Part of any U.S. ambassador's job involves evaluating the political situation at their post. When Ambassador Shirley Temple Black arrived in Prague in early autumn 1989, most American officials agreed that the conservative Czechoslovak leadership would be in power for a while. Only a few weeks later, Black radically revised this view, presenting her reasons in this November 20 cable. She cited….
Memorandum of Conversation Between Egon Krenz, Secretary General of the Socialist Unity Party and Mikhail S. Gorbachev
The new Secretary General of East Germany, Egon Krenz, traveled to Moscow on November 1, 1989 to meet in person with Gorbachev and assess the situation in East Germany and discuss possible paths forward. Throughout the lengthy meeting, Krenz and Gorbachev spoke openly about the challenges that now faced the GDR. Gorbachev, for the most part, remained hopeful that the new GDR leadership could….
Record of Main Content of Conversation Between Mikhail Gorbachev and Members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Socialist United Party of Germany
During Mikhail Gorbachev's historic visit to East Germany on the occasion of the GDR's 40th anniversary, he met with the SED politburo. In his remarks, Gorbachev urged reform and uttered what would become one of the most famous phrases of the period: "Life itself will punish us if we are late."
Using a variety of analogies, Gorbachev lectured the East German politburo that the only….
In the mid- to late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on a new path for the Soviet Union by introducing significant changes to his country’s domestic and foreign policies, which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev’s glasnost resulted in a crucial shift toward more open dialogue not only within the Soviet Union but also with….
Following the historic roundtable talks that took place in Poland from February to April 1989 between Communist and opposition leaders, Polish Communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow to discuss the unfolding events in Poland and Polish-Soviet relations. The tone of this document is not one of dissatisfaction on the part of the Soviet leader but….
In Bulgaria, the Communist Party led the movement toward democratic change. Following the legalization of several other political parties, and the formation of the Union of Democratic Forces, the Bulgarian Communist Party Secretary, Petur Mladenov, announced a further set of reforms. The following is an official report from the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria about Mladenov's rally on 13 December….
In Bulgaria, the Communist Party led the movement toward democratic change. Following the legalization of several other political parties, the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) introduced legal reforms to the Bulgarian government. One of the most significant and notable of these changes was rewriting Article 1 of the Bulgarian constitution, which guaranteed a "leading role" for the Communist….
Ecoglasnost began as a social activism group focused on environmental concerns and a general human rights campaign. In March 1989, it became a "political club," officially seeking recognition as a political party in Bulgaria in June 1989. While it was dismissed in its first foray for legitimacy, on 11 December 1989 Ecoglasnost became the first legal political party in Communist Bulgaria other….
The ethnic Turks living in Bulgaria had faced discrimination throughout Bulgaria's history. In response to a series of demonstrations in May 1989 for Turkish rights, the Communist government expelled more than 300,000 Bulgarian Turks over the course of the year. With such a large portion of the population affected, Turkish rights in Bulgaria became one of leading human rights issues facing the….
By the spring of 1990, the future of the individual countries in Eastern Europe was still open for debate. While Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary seemed to be transitioning toward Western-styled democracies, Romania and Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania were following a different course. The former had experienced violent uprisings, and in the latter the Communists seemed to be more….
Once in power, Mikhail Gorbachev began a reform process that followed two paths: perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost' (openness). In order to reform the Soviet economy, Gorbachev believed it was necessary to cut spending on the Soviet military, both inside Soviet borders and throughout Eastern Europe. In both 1986 and 1987, Gorbachev proposed army reductions in summit meetings with….
Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms followed two paths: perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost' (openness). In order to reform the Soviet economy, Gorbachev believed it was necessary to cut spending on the Soviet military, both inside Soviet borders and throughout Eastern Europe. By the end of 1989, 500,000 men had been decommissioned from the Soviet army, greatly reducing its military presence….
Images of 1989 tend to center on dramatic events in Berlin, in Beijing, in Bucharest, and in Johannesburg, just to name a few. Visions of mass demonstration and popular uprising predominate. Even in places like the former Czechoslovakia, where peaceful transition occurred in a "velvet" revolution, the perception is one of overthrow of state authority in the name of popular reform. Lost in these….
On December 7, 1988, an earthquake with a 6.9 magnitude struck the Soviet Republic of Armenia. With powerful aftershocks continuing for months following, Armenia struggled to recover. By United Nations' estimates, more than 25,000 people were killed, 15,000 more injured, and the physical damage equaled $14.2 billion (U.S.). This photograph shows some of the devastation, which included the….
In this letter to Mikhail Gorbachev dated October 6, 1988, Georgy Shakhnazarov, Gorbachev's adviser and a champion of reform in the Soviet Union, revealed his views about the urgency of perestroika (reform) in socialist countries worldwide. Shakhnarazov acknowledged not only that each country had unique problems in need of some country-specific reform measures but also that some problems….
By the summer of 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev's reform policies glasnost' (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) had begun to change the political landscape of the Soviet Union. The U.S. and Soviet Union had made considerable progress in limiting arms build-up through a series of negotiations. However, when President Ronald Reagan visited Moscow in the summer of 1988 for a political summit, the….
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States was closely watching the events unfolding in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and this secret service document reveals the extent of that interest. As exhibited in this source, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union embarked on a program of reform both within the Soviet bloc and in its relationships….
As Gorbachev’s reforms began to take hold across the Soviet Union, various Soviet Republics became hotbeds of nationalist, anti-Soviet movements The Georgian SSR was one of the centers of such acitivties with protests in Georgia reaching their peak on April 4, 1989, when tens of thousands of Georgians gathered in the city of Tbilisi. Local Soviet authorities lost control over the situation….
During the significant changes that were brewing in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev (leader of the Soviet Union) met with members of the Trilateral Commission, a nongovernmental organization founded in 1973 by private citizens of Japan, North America, and Europe to foster mutual understanding and cooperation. In these notes from a Politburo meeting in January….