Memorandum Regarding a Conversation between Vadim Medvedev and Kurt Hager in the CC of CPSU in Moscow
Following on the heels of Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to the GDR to celebrate its 40th anniversary, GDR Minister of Culture, Kurt Hager, traveled to Moscow for the GDR Culture Days, which opened on October 12, 1989, and included not only a showcase of East German cultural offerings, but the signing of a new "Long Range Conception" for cultural cooperation between the GDR and the Soviet Union.
Despite the focus of their meeting on issues of cultural exchange, attention quickly turned to the political events in East Germany. Hager spoke openly about the challenges facing the GDR, especially from leading cultural and religious figures. Yet, both Hager and Medvedev spoke of long-range plans and the necessity to not lose sight of defending the ethos of socialism in the face of new opposition. It is clear from this memorandum, that both figures continued to cling to a belief that the merits of socialism could withstand the current challenges in the GDR. Certainly, reform was necessary, but neither Hager nor Medvedev foresaw the imminent collapse of the GDR that was now less than a month away.
Vadim Medvedev, "Memorandum regarding a Conversation between Vadim Medvedev and Kurt Hager in the CC of the CPSU in Moscow," 13 October 1989, trans. Christiaan Hetzner, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
Proceeding onto the matter of the present situation in the GDR, Comrade Hager informed [him] of a two day Politburo session, in which all the issues and faults in the work of the Party and State were spoken about openly. Altogether it was a very critical discussion. Problems on the role of worker-and-farmer power, the Party, and also the cooperation between the fraternal parties were handled. To that effect, there was unanimous agreement to throw out everything which was unproven, to give up the routine, and to carry out changes both in the Party work as well as in the state organs, people's representatives, and in the media and information policies. As a result of the discussions, the Politburo adopted a declaration which will be published. Excerpts can also be found in "Pravda."
Comrade Medvedev made the point that the possibility of a verbatim publication is being looked into.
Comrade Hager informed [him] further that the artists and cultural-creators have spoken increasingly critically, having nothing to do with cultural or social problems, but rather most of all about the emerging general situation. The statements by the Academy of Arts and by the Cultural League were published. On the general situation and its origins Comrade Hager said the following:
- The emigration of tens of thousands of citizens to the FRG creates great anxiety and raises the question as to the causes.
- The GDR is at the mercy of a massive campaign by the enemy - a psychological warfare against the GDR, the SED, and socialism - which was a complete failure.
- An array of opposition groups have emerged, which are trying to organize themselves, among others a Social Democratic Party as well, of which 7 of 14 founders are clergymen. A group of church dignitaries plays a negative role and incites the atmosphere. Others opposed to this search for a way of agreement with state organs.
- Cultural and artistic-creators, scientists, and other members of the intelligentsia, workers, and farmers feel there is an inconsistency between word and deed, their everyday experiences do not correspond to official reporting. Consequently a justifiable discontent forms.
On this basis the Politburo adopted the above-mentioned declaration, which contains all these aspects and opens up new paths for the development of the Party and for life in the GDR.
Presently consultations are taking place with the district and municipality leaderships as well as the friendly parties. A plenary session of the CC of the SED is being prepared for, which will comment on the situation and which will present a platform on the tasks for the further development of socialism in the GDR for discussion of the preparations for the IX Party Congress. All these steps and plans mean the introduction of a great dialogue with all circles of the population which support in the majority the strengthening of socialism. There are also forces, however, which support anti-socialist positions and choose other forms of discussion, namely that of the demonstration, of attacks on armed [state] organs. In this respect heightened vigilance is required to prevent counterrevolutionary actions. An adjustment in media policy is also important to proceeding further. In all, a great change is occurring in life in the GDR, in the spirit of the motto of continuity and change, where the stress is placed on change. In this stormy time it is necessary to hold course, to allow no pessimism, and to defend the value of socialism -all tasks of ideological work, in which culture does not have an unimportant roll.