transcripts of conversation. Impressed with the quality of interaction and the non-ideological spirit of it, Chernyaev anticipates a new era: “Be that as it may, but we’ve crossed the Rubicon. The great Rubicon of world history. These weeks of May 1972 will go down in history as the beginning of an era of convergence.”
But the new era will only come thirteen years later. In 1972, he sees the first almost imperceptible sign from the future. In October 1972, he is asked to accompany first secretary of the Stavropol region on a trip to Belgium. This is where Chernyaev meets and spends time with Mikhail Gorbachev for the first time. Astonishingly, as Chernyaev later admits, he did not record this meeting in the diary at the time. Only photographs documented this auspicious meeting where Chernyaev sits on the left hand of the future Soviet leader, whose right hand he was destined to become in the late 1980s.