Primary Sources

Letter from Shevardnadze to Gorbachev about the Romanian Crisis


December 1989 proved to be a revolutionary month in Romania. Demonstrations erupted in the city of Timisoara in mid-December, spreading to other parts of Romania within just a few days and developing into a full-scale revolution, which eventually resulted in the execution of President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife on December 25. Not surprisingly, Soviet officials exhibited concern about the evolving events in Romania. In this letter from December 20, 1989, the minister of foreign affairs in the Soviet Union, Eduard Shevardnadze, provided an update about the crisis to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. This document suggests a level of caution in terms of potential Soviet reaction. Before stepping in or even offering a statement, Soviet leaders wanted to obtain information about the situation not only from Western media but also from Romanian officials. This letter offers an example of how events in Eastern Europe unfolded and how the Soviet Union responded as communism was unraveling in the region.


E. Shevardnadze to Comrade Mikhail Gorbachev, 20 December 1989, trans. Vladislav Zubok, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Mikhail Sergeevich [Gorbachev]:

On the events in Romania in the last few days we can still only judge on the basis of information that comes from news agencies, primarily Western ones. This information is often contradictory and does not allow one to construct a true picture. Our attempts to obtain the official version via Bucharest produced no results. Today, 20 December the Romanian ambassador will be invited to the MFA USSR [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] in order to obtain from him information on this issue. Until we have complete and objective information, we should not, in our opinion, be in haste to make a statement of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies, at best we could go not further than instructing the Commission on Foreign Affairs [of the Congress' Supreme Soviet] to prepare a draft proposal on our possible reaction with all circumstances in mind.


20 December 1989

[Source: Diplomaticheskii vestnik, no. 21/22, November 1994, pp. 74-79. Translated by Vladislav Zubok.]

How to Cite this Source

E. Shevardnadze, "Letter from Shevardnadze to Gorbachev about the Romanian Crisis." Making the History of 1989, #529.