Primary Sources

Excerpt from Anatoly Chernyaev's Diary


This personal account offers insight into the private sentiments of Anatoly Chernyaev, Mikhail Gorbachev's top foreign policy adviser in the 1980s. In this diary entry from May 2, 1989, Chernyaev showed deep concern about the instability and unpredictability of the direction in which Gorbachev was leading the Soviet Union. The document indicates that Soviet leaders were not united, at least in private, about Gorbachev's measures and ensuing transformations in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This excerpt allows readers to move beyond the public expressions and actions of the Soviet leadership and to examine the impact of these changes on the mental well-being of those close to Gorbachev. Chernyaev's private words show the depth of the effects of these unpredictable transformations.


Anatoly Chernyaev, diary entry, 2 May 1989, trans. Vladislav Zubok, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Inside me, depression and alarm are growing, the sense of crisis of the Gorbachevian idea. He is prepared to go far. But what does it mean? His favorite catchword is "unpredictability." And most likely we will come to a collapse of the state and something like chaos. He feels that he is losing the levers of power irreversibly, and this realization prevents him from "going far." For this reason he holds to conventional methods but acts with "velvet gloves." He has no concept of where we are going. His declaration about socialist values, the ideals of October, as he begins to tick them off, sound like irony to the cognoscenti. Behind them—emptiness.

[Source: Published in Anatoly Chernyaev, 1991: The Diary of an Assistant to the President of the USSR (Moscow: TERRA, 1997). Translated by Vladislav Zubok (National Security Archive).]

How to Cite this Source

Anatoly Chernyaev, "Excerpt from Anatoly Chernyaev's Diary." Making the History of 1989, #362.

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