Part I. The Polish Revolution: "Solidarity" and After.
1. Communism Proves Unreformable, 1968.
Poland was always the most rebellious of the Soviet "satellites." The Poles were the
first to provoke a change of party leadership, when the Poznan workers' revolt (June) led the
Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party to re-elect Wladyslaw Gomulka as
First Secretary in October 1956. (He had been First Secretary of the Polish Workers' Party
in 1943-48; had been forced to resign; and was imprisoned for a time, see ch.5,6).
Gomulka gradually restored party control but economic stagnation set in by the mid-1960s. Student demands for an end to censorship were brutally put down in March 1968 and
this ended the belief of left-wing idealists that communism was reformable. The Warsaw Pact
invasion of Czechoslovakia in late August 1968, confirmed this view.
In this connection, we should note that concurrently with the repression of student
protest, there were also purges in the state-party bureaucracy and in the academic world. The
pretext for these purges came earlier - it was widespread Polish rejoicing at the Israeli victory
over Soviet-supported Egypt in 1967. Indeed, people stood in line at the Israeli Embassy in
Warsaw to write their congratulations in the guest-book and to leave flowers. This in turn
infuriated both Brezhnev and Gomulka; therefore, many Poles of Jewish origin were charged
with "Zionism." The Minister of the Interior, Mieczyslaw Moczar (pron: Myechyslav Mochar)
used this charge in 1967-68 to purge the administration and the academic community of
"Zionists". Then, he placed his supporters in key posts in a bid for power. He failed, mainly
because he was distrusted in Moscow, but the purge destroyed the myth that communism
opposed anti-Semitism. There was an exodus of thousands of Polish-Jewish scholars, writers
as well as ordinary citizens of Jewish origin or descent, and of some ethnically Polish
dissidents as well. Thus, the communist system showed that it was not only unreformable, but
2. The Shipyard Workers' Revolt, December 1970.
In the late 1960s Gomulka realized that some economic reform was needed. He
decided to close down certain deficit enterprises in the shipbuilding and aircraft industries.
Under-investment affected production and caused unrest among the workers, especially in the
Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, so it was slated to close down. Gomulka's plans worried the Soviet
leadership, which wanted Poland to keep on producing ships and planes.
Gomulka also wanted to eliminate other sources of budget deficits, especially
government subsidies for food and other basic products. These subsidies, which kept prices
low, were part of the "social contract" between the people and the party, but they absorbed
about 33% of the budget. Therefore, in December 1970 the party leadership decided to raise
prices for food, fuel and other basic goods. The new prices were announced on Saturday,
December 12, together with the cancellation of the Christmas bonus. This bonus meant one
month's extra pay for select groups of skilled workers, who worked in especially difficult
conditions, e.g., coal miners, steel mill workers, and shipyard workers. There was no attempt
to prepare public opinion for this hike and the timing, just before Christmas, was a major
The price hike announcement led to demonstrations by shipyard workers -- the elite
of the working class -- in Poland's Baltic ports, i.e., Gdansk (pron: Gedahnsk), Szczecin
(pron: Shchetseen), and Elblag (pron: Elblong). In Gdansk, a strike broke out in the Lenin
Shipyard where the workers demanded that the hike be rescinded, and soon moved to demand
the resignation of Gomulka and other leaders. When clashes broke out between the workers
and the police, the government sent in troops, who were told they were going to fight
invading Germans. (!) Some of the troops refused to shoot at the workers, but others obeyed
orders. In the fighting, the party headquarters building was set on fire and there was some
looting. However, on being promised that their grievances would be considered in Warsaw,
the workers agreed to go back to work.
Gomulka and most other party leaders in Warsaw were so out of touch with the
workers -- whom they allegedly represented -- that they saw the revolt as a "counter-revolution" and decided to crush it with troops and special riot police. When the strikes
spread to Gdynia, the Paris Commune shipyard there was surrounded by troops, yet the
workers were told to go back to work. Local party leaders, who knew of the troop
deployment, begged the central authorities to cancel the appeal that people go back to work,
and thus avoid bloodshed - but the party leadership refused. Therefore, worker commuters
from Gdansk and the surrounding region, who heeded the appeal to return to work, were
attacked as they left Gdynia shipyard station. As train after train arrived, the public address
system told people not to leave the station, but they had to leave to make room for others.
As they were pushed out by those behind them, they were shot down by security troops.
There were casualties in Gdansk, too, where the police had charged crowds. Also, after
troops had surrounded the Lenin Shipyard, a few workers walked toward them and were
shot. But there were also several cases of troops refusing to fire on crowds, which included
women and children.
It was significant that in the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, as in the Paris Commune
Shipyard, Gdynia, and in the Warski Shipyard, Szczecin, strike committees were set up. In
all three strikes, lists of demands were drawn up. In Gdynia, the workers demanded new
elections of trade union officials, while in Gdansk and Szczecin they demanded the
establishment of free trade unions. Worker organization was most impressive in Szczecin,
where the workers from several enterprises set up an interfactory committee, which drew up
a list of 21 demands, including the establishment of free trade unions -- a demand that
strikers would make again ten years later in August 1980 in Gdansk and Szczecin. Indeed,
one of the young strike leaders in the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, was an electrician by the name
of Lech Walesa (pron: Lekh Valensa), who led the strike movement in August 1980. Thus,
some key ideas and some of the leaders of 1980 were already in place in December 1970.
From the perspective of 1980, the shipyard strikes of December 1970 were certainly
significant, for unlike the brief Poznan demonstrations of June 1956, the workers proceeded
to organize and draw up lists of demands. Also, the workers never forgot that some of their
comrades had been killed, while many were badly beaten. Some scholars argue that the roots
of "Solidarity" (1980-81) are to be found not in the leadership of intellectuals (notably KOR,
see below on the 1976-80 period), but in the workers' memory of free trade unions and
occupation strikes of interwar Poland, and then the strikes of December 1970, especially in
However, we should bear in mind that in post-World War II Poland the call for
workers to rebel against the state and to establish free trade unions was first voiced publicly
by two young Warsaw students, who were then Communists -- Jacek Kuron and Karol
Modzelewski. Their demands were published in Paris in the leading Polish emigre periodical,
Kultura, in 1966, and were discussed in the Polish language broadcasts of Radio Free
Europe, which could be heard in Poland after October 1956 when the government ceased
blocking them. (Kuron and Modzelewski were active in the KOR movement, 1976-80, in
Solidarity, 1980-81, and in the underground 1982-88; Kuron was tp be active in politics from
Of course, free trade unions had existed in Poland before the Second World War, and had been a stock demand of the Polish socialists even before the rebirth of Poland in November 1918. Nevertheless, we should bear in mind that this demand had disappeared form public life after the establishment of "People's Poland," whose authorities claimed to represent the workers. They also had the support of the extreme left of the old Socialist Party, which fused with the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) into the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) in December 1948. Therefore, the 1965 appeal by Kuron and Modzelewski for a free trade union and a workers' revolt against the government was truly revolutionary. It is most unlikely that the shipyard workers, or at least their leaders, had not heard of it before December 1970. Whatever the case may be, we do know that the three strike leaders in the Warski Shipyard, Szczecin, were not only party members, but also reserve officers of the Polish army. Therefore, they had finished high school and officer school, which meant they were members of the intelligentsia, i.e., the educated strata of Polish society. (1)
3. Gierek's Poland, December 1970 - August 1980.
In mid-December 1970, as the country learned what had happened in the coastal
cities, unrest spread and there was fear of civil war. The Soviet leadership, headed by Leonid
Brezhnev, wanted to avoid any risk of Soviet intervention, for it would tie down about a
million Soviet troops and might well risk a confrontation with NATO, or at least end any
prospect of detente between the U.S. and USSR -- a detente the Soviet leaders wanted badly.
Therefore, they advised the Polish comrades to resolve the crisis peacefully. Gomulka
resigned for "health reasons" (in fact, he had heart problems), giving way to a new leader,
Edward Gierek (b. 1913). Gierek was well known as the Silesian party chief with his H.Q. in
Katowice, the heart of industrial Silesia. He had been a miner himself in his youth. His parents
had emigrated to France, so he worked in the coal mines of northern France and in Belgium.
He joined the communist party there and returned to Poland after World War II.
While the change of leadership calmed the workers for a while, the price hikes
remained. To add insult to injury, the goverment-controlled TV showed an old tape of
workers laughing and joking with Gierek at the Warski Shipyard before he became head of
the party -- to make it appear they supported him in the new situation. This led to renewed
strikes in Szczecin in early January 1971, when the workers demanded that the new leaders
come and talk with them. Indeed, Gierek and a few other leaders visited the Warski shipyard.
He appealed to the workers' patriotism and asked them for "help," which they agreed to give
him. He then visited the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, and made the same appeal with the same
positive result. Still, he did not rescind the new prices until February. After a strike in Lodz,
which he visited to calm the workers, he realized that more strikes were likely if the old prices
were not restored. So he rescinded the price hikes.
Gierek also courted the intelligentsia by granting more freedom to the media. Hoever,
this was most evident in scholarly publications with small printings and a restricted reading
public. He also sanctioned the restoration of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, which previous
party leaders had rejected because they saw it as a symbol of the old, anti-Russian and anti-Soviet Poland. The restoration of the Royal Castle proved very popular with Poles, both at
home and abroad. Private persons and organizations donated a large part of the necessary
funds; others donated their expertise and time. The restoration was completed in the mid-1980s. The castle is now a museum of Polish history and one of the most impressive examples
of historic restoration in Europe.
Gierek aimed to modernize the Polish economy. To do this, he sought and obtained
massive credits and loans from the West - which was possible in the Nixon-Brezhnev
"detente" of the 1970s. While there was a rapid improvement in the Polish standard of living
in the years 1971-73, it was mainly due to rising wages and the availability of imported
goods, and a decline began in 1974. This, in turn, was due partly to the increase of oil prices
by the Arab and other OPEC countries, which led to economic recession in the West and thus
a reduction of orders for Polish-made goods. But it was due even more to continued
mismanagement and lack of reform in Poland's old-style Stalinist economy.
Polish economists proposed decentralization, more independence for large
enterprises, cost accounting, a shift from increasing coal production to developing Poland's
chemical industry, and more private enterprise. But Gierek would have none of this.
Therefore, as in other Soviet bloc countries -- except for some reforms in Hungary -- the
Polish economy continued to be centrally run without any relation between prices and costs
of production. The result was, of course, massive inefficiency and waste. An example of
waste widely cited at the time was the leaving of unprotected computerized equipment on the
site of a projected papermill -- though the mill was never built because funding was switched
to other plants elsewhere. People also spoke of the purchase of Western heating equipment
to prevent coal from freezing in the railway cars in winter. Unfortunately, the government
officials who made the purchase forgot that most Polish railway cars were wooden, so the
wooden cars were often set on fire. Another example was the "thrifty" purchase of a license
to produce Grundig tape recorders in Poland - but without the instruction manuals or key
equipment needed. The result was substandard production, which Grundig rejected for
export to Western countries.
As far as energy was concerned, the new Katowice Steel Works, built by Gierek,
absorbed a tremendous amount of power. At the same time, the leadership ignored pleas by
energy experts to build more and stronger power plants and power lines. Therefore, power
shortages and blackouts increased, reducing industrial production all over the country, as well
as domestic consumption. Furthermore, nothing was done to stop ecological devastation,
especially in Silesia, despite specialist and popular appeals which began in the early 1970s.
Such disregard was to lead to an ecological catastrophe in all industrial regions of communist
Eastern Europe and the USSR, the effects of which could be evaluated fully only after the
collapse of communism.
Meanwhile, Poland sank further and further into debt. By the mid-1970s, some 60%
of Polish exports went to pay the interest on hard currency debts to Western banks and
governments. These exports led in turn to ever greater shortages of consumer goods available
to the ordinary citizen, especially the ever popular Polish ham. To add insult to injury, party
leaders, industrial managers and other members of the elite enjoyed lavish life styles, which
many no longer bothered to conceal, although communist Poland was touted as an egalitarian
Faced with a budget drain caused by large subsidies for basic products ( as mentioned
above, Gierek had restored the old prices in February 1971), the government raised prices
again in June 1976. This again provoked worker protests, which were again brutally put
down. But, as we shall see, this time repression brought the workers and the intelligentsia
together and a new type of protest movement arose. Also, the new dissidents enjoyed the
support of the Catholic Church, which had already come out in support of civil rights in
December 1970. (2) Thus, Polish society began to develop a united opposition to the
Let us now look at the roles of the Catholic Church and the intelligentsia in
preparing the ground for the birth of Solidarity in August 1980.
a. The Catholic Church.
The church had been part of Polish national identity since Mieszko the First's
conversion to Christianity from Rome in 966 A.D. In the period following the 3rd Partition
of 1795, when Poland ceased to exist as a state, and up to her rebirth as an independent state
in November 1918, the church symbolized and defended this national identity against
Protestant Prussia, later Germany, and Orthodox Russia. (It did not play this role in Austrian
Poland [Galicia] because Austria was a Catholic power. Also, Austrian Poland was virtually
autonomous after 1867. For a brief history of pre-1918 Poland, see ch. I, "Annex on
Nationalities: The Poles").
The church, together with underground resistance, again represented Poland's national
identity during World War II, when it was persecuted both by the Nazi and Soviet occupants.
(The Soviets occupied eastern Poland from September 17, 1939, to June 22, 1941, see ch.
V). About 2,000 priests were killed during the war, most of them for supporting the Polish
underground movement under German occupation; many were also killed by the Soviets in
eastern Poland, or died in Soviet labor camps.
After the consolidation of a Soviet-dominated communist system in 1948, the church
was the only independent institution in Poland. It had too much popular support to be
crushed, but it was constantly harassed by the authorities. Popular opposition to Soviet
domination and communism fused with support for the church, which became the supreme
moral authority in the country. This authority was personified by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski
(pron: Vyshynskee, 1901-1980, Primate of Poland, 1951-1980). When Stalinism was
implemented in Poland, Wyszynski was confined, first in an abandoned monastery, then in a
convent, from early 1953 to the fall of 1956. At that time, Gomulka released him, because the
party needed the support of the Church to be accepted by the people..
In return for Church support, Gomulka made some concessions; in particular, he
allowed religious instruction in the public, i.e., state-run schools. However, harassment began
again in 1959, when this instruction was ended and private Catholic schools were also
abolished. Still, children could receive religious instruction after school at "cathechism
points," mostly in churches. Harassment increased in 1966, after the Polish bishops wrote an
" open letter" to the German bishops, proposing mutual forgiveness of past sins and mutual
reconciliation. The government attacked the Church, calling the letter "treason." Also in 1966,
the Millenium of Poland's conversion to Christianity and of the Polish state was celebrated
separately by church and state, and the authorities refused to grant a visa to Pope Paul VI
to attend the religious celebrations at Poland's national shrine, the monastery of Jasna Gora
(pron: Yasna Goorakh) in Czestochowa (Chenstohovakh), near Krakow.
The church enjoyed massive support not only from the disaffected strata of the
intelligentsia (i.e., those who refused to enter the party and even some who left it), but also,
and above all, from the bulk of the population, i.e., the peasant farmers and workers. The
peasants had always been loyal to the church, and this loyalty was strengthened by church
support for private farms. As for the working class, in the early years it was made up of
transplanted peasants who stayed in close touch with relatives in the countryside, and
remained loyal to the church. Of course, the character of the working class changed with time.
While in 1965, about 50% of Polish workers came from peasant families, by 1980 a new
generation had grown up in the cities. Despite the predictions of sociologists, who pointed
to the alienation of workers from organized religion in industrialized countries, the Polish
workers remained loyal to the Catholic church because it was part of Polish national identity
and opposed communism. At the same time, they were better educated than their parents and
more conscious of their rights.
The Church supported the intelligentsia's demands for freedom of conscience in the 1960s, and adopted an even stronger stance a few days after the brutal repression of the workers in the Baltic ports in mid-December 1970. At the end of that month, Cardinal Wyszynski appealed not only for hard work and forgiveness (i.e., for the people to forgive the government's brutal repression of the strikes), but also for work toward true democracy which, he said, was deeply rooted in the Polish national tradition. He also spoke in defense of workers' rights, and demanded freedom of conscience as well as freedom of religious belief. Furthermore, he spoke of the nation's right to free cultural activity and demanded recognition of the right to truth and freedom of speech. (3)
In March 1976, groups of intellectuals were openly criticizing the draft of the new
Polish Constitution for making respect of civil rights conditional on obedience to the party,
also for recognizing Poland's subordination to the USSR (the draft spoke of the
"permanent" Polish-Soviet alliance). Cardinal Wyszynski went even further. He now
proposed the establishment of free trade unions, a demand made by Kuron and Modzelewski
in 1965, and by the strikers in Szczecin and Gdansk in December 1970.
Furthermore, Wyszynski demanded an independent judiciary and civil service as well
as free elections to the Parliament. He also reminded the government of the social and
economic rights of private farmers. Finally, he demanded respect for the indispensable civil
rights of all Poles, and said the Constitution should not contain anything that could limit the
sovereignty of the Polish nation and state. (4) It is no wonder that Cardinal Wyszynski was
seen by most Poles as the spokesman of the nation.
Finally, we should bear in mind that the Catholic clergy was in daily contact with
people on all levels of society, so its members could transmit political ideas to all levels of
b. The Dissident Intelligentsia.
Before 1976, small groups of intellectuals had occasionally protested state policies,
but had not created any organized opposition movement. Furthermore, Polish intellectuals
enjoyed both a privileged social position and much greater freedom in their work than their
peers in other "Socialist" countries. At the same time, however, there was practically no
contact between the intelligentsia and the workers - except through the church, whose clergy
were in daily touch with people of all classes. The lack of contact between the intelligentsia
and the workers was very evident in March 1968, when students staged sit-ins at the
universities, demanding the abolition of censorship. Some workers supplied them with food,
but refused to come out in support of their demands for the abolition of censorship. The
students, for their part, did not come out in support of the workers in December 1970. All this
was to change in summer and fall 1976.
The Workers Revolt Again:June 1976.
As mentioned earlier, at this time the government again raised the prices of basic
products, especially food. The workers of the "Ursus" tractor factory outside of Warsaw, and
the workers in the city of Radom (60 miles southwest of Warsaw), came out in protest.
Although Gierek cancelled the price increases, the workers were brutally beaten by riot
police. As in the Baltic ports in December, 1970, so now in June 1976. workers were forced
to "run the gauntlet" between lines of policemen who beat them with clubs. Some were killed;
many were imprisoned, and others were fired.
Shocked and outraged by this brutal repression, a group of intellectuals organized the
Committee for the Defense of the Workers (Komitet Obrony Robotnikow, Polish acronym:
KOR). Two of its best known members were former communists, Jacek Kuron and Adam
Michnik (pron: Meekhneek). The third was Jan Jozef Lipski (pron: Yan Yoozef Leepskii),
a historian, literary critic and a longtime non-communist dissident. (5)
KOR began its official existence in the late summer of 1976, and published its first
Bulletin in September that year. Its original goal was to help the workers, and it was the first
intelligentsia organization to establish direct contact with them. Even before KOR was
formally organized, its future members collected money to aid workers' families, whose
breadwinners had been killed, injured, arrested, and/or thrown out of work. It also collected
money to pay defense attorneys at the trials. Money was collected both in Poland and in the
West, where bank accounts were opened for this purpose. It was then transmitted by various
means to KOR for distribution in Poland.
KOR adopted the policy of open activism. Thus, its members based their actions on
existing rights, even though these were not observed in practice by the government. These
were the civil rights "guaranteed" by the Polish Constitution; the human rights which Soviet
bloc countries had recognized by signing the Helsinki Agreements of August 1975; and the
labor rights these governments had recognized in international labor agreements, registered
with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva. These tactics made KOR the
model for the Czech dissident movement organized a year later, "Charter 77."
KOR's openness was characterized by the fact that all articles in the Bulletin were
signed by the authors, who also gave their names and addresses. The Bulletin itself was
published "underground," i.e., without government permission. It provided information not
available in the government-controlled media, e.g., on repressions and trials.
Another organization similar to KOR was The Movement for the Defense of the
Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Ruch Obrony Praw Czlowieka i Obywatela, Polish
acronym: ROPCIO). As its name indicated, this organization was not limited to defending
workers' rights. In fact, it represented the moderately reformist and right-wing intelligentsia
- while some of the KOR leaders were loyal to the ideals of democratic socialism. We should
also note that in 1978, KOR expanded its name to read: The Committee of Social Defense,
KOR (KSS KOR). A third organization was the Confederation for an Independent Poland
(Konfederacja Polski Niepodleglej, Polish acronym: KPN), whose primary goal was to regain
Polish independence. In Gdansk, there was "Young Poland" (Mloda Polska), which leaned
toward the prewar National Democrats. There was rivalry between the first two but their
members often cooperated with each other; KPN, however, acted for and by itself. We
should bear in mind that the left-wing KOR leaders, such as Jacek Kuron and Bronislaw
Geremek, were to play a key role in 1989 and after, when they were bitterly opposed by right-wingers such as Leszek Moczulski - originally in KOR, but later the leader of KPN - also by
ideological anti-communists, Antoni Macierewicz and Jan Olszewski. These post-1989
political enmities had their roots in the period 1976-80.
An underground educational organization came into being in 1978. This was The
Association for Scholarly Courses (Towarzystwo Kursow Naukowych, Polish acronym:
TKN). Its members were university professors, junior faculty, graduate students, lawyers,
writers, and artists. They organized seminars for university students on subjects either not
taught at universities, or if taught, distorted either by a Marxist approach and the official party
line. This applied particularly to recent Polish history, but also to literature, philosophy,
sociology, economics and law.
The seminars were held in private apartments. Of course, they had a historical
precedent in the Flying Universities, which existed in Warsaw in 1890-1914, when it was part
of the Russian Empire. (The "Flying Universities," were so called because teachers and
students moved from one place to another to escape detection) Thea same, secret seminar
teaching became part of the underground educational system during the German occupation
in World War II. The professors and students of TKN were harassed by police, who checked
their identity cards and often broke up the seminars as "illegal," since permission had not been
obtained to hold them. Heavy fines were levied on the apartment owners, and lecturers were
sometimes detained by the police for 48 hrs. According to Polish law, people could not be
held for more than 48 hours without charges being made, but the authorities preferred to
release dissidents or move them from one police station to another in a series of consecutive
48 hr. detentions, rather than make charges, for this would document the Polish government's
disregard for constitutional freedoms and the Helsinki Agreements. However, despite
harassment, TKN activity spread all over the country. The church allowed the TKN and other
dissidents to use parish facilities TKN members also went out into the villages. Lawyers were
particularly appreciated for their free advice to private farmers on procedures to claim and/or
defend their rights.
KOR and Young Poland also helped organize and then gave financial aid to the
underground Free Baltic Trade Union, established in Gdansk in February 1978. Its members
included future leaders of "Solidarity," such as Lech Walesa, Anna Walentynowicz, Andrzej
and Joanna Gwiazda, Bogdan Lis, and others. Here they learned the techniques of
organization, underground publication, and non-violent protest demonstrations.
KOR, ROPCIO, KPN, and Young Poland inspired and helped organize annual
celebrations on May 3rd, in honor of the Polish Constitution of 1791. It had been a national
holiday in interwar Poland, but most importantly, it was a symbol of Polish rights. Indeed,
Walesa once drove around Gdansk distributing copies of the text as part of the local protest
movement. Masses were said on May 3, as well as on November 11, the date on which Poland
had regained her independence in 1918. Sometimes demonstrations followed, and people
were attacked by the police. There were also masses on September 17 to commemorate the
Soviet invasion of eastern Poland. When I arrived in Poland in mid-September 1979, I noticed
slogans written on the walls: "Remember September 17!" This was most likely the work of
KPN, the Confederation for an Independent Poland. I also recall that many churches held
special masses on November 11 that year, and that police charged a procession of people
walking from a Warsaw church to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In fact, national symbols were increasingly fused with workers' demands. One of the
latter was for a monument to the workers killed in Gdansk in December 1970. Walesa and
other activists tried to lay wreaths every December 16 on the site, but the police usually tried
to prevent this. On one occasion, however, when the police confiscated the wreath, a few
policemen, who were also Catholics, delivered it to St. Bridget's church, whose pastor, Father
Jankowski, was a supporter of the workers' demands.
Finally, a large underground press and all kinds of publications came into existence
in 1976 and kept on growing. This, of course, had precedents in the 1890-1914 period, and
even more under the German occupation of 1939-45. Indeed, the dissidents often consulted
Home Army veterans on underground printing and distribution methods. In 1978, Miroslaw
Chojecki (pron: Meeroslav Khoyetskii) established the publishing firm, Nova, which printed
books rejected by, or not submitted to, the official government-controlled publishers who
were subject to government censorship.
The Polish government rarely went beyond harassing the opposition, though dissidents
were sometimes beaten up and a few, lesser known working class leaders were murdered.
But the government could not simply abolish dissident organizations because the economic
situation was bad and the church was openly supporting dissident activities. Therefore, too
much overt repression could provoke anti-government demonstrations which would have the
moral support of the church. Furthermore, the government needed the U.S. aid it received as
part of U.S. Public Law 480. (Surplus U.S. food went to Poland; it was repaid in Polish
currency for book purchases by U.S. universities and to support U.S. graduate students and
faculty in Poland). The Polish authorities could hardly risk losing this aid, especially since one
of President Jimmy Carter's key policies was support for human rights. In fact, when he
visited Poland in December 1977, U.S. television viewers saw an underground seminar being
held in a private Warsaw apartment. (The seminar did not appear on Polish TV). There was
an amusing incident at the outset of Carter's visit. The State Dept. translator, who did not
know Polish very well, obtained the text of the President's arrival speech only when Carter
landed in Warsaw. The translator caused great amusement in Poland, when he translated
Carter's phrase on Polish " love of freedom," as the Polish" lust for freedom".
c. The Polish Pope.
On October 16, 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (pron: Kahrol Woytyilakh, b.1920),
the former Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope and took the name of John Paul II
(after his mentors, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI). He was the first non-Italian Pope
elected for centuries and, of course, the first Polish Pope. Poland went wild with joy. People
stood in line all over the country to ring church bells. The government hesitated at first, but
then hailed the Pope as "a great son of Poland," and allowed the coronation to be shown on
As Archbishop of Krakow, Wojtyla had shown he was a skillful and determined
leader. He had collected the funds and built a great new church in the industrial suburb of
Krakow, Nowa Huta (pron: Nova Hootah), which had grown up around the steel mill of that
name. He had also supported the TKN (Association of Scholarly Courses) and allowed its
members to conduct their activities on church property. His election, therefore, strengthened
not only the church in Poland, but also the dissidents.
It is no wonder that the Pope's visit to Poland in June 1979 had a tremendous impact
on the country. He spoke to millions of people and was enthusiastically cheered everywhere.
About 200,000 gathered to attend his open air mass in Warsaw; about one million came to
hear him at the Polish national shrine, the Monastery of Jasna Gora ( pron.Yasnakh Goorakh)
at Czestochowa,(pron. Tshenstokhovakh) and about two million heard him in the open fields
outside Krakow. Everywhere, order was kept by Catholic laymen and the police was hardly
visible. John Paul II spoke openly about the people's right "to have God in their lives," and
the "right to freedom." Thirty-four years of communism seemed to vanish overnight as people
gathered in their millions to cheer their Pope. They now realized that they had strength in
numbers and broke the barrier of fear. The mass demonstration of Polish national feelings
and Catholicism in June 1979, was a prelude to the birth of Solidarity in August 1980.
d. The Economic Crisis.
When I arrived in Poland in September 1979 after an absence of six years, I was
shocked by the visible decline in the standard of living. Poland was then the fifth largest coal
producer in the world but power cuts idled the factories and mines for several hours every
day. These power cuts also affected domestic consumption outside the capital. When I asked
my cousin, an energy engineer, why this was so, he told me that the government had not built
enough large power plants and power lines to keep up with the growth of industry, especially
after Gierek built a new steel mill in his home town of Katowice. Furthermore, the
government had contracted to export electric power for hard currency to Austria, and for
transfer rubles to Soviet bloc countries. (Transfer rubles were only used in foreign trade
accounting within the Comecon; they were pegged to the dollar at a value much higher than
their real worth. The USSR profited from this arrangement while its satellites traded at a
The transportation system was also breaking down. At any given time about 50% of
the railway cars, buses, and trucks, were out of circulation for repair, which took a long time
because of shortages of spare parts. There was also constant under- investment in roads and
Food production was down partly because of a series of poor harvests due to bad weather, but mainly because the government discriminated against the private farmers who owned about 78% of the land. They suffered from state purchase prices too low to cover their production costs, which were high because they could not purchase fertilizers, cattle feed, machines, and even coal for Polish currency. All these items were supplied below cost to the woefully inefficient state and collective farms, while the private farmers who produced three times as much food per acre had to buy them with American dollars - if and when they could get them. Thus, private farmers did not produce as much food as they could, because they could not even cover their own costs. (I saw this state of affairs myself in June 1980, during a short stay at a private farm in a village near the Bug River in eastern Poland). Furthermore, as in other communist states in the region, including the USSR, at least 25% of perishable foodstuffs was routinely spoiled, due to a constant shortage of refrigerated rail and road cars and storage facilities.
It is worth noting that the U.S. dollar was the second currency in Poland. Dollars were
sent or brought in by relatives living in the U.S. People who did not have such relatives, had
to buy them on the "black market" at an exchange rate more than ten times higher than the
unrealistic official rate. In 1985, millions of U.S. dollars were circulating in Poland, so the
government sanctioned the opening of private dollar bank accounts, no questions asked. (The
new, mostly non-communist Polish government that came into being in September 1989,
rectified this situation by establishing a realistic exchange rate the following year).
At that time, i.e., in 1979-80, everything was in short supply, so people stood in line
to buy food, clothes, shoes, furniture, etc. Despite increased housing construction, there was
a permanent housing shortage. Young married couples waited 15 years or more for
government-subsidized housing. It was easier to get an apartment in a housing cooperative,
but there people had to make a sizable downpayment.
As mentioned earlier, expensive machinery, imported from the West often stood idle
and rusted, while the construction of the factories which it was meant to serve was delayed -
or they were not built at all because party leaders had changed investment priorities.
Finally, the free medical service had deteriorated to the point of disaster. Hospitals
were badly overcrowded and in disrepair. Doctors and nurses were woefully underpaid, so
they accepted "presents" from patients to look after them. Indeed, an operation by a well-known specialist usually required a large "present" in cash. Also, people were dying for lack
of foreign medications, which the government had ceased importing in order to save foreign
At the same time, party and government officials, industrial managers, the military and
the police, had good housing, superior medical care, and special vacation resorts. What is
more, luxury was visible in high party circles. For example, people knew that Gierek had built
himself a luxuriously-appointed villa just outside Warsaw. Gierek's old friend, Maciej
Szczepanski (pron: Matsiey Shchepanskii), the head of radio and TV, was well known for his
expensive parties and African safaris. The Premier, Piotr Jaroszewicz (pron: Pyotr
Yarosheveetch), ordered the restoration of a castle in Warsaw to serve as his official
residence. One of his sons, who was the head of the government automobile import firm, was
well known for gambling in West European casinos. It was common for plant managers --
all party members -- to use factory materials and labor to build houses for themselves.
Realizing that something had to be done to deflect popular resentment, the leadership
allowed a fairly open TV coverage of the elections to the Eighth Party Congress held on
February 11-15 1980. Indeed, workers were shown complaining about managers who stole
building material from factories and used factory labor to build their villas and country houses.
There were also complaints that imported East German computers came without instruction
manuals, so workers learned how to use them by trial and error, thus delaying production and
increasing costs (TV interview with the manager of the automobile factory in Lublin).
As it turned out, this publicity paved the way for the dismissal of Premier Piotr
Jaroszewicz, whom Gierek made the scape-goat for Poland's economic problems. He was
replaced by Gierek's old friend, Edward Babiuch (Babyooh), who was known for his modest
style of living. (Jaroszewicz and his wife were brutally murdered in September 1992; robbery
seems to have been the motive).
Before I left Poland in mid-June 1980, unrest was growing. I heard people talking
about the coming explosion as they stood in line to buy food. They said that when the
workers rose again, they would not go out into the streets and get shot, as in December 1970
- but would stage sit-in strikes in the factories and mines.
2. The Birth of Solidarity.
I was in London when Premier Babiuch announced new price increases for meat and
other basic food products on July l, 1980. This did not attract much attention in Britain
because people were glued to their TV sets, watching the tennis championships at
Wimbledon. (Bjorn Borg of Sweden beat John McEnroe, U.S).
The price hike announcement was followed by strikes all over Poland. However, they
were uncoordinated, so government officials settled one after another by agreeing to wage
increases. But in mid-July there was a large, city wide strike in Lublin, located southeast of
Warsaw, near the Soviet border. Here, all the factory workers struck and the railwaymen
stopped Polish trains with consumer goods for the Soviet Union. They distributed the goods
to the local population. Although the strike was settled by Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw
Jagielski (pron: Myechyslav Yagyelskee), its coordinated nature and the strikers' demands
were a dress rehearsal for the August strikes in Gdansk. It is important to note that news of
the strikes was broadcast by the Polish Section of Radio Free Europe from Munich. However,
RFE could not be heard everywhere in Poland. Now KOR began to act as an information
exchange inside the country. Its Bulletin of August 8th informed the public that some 150
industrial plants had gone on strike since July 1st.
In mid-August there was a strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, some of whose
workers had been killed in December 1970. There were two precipitating causes for this new
strike: (1) the dismissal of a popular woman crane operator, Anna Walentynowicz (pron:
Valentynovitch). She was a member of the underground Free Baltic Trade Union); and (2)
the price hikes, which led the workers to demand pay raises. This strike, too, might have
fizzled out like the others. Indeed, when the shipyard manager promised the workers pay
raises, agreed to the return of Anna Walentynowicz - who was brought to the yard in the
manager's limousine - and also agreed that the shipyard workers were to have their own union
(of course, he had the local party leaders' permission to make all these promises), the workers
began to go home.
In the meanwhile, however, Lech Walesa had arrived on the scene and was accepted
as the leader of the strike. Born in 1943, he was an electrician by profession, and a strike
leader at the Lenin Shipyard in December 1970. Since then, he had been fired and employed
elsewhere. He had been agitating for the erection of a monument to the workers killed in
1970. Like Anna Walentynowicz, he was a member of the Free Baltic Trade Union. At first,
Walesa was unable to persuade the workers to continue the strike since most of the demands
had been granted. But just at that moment, delegates from other striking factories and from
Gdansk city transport arrived at the shipyard. They appealed to Walesa and the shipyard
workers not to give up, because then the other strikers would have to go back to work
without obtaining their demands. Therefore, they proposed that workers at all the striking
enterprises coordinate their actions. Walesa put this to about 400 workers (out of the total
10,000) who were still listening to him at the shipyard; they agreed and began an occupation
strike. Thus, on the evening of August 16, a regional Interfactory Strike Committee
(Miedzyzakladowy Komitet Strajkowy, Polish acronym: MKS) was formed. The MKS
recalled the structure set up by Szczecin workers in December 1970, and some writers claim
that this was, in fact, the model for the MKS set up in the Lenin Shipyard in August 1980.
This MKS gathered more and more enterprises, not only from the Baltic port cities but also
from other parts of the country, notably Silesia. The leaders then set up the Provisional
Coordinating Commission (Tymczasowa Komisja Koordynacyjna, Polish acromym: TKK) to
coordinate action across the country.
A few days later, some intellectuals -- mainly from KOR, the Committee for Defense
of Workers -- arrived from Warsaw and offered their help as advisers. They formed a group
of experts, led by Tadeusz Mazowiecki (b. 1927, he became the first non-communist Prime
Minister of Poland in September 1989). They were welcomed, as were some local Gdansk
intellectuals, mainly from "Young Poland." Thus, workers and intellectuals cooperated on a
new level, i.e., negotiations with the government. (This was to be the precedent for the
Solidarity/Polish Government negotiations in spring 1989).
The government reacted by cutting all telephone, rail, road and air communications
between Gdansk and the rest of the country. However, the strikers demanded these be
restored as a condition for negotiations. One deputy premier, Tadeusz Pyka, arrived, but was
unable to make any headway. He was then replaced by deputy premier Mieczyslaw Jagielski,
who had settled the strikes in Lublin.
The plenary meetings between the government delegation, headed by Jagielski, and
the strikers' representatives, the MKS, were broadcast over the shipyard loudspeaker system.
They were taped on recorders, and the cassettes were carried to the other striking enterprises
and played there. (This was called "the cassette revolution"). But the substantive negotiations
were, in fact, carried on by the government delegation and the workers' "expert" advisers.
Some of the open sessions were recorded. They can be seen in the film, Robotnicy 1980
(Workers 1980, with English subtitles). Some of these scenes were recreated in Andrzej
Wajda's film, The Man of Iron, on the pre-1980 dissent movement, which also covered the
Gdansk strike. (6) This was a follow up of his earlier film, The Man of Marble, which showed
the exploitation of the workers in Poland's Stalinist period (1948-56).
On August 3lst, Walesa and Jagielski signed the agreement known as the 2l Points.
Although a similar agreement had been signed by the strikers at the Warski Shipyard in
Szczecin the day before, the Gdansk agreement marked the birth of Solidarity. While most
of the 21 points dealt with economic matters such as wages, working conditions, health
insurance, etc., the core was political, i.e., the right to form free trade unions; the right to
strike; the demand for the legal definition of censorship (i.e., the passing of a law to this
effect); the demand that the Government free all political prisoners, and the demand for free
access to the media for both the church and the free trade unions, i.e., Solidarity.
Some historians deny the fact that Polish intellectuals, especially those in KOR, can lay any claim to the establishment of Solidarity and its victory over the Polish government. These historians claim that the workers always wanted free trade unions and that in August 1980, they only followed earlier precedents of interfactory cooperation in Baltic port cities, especially Szczecin in December 1970, so they did not need any help from the intellectuals.
We should note, however, that while most workers wanted free trade unions and that some
had experienced inter-factory cooperation in 1970, the situation in Gdansk in August 1980
was a unique combination of several factors. First of all, the workers who took the lead in
setting up the Inter-Factory Strike Committee had known and trusted each other for many
years, so it was easy for them to cooperate. Secondly, the most prominent among them had
been members of the Free Baltic Trade Union. Thirdly, 100-200 activists had been members
of self-education circles organized in Gdansk by members of KOR and Young Poland. As far
as the role of KOR is concerned, we can at least agree with its historian, Jan Jozef Lipski, that
while KOR did not organize the strikes of August 1980, it played an important role in these
events because: (1) it had prepared the workers' consciousness for these strikes, mainly
through its paper, Robotnik (The Worker), and (2) it distributed information about the strikes.
This was done by telephone where possible, and by courier where it was not. Thus, KOR not
only spread information throughout Poland, but also gave it to foreign correspondents. 
To this we should, of course, add (3) the role of KOR members as advisers to Solidarity in
its negotiations with the government.
Finally, we should note that this was not the first time in Polish history that
intellectuals had helped develop workers' consciousness in both working class and national
interests. Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935) -- who became the outstanding Polish statesman of the
20th century -- had published the Polish Socialist Party paper, Robotnik, beginning in 1895.
It played an important role in preparing workers for the strikes and national demands of 1905-07 in Russian Poland, then for independence when it came in November 1918. KOR's paper
for the workers, also named Robotnik, played a similar role seventy years later.
Now let us ask: Why did the party leadership give in and sign the 21 points ? We
know it was afraid of a massive uprising all over Poland, so it played for time. This was also
the advice of the Soviet leaders, who did not want a civil war in Poland, along with the risk
of armed Soviet intervention, which Moscow wished to avoid. But we also know that as early
as August 24 1980, Polish party leaders began to draw up plans to crush Solidarity (see
section on martial law, below).
4. The Solidarity Period: August 31, 1980 - December 12-13, 1981.
The 21 Points were to enter into force after their ratification by the Polish Supreme
Court. However, the court employed delaying tactics, so ratification did not take place until
November. Furthermore, Rural Solidarity, representing the private farmers, which also came
into being in 1980, was ratified only after much government foot dragging in May 1981.
Meanwhile, the party leadership changed; Gierek resigned in early September 1980
for "health reasons." He was succeeded by Stanislaw Kania (pron: Staneeslav Kanya, b. 1927)
a party bureaucrat virtually unknown to the public. Apparently, Brezhnev had "advised" that
Gierek resign. In February 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski (pron. Voytekh Yaruzelskee,
b. 1923), Defense Minister since 1968, became Premier. In October of that year, he replaced
Kania as First Secretary of the party, thus combining all three posts in his hands.
But the Party disintegrated. Of its three million members, at least one third joined
Solidarity; these were generally ordinary workers and foremen. At the same time, many party
members demanded that the PZPR undergo "democratization." In fact, the most vocal party
advocates of this view held their own Party Congress in the city of Torun in April 1981. The
key organizer was Zbigniew Iwanow (pron: Sbeegneev Eevanov; he later emigrated to the
U.S. and died of a heart attack in Texas in 1987).
As the party leaders struggled to keep their heads above water, the vast majority of
the population was caught up in a wave of euphoria. Solidarity membership soon rose to 10
million, out of a labor force of 18 million, including peasant farmers - who wanted their own
union. (The total population was then about 36 million).
But Solidarity was not just a labor movement; it was also a national movement. It
had the support of the vast majority of Poles. Solidarity chapters and free unions of every kind
sprang up everywhere. Thus, the students formed their own free union; so did writers, artists,
film people, doctors, lawyers, journalists, etc., University Senates elected their own
Chancellors (a prewar Polish practice, which was part of the European university tradition).
By the end of the period even the police began to agitate for their own union. Indeed, self-government was the demand voiced by all strata of Polish society, while Solidarity itself
demanded the election of factory and enterprise managers.
At the same time, Solidarity leaders cooperated closely with Polish intellectuals. A
group of university professors drew up a list of Solidarity-national goals. After approval by
the Solidarity leadership, they were published in the Solidarity weekly, Tygodnik Solidarnosc,
on April 17, 1981. These goals included the realization of basic Polish values such as
Christian ethics and toleration, also social justice, civil liberties and Polish patriotism. At
the same time, there was an analysis of the basic causes of the crisis which were seen as lack
of democratic mechanisms and persistent defects in economic policy. The proposed
economic reforms included independence for socialized enterprises (i.e., they were to set their
own goals), various forms of ownership, workers' share in enterprise profits, but also the right
to work (i.e., full employment, and no discrimination on political grounds). Legal reforms
envisaged guarantees for legality (i.e., independent judges and law courts). There was also
a demand for openness in public life, and for self-government in the shape of freely elected
people's councils. (Text in Peter Raina, Poland 1981. Towards Social Renewal, London,
1985, pp. 172-197). These goals were similar to those outlined in the Czechoslovak Action
Program of April 1968, but went beyond them. Furthermore, the economic reforms proposed
in the Solidarity progrm of 1981, had been outlined by Polish economists in 1956-57.
As in Czechoslovakia 1968, so in 1980-81 the Polish media became quite open,
except for a few party and army papers. There was an explosion of publications on all
subjects. Poets and actors recited Polish 19th century and contemporary poetry in factories
and shipyards. The favorite was Poland's greatest poet, Adam Mickiewicz, whose poems and
plays, including those protesting 19th century Russian oppression, were loved by his
countrymen. Historians came to the factories and gave public lectures on recent Polish
history. The expatriate Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz (pron: Cheslav Meelosh, b. 1911) - who
lived in the United States and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Poetry in 1980 - visited
Poland. He was present at the unveiling of the monument to the Gdansk shipyard workers
killed in December 1970. One of his verses was carved at the base of the monument. The
young generation, who had never known freedom, experienced it for the first time, and loved
But storm clouds were gathering. In December 1980, Soviet armed forces massed on
Poland's eastern frontier and Soviet warships stood off the coast. (For more on this and the
Warsaw Pact maneuvers of March 1981, see below).
Meanwhile, the economic situation did not improve. Indeed, how could it? It had been
going from bad to worse for years. Tthe abolition of work on Saturdays and the many short
protest strikes did not help but the crisis was, after all, the result of years of party
mismanagement and opposition to reform. A year earlier, in November 1979, I had asked the
well known economist, old socialist and KOR member, Edward Lipinski (pron. Leepinskee,
1888-1986) when the country's economy would break down? He said that things would get
much worse before they could get better. This conversation took place nine months before
the birth of Solidarity.
Solidarity could hardly be blamed for not preventing protest strikes. It was a brand
new organization, as well as a decentralized and democratic one, so it could not impose
discipline from above even if it wanted to. In any case, most of these strikes broke out when
old and justified grievances were not settled by local authorities. Walesa rushed around the
country mediating disputes; he received much help in this work from the church, whose
representatives often sat on the mediation commissions.
What the country needed was reform along the lines of the "New Economic Model"
proposed by Polish economists as far back as 1957-58, i.e., decentralization, selective
industrial development, more private business, etc. It also needed massive Western aid, but
this was impossible without prior economic reform. Also, Poland was deep in debt (60% of
Polish exports went to pay interest on the debt), so the Western countries were not about to
throw good money after bad, especially when the political situation was uncertain. However,
the party leadership did not want to undertake any such reform; it also opposed Solidarity
demands for "workers' self-management," and for the election of factory managers. The
economic situation continued to deteriorate, while the people grew tired and frustrated.
Nevertheless, there was no violence. Solidarity opposed any resort to force, a policy
that was, as always, advocated by the church. Nor did Solidarity want to take power. Its
leaders and members knew very well that this could provoke a Soviet invasion. Therefore,
Solidarity sought a "dialog" with the authorities and, aimed at a "partnership" with church and
government. This was, indeed, a "self-limiting revolution," whose leaders, mindful of the
disasters of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, did not wish to provoke the USSR.
At the same time, the party leadership was under constant pressure from Moscow to
crush Solidarity. It did its best to persuade the Soviet comrades that time was needed both
to break the morale of the people, and to prepare for action. The protocols of the Soviet
Politburo for 1980-81 ( published in Moscow in December 1992), as well as the memoirs of
First Secretary Stanislaw Kania, show that the Soviet leadership constantly pressured the
Polish leaders to crush Solidarity, because they wished to avoid Soviet military intervention.
Soviet military concentrations on the Polish borders were used as pressure on the Polish
leaders who, in turn, assured Moscow that they had a plan of their own. The greatest danger
of Soviet intervention was perhaps in December 1980. At the Warsaw Pact meeting called
by Brezhnev in Moscow in early December, Marshal Viktor G. Kulikov (B. 1921),
Commander-in-Chief of Warsaw Pact forces, asked the Polish authorities, through the
Polish War Minister, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, for permission for Soviet armed forces to
enter Poland for military maneuvers on December 5. Kania records hearing the following
statement from Soviet leaders; "We won't go in, but if the situation becomes complicated,
we will." (Cited in Nowy Dziennik, New York, Monday December 14, 1993, p. 3).
Warsaw Pact forces did not enter Poland at this time. It seems that the U.S.
government and the Pope sent warnings against such action. It seems, however, that some
of the hardliners in the Polish party leadership planned for a coup in March 1981 during
Warsaw Pact maneuvers being held in Poland at that time - although the Soviet Politburo
protocols published so far do not mention this. Whatever the case may be, a few Solidarity
leaders were beaten up in Bydgoszcz (pron: Bydgoshch), when they did not obey police
orders to leave the room in which they had been negotiating with Deputy Premier Stanislaw
Mach (pron: Makh) to secure government recognition for Rural Solidarity.
The beatings provoked an outburst of rage all over the country and Solidarity
prepared for a general strike, which party hardliners may well have planned to use as a pretext
for intervention by Warsaw Pact forces then maneuvering in Poland. A four hour protest
strike took place, but the general strike was averted at the very last moment by an agreement
between Walesa and Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski (pron: Myechyslav Rakovskii,
b. 1921). Meanwhile, on the military level, the situation looked grim. Soviet planes were
landing at designated airfields and normal air traffic over Poland was cancelled. (For more on
these events, see the discussion under martial law, below).
In May 1981, an attempt was made to assassinate the Pope and he was badly wounded. The terrorist who shot the Pope was a Turk, Ali Agca. He was later tried and sentenced to life imprisonment by an Italian court. During the trial, Agca sometimes acted as if he was mad. Although the Italian Prosecutor could not produce evidence of Bulgarian involvement, and no such evidence has surfaced thus so far, we do know that Agca had spent some time in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. There he stayed at the most elegant hotel and obtained a gun. We also know that the Bulgarian Security Police were controlled by the Soviet KGB, and were responsible for the assassination of at least one emigre Bulgarian writer. (Agca implicated the Bulgarians, then denied this. An Italian inquirty failed to reveal any trace of Bulgarian complicity, but suspictions remain. Agaca is serving a life sentence in Rome).
Furthermore, at this time Cardinal Wyszynski was mortally ill with cancer and died
soon after the attempt on the Pope. The death of both the Cardinal and the Pope at more or
less the same time, would have had a disastrous impact on the Solidarity movement in Poland.
Finally, an Italian socialist, who served as Walesa's guide during his visit to Rome, later
testified that there had been a plot to kill the Polish leader as well, but it did not come off. (8)
Meanwhile in Poland preparations proceeded for holding an Extraordinary Party
Congress. For the first time, some deputies were chosen in free elections. When the Congress
opened in July 1981, the new Presidium and Central Committee were elected for the first
time by Congress members. (The standard communist practice was for the congress to elect
the Central Committee, which then elected the Presidium). Kania was elected First Secretary.
The Soviet comrades were worried. Their press had charged from the very beginning
that the Solidarity leadership was in the pay of the CIA (!) but that the workers had "justified
grievances" which should be met. We also know that the Soviet leadership tried to prevent
the holding of the Polish Party Congress. However, the Polish party leaders apparently
managed to persuade the Soviets that the Congress must take place.
But popular hopes that the Party Congress would vote for economic reforms were
not met. The worsening economic situation led to widespread frustration, and thus to
increasing tension between the party leadership and Solidarity. Also, people were frustrated
with Solidarity for not producing immediate economic improvement, although this was
impossible. Popular frustration was expressed in various ways at the Solidarity Congress in
Gdansk, which was held in two parts: September 5-10 and September 26-October 7, 1981.
This Congress was the real parliament of Poland; indeed it adopted the motto of the old
Polish gentry in their parliaments: "Nothing about us, without us," i.e., no decisions can be
made about the people without their consent. The Polish nobles had said that to their kings;
now the people, who had learned this at school, said it to the party.
Frustration ran high and there were splits in Solidarity itself. Walesa obtained only
a bare majority for re-election as the head of Solidarity. Moreover, against his advice, the
Congress appealed to the workers in other Soviet bloc countries to follow their example,
though at the same time it affirmed its recognition of Poland's alliance obligations. This was
meant to reassure the Soviet leadership, but the latter was, of course, bent on putting an end
to Solidarity. Indeed, according to Kania, the Polish party leadership received what amounted
to a Soviet ultimatum in the second half of September 1981. This stated that if the situation
in Poland did not change by January 1982, the Soviets would drastically reduce supplies of
basic raw materials, especially oil and gas. Kania wrote that cutting off natural gas supplies
in winter would mean a catastrophe. (cited in Nowy Dziennik, New York, December 4, 1992,
p. 3). We should also note that even as the Solidarity Congress was meeting, Soviet warships
stood menacingly off the coast and Soviet troops conducted landing exercises near Gdansk.
By December 1981, the Polish people were very tired of the constant tension,
instability, and ever worsening shortages. The Solidarity-Church-Government talks in
November had ended in a stalemate, with Jaruzelski proposing the creation of a "National
Front," in which the communists would be the leading force (shades of 1945-47!). The
Solidarity leader, Walesa, and the head of the Catholic Church in Poland, Archbishop Jozef
Glemp (b. 1929, Cardinal 1983) insisted on the establishment of a real partnership, which
Jaruzelski refused to consider. (We should note that in 1988-89, the Polish communists led
by Jaruzelski, evidently had Gorbachev's support to propose a National Front arrangement
to Solidarity, led by Lech Walesa, who again refused; see section on Poland in 1988-89,
In early December 1981, the Solidarity Presidium (executive body) met in the city of Radom. Some radicals talked of overthrowing the government, while moderates wanted free elections to local government bodies, due to be held in February 1982. They proposed that Solidarity put up its own candidates everywhere. If they won, as they were expected to do, this would be a clear vote of no confidence in the government-party leadership. Excerpts from tapes obtained by party informers were later played on the radio in an attempt to prove that Solidarity had been planning to "overthrow" the government and the socialist system in Poland.
This was false on both counts. The great majority of Solidarity leaders always
opposed overthrowing the government by force, because they knew this would provoke a
Soviet invasion. Also, they supported the socialist system, but wanted to democratize it by
introducing self-government in all spheres of life. But, as in any democratic movement, there
were differences of view and, as noted above, some radicals did talk of overthrowing the
government, while moderates wanted to challenge it in the forthcoming local elections.
Finally, demonstrations were planned for December 16th to mark the 11th anniversary of the
Lenin Shipyard workers' massacre in December 1970.
5. The Imposition of Martial Law.
On December 11, 2,000 Solidarity delegates gathered for a meeting of the National
Coordinating Committee in the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk. They were to review a draft
declaration adopted by the Presidium at Radom (December 3). This declaration would
endorse protests in cities all over Poland on December 17, and would demand a referendum
on the Jaruzelski government.
General Jaruzelski saw this as a threat of impending revolt. He made his move on the
night of Saturday-Sunday, December 12-13, 1981.. The delegates in Gdansk, as well as
Solidarity leaders all over Poland -- some 5,000 in all -- were arrested at dead of night.
Jaruzelski announced the existence of a "state of war," and thus the imposition of martial law
for "the defense of the country" on Polish T.V. at 6:00 A.M., Sunday morning, December
13th. At the same time, all telephone lines, rail and road communications were cut all over
This communications blackout was very effective, for it prevented any coordinated
resistance. Workers tried to offer passive resistance, but army units surrounded the factories
and mines while special riot troops, the hated ZOMO ( Polish acronym for the Motorized
Units of the Citizens' Militia), used force to disperse the workers. In fact, the only significant
clash occurred in the Wujek Mine (pron. Vooyek) in Katowice, Upper Silesia. Here the
miners were infuriated when ZOMO police killed some of their colleagues, so they killed a
few of the police, using long, red hot pokers to pierce their plastic shields. Then the miners
went down the shaft and sat underground for two weeks, waiting for news of the expected
general strike. They did not come out until persuaded to do so by their priest, just before
Christmas. Meanwhile, Walesa had been taken to an undisclosed location.
Some of the secrets involved in preparing Jaruzelski's coup were revealed in April 1987 by Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski (Ryshart Kookliinskii), who had been a U.S. "mole" inside the Polish General Staff. (He reported on Warsaw Pact weapons and plans). He and his family, helped by American agenst, escaped to West Germany in early November 1981, and were then taken to the U.S. Kuklinski told of long, careful, preparations for military action, begun in November 1980. He also told of constant Soviet pressure on Jaruzelski, after he became First Secretary of the Party (October 1981), and of the latter's resistance to what he considered a premature move against Solidarity. According to Kuklinski, Brezhnev backed down from his plan of invading Poland in December 1980, after President Carter warned the USSR against such action. Carter's National Security Adviser was the Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was well informed about the situation in Poland and warned Solidarity leaders at that time.. There were also rumors that the Pope had warned Brezhnev that, if an invasion took place, he would go to Poland and face the Soviet troops at the head of his own people. Kuklinski also said that in March 1981 the Soviets had flown in air controllers and some "friendly troops," but backed down in the face of a strong warning from President Ronald Reagan. Kuklinski did add, however, that Jaruzelski still felt the time was not ripe for a decisive move. 
Here, we should note two important aspects of Jaruzelski's action. In the first place,
the Party Plenum, held in mid-October 1981, had given the General -- who was, as noted
earlier, Minister of Defense, Premier, and First Secretary all in one -- the go ahead to use, "in
case of supreme need," constitutional powers "to protect the most vital interests of state and
nation." However, it is likely there was some opposition to this resolution, since another
Party Plenum, held in late November, resolved to give the government full powers to combat
"destructive actions that threatened the Socialist state system and public security." Also,
PZPR deputies in Parliament were asked to introduce a law on "extraordinary measures in the
defense of the citizen and the state," which they did. Finally, when General Jaruzelski
proclaimed martial law in the early morning hours of December 13, 1981, he based his actions
on article 33, part 2, of the Constitution, which allowed the Council of State (Cabinet) to
proclaim martial law if this was required by considerations of the defense or security of the
When Jaruzelski summoned the Council of State on December 12th at 12:15 A.M.,
it met at 1 A.M. and all but one (Ryszard Reiff, b. 1923) of the 14 members voted for martial
law. Did the pressure to declare it on that day come from the Soviets? The Commander of
the Warsaw Pact forces, Marshal Viktor G. Kulikov, was in Warsaw around this time.. We
will come back to Soviet policy later.The second noteworthy aspect of Jaruzelski's imposition
of martial law was that, having obtained resolutions of full powers from the November Party
Plenum, he excluded the party as such. He acted as Premier, Head of the Council of Ministers
and Minister of Defense, but not as First Secretary of the Party. In fact, for the next few
months, the General ruled without the Party. (10) He may have done so to save its reputation;
however, he may also have acted as he did because the Party was weak and fragmented.
The official justification for martial law was the charge that Solidarity leaders were
preparing to overthrow the government and party. The unspoken justification was that if
Jaruzelski had not acted, there would have been a Soviet military intervention, resistance,
and a terrible bloodbath. However, this could not be said openly; therefore, Solidarity was
made the scapegoat. But we know that Solidarity was not preparing to overthrow the
government and political system. The most likely reason for Jaruzelski's decision to impose
martial law when he did, was fear that the celebrations planned to mark the anniversary of the
December 1970 workers' rising in Gdansk, due on December 17, would turn into mass
demonstrations against the government, which it could not control -and that this would
lead to Warsaw Pact intervention. Indeed, we know that the Solidarity leaders meeting in
Gdansk were considering a call for referendum on Jaruzelski's government.
The key question is: Were the Soviet authorities really planning a military
intervention in Poland if Jaruzelski failed to put down Solidarity? The Soviet
Politburo Protocols of December 10 1981, - which Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave to
Polish President Lech Walesa in early September 1993, on the occasion of his state visit in
Warsaw and the signing of some Polish-Russian agreements -- do not indicate any Soviet
desire to intervene in Poland. On the contrary, they show the Soviet leadership was most
unwilling to do so. At the outset of this meeting on December 10m 1981, Nikolai K.
Baybakov -- then Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) -- reported the
Polish government was asking for massive economic help from the Soviet Union, amounting
to some 4-5 mln rubles. He also said General Jaruzelski seemed very depressed when he
(Baybakov) had seen him on December 9th, and clearly was much affected by Archbishop
Glemp's letter warning him that the church would "declare holy war on the Polish authorities."
(This was probably a reference to Cardinal Glemp's appeal to the government not to use force
against the workers).
Next, Konstantin V.Rusakov, (1909-1986) -- then a Secretary of the Central
Committee, a former Counsellor at the Soviet Embassy in Warsaw and former Head of the
Central Committee's Department of Relations with Socialist States -- reported that while the
Polish Poliburo had accepted unanimously the need to introduce a state of war (martial
law), Jaruzelski said he would consult Poland's allies. Jaruzelski also said that if Polish
forces were unable to cope with Solidarity, then the Polish comrades (i.e., the party and
government leaders) counted on the other (Warsaw Pact) countries sending their armed
forces into Poland. Here, Jaruzelski was said to refer to an alleged statement by Marshal
Kulikov that Poland would receive such help. However, said Rusakov, as far as he knew,
Kulikov had not said this, but only repeated what Brezhnev had said in the past, i.e., that "we
would not abandon the Polish People's Republic in its misfortune."
Yuri V. Andropov (1914-1984)-- then head of the KGB and the most powerful
member of the Politburo, who virtually made policy decisions and carried on government
since Brezhnev was too ill to do so -- is recorded as saying that although General Jaruzelski
was conditioning his "operation X" against Solidarity on extensive Soviet economic aid, and
even hinting at Soviet military aid, the Soviet leadership did not intend to send armies into
Poland. He said that he did not know what would happen in Poland if Solidarity should come
to power, but if the capitalist countries should take action against the USSR, and they had --
he continued -- reached appropriate agreements on various kinds of political and economic
sanctions -- that would be a very difficult situation for the Soviets. Therefore, he said, we
(i.e., the Soviet leadership) should be concerned about our own country and about
strengthening the Soviet Union.
Andrei A. Gromyko (1909-1989)-- then Foreign Minister -- agreed. He said there was
no other way but for the Polish leaders to introduce a state of war, (i.e., martial law), but the
Soviets would have to try and damp down the attitude of Jaruzelski and other Polish leaders
on the question of sending Soviet troops into Poland. Gromyko said that "there was no
question of sending armies into Poland."
Dmitri F. Ustinov (1908-1984)-- then Soviet Defense Minister -- said the situation in
Poland was very bad and the decision lay in Jaruzelski's hands. Ustinov had talked with
General Florian Siwicki (b. 1925), Polish Deputy Defense Minister, who said no one knew
what General Jaruzelski was thinking. Ustinov went on to deny that Kulikov had promised
Soviet military help to Jaruzelski. Indeed, said Ustinov - Kulikov knew very well that that the
Poles (i.e., leaders) themselves had asked that armies not be sent into Poland. Ustinov also
said : "the Poles (i.e., the Polish leaders) are stating clearly that they are opposed to the
entry of (allied) armies. If the armies go in, this will mean a catastrophe." Thus, Ustinov
Finally, Mikhail A. Suslov (1902-1982)-- a key member of the Soviet leadership at this time -- said the USSR was waging a "peace campaign on a grand scale," and could not change its attitude. He said world opinion would not understand such a change. He thought Jaruzelski was showing great cunning. He wanted, through his pleas for Soviet help, to create an alibi for himself. It was clear the USSR could not give such help, so Jaruzelski could say later that he had turned to the Soviets for help, but did not get it (translation by A.C. of extracts from the Soviet Politburo protocol of December 10, 1981, published in Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw, and cited in the Nowy Dziennik, New York, Tuesday, September 8, 1993, p. 3; see also: Mark Kramer, "Poland, 1980-81. Soviet Policy During the Polish Crisis," Cold War International History Project. BULLETIN, issue 5, Washingtonn, D.C., spring 1995).
It seems clear from this protocol that the Soviet leaders had no intention to intervene
in Poland. But what of General Jaruzelski? Did he ask for Soviet military help as Rusakov
reported? This seems most unlikely, and Ustinov's staments confirm he was opposed.
Whatever the case may be, when the protocols were published, Jaruzelski protested
immediately, saying he had never asked for Soviet military help (Nowy Dziennik, September
20, 1993, p. 3).
Of course, the imposition of martial law was desired by the Soviet leadership, which
wanted the Polish leaders to act and had been exerting pressure on them for months.
Jaruzelski agonized over this and kept his own counsel. One piece of information reported
by Rusakov rings true. He said Jaruzelski spoke about the need of imposing a military
dictatorship, as in Pilsudski's time, for the Polish nation would understand this better than
anything else (Nowy Dziennik, September 8, 1993, p. 3). [Note: Here, Jaruzelski was
referring to Marshal Jozef Pilsudski's coup of May 1926, when he advanced on Warsaw with
loyal troops. He demanded that the President dismiss the government, and when the latter
refused, proceeded to take over the capital. However, contrary to conventional wisdom,
Pilsudski did not establish a dictatorship. After a short time, a new government was formed
and for the next three years Pilsudski tried to work with the existing Parliament. When this
cooperation broke down, Pilsudski established toward an authoritarian-type of government.
This was not a dictatorship like that of Mussolini in Italy, or Hitler in Germany, or Stalin in
General Jaruzelski's decision to impose martial law is still the subject of great
controversy in Poland. Some people condemn him; others defend him. In his memoirs, public
speeches (including his Landon lecture in at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Ks., March
1996) and in private conversations (including two with the author of this text in Warsaw,
in June 1994 and June 1997), the General has always said that he had three choices: (1)
Resign, thus abdicating responsibility for what would happen; (2) Shoot himself, with the
same consequences; (3) impose martial law and thus prevent a Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion
which would mean a terrible bloodbath in Poland. His critics say that no documents have
been found indicating that the Warsaw Pact, including Soviet troops, would have invaded
Poland if Solidarity demonstrations had gotten out of hand in December 1981. Jaruzelski's
answer is that in delicate matters everything is not written down but if such documents
existed, they might have been destroyed, or may be hidden for years. Indeed, some observers
said at the time, and later, that East German and Czechoslovak divisions were standing by
for a Warsaw Pact invasion, while over 100,000 Soviet troops were massed on Poland's
In June 1997, General Jaruzelski told the author that now he had documents showing
German and Czechsolovak troops had orders to stand by for a possible intervention in Poland
through the summer of 1982. This author's personal opinion is that if the government lost
control of the country, these troops, and perhaps Soviet troops as well [150,000 were
mobilized in Belorussia], would at best have made a show of force and at worst invaded
Poland. After all, this country was not only the Soviet Union's bridge to East Germany, but
if communist rule collapsed there, other satellites might also follow Poland's example - as
indeed they did in 1989. But at that time, Gorbachev was leading the USSR and he decided
not to use force. (See below).
As we know, President Reagan imposed economic sanctions on Poland, but not on
the Soviet Union. (He had learned a lesson from the negative impact of Carter's post-Afghanistan sanctions against the USSR, which had been hard on U.S. farmers, and he had
promised never to take such action aagain). Relations with Poland were bad for a time not
only because of sanctions, but also because the Polish Ambassador to the United States,
Romuald Spasowski (Romooald Spasovskii), resigned and was granted asylum in the U.S.
immediately after the imposition of martial law. There was no U.S. Ambassador in Poland or
a Polish Ambassador in the United States until 1987.
6. The Significance of Solidarity.
a. For Poland.
A prophetic interview was published in the literary weekly, Zycie Literackie (pron:
Zhiitye Leeteratskiie, Literary Life) of December 8, 1981, a few days before the imposition
of martial law. In it, the freely-elected Chancellor of Warsaw University, historian Henryk
Samsonowicz (pron. Samsonoveech, b. 1930), said that while a dictatorship might once again
be imposed on Poland, the people would be inspired by the ideals of Solidarity for many years
to come -- just as their ancestors had been inspired by the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791
for over l00 years, until the rebirth of Poland in November 1918. (Samsonowicz became the
Minister of National Education in the Mazowiecki government, established on September 12,
Many people in the West ask: What exactly was Solidarity?
The answer to this question is that Solidarity was a uniquely Polish combination of
socialism, democracy, nationalism and Catholicism.
Solidarity was socialist because it accepted the nationalization of heavy industry, transport, and banking; it also supported full employment, free medical care, and free education. But we should note that this was not just a communist program. It had been formulated originally by the prewar Polish Socialist Party along the lines espoused by other European socialist parties of the time. Also, like the old Socialist parties, Solidarity wanted socialism to be democratic. It demanded that workers' councils run state enterprises and elect the managers or directors. Such councils had been tried and abandoned by Lenin in Russia; they had been introduced by Tito in Yugoslavia after 1948, and had sprung up spontaneously in Poland in October 1956, but had been shorn of any power by Gomulka.
However, Solidarity did not stop at workers' councils. It also demanded democracy
and self-government at all levels of public life. Thus, while recognizing party leadership, the
people would have a real input and involvement in public life. This was a program to build
democracy up from the grass roots. Of course, it was clearly incompatible with party control
of all spheres of life. However, in 1980-81, it did not seem unreasonable to expect that
Moscow would accept such a program, provided party leadership at the top was formally
acknowledged - rather than face the consequences of military intervention to restore old-style
Solidarity also demanded full access to the media and a law defining the limits of
censorship. (Its leaders realized that a complete abolition of censorship was impossible within
the Soviet bloc).
Workers' Solidarity supported the establishment of Rural Solidarity to represent the
nation's private farmers. They demanded an end to preferential treatment for state and
cooperative farms, which were privileged in obtaining machinery, fertilizers, etc. at the
expense of the private farmers who owned about 78% of the land and produced most of its
Besides being a democratic and socialist movement, Solidarity was also a national and
a Catholic movement. It was national because it represented the desires of the vast majority
of Poles. It was Catholic because it reflected three key factors: (1) that 98% of the Polish
population was Catholic; (2) that the Catholic Church was a key part of the Polish national
identity; and (3) that the Church demanded respect for human and civil rights .It is not
surprising, therefore, that Catholic masses were said in the Gdansk shipyard during the strike,
that Walesa attended mass every morning, and always wore a miniature picture of Our Lady
of Czestochowa in his lapel. (In 1655, she had been given the title "Queen of the Polish
Crown," in memory of the great Polish victory over the Swedish army besieging the fortress-monastery of Jasna Gora at Czestochowa. The Poles credited their victory to the miraculous
picture of the Mother of God at the monastery and Jasna Gora has been the Polish national
shrine ever since).
Thus in 1980-81 Solidarity represented the desires and hopes of the vast majority of Poles. The exception were most -- though by no means all --- of the some 200,000 party bureaucrats; most of the career officers in the armed forces (all party members), and the riot police, the ZOMO.
From the perspective of time, Solidarity is now seen as heralding the fall of the
communist system and Soviet domination, both in Poland and elsewhere (see below).
(b) Solidarity's Impact Outside Poland.
Solidarity was welcomed enthusiastically by the small Czechoslovak dissident
movement, Charter 77, and by Hungarian dissidents. In fact, there were several secret
meetings between members of Charter 77 and Solidarity leaders in 1980-81. Some Hungarian
dissidents tried to get to Warsaw, but were prevented from doing so. Even so, they had a
good idea of what was going on in Poland and wanted the same for Hungary.
Soviet media always claimed that the Solidarity leadership was "in the pay of the
CIA," and blamed it for many shortages in the USSR. Thus, some information about the
movement reached the Soviet people at least by way of these accusations. We also know that
Solidarity aroused great interest among Soviet intellectuals. Furthermore, in 1989, Soviet
workers began making some of the demands that Solidarity had made in 1980-81.
Solidarity and KOR, particularly the latter, are now seen as the models for the
peaceful upheavals that took place in Eastern Europe in 1989. Leaders who emerged out of
KOR and Solidarity also contributed to the disintegration of the USSR in 1990-91, by
providing a model for the Ukrainian national movement..
Finally, the flowering of Solidarity aroused great interest and support in Western
Europe and in the U.S. Likewise, the repression of the movement aroused widespread
indignation. Furthermore, Western governments, and the U.S. in particular, exerted constant
pressure on the Polish authorities to restore Solidarity. However, while this pressure provided
moral support for those Poles who continued their resistance in the underground, the decisive
factor which opened the way to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, the
collapse of the Berlin Wall in November that year, and for the unification of Germany in 1990,
was Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who had been elected General Secretary of the Soviet party in
March 1985. However, while bearing in mind his role in East European developments, a
detailed study of his policies is presented elsewhere in this chapter (see Part III, below).
7. Poland under Martial Law, December 1981 - July 1983.
General Jaruzelski established an interim governing body called "The Military Council
for National Salvation" (Wojskowa Rada Ocalenia Narodowego, Polish acronym: WRON).
Now, if you add an "a" to this word, it reads: "Wrona" (pron: Vrohnah), which is the Polish
word for crow - this is what the Poles called the Nazi eagle during the wartime occupation.
No wonder the people spoke of being "at war" with the government and called the security
forces "Gestapo." By an irony of fate, the Jaruzelski family coat of arms is a blind crow
Jaruzelski later replaced the WRON by the "Polish Council of National Rebirth"
(Polska Rada Odrodzenia Narodowego, Polish acronym: PRON). But the people rejected
this too. Street demonstrations in favor of Solidarity took place on May 3 (anniversary of the
constitution of May 3, 1791) and August 31, (anniversary of the Gdansk agreement, 1981),
but they were brutally put down by the police. Demonstrations also took place on these dates
in 1982 and 1983, with the same results. In the meanwhile, a small group of Solidarity leaders
remained undeground. In April 1982, they established the "Temporary Coordinating
Commission" (Tymczasowa Komisja Koordynacyjna, Polish acronym: TKK). The
underground press and underground books flourished more than ever. In this activity, the
Solidarity people obtained guidance from the veterans of Polish resistance against the
Germans in World War II.
In July 1982, Jaruzelski released thousands of lesser activists who had been
"interned" in December 1980. But Walesa and some KOR leaders were excluded from this
release. In October, the puppet Polish parliament formally "delegalized" Solidarity and
established new, government-controlled trade unions.
Walesa, who had resisted great pressure from the government to issue a public
condemnation of Solidarity, was finally released in November 1982. He was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize in December 1983. Danuta, his wife, collected the prize in Oslo, since
Walesa feared that if he went, he would not be allowed to return to Poland. Of course, the
prize was a symbol of world recognition both for Walesa as the leader of Solidarity and for
the Polish people, for their peaceful struggle for freedom and human rights. Furthermore,
many people in the West, who had expressed fear that Solidarity might "destabilize" Europe,
were greatly relieved that it had not provoked direct Soviet intervention. This, in turn, might
have spilled over into West Germany and led to a military confrontation with NATO.
Therefore, aside from moral support and admiration for Walesa, the West also owed him a
real debt of gratitude. (11)
8. The End of Martial Law and Developments from the Summer of 1983 to the End of 1988.
The Pope visited Poland again in June 1983 and this gave the people some hope. John
Paul spoke with both Gen. Jaruzelski and with Walesa. The Papal visit probably contributed
to the end of martial law, for it was lifted in July. The government then began efforts to end
U.S. economic sanctions and open the way for Western credit for Poland. With these goals
in mind, it released some prominent KOR leaders. However, some were rearrested again in
February 1984 for meeting with Walesa in Gdansk. This time they were put on trial, but were
released in 1986. In the meanwhile, Jaruzelski had proclaimed a general amnesty in July
However, in late October 1984, Poland was shocked by a horrible assassination.
Father Jerzy Popieluszko (pron: Yezhy Popyelooshkoh), was a very popular and much loved
priest, who openly supported the ideals of Solidarity and drew huge crowds to his Warsaw
church for his monthly "Solidarity" masses. He disappeared while returning by car from a visit
outside the capital. A few days later, his driver turned up and told a terrible tale. He said that
he had been kidnapped along with Father Popieluszko by members of the security police.
They were tied up with ropes, but he managed to free himself and escape.
Afer an intensive search, Popieluszko's body was found in a reservoir near Torun. It
was clear that he had been brutally murdered. There was a great public outcry and the
government had to promise to find and try the guilty parties.
And, indeed, there was a public trial of three young security officers in February 1985.
One of them, Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski (pron: Gezhegozh Pyotrovskee), claimed to be
the leader. He asserted that the whole kidnapping had been "his own idea" and that he had
wanted to "teach that priest a lesson." He did not want to kill him; that was an "accident.
However, many people suspected that the murder had been ordered by some high officers of
the security police in order to provoke public protest and so discredit the Jaruzelski
government. The latter would then be replaced by hardliners.
Furthermore, the prosecutor tried to divert attention away from the victim by putting
the church on trial, trying to prove it was guilty of the crime because it allowed Popieluszko
to preach "inflammatory" sermons. In fact, however, the new Primate of Poland, Cardinal
Jozef Glemp, had prepared Popieluszko's transfer to Rome for theological studies to get him
out of harm's way. (Glemp, who followed a policy of not provoking the government and
opposed underground activity, had already tranferred another pro-Solidarity Warsaw priest
to a remote country parish).
The trial disgusted the people. It was, to put it mildly, most unlikely that a junior
security police officer would act on his own to kidnap the most popular priest in Poland, let
alone kill him. In any case, Piotrowski's commanding officer was dismissed. (The case was
reopened in 1990 with the arrest of two senior police officers. As of this writing, in
September 1997, the results are inconclusive).
Popieluszko's funeral was attended by thousands of people, and his grave became
the site of pilgrimages. It was also visited by all foreign statesmen visiting Poland, including
Senator Edward Kennedy and George Bush, who was then Vice-President. (12)
Dramatic events unfolded in 1987-88. First of all, we should note the impact of the
Pope's visit to Poland in June 1987. The Pope stressed the need for the government's
recognition of the 1980 agreements between the government and the workers, as well as
those reached with the private farmers in 1981. In short, he urged the government to reinstate
the workers' and peasants' Solidarity organizations.
Here we should note that nowhere in Eastern Europe was there such organized
resistance to communist authority as in Poland. It is true that activists were few and that the
majority of the Polish people offered at most a passive resistance by reading the underground
press. However, in the years 1982-89, an "underground society" developed in Poland with
its own literature, theater, and art. Thus, when communism and Soviet domination collapsed
together in 1989, Poland was the only country in this region which had a small "civic"
society, i.e., one nurtured on the ideas of democracy and civic/human rights, with a cadre of
leaders ready to take power. This was the result of a unique cooperation between workers,
intellectuals and the Church in a resistance movement against the communist state.
Toward the Collapse of Communism in Poland, 1989.
As we know, in March 1985, Mikhail S. Gorbachev (b. 1931) became the First
Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He set out to reform the Soviet
system and began by calling for "perestroika" (restructuring), applying it first to the economy.
(For Gorbachev's reforms in the USSR, see Part III below). Thus, it was not suprising that
in October 1987, the Polish government announced it would carry out extensive economic
reforms. These followed the lines of Gorbachev's reforms in the USSR. Thus, the Polish plan
was to abolish some 16 out of 40 ministries so as to reduce bureaucratization. At the same
time, the government stated it planned to raise prices -- which had already risen by some
450% since January 1982 -- and close down deficit industrial plants.
But while the Jaruzelski government seemed to take up some of Gomulka's and
Gierek's reform ideas, it decided to sound out public opinion. A referendum was held asking
the people whether they approved a swift or gradual price increase. On November 8, 1987,
most of those who voted -- an estimated 60% of the electorate -- opposed a radical price
hike, but they got it anyway.
Such economic reforms as were implemented mostly consisted of administrative
moves and brought no improvement. As the situation continued to deteriorate, spontaneous
strikes broke out in several parts of the country in early summer 1988. The young workers,
who were children in 1980-81, produced their own leaders, mostly unconnected with the old
Solidarity network. Nevertheless, they demanded not only higher wages, but also the re-establishment of Solidarity. Walesa joined the strikers in the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, but
the strikes petered out around the country as the government agreed to wage increases. The
Lenin Shipyard went back to work, but the workers declared they had not given up their
demand for Solidarity.
More strikes broke out all over the country in August, and workers again demanded
the re-establishment of Solidarity. The government told Walesa that if he succeeded in
persuading the strikers to go back to work, they would hold talks with him and other
Solidarity leaders, also Church representatives, about re-establishing Solidarity. Walesa
agreed and carried out his end of the bargain. On August 31st, he began exploratory talks
with General Czeslaw Kiszczak (pron: Cheslav Keeshchak, b. 1925), the Minister of the
Interior; a representative of the Church was also present.
Here we must keep in mind what was going on in the USSR. Gorbachev was
struggling for power his conservative opponents within the Soviet Communist Party. At the
same time, popular national movements were springing up in the Baltic republics and in
Ukraine. Thus, although no documentation has come to light so far, we can assume that
Gorbachev instructed the Polish party leaders to try and work out some peaceful agreement
with Solidarity without, however, losing control of the levers of power.
In September, Jaruzelski appointed a new Premier, Mieczyslaw Rakowski (pron:
Myechyslav Rakovskee). He had been for years the editor of the weekly, Polityka, a more
"liberal" paper than others under government control, and a Deputy Premier in March 1981,
when he had negotiated with Walesa to avert a general strike. Most important of all, he
belonged to the "reformist" group in the party leadership and favored negotiations with
Walesa and his people. In a confidential document leaked in October 1987, he wrote: "In
practice, we have already recognized the opposition as a lasting element on the country's
political map." (14)
Nevertheless the first round of talks between Walesa and his advisers on the one hand,
and party-government representatives on the other, ended in a stalemate. Rakowski even
increased tension by announcing that he would close down the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk
because it was unprofitable. Since all state-owned enterprizes were deficit operations, this
particular threat was very much a political one.
It seems that the party "hardliners" wished to split the opposition and, above all, to
discredit Walesa. In November 1988, Alfred Miodowicz, (b. 1929), the head of the
government-controlled trade unions, challenged Walesa to a TV debate. It seems that the
government expected Miodowicz to run circles around Walesa and make him look like a fool,
but Walesa came out the clear winner. What is more, the debate was seen by some 25 million
Polish viewers, many of whom saw him for the first time, and liked what they saw.
In December 1988, a Civic Committee was formed to work for the legalization of
Solidarity. This committee became the model for non-communist "Citizens'" or "Civic"
Committees, or Forums, in Czechoslovakia and Hungary in late 1989.
Furthermore, in that same month, December 1988, Walesa was allowed to attend a
conference in Paris to mark the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. (Aproved by the U.N. in 1948, it was due in large part to Eleanor Roosevelt, who had
worked extremely hard to obtain the assent of various national delegations to the U.N.). The
French government treated Walesa like a Head of State and he was a big hit with the French
media, even though he had to compete with the visiting Soviet scientist and hero of human
rights in the USSR, Andrei Sakharov. It is most likely that Gorbachev had allowed Sakharov
to attend the conference in order to show Western opinion how tolerant he was, and that the
Polish government had Gorbachev's blessing to let Walesa go too, in order to show its
tolerance and thus gain a better chance of obtaining Western economic aid.
In January 1989, Premier Rakowski said the government was willing to consider
"relegalizing" Solidarity -- if Walesa agreed to guarantee that there would be no more strikes
for two years (!). Walesa refused. On February 6, 1989 Round Table Talks began between
government-party representatives, on the one hand, and Solidarity representatives led by
Walesa, on the other. The goverment-party leaders at first offered Solidarity only 25% of the
seats in parliament after elections slated for May or June, but Walesa refused this offer.
Finally, an agreement was signed on April 5, specifying that in the forthcoming elections
Solidarity would limit itself to contest only 35% of the seats in the House of
Representatives..This meant that the Polish United Workers' Party and its allied puppet
parties, the Peasant Party and the Democratic Party, would have 65% of the seats. But there
would be completely free elections in the restored Senate (abolished by the communists in
1946). Solidarity also agreed that the House of Representatives would elect General
Jauruzelski as President for six years, with extensive powers; also, the communists were to
control the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Interior (Police), and the Army. (15)
In light of our greater, though far from complete knowledge of those events, we know
that the " Round Table Agreement" was worked out in the teeth of party hardliners'
opposition by "reform communists," led by General Jaruzelski, Premier Rakowski, and
Minister of the Interior, General Czeslaw Kiszczak. They seem to have believed that the
Polish people and the Western powers -- whose economic asssistance was needed -- would
be satisfied with a limited democratization. They also seem to have assumed that the party
had the money and the organizational facilities to win a majority of seats in the lower house
and thus hold on to power in an aura of "legitimacy." Last but not least, such an arrangement
had the blessings of Gorbachev.
We should bear in mind that Gorbachev was struggling to hold on to power in the USSR, and and could not afford a breakdown in Soviet-U.S. relations as well as with Western Europe. This would surely have happened if there was an explosion in Poland, which he would be forced to put down. Therefore, he approved the scheme and shared the assumptions of the Polish party leaders as outlined above. Also, it is clear that he supported reform communists in the satellite states as his natural allies against his conservative hardliners in the USSR. Thus, he was willing to have more popular governments in the satellite states - provided they were controlled by the communists. However, as we shall see, the expectations of both Gorbachev and his Polish proteges were foiled by the elections of June 4, 1989, which Solidarity won hands down. What followed was the emergence on September 12, 1989, of the first government in a former Soviet satellite, in which communists were a minority.
(The dramatic developments in Poland in summer and fall 1989, will be discussed with
the rest of Eastern Europe, where Poland pointed the way to the collapse of Communism,
in Part IV).
Part II. Developments in Other East European Countries.
(1) East Central or Central Europe.
In 1988, Timothy Garton Ash -- the author of what is acknow-ledged as the best
Western reporting on East Central Europe at the time -- compared the Soviet empire in
Eastern Europe to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. That is to say, he compared the
evolution of autonomous Balkan regions and states within the 19th century Ottoman Empire
to the increased autonomy of some East European satellite states in 1988. He called this
state of affairs: emancipation in decay. He pointed to the de facto acceptance of the
opposition by both the Polish and Hungarian governments, and to the development of private
enterprise in both countries, especially in Hungary.
Furthermore, he noted that socialism seemed to be almost totally discredited and that
even some party leaders had dropped all pretense of believing in communist ideology. Thus,
the new Hungarian Secretary General, Karoly Grosz -- who replaced Kadar as party leader
in the summer of 1988 -- actually said it was only because of "bad luck" that Hungary had
ended up with a one-party system (!). In fact, by 1988, the Hungarian Party had abandoned
ideology in favor pragmatism and "reasons of state." Garton Ash also noted Rakowski's
admission of October 1987 that the Polish authorities recognized the existence of the
Indeed, in 1988, this opposition showed signs of growing vigor not only in Poland and
Hungary, but also in Czechoslovakia, where thousands of people demonstrated in favor of
religious freedom. A courageous retired railway worker, Augustin Navratil -- who had
agitated for religious freedom in the past and had been punished by being sent to a mental
hospital -- led a successful drive to collect thousands of signatures demanding the
appointment of more Catholic bishops. The government gave in and allowed three new
appointments, but Navratil was once again committed to a mental hospital.
What is more, for the first time in years, many Czechs demonstrated in Prague on the
twentieth anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion of August 21/22, 1968, but they were
dispersed by police. Next, in November, Czech dissidents tried to hold a symposium to
discuss the importance of the years 1918, 1938, 1948 and 1968 for their country. The
symposium was organized by the famous playwright and leading dissident, Vaclav Havel, who
invited Timothy Garton Ash to attend. However, the authorities cancelled the symposium.
Finally, thousands of people demonstrated in Prague in January 1989, on the 20th anniversary
of the death of Jan Palach, a student who had burned himself to death in protest against the
crushing of the Prague Spring of 1968. (Note: a similar act of self-immolation in protest
against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia by a Pole, Siwak, in Warsaw in
September 1968, went unnoticed because the Polish media was forbidden to report it). The
demonstrators were brutally dispersed by police using sticks and water cannon, and many
were arrested, including Vaclav Havel. However, 700 members of the Czech theater, film, and
literary world signed a demand for his release. These events showed that Czech dissent was
growing in strength. These demonstrations were sparked in part by the economic stagnation
of the country, which was apparent from the mid-1970s.At the same time, while this led to
growing worker dissatisfaction, the intelligentsia, especially the dissidents, were encouraged
by news of Gorbachev's "glasnost" (open debate), which really took off in the USSR in 1987.
For obvious reasons (shades of 1968), the Czechoslovak leadership proved most
unwilling to implement either political or economic reform. There was a struggle within the
party, one expression of which was Premier Vladimir Strougal's admission in January 1987
that some of the economic reform ideas of 1968 had been sound, but had been "distorted" by
a decision to return to the "full capitalist system" (!). However, he was forced to resign both
as Premier and as a member of the party's Politburo. The new Premier was Ladislav Adamec
and it was announced that economic reforms would begin with the new Five Year Plan
scheduled for 1991-95.
Dubcek was quite right in saying in 1988 that Gorbachev was implementing the
economic reforms which had been discussed and approved in Czechoslovakia twenty years
earlier. Indeed, during Gorbachev's state visit there in summer 1988, his spokesman, Gennady
Gerasimov, when asked what difference there was between the Dubcek and Gorbachev
reforms, answered "twenty years."
Presumably under pressure from Gorbachev, Gustav Husak resigned as head of the
Czechoslovak Party in 1988, and took the post of President. He was succeeded as party
leader by Milos Jakes. (17)
In East Germany, the situation was similar to that in Czechoslovakia. The party
leadership opposed both economic reform and especially "glasnost," fearing that it would
encourage the growth of dissent. Indeed, in 1988, it was very difficult to buy Soviet
newspapers in the German Democratic Republic. However, left-wing liberal intellectuals and
along with many pastors of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church began to discuss ways of
liberalizing and humanizing communist rule in their country. (The role of the Evangelical
Church had become more prominent in the life of the country with the celebration of the five
hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther's birth in 1983).
Here we should note that while the East German standard of living was higher than
in Poland, it was much lower than in West Germany, whose TV programs reached almost all
those who had TV sets in GDR. This led to rising discontent. However, the two streams of
disconent -- the intellectuals and the masses -- did not come together until the fall of 1989
(see section IV, below).
In Hungary, some dissident intellctuals met secretly in September 1987, with a
communist leader, Imre Poszgay, who headed the government coalition called the "The
People's Patriotic Front." They agreed to work toward political pluralism. This led to a
proliferation of political groups, the most notable of which in 1988 were the Democratic
Union of Scientific Workers, and the Alliance of Young Democrats, both of which were
founded in the spring of 1988. Also, an official economic journal, the HVG, came out with
proposals for radical economic reforms. In January 1989 - when 700 different independent
groups existed - in the country, the Hungarian government declared itself committed to
return to political pluralism.
Finally, contrary to the former condemnation of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956
as a "counter-revolution" with fascist characteristics, and the condemnation of Imre Nagy for
leading it, in late January 1959, Imre Pozsgay, declared the revolution had been a "popular
revolt," and said the remains of Imre Nagy and those executed with him should be exhumed
and given proper burial .Although the First Secretary, Karoly Grosz, had made a similar
statement regarding Nagy during a visit to the United States a few months earlier, he had also
said Nagy would not be rehabilitated. On February 11th, the Central Committee agreed on
a compromise; it ruled that the revolt was at first legitimate, but degenerated into an anti-communist rising. This compromise sought to avoid a split in the leadership, and also prevent
any charges being leveled against Janos Kadar, who "invited" Soviet troops to come into
Hungary in late October 1956, and must have assented to the execution of Imre Nagy and
others.( Outside the party, there was talk of building a monument to Nagy and his colleagues
and of investigating the responsibiity of Janos Kadar). As in Poland, it seems that some
Hungarian party leaders believed in the need for limited political pluralism - but they intended
to control those parties whose "legal" existence they chose to recognize. We may assume that
this was the advice coming from Gorbachev in Moscow. We should also note that Hungary
was developing many joint ventures with foreign capital, that the banking structure was
reformed, and a stock exchange was established in Budapest.
In late February 1989, Karoly Grosz returned from Moscow and informed party
leaders that Gorbachev would not interfere in the internal affairs of Hungary. The
spokesman for the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Gennadi Gerasimov confirmed this on Hungarian
TV on March 6, when he said that the future of every East European country was in its own
hands. This was nothing less than a renunciation of the famous Brezhnev Doctrine, according
to which the USSR had the right to intervene in any satellite country to "defend Socialism."
Indeed, Gerasimov called Soviet readiness to let East European countries do things their way
"the Sinatra Doctrine" - after the name of a famous song of his! (18)
(2) The Balkans or Southeastern Europe.
As noted earlier (see ch. 7), in the late 1960s Ceausescu set out to industrialize
Romania on the Stalinist model. This project began to run into trouble in the late 1970s,
which also witnessed the expression of various types of dissent in the country.
Depite increasing problems and a constant decline in the standard of living, Ceausescu
continued his industrialization drive in the early 1980s, allocating 46-51% of the total invest-ments to heavy industry. He did so despite the fact that Romania had to import the raw
materials, while foreign markets were shrinking. Indeed, most Romanian industrial products
were marketed in the Third World in barter deals or on credit. At the same time, Ceausescu
invested very little in agriculture (l5-l7% in 1980-83). When agricultural yields did not
increase, he reduced the private plots and enforced low state purchasing prices. Western
Economists called this "The Third Serfdom." (The first was West European serfdom in the
early Middle Ages; the second serfdom developed in Eastern Europe after the shift of trade
routes to the Atlantic seaboard, which increased W.Europe's demand for. grain and other
By 1982, Romanian foreign debt stood at about 13 billion dollars. Ceausescu decided
to pay it off in record time and proceeded to do so by imposing even greater austerity on the
people.The standard of living fell diastrously. Food rationing was implemented, including
bread. Housing became scarcer than ever. Electricity was rationed to such an extent that there
was inadequate heating and lighting in homes, while television was cut to 2 hrs per day.
Industrial workers protested in the city of Brasov in November 1987, but were brutally
crushed by riot police.
By the mid-1980s, these economic policies had created a greater Romanian
dependence on trade with the USSR; this was evident in the Gorbachev-Ceausescu economic
agreements signed in May 1986. One of the sources of hard currency came from the "sale"
of Romanians of German descent; they were allowed to emigrate to West Germany for the
price of about $8,000 a head, paid by the West Germann government. The emigrants had to
abandon their houses and belongings, which also fell to the Romanian state.
While most of the population was suffering extreme privation, the Ceausescu family and the ruling elite subservient to them, lived in luxury. Corruption was a way of life. A Romanian joke had it that while Stalin had "built Socialism in one country," the Ceausescus had "built Socialism in one family." Indeed, a close similarity existed between their Romania and the North Korea of Kim il Sung. The Ceausescus visited with him and felt very much at home. They travelled in the West too, but Queen Elizabeth of England and President Francois Mitterand of France noticed that several precious items were missing from apartments occupied by Nicoalae and his wife Elena, who simply stole what took their fancy.
It is not surprising that dissent existed in Romania, but until late December 1989 it
was limited to a few individuals. It should be noted that former leaders of the the National
Peasant Party attracted some members of the young generation. Also, a Human Rights
Association was established, with members in Bucharest and in Transylvania. Some
intellectuals, including some communists dismissed by Ceausescu, began to criticize the
regime. There were reports of student unrest, manifestos, and even of demands for
There was also a growing protest against Ceausescu's policy of razing historic
buildings in Bucharest to make room for his enormous "Palace of the People" -- really a
monument to himself -- also against his plan to raze some 8,000 villages, including many
historic Hungarian villages in Transylvania -- and of replacing them with rural apartment
buildings. This process began in the late 1980s. The new apartment buildings built to house
the evicted farrmers had no internal plumbing or heating. The Hungarian minority protested
against this policy. In fact, there was also a mass demonstration against it in the Hungarian
capital, Budapest, in 1988. Protests were also published in the West. Even the long-suffering
Romanian peasants began to protest; there were reports of attacks on collective and state
After the revolution of late December 1989, the world discovered many horrors in
Romania. In particular, Ceausescu's prohibition of abortion, because he wanted the population
to increase, led to thousands of abandoned children who were warehoused in state
orphanages with inadequate hygiene, food, and care. The most shocking discovery was
thousands of children infected with AIDS and those physically and/or mentally impaired.
Many were found living in their own filth, naked, and caged like animals. (19)
In an earlier version of this text, completed in January 1989, I wrote: "It seems that
Ceausescu's days are numbered. However, it is likely that he can only be toppled by the
leaders of the military and/or the security police." As will be shown later, this turned out to
be at least partly true when Ceausescu fell in late December 1989 (see section IV, below).
Todor Zhivkov began to implement the New Economic Model in 1982. However, the
parallel drive to repay the foreign debt meant the reduction of foreign machine imports; this
stymied the reforms and led to shortages at home. Another key problem was Bulgarian
dependence on oil imports for energy and the shortfall in nuclear energy production. Finally,
as in the USSR and elsewhere, plant managers were not used to taking the initiative; in fact,
they were afraid to do so.
It is not surprising that young people were no longer attracted to the party and that
a few small dissident groups were formed. These survived in the 1980s despite government
repression, but were limited to a few, small, personal networks. It seems clear that, as in East
Germany and Czechoslovakia, not to mention Poland and Hungary, Gorbachev gave secret
support to the "reformists" in the party.
Other problems included a demographic decline, which was partly responsible for the
imposition of forced assimilation on Bulgaria's Turkish minority and their resistance to it.
(The champion weightlifter at the Olympic Games in Seoul, 1988, was a Bulgarian Turk who
had defected to Turkey).
In the January 1989 version of this textbook I wrote: "It is likely that Todor Zhivkov
is on his way out." He fell in early November that year. (20).
Although Yugoslavia is not a member of the Soviet bloc, some of its economic
problems were similar to those experienced by the bloc states and led to widespread unrest,
so they are summarized here.
In 1980-85, inflation ran at about 50% per year, and real income fell by more than 40%. In 1986, inflation was 100% and in 1988 it rose to 200%. On October 4, 1988, five thousand workers marched to the Parliament building in Belgrade. They demanded a pay raise of 100% retroactive to January 1st. After assurances by some of the deputies, they went back to work, but thousands marched on the party headquarters in Novy Sad (Voevodina) on October 5th, demanding the resignation of the provincial leadership, which declared it would do so. Indeed, the resignations of Franco Setinec of Slovenia and Bosko Krunica of Voevodina were reported on October 3rd.. On October 8th, police broke up a mass demonstration against the government in Titograd, the capital of the republic of Montenegro. This was the first use of force against the people since 1981. At the turn of 1988-89, the government and party leaders of Montenegro resigned. The leader of the League of Yugoslav Communists (Party), Slobodan Milosevich (b.1941), used these resignations to put his own people in power in these regions
We should note that interest charges on the Yugoslav foreign debt increased to 23
billion dollars in 1987, while employment stood at about l6%. Clearly, economic reform was
badly needed. However, reform constantly ran into serious problems. For one thing, there
were too many regulations; for another, the various republics catered to their own national
needs first, so federal needs came second.
This brings us to the political obstacles to reform, which were common to all Soviet
bloc countries. Thus party leaders in the various Yugoslav republics opposed the introduction
of a comprehensive market mechanism, because party bureaucrats rewarded their supporters
with economic perks; therefore, a free market would mean the loss of their power.
Furthermore, as in the USSR, economic problems were compounded by nationality
conflicts. In Yugoslavia, the demand of the Albanian majority in the autonomous Kosovo
region for republic status, was bitterly resented both by the Serb minority there and by the
Serbs of Serbia, all of whom venerate Kosovo as the site of the historic battle between Serbs
and Turks on June 28, 1389, when Serbia lost her independence and became a province of
the Ottoman Empire. Thus, 370,000 Serbs demonstrated on October 1-2, 1988, against the
alleged persecution of Serbs by Albanians in Kosovo. Serbian repression of Kosovo Albanians
instensified after Tito's death.. (21) [On the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1990-93, see end of
1. The Career of a Successful Apparatchik.
Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev was born on March 2 1931, in the village of Privolnoe
(pron: Preevolnoye) in the Krasnogvardeisk district of the Stavropol Krai (region) in southern
Russia (about 550 miles by rail southeast of Rostov-on-Don). His grand-father was a party
activist in the collectivization drive. His father was a tractor driver on a collective farm, which
later received the name of Sverdlov (named after Yakov M. Sverdlov, 1885-1919,
administrative head of the Soviet party and state in 1917-19). In 1937, Gorbachev's father
became a combine operator at the local Machine Tractor Station there. He served in the army
in World War II and then returned to his post (d. 1971). As of late September 1993,
Gorbachev's mother, who is a deeply religious woman, was still living in Privolnoe.
As a child, Gorbachev lived through the rigors of collectivization and famine.He admitted later that both of his grandfathers were arrested briefly at this time. As a young boy, he experienced a short period of German occupation in World War II. After the war, he resumed his schooling and worked at the Motor Tractor Station. In 1949, there was a good harvest and many local officials received government awards, including the 18 year old Gorbachev. He was awarded the Order of the "Red Banner of Labor," which this marked him out for future advancement. In 1950, Gorbachev went to Moscow to study Law. He was very active in the Komsomol (Young Communist League) at the university and joined the party in 1952. He graduated in 1955, and married Raisa Maximovna Titorenko, a philosophy student.
Having failed to win a high Komsomol post in Moscow, Gorbachev returned to
Stavropol and worked in the Procurator's Office there. In party work, his first boss was the
1st Secretary of the Stavropol Komsomol Committee, Vsevolod Murakhovsky, who
promoted him rapidly through the ranks. (Gorbachev rewarded him by making him a Deputy
Premier in 1985). Gorbachev advanced very quickly. In 1956, he was already 1st Secretary
of the Stavropol Komsomol Committee; in 1960, he became 1st Secretary of the Krai (region)
Committee. In 1961, he was elected to the 22nd Party Congress in Moscow, at which
Khrushchev launched a second and even more devastating attack on Stalin and Stalinism than
that at the 20th Congress in 1956.
We know that the revelations in Nikita Khrushchev's first anti-Stalin speech -- which
was circulated to all district and regional committees, including Stavropol -- had a profound
effect on Gorbachev and many young party officials of his generation. Indeed, 1956, was a
turning point for him and the party officials who were to be his major advisers when he came
to power in March 1985. Their shock at the Stalinist crime revelations was deepened by
Khrushchev's second speech in 1961..
In 1962, Gorbachev was appointed Party organizer for one of the 16 territorial
agricultural production units in the Stavropol region; he also studied agriculture as an
extension student. In December of that year, he was made head of the local department of
party cadres. These advancements were due to his patron 1st Secretary of the Starvropol
region, F. D. Kulakov (d. 1978), who was elected to the party's central committee in
Moscow and was put in charge of agriculture.
Soon, Gorbachev advanced to the post of 1st Secretary of the Stavropol Gorkom (city
committee), and in 1968 to 1st Secretary of the Kraikom (regional committee). In the
meanwhile, he obtained his diploma in agricultural studies, while Raisa, besides raising the
children, obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute. (Her
dissertation was a study of the new attitudes and interests of collective farm peasantry in
Stavropol Krai, purporting to show the formation of the "new Soviet man"). When Kulakov's
successor in Stavropol, L. Yevremov moved to Moscow in 1978 to become 1st Deputy
Chairman of the State Committee on Science and Technology, Gorbachev became 1st
Secretary of the Krai (Regional) Committee. He thus became a member of the Party's super
elite and was duly elected to the Central Committee in 1971 at the age of 40.
We should note that Stavropol Krai was not only one of the key agricultural regions
of the USSR, but is also famous for its mineral waters and vacation resorts, e.g., Kislovodsk,
the best of which were reserved for high party officials. Therefore, Gorbachev met many high
officials, and thus came to know the most powerful men in the Soviet state.
As far as agriculture is concerned, it was in the Stavropol and Krasnodar areas that
Korean refugees started leasing land and working it in brigades on the collective farms to
produce the vegetables needed by the many vactioners in the area. This probably helped
establish the precedent for the contract agreements that Gorbachev was to introduce on the
farms after coming to power, in order to increase agricultural production.
In 1977, Gorbachev was involved in implementing the Ipatovsky method of
harvesting, i.e., the use of small travelling combine brigades, which reduced crop losses. The
bumper harvest of 1977 seemed to prove the success of this system, and Gorbachev was
prominently featured in Pravda (July l6, 1977). In the meanwhile, Kulakov was gaining
prominence in Moscow and was considered a possible successor to the ailing Brezhnev. Both
Kulakov and Gorbachev were awarded high decorations. The chief party ideologue, Mikhail
Suslov, came to Stavropol to present the award to Gorbachev.
When Kulakov died of heart failure in 1978, Gorbachev was elected a member of
the Politburo at the age of 47 . This was due not only to the fact that he had acquired a
reputation as an outstanding party leader in Stavropol, but also, and even more, because he
was a protege of the highly respected Kulakov, and was also personally acquainted with
Suslov, Kosygin, and Andropov, all of whom had spent some time visiting or vacationing in
Stavropol krai.Brezhnev and Chernenko had also visited there in September 1978. Gorbachev
then reported to Brezhnev on the second bumper harvest in a row. Finally, Brezhnev's no. 2
man, Andrei P. Kirilenko (1906-1990), toured the region, guided by Gorbachev. Thus
agricultural success and high level party contacts led to Gorbachev's nomination to the post
of a secretary of the central committee. He inherited Kulakov's position, i.e., he was put in
charge of agriculture.
The next four years, however, witnessed a serious crisis in Soviet agriculture. In May
1980, Gorbachev authored an article in the party paper, Kommunist, advocating agro-industrial linkages, which he was to implement later. Like Brezhnev, he seemed to believe that
increased investment and reorganization would take care of agricultural problems.
Nevertheless, both leaders also supported larger private plots for collective and state farmers
(Brezhnev Constitution, 1977).
In 1980-84, the weather was capricious, so the harvests were poor, especially in 1981,
and food shortages ensued. President Reagan lifted the grain embargo imposed by President
Carter (in early 1980, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), and this helped both
the USSR and U.S. farmers. At this time, Gorbachev became a supporter of Iuri V.
Andropov, who was both head of the KGB and a member of the Politburo.He was attacking
corruption among Brezhnev's closest supporters. Both Gorbachev and Andropov seemed to
believe that some reorganization and increased investment would improve agricultural output.
Brezhnev died on November 10, 1982 and was succeeded by Andropov. However,
Andropov suffred from kidney failure, so most of the work was done by Gorbachev. He
was given many different responsibilites, thus marking him for the succession. Furthermore,
he made his first extensive official trip abroad in May 1983 (he had briefly travelled in
Western Europe in the 1960s), when he visited Canada as head of the Supreme Soviet
delegation to the Canadian Parliament. At that time, he came to know the Soviet Ambassador
in Ottawa, Alexandr Nikolaevich Yakovlev (b. 1923), whom Andropov brought back to
Moscow, and who became a close adviser to Gorbachev after he was elected 1st secretary
in March 1985.
Andropov died on February 10, 1984. He was succeeded by the decrepit Konstantin
Ustinovich Chernenko (1911-1985), who had been close to Brezhnev and represented the
older generation. It seems that a deal was struck between the younger men in the central
committee, who supported Gorbachev, and the older men who sat in the Politburo, to elect
Chernenko as interim party leader. In any case, Gorbachev walked in second place among the
party and state officials in the Andropov funeral procession. This marked him out as the
We should note that toward the end of Gorbachev's term as the central committee's
Secretary for Agriculture, his name was linked to the new system of "contract brigades" to
be used on state and collective farms to increase output; they were to be paid according to
their production. These contract brigades seem to have been modelled on the Korean
vegetable brigades working in Stavropol krai in the 1970s.
The second initiative linked to Gorbachev was the creation of district and regional
agro-industrial units known by their Russian acronyms as "RAPO" and "APO." They were
patterned after the U.S. General Mills and Ralston Purina Companies and the goal was to
facilitate moving the crops to processing plants. However, RAPO and APO proved to be
another example of the old Soviet infatuation with the idea that "bigger is better," and failed
to produce the expected results. In fact, the reorganization involved in their establishment led
to chaos. Finally, bad weather contributed to a disastrous harvest in 1984.
In December 1984, Gorbachev was the main speaker at the party ideological
conference in Moscow. We should note that on this occasion he already spoke of the need
for glasnost or "openness" in socialist democracy; he also said it should be the norm in
public life. Of course, openness in the framework of socialist democracy meant that nothing
could be said against "socialism."
In early 1985 Gorbachev and Raisa visited Italy and Great Britain and were a great
hit. The British noted their elegance, his personal charm, and sense of humor. However, they
had to cut short the visit to attend the funeral of a Soviet minister. Chernenko died soon
therafter. According to one American expert, the Politburo had no choice but to elect
Gorbachev because of the support he enjoyed among the party officials of his generation,
especially the powerful regional secretaries. He also had the support of some older leaders
such as Andrei Gromyko, who was reported to have said he supported Gorbachev because
had a nice smile but iron teeth. The older leaders looked to him to regenerate the party . Thus,
Gorbachev became lst secretary of the party on March 10, 1985. He had reached the top at
the relatively young age of 54. (22)
2. Gorbachev and Domestic Reform.
The three slogans used by Gorbachev and his supporters were: uskorieniie,
(acceleration); glasnost, (openness, publicity), and perestroika (restructuring). At first, the
main emphasis was on the first slogan, i.e., the acceleration of the Soviet economy. But it was
soon clear that before it could be accelerated, it would have to be reformed.
It was not surprising that Gorbachev immediately announced he was going to
restructure the Soviet economy. As was the case with all Soviet bloc economies, the Soviet
economy had been stagnating for years, but increased production - often of shoddy products
- had camouflaged this state of affairs. Of course, there was much more at stake in the USSR
than in the satellite states, for the USSR could not remain a world power unless it achieved
two goals, and achieved them quickly: (1) effective economic reform to improve and increase
production; and (2) technological reform to catch up with the West.
According to Gorbachev's first chief economic adviser, Abel Gazevich Aganbegyan
(b. 1932), Soviet economists began to see the need for economic reform in the late 1950s.
Indeed, he was part of the team that worked out plans for some reforms at this time, at the
Siberian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk, but they were only partially implemented by
Aleksei N. Kosygin in the mid-1960s. (Liebermann reforms). Aganbegyan wrote later that
by 1985 the situation was desperate. The last significant growth of productive resources had
taken place in the 1971-75 period. Per capita income, productive resources, efficiency of
production, capital investment, and fuel extraction, had all declined drastically since that time,
as had the labor force (demographic decline of the ethnically Russian population). In
particular, the exhaustion of mineral resources in Western Russia (oil, coal and iron), and the
great expense involved in extracting them in northern Siberia due to permafrost, pointed to
the need for switching from an extensive to an intensive use of resources. Furthermore,
management methods had to be changed, i.e., managers would have to make production
profitable, or at least cost efficient so they could manage without state subsidies. The problem
was further compounded by the Soviet technological lag behind the West, particularly in
Aganbegyan claimed that, taught by experience, Soviet economists knew what had
to be done. Therefore, a new strategy for accelerated economic development was worked
out in just over a month after Gorbachev became First Secretary - although it took two years
to work out the details. At the same time, Aganbegyan wrote that both the economists and
Gorbachev realized that economic reforms could not be implemented in isolation. They
understood that the political system would have to be changed as well. (23)
But did Gorbachev, in fact, immediately set out to change the political system as well
as the economy? Or was the decision to reform the political system the result of his struggle
to eliminate his rivals for power? Some Western Sovietologists inclined to the latter
interpretation. They also thought that Gorbachev committed a great mistake by starting his
reforms in the machine tool production sector rather than agriculture. They believed he should
first have introduced measures to increase food production, and thus satisfied the most basic
needs of the people. Likewise, they pointed out the chaos caused by a flood of decrees
abolishing or combining ministries, without replacing their functions. At the same time,
decrees allowing private cooperatives and self-employment were not given the conditions
they needed to flourish, i.e., working space and reasonable tax breaks. On the contrary, taxes
imposed on cooperatives were so draconian (90% of profits), that they had to be revised
Above all, how could state managers of state and private enterprises work for profit
without a reform of the price system, i.e., letting prices find their levels according to demand?
However, Gorbachev backed away from abolishing price supports, most likely because he
saw the hardship such measures had caused in Poland (Jaruzelski price increases of some
500% under martial law, 1982-84 ), and because the closing of deficit enterprises would lead
to massive unemployment. Such measures were also opposed by many party leaders. In the
view of some Western experts, however, opposition by party bureaucrats was less important
in slowing the implementation of economic reform in 1986-88, than the chaos caused by too
many reform decrees at once, while, at the same time, the people suffered from continuing
food shortages. (24)
No wonder Gorbachev encountered a great deal of resistance from some party
leaders and from the party bureaucracy as a whole. This opposition threatened both his reform
program and his hold on power. It made him attack Stalinism, as Khrushchev had done
before him. Thus, the main goal of "glasnost" developed into uncovering the crimes and
mistakes of the past, which also meant those who had been closely involved in implementing
the Stalinist system, and then preserving muc of it under Brezhnev. Fearful of losing their
posts, these party leaders opposed Gorbachev's reform program even more fiercely than
But while Gorbachev's need to manage his political enemies until he could remove
them from power certainly affected the pace and scope of glasnost, we should note that he
and most of his closest advisers were the children of the 20th Congress of the CPSU of
February 1956. For most of them, whether they attended the Congress or merely read
Khrushchev's speech, this was the turning point in their lives. They realized the scope of
Stalin's crimes and became convinced that the USSR must be reformed into a humane,
socialist society. Many leaders, including conservative admirers of Stalin, also realized that
unless the system was reformed, the Soviet Union could not compete with the West. If it
could not compete, it would not remain a world power.
It is most interesting to note that some of Gorbachev's close advisers came from a group of experts gathered together in 1960 at Andropov's request by his chief adviser, Fyodor Mikhailovich Burlatsky (b. 1927). They advised the Central Committee's Department of Relations with Socialist and Communist Countries, then headed by Andropov. The names of these consultants became familiar to all Soviet/Russia watchers -- Georgii Khosroevich Shakhnazarov (b. 1924, a personal aide to Gorbachev); Gennadi Ivanovich Gerasimov (b. 1930, the Foreign Ministry spokesman); Oleg Timofeevich Bogomolov (b. 1927, he beame director of the Institute on the Economics of the World Socialist System); Georgii Arkad'evich Arbatov b. (1923, he was head of the USA Institute in Moscow since 1967); and Aleksandr Yevgenevich Bovin (b. 1930, a lawyer and journalist).
Like Andropov, they all believed in the need to reform the Soviet system, but were
prepared to go much further than he was. With the exception of Arbatov, whose advice
Brezhnev needed to develop good relations with the U.S., most suffered demotion or some
type of job discrimination in the Brezhnev era (1964-82). Arbatov sheltered some experts in
the USA Institute, while others found refuge in the relatively liberal academic circles of
Novosibirsk in Siberia. Finally, the poet Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko (b. 1933)
called for truth and freedom, a desire shared by most members of the Russian and non-Russian intelligentsia of the Soviet Union.
Thus, the ideas launched by Gorbachev: political and economic reform, glasnost - open, free discussion - and improved relations with the United States, had a long pedigree. Indeed, Georgii Arbatov claims that even in the 1960s Andropov understood the need to change Soviet domestic and foreign policies, including detente with the United States. (25) Of course, we know that Khrushchev and Brezhnev also understood the need for detente, and both also wished to use it to catch up economically and technologically with the United States. However, neither of them seems to have realized the need to restructure the Soviet economy, nor did Khrushchev ever envisage developing glasnost to the extent allowed by Gorbachev.
Whatever its political underpinnings, the great boon of glasnost was an extraordinary
liberalization of the media, literature, and the arts. It also led to the rewriting and thus the
reinterpretation of Soviet history. In return for this liberalization, the intelligentsia provided
enthusiastic support for Gorbachev and his policies - though the people grumbled that they
could not eat them. Indeed, the press discussed not only food shortages, but also the terrible
state of housing and medical care, which had been touted as the great achievements of the
Soviet system. Finally, the press even admitted that in 1989, the USSR had more people living
below the poverty line than the United States: in the USSR, they constituted at least 20% of
the population, compared with about 14% in the U.S. (26)
Meanwhile, in the battle against "Stalinism," people's attitudes toward it became the
"litmus test" of being for or against Gorbachev. His chief oppponent in the Politburo, Yegor
Kuz'mich Ligachev (b. 1920), the leader of the conservatives, claimed Gorbachev was going
too far too fast. Yet for the first three years, he remained the number 2 man in the leadership,
because Gorbachev used him to prevent the conservatives from attacking his reforms.
This attack, however, was bound to come.. In mid-March 1988 when Gorbachev
was out of the country, Ligachev "inspired" a Leningrad maths teacher to write a letter to
the press. She protested against the condemnation of the Soviet past, particularly of Stalin,
and hinted that the Jews had taken over the government (!). After a pause of three weeks,
Gorbachev replied in Pravda condemning the opposition to his reforms. What is more, he
allowed Stalin's peace and war time leadership to come under fire. (27) He also agreed to
have a monument built in Moscow to the victims of Stalin, and allowed a Jewish Cultural
Center to be opened in Moscow in mid-February 1989. It included an exhibit on the Jewish
Holocaust. (28) Finally, part of the strategy of condemning Stalinism was the rehabilitation
of the Old Bolsheviks liquidated by Stalin in the 1930s (see ch. 3). This process began under
Khrushchev, was abandoned by Brezhnev, but was taken up again by Gorbachev.
Gorbachev also continued Andropov's fight against corruption and, at the same time,
his attempt to regain control over the Asian republics, where party leaders had built up their
own mafia networks. Thus, a public trial of corrupt officials connected with Sharif R.
Rashidov (1917-1983), the former party leaders of Uzbekistan, and of Yuri Churbanov,
Brezhnev's former son-in-law, was held in Moscow in 1988. However, there was resistance
to Moscow intervention in the republic of Kazakhstan, where the corrupt Dinmukhamed A.
Kunaev (b.1913) was replaced by a Russian, Gennadi V.Kolbin (b.1927), in December 1986.
This provoked two days of riots in the capital, Alma Ata. However, the protests were directed
not so much at Kolbin as a Russian, since there is a strong Russian population in the Kazkah
republic, as against a Russian coming from outside. (29) Finally, we should bear in mind that
bribes and corruption were a way of life both in imperial and Soviet Russia, though
Gorbachev managed to stay clear of them throughout his career.
As noted earlier, Gorbachev secured the support of the intelligentsia through
"glasnost." He also gained popularity by allowing the dissident physicist, Andrei Dmitrievich
Sakharov (1921-1989), and his wife, Yelena G. Bonner (b. 1923), to return to Moscow in
1986, as well as releasing many dissidents from labor camps and mental hospitals. These
included Anatoly Scharansky, who was allowed to leave for Israel in exchange for a Soviet
spy released by the United States.
Many new political groups came into existence. At first, however, those advocating
political pluralism were denied legal status on the grounds they were "anti-socialist."
Gorbachev also relaxed Soviet policy toward the Orthodox Church -- estimated to have at
least thirty million believers. Thus, in 1988, he allowed the celebration of the 1,000th
anniversary of Russia's conversion to Christianity. Hundreds of churches were returned to
the faithful and in October 1990, an Orthodox service was held in St. Basil's Cathedral,
Red Square, for the first time since 1917. However, a bitter dispute over property is still
going on in the western Ukraine between the Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian (Uniate)
Church. (Stalin abolished the Uniate Church, and much of its property in western Ukraine
was taken over by the Orthodox Church after 1945).
The party bureaucrats' opposition to Gorbachev's reform program, led him to
attack the nomenklatura system, i.e., the closed list of names for from which the leadership
made all appointments. He also took up Kosygin's 1965 call to remove party leaders from
running the economy. These steps were motivated by Gorbachev's drive to remove all
opponents and critics from key positions. He moved swiftly. Between March 1986 and the
end of 1989, 50% of Politburo members, 67% of regional lst Secretaries and 78% of
republic lst Secretaries were removed, so that by January 1990, 85% of both republic and
regional 1st Secretaries had been appointed since Gorbachev came to power. In April 1989,
he induced a quarter of the Central Committee to resign "voluntarily" (with handsome
pensions), and gained more freedom from the rest by replacing the old, rubber stamp,
Supreme Soviet by a directly elected Congress of People's Deputies with 2,250 members,
who were to elect a new Supreme Soviet of 542 deputies. (30)
Gorbachev worked hard to gain support among rank and file party members for his
proposed economic and political reforms at the 19th Party Conference held in June- July
1988. In fact, the conference became a sort of surrogate parliament, for more free speech
was heard there than in the last sixty years, i.e., since the party debate on industrialization
in 1924-27. However, while many delegates supported the reform program, some also said
that people were disillusioned with perestroika because it produced no visible results. On the
contrary, there were food shortages and even sugar was rationed. (The latter was due to the
curtailment of vodka sales, which made people buy all the sugar they could to produce
moonshine vodka. In 1988, vodka sales were increased again, not only to provide more sugar,
but also because alcohol is a state monopoly and thus provides considerable income).
While some of the delegates at the Party Conference were obviously "inspired" to
attack such Brezhnev holdovers as Gromyko, Solomyentsev, and Arbatov, others showed
their reservations by not applauding some of the reform projects discussed. These divisions
were due to the fact that some delegates were elected more or less freely and were for the
most part supporters of "perestroika" - but many were elected under local bureaucratic party
control, so they were either suspicious or critical of the reform program.
At this time, Gorbachev called for locating power in the Soviets of the republics, for
making the Supreme Soviet a real legislature, and the Presidency of the Supreme Soviet a
position of real power. It seems that he saw this reform as the ultimate weapon against the
party bureaucrats opposing him. At the same time, he proposed that the 1st Secretaries of
republics and regions also be the Chairmen of the republic and regional Soviets - but qualified
this by saying that they should be popular and respected leaders. We may assume this was
a threat to replace in free elections those who opposed him. (31)
The falling production figures, the growing popular discontent with the economic
situation, particularly the food shortages -- and perhaps Ligachev's absence on vacation --
made Gorbachev decide that he must consolidate his power even further. On September 26,
1988, he suddenly called a meeting of the Politburo, which had been scheduled a few weeks
later. Moreover, he also called unscheduled sessions of the Central Committee and the
Supreme Soviet - it was even rumored that he had threatened to resign unless this was done.
In any case, he called his supporters back from visits abroad; Foreign Minister Edward A.
Shevardnadze (b.1928) cut short his visit to the United Nations in New York; Marshal Dmitri
T.Yazov (b.1923) returned from India, and Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev (1923-1991)
returned from Sweden.
Gorbachev then removed some older members of the Politburo, reshuffled others, and
had himself elected as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, which was a step toward the new
Presidency of the USSR. Ligachev, the spokesman of party conservatives who opposed too
much glasnost and going too fast with reforms, lost his post of controllimg ideology and
personnel and was made Secretary for Agriculture. The long-time Foreign Minister, then
adviser on Foreign Policy and President of the Supreme Soviet, Andrei Gromyko, resigned
that post, which was taken over by Gorbachev. The former long-time ambassador to the
United States, then responsible for Foreign Affairs in the Central Committee, Anatoly F.
Dobrynin (b.1919), was replaced by Gorbachev's ally, Alexander Yakovlev. Mikhail S.
Solomentsev (b.1913), former head of the Party Control Commission and a holdover from
the Brezhnev era, was kicked out of the Politburo, while Gorbachev's ally, the economist
Vadim A. Medvedev (b.1925), was made a full member and put in charge of ideology, thus
replacing Ligachev. Alexandra P. Biryukova, (b. 1929), the head of the Consumer sector,
became a member of the Politburo -- the first woman there for 27 years (her predecessor on
the body had been Yekaterina A.Furtseva (1910-1974) in Khrushchev's time). Victor M
Chebrikov (b.1923) was removed as head of the KGB and put in charge of legal reform; the
new head of the KGB was a professional security official, Vladimir A. Kryuchkov (b.1924)..
Thus, the stage was set for the Congress of People's Deputies, elected in March 1989,
and for transforming the Presidency, now held by Gorbachev, into a position of great power.
It was, in fact, to a large extent, modelled on the U.S. presidency. However, though
Gorbachev controlled the Congress there was more debate than he had bargained for. The
proceedings were televised and thus had an enormous impact on people all over the Soviet
Union. There were condemnations of Ligachev and of the KGB, as well as of the Soviet
General responsible for massacre of protesters in Tbilisi, Georgia (see below). Indeed, the
Congress saw the crystallization of an opposition.
The elections to the Supreme Soviet, which took place at the Congress, were heavily
criticized, in particular for the the votes cast against the Moscow radicals, including the
leading critic of Gorbachev, the former lst Secretary for Moscow and former member of the
Politburo, Boris N. Yeltsin. In fact, Yeltsin secured a seat on the Supreme Soviet only when
another delegate yielded his seat to him.
Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin was born in 1931 into a poor peasant family in the village
of Butko, Sverdlovsk Province. He obtained an engineering decree and worked as an engineer
and party member for many years. In 1976, he became lst Secretary of Sverdlovsk and a full
member of the Central Committee in 1981. He was a Secretary of the Central Committee
from June 1985 to February 1986 and lst Secretary of the Moscow Party organization from
December 1985 to late 1987. In this post, he became famous for his fight against the party
bureaucracy, in particular his attempt to destroy the "Mafia" of party members and state shop
managers, which arranged for the best meat to go to high party officials.
When elected a candidate member of the Politburo in February 1986, Yeltsin began
to clash with Ligachev, the leader of party conservatives. At almost the same time, Yeltsin
fell foul of Gorbachev, whose reform program he had supported with enthusiasm. As Yeltsin
tells it, the conflict erupted at a Politburo meeting called to discuss the text of the speech
which Gorbachev had prepared for the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on
November 7, 1987. Yeltsin's detailed comments and questions infuriated Gorbachev, who
then attacked him.
However, Yeltsin was undeterred. Despite Gorbachev's pleas that he hold back his criticism of the reform program, he continued it at the October 1987 Plenum of the Central Committee. He pressed for radical reductions in the party as well as its reorganization, and urged the speeding up of economic reforms. He even hinted at the existence a new "personality cult" - this time for Gorbachev. This was too much. Yeltsin was dropped from the Politburo, and forced to leave his post as lst Secretary in Moscow During this crisis, he seems to have a suffered a nervous breakdown - or perhaps a heart attack - but soon recovered to challenge Gorbachev again. He became very popular, and was elected to the Congress of People's Deputies. As mentioned above, he obtained a seat on the Supreme Soviet, both in spring 1989. In May 1990, Yeltsin was elected Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federal Republic. In June 1991, he was elected by popular vote as President of that republic, and in July that year, he resigned publicly from the Communist Party by tearing up his party card and walking out of the Party Congress. Thus Yeltsin became Gorbachev's most dangerous rival. He made a bid for control of the Russian Republic's resources and negotiated for the support of other republics. In fact, already in summer 1990, he negotiated with the Lithuanian leaders for an end of Gorbachev's economic blockade of Lithuania. (33) It is no wonder that in late August 1991, Yeltsin emerged as the leader of Russia, but we will discuss this later. Now, let us look at the failure of economic reform under Gorbachev.
The Failure of Grobachev's Economic Reform.
After hesitating for five years, Gorbachev finally decided in 1991 to support a very
radical plan to lead the Soviet economy toward the free market in 500 days. It was drawn
up by the economist Grigorii A. Yavlinsky (b.1952) and known as the 500 Day Plan because
it was to reform the Soviet economy in 500 days.. In late September 1990, the Supreme
Soviet of the USSR granted Gorbachev emergency economic powers to implement the plan.
However, he retreated before the conservative opposition and the plan he presented to the
Soviet Parliament on October 17th, was not as radical as its author had hoped.
In fact, Gorbachev never wanted to embrace capitalism - only to use parts of it in
rebuilding socialism. In November 1990, he told a group of Soviet intellectuals that he was
deeply attached to the Soviet, not the West European, type of socialism. He also said that
while he accepted the free market, he opposed the private ownership of land and the right to
sell it. He added that this was the tradition of the Russian rural community (the mir). (34)
An analysis of Gorbachev's economic reforms shows that he proceeded by fits and
starts, now moving forward, now backward. He allowed some privatization and cooperatives,
but did not give them the right conditions to develop. At the same time, government subsidies
continued for most state enterprises, and Gorbachev seemed in tune with the men forming the
industrial-military complex lobby, also with those working to preserve the inefficient state
and collective farms. He never tackled the problem of freeing all prices, or of banking reform.
He encouraged some joint ventures with Western capital, but did not provide the legal
framework for their successful development. The American economist, Marshall Goldman,
is probably right that Gorbachev's real motive was to improve day-to-day life in the Soviet
Union. (35) In fact, he did not implement any consistent economic reform. Instead, there was
economic chaos, massive inflation and shortages. No wonder his popularity among the
Russian people fell to zero by 1991. (The failed Moscow coup of August 19-21, 1991, will
be discussed after the section on the nationalities).
Furthermore, glasnost encouraged the non-Russian nationalities, which made up at least 50% of the Soviet population, to demand sovereignty and independence from Moscow. This was the second key factor in the disintegration of the USSR, and we will discuss it here.
3. Nationalities in Revolt.
Before discussing the disintegration of the USSR into national republics, we should
bear in mind that the development of national consciousness among the various non-Russian
ethnic groups developed faster among some and slower among others.(For brief historical
sketches of the peoples of the Russian empire before 1917, see annex to ch. 1).
(a) The Baltic States.
The most developed national consciousness appeared in the Baltic states, Lithuania,
Latvia, and Estonia, where each people became nationally conscious around 1900. At this
time, all these territories except for a part of Lithuania were part of the Russian empire. (The
Memel region -Lith: Klajpeda - belonged to the German empire. The port city was
preponderantly German-speaking while the countryside was Lithuanian. Hitler annexed it to
Germany in March 1939).
Here we should note that while the Baltic nations had developed their own
intelligentsia by the late 19th century, the population consisted mostly of free peasant farmers,
though some industry had developed in major towns. They had to deal with German
landowners and businessmen in Latvia and Estonia (descendents of medieval German settlers)
and with Polish landowners in Lithuania, while all except the Memellanders were ruled by
Moscow. Therefore, national consciousness was anti-Russian and anti-German in Latvia and
Estonia, while it was anti-Russian and anti-Polish in Lithuania, which had been part of the
Polish Commonwealth until the late 18th century.
National consciousness in all three countries found its full expression in independent
statehood in the period 1918-39/40. In September 1939, they came under Soviet control after
which they were annexed to the USSR in the summer of 1940. This was followed by a
relatively mild German occupation between June 1941 and the late fall of 1944, after which
the three nations were re-annexed to the USSR as the Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia
and Estonia. Since they always had a higher standard of living than other Soviet republics,
they became experimental workshops for Soviet economic reforms as far back as the mid-1960s, but especially with the beginning of Gorbachev's perestroika.
Dissident movements appeared in the 1970s, but were crushed (see ch. 7). In 1987,
encouraged by Gorbachev's "glasnost" and his anti-Stalinism, open agitation began for
independence. Thus, there were mass protest demonstrations in the Latvian capital of Riga
and the Estonian capital of Tallinn on August 23, 1987, the 28th anniversary of the
Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939, which had assigned the Baltic states to the USSR. The
demonstrations were broken up by the police. However, mass demonstrations occurred again
in February 1988, on the anniversary of the three states' independence in February 1918 (i.e.,
when Germany had recognized them). Again, the demonstrators were dispersed by police.
However, there was a breakthrough on August 23, 1988, when mass demonstrations
were officially permitted in both capitals, as well as in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on the
grounds that they were protests against Stalinism. The party leaders in all three republics
decided (with Moscow's permission) to "channel" national feelings into support of glasnosts
and perestroika.. However, this led to demands for economic and political autonomy, as well
as the restriction of Russian settlement. This demand was understandable for, aside from the
deportations of hundreds of thousands of native Balts to Soviet labor camps in 1939-40 and
in the early postwar period, massive Russian settlement went on for 45 years. At present,
almost half of the population of Latvia, almost one-third of Estonia, and about 10% of
Lithuania is Russian-speaking. Furthermore, Russians always had priority in good jobs and
housing; they had their own schools and very few ever bothered to learn the language of the
On October 1, 1988, the Estonians were permitted to hold the first congress of the
Popular Front of Estonia, which was officially established in April of that year. The 3,000
delegates to the Congress in Tallinn expressed full support for Gorbachev's perestroika, but
also endorsed a program of Estonian economic and political autonomy. The platform
demanded that Estonia adopt a free market economy, and home rule sufficient to make the
country almost immune to Moscow's political and economic problems and directives. The
delegates demanded free elections, constitutional guarantees of private property, the abolition
of compulsory military service, the limitation of Russian settlement, and the punishment of
those guilty of Stalinist crimes. Moreover, the official language was to be Estonian. (It had
been one of the two official languages, along with Russian). Popular Front candidates were
to run in the next elections, but, as it turned out, only 22% of the delegates were party
members. National demonstrations took place outside the parliament building.
The Secretary General of the Estonian Communist Party, Vaino Valjas, who had
visited Gorbachev in Moscow the week before, told journalists after the Popular Front
Congress that he did not agree with some of the Popular Front proposals. He warned against
"fantasies." However, the native communists soon began to support national aims, realizing
that otherwise they would have no political influence at all. It was striking that the Congress
was attended by delegates of similar national organizations from Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia,
Ukraine and Moldavia.
On October 8th, the Latvian People's Front opened its conference in Riga. Patterned
on the Estonian Popular Front, it made the same demands for Latvia in return for supporting
"perestroika," but added the demand for a Latvian currency.
Somewhat earlier, on June 3, 1988, a Movement in Support of Perestroika was
established in Lithuania. Even the underground Lithuanian Freedom League was reactivated.
However, any talk of national independence was strongly discouraged by Moscow. Thus
demonstrations against Soviet control in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius were put down by
a paramilitary unit on September 28, 1988. Here we should also note that preponderantly
Catholic Lithuania received a great boost in June 1988, when the Pope conferred a cardinal's
hat on bishop Vincentas Sladkevicius. However, the Pope did not visit the USSR for the
millennium of Russian Christianity in 1988. It was rumored that he would not come unless
he could visit both Lithuania and western Ukraine with its Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate)
population, but Gorbachev clearly felt that he could not risk such a papal visit. (Pope John
Paul II finally visited independent Lithuania in September 1993).
Gorbachev tried to check Baltic demands by allowing the organization of
international fronts representing the Russian population in Latvia and Estonia. (The number
of Russians in Lithuania was too small for such ventures). These "fronts" demanded equal
rights for non-natives, i.e., for the Russians in those countries. Moreover, Latvian and
Estonian demands for economic autonomy were condemned as inconsistent with "federal"
(Soviet) economic development and interests.
Lithuania now took the lead. The Lithuanian National Front, the Sajudis won an
overwhelming majority in the elections to the Congress of People's Deputies in Moscow in
March 1989. We should also note that at this Congress, deputies from the Baltic states
joined with the Interregional Group headed by Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Sakharov. They
numbered about 400 out of 2,250 deputies. In the summer and fall of 1989, the three Baltic
parliaments passed resolutions claiming national sovereignty. On August 23, 1989, the three
Popular Fronts in the Baltic republics organized a human chain of two million people
across the three states to protest the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939, which had put them
under Soviet domination. In October, they formed a Baltic Council to coordinate their
endeavors. In all three countries, the communist parties fell into decline, even though they
supported the popular demand for national sovereignty.
In December 1989, the Lithuanian Parliament changed the constitution to legalize
the mulitparty system, thus ending the Communist Party's monopoly of power. The new
national government, headed by Vytautas V. Landsbergis (b.1932), a professor of
musicology, had come to power with the Sajudis victory in the spring. It was, like the other
two Baltic governments, clearly inspired by the Polish elections of June 4, 1989, which the
communists had lost. As we know, these were followed by the establishment of the first
majority non-communist government in Poland in September and by the establishment of
democracy in Hungary in October.. In November-December 1989, communism also collapsed
in East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania (see section on East Europe in 1989
above). It is, therefore, not surprising, that Lithuania declared its independence from the
USSR on March 11, 1990. The parliament also decreed that Lithuanian laws had precedence
over Soviet laws, and that Lithuanians did not have to serve in the Red Army.
This action by Lithuania provoked a stern reaction from Gorbachev. After failing to
cow the Lithuanians into submission by sending in armored units and planes, he imposed an
economic blockade. This action in turn put the U.S. government in a quandry; on the one
hand, it had never recognized the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states, but on the other
hand, President George H.W. Bush (b.1924) did not want to make things worse for
Gorbachev, who was facing enough problems as it was. We do not know what exactly, if
anything was said about the Baltic states at the Bush-Gorbachev Summit in Malta in
December 1989, but it was clear that Bush did not want to increase Gorbachev's problems
by recognizing the independence of the Baltic states. It is true the President received
Lithuanian Prime Minister, Mrs. Kazimiera Prunskiene (b.1943) in the White Hous - but she
was received as a "private person." However Boris Yeltsin, the Chairman of the Russian
Supreme Soviet, went further; he concluded agreements with the Lithuanian government and
ended the Soviet economic blockade in summer 1990. (36)
But Gorbachev - or his supporters - did not give up on Latvia. On January 19, 1991,
a National Salvation Committee made up of Russians was proclaimed as the government of
Latvia. On the following day, Soviet troops attacked the Interior Ministry in Riga, killing
three persons. These brutal actions provoked not only Western protests, but also large
protest demonstrations in Moscow. Some Soviet troops withdrew from the Baltic republics,
but new acts of violence took place in June 1991. Gorbachev claimed he had no
foreknowledge of all this (?)
(b) The Ukrainians and Belorussians.
Both of these Slavic peoples faced great problems in developing their national
consciousness under Russian rule. However, by 1914, the western Ukrainians developed it
to a high level in East Galicia, under Austrian rule, where they saw their greatest enemies in
the Poles, who formed the upper class.
Eastern Ukraine experienced a brief period of independence in 1918-1919, but this
was crushed by the Red Army and a Bolshevik Ukrainian government was established. As we
know, Semyon Petlyura and Jozef Pilsudski took Kiev on May 7, 1920, but their troops were
then driven back to the gates of Warsaw, But even Pilsudski's brilliant victories were not
enough to wrest all of Belorussia and the Ukraine from the Soviet grasp and the Treaty of
Riga of March 1921 divided these peoples between Poland and Soviet Russia (see ch. 2).
Thus, Ukraine failed to win independence. Eastern and Central Ukraine made up the Soviet
Ukrainian republic, while East Galicia as well as Volhynia - also with a Ukrainian majority -
belonged to interwar Poland. In 1939-40, when the Soviets annexed eastern Poland, they
deported many Ukrainian priests and other members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia along with
the Poles. The province was reannexed to the Soviet Ukraine in late 1944.
As we know, the cultural and national revival of the early 1920s in the Soviet Ukraine
was crushed by Stalin. Likewise, the writers and poets who had flourished under Khrushchev
in the early 1960s were crushed by Brezhnev in 1965-66 and 1972. Many writers and
scientists were condemned to hard labor, while some were sent for "treatment" in mental
A national Ukrainian revival began after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of late
April 1986. The radioactive fallout covered a large part of the Ukraine, most of western
Belorussia, northeast Poland, and part of Sweden, where it was first detected. When the
winds changed direction, the fallout also affected the northwestern Balkans and Italy.
Chernobyl marked the watershed between earlier, rather timid attempts to reassert
national cultural rights in both Ukraine and Belorussia. In Ukraine, both individuals and
public organizations, such as the Union of Writers, began to press for more Ukrainian-language schools, the compulsory study of the language, and for it to become the official
language of the Soviet Ukrainian Republic. At the same time, petitions were signed by the
underground bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (Uniate), calling for its legalization.
(It was brutally persecuted when the USSR annexed western Ukraine in 1939-41, and crushed
when the region was reannexed in late 1944). In June 1988, there were massive
demonstrations in the capital, L'v'iv, against the 1st Secretary of the Ukrainian Party, V. V.
The cultural movement joined hands with the ecological movement. Ukrainian writers
had already joined hands with scientists to protest the Chernobyl disaster. They demanded the
shutdown of other nuclear power plants and opposed the building of new ones. These
protests did have some effect, for development of some nuclear plants was halted. An
important part of the national awakening was the demand for the recovery of history. In the
past, Ukrainian historians were forbidden even to read the works of their predecessors;
indeed, even the name of the greatest Ukrainian historian, Mykhailo S. Hrushevsky (1866-1934) was taboo.
Ukrainian protest movements grew and proliferated in 1988-90. In the elections to the
Congress of People's Deputies in Moscow in March 1989, many party and government
officials were defeated. A Ukrainian Popular Front called Rukh was visible even before March
1989, but was formally established at its founding Congress in Kiev on September 8-10, 1989.
(Rukh is the acronym for the Ukrainian name, translated as "People's Movement for
Restructuring of Ukraine"; also, the word Rukh means movement). Rukh came into a head-on
confrontation with the Ukrainian party apparatus headed by V. V. Shcherbitsky. However,
this leader, a left-over from the Brezhnev period, was forced to resign his post and died
It is worth noting that the Rukh leaders and other members of the Ukrainian
intelligentsia, particularly in west Ukraine, studied Polish Solidarity as a model for peaceful
resistance. Almost immediately after the collapse of communism in Poland, intellectuals from
the Solidarity movement visited the Ukraine and held meetings with leaders of Rukh. Its
members went on to express their sympathy and support for blockaded Lithuania in spring
and summer 1990. On August 24, 1991 - when it was clear that the communist "putsch" in
Moscow had failed - the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev proclaimed the Ukraine a sovereign
republic. In the elections of December 1, 1991, Leonid Kravchuk, a former communist
apparatchik (bureaucrat), was elected the first President of independent Ukraine. (In 1994,
he was succeeded by Leonid D. Kuchma).
In Belarus (old name:Belorussia), a movement toward asserting national rights also
surfaced after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. In 1987, it led strong protests against the
neglect of the Belorussian language. Demands were also made to end the privileged status of
"non-native residents," i.e., Russians. In reply, Russian-language newspapers attacked
In the fall of 1988, mass graves were discovered in the Kuropaty woods near Minsk,
the capital of Belorussia. The authors of articles on this subject estimated that hundreds of
thousands of people -- perhaps as many as half a million -- had been murdered there by the
NKVD between 1930 and in 1941. While most of the victims were clearly local peasants,
some of the graves contained shoes, glasses, combs, brushes, etc., made in Latvia and Poland.
These items clearly belonged to members of the Latvian and Polish intelligentsia, who were
brought to the Minsk area and killed there by the NKVD in 1940-41. There were also graves,
which had clearly been opened and the bodies removed -- pointing to the fact that the goal
was to remove incriminating evidence. Journalists suspected that other grave sites had been
covered by buildings and parking lots in Minsk. Since press coverage ceased after a while,
people suspected that some older party members involved in the massacres half a century ago
opposed further investigation.
The discovery of the Kuropaty graves led to the establishment of a society called
"Martyrology," which led in turn to the organization of the Belorussian Popular Front. As
elsewhere, the leaders were writers and scholars. Patriotic youth organizations also came into
being. These groups demonstrated in Minsk in October 1988; they were beaten up and
dispersed by police. When the authorities refused to rent a hall to groups supporting the
Popular Front, they went and met in a hall in Vilnius, Lithuania, which they used free of
charge, courtesy of the Sajudis (Lithuanian Popular Front). What is more, in June 1988, a
coordinating committee was set up representing the national movements of Armenia, Georgia,
Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - but not Belarus. (37)
Here we should note that the leaders of the Ukrainian and Belorussian movements,
as well as the Lithuanian movement, expessed fear of possible Polish claims to those parts
of their territory which belonged to interwar Poland, and which still have some areas with
Polish-speaking populations. These people have been, and are, asking for Polish priests,
churches, and Polish books. They are also demanding Polish language schools and Polish-speaking local government officials. The sizable Polish minority in Lithuania, which makes
up some 9% of the total population and lives mainly in the Vilna region, began to demand
recognition of its national rights in 1988. In 1989, the new Lithuanian government, based on
the Sajudis, rejected these demands or granted them after much foot-dragging. Unfortunately,
some leaders of the Polish minority joined Russian minority leaders in opposing Lithuanian
independence. After the declaration of Lithuanian independence in March 1990 and the
collapse of the USSR after August 1991, the Polish minority and a historical dispute
hampered the establishment of close Polish-Lithuanian relations. These are, however, quite
good today (late 1997).
(c) The Polish Minority in the USSR.
In 1988-89, after decades of silence, newspapers and periodicals published in Poland
began to write about the 1936-37 deportations of ethnic Polish villages from Soviet
Belorussia to Soviet Uzbekistan, and of the suppression of these people's cultural and
religious rights in their place of forced settlement.
The author of an unpublished memorandum on the Poles in the USSR between 1939 and 1987, estimated that according to official Soviet figures, there were between 2,400,000 and 3,700,000 Poles in the USSR in 1939. Assuming an average natural increase of 1.8%-2.2% per year, the author calculated that by 1987 these Poles should have numbered between 4,800,000 and 5,200,000. Furthermore, after the Soviet annexation of eastern Poland in 1939, the deportations of 1940-41, and then the two series of repatriations (1946 and 1956), he calculated there should have been an additional 1,800,000 - 2,700,000 Poles in the USSR. Allowing for the average natural increase of these groups, and including the same for the first groups, he calculated that there should have been 7,000,000 - 8,000,000 Poles in the USSR in 1987. However, official Soviet statistics listed only 1,200,000-1,300,000 Poles. The author sent a copy of the memorandum to Mikhail S. Gorbachev, and later, to General Jaruzelski. He pointed out that 5,800,000 - 6,600,000 Poles had been "lost," and asked how many of these had been killed, and how many russified? He did not receive any answer, or even acknowledgement of his memorandum from these leaders. (38)
(d) Armenia and Azerbaijan.
There was never any love lost between the Christian Armenians and the Moslem
Azerbaijanis. The latent conflict broke out into the open in early 1988.
In February 1988, some Azerbaijanis slaughtered Armenians in the city of Sumgait,
a city in the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This region is preponderantly
Armenian, but Stalin placed it in the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan . The slaughter led to
massive demonstrations in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where the people demanded that
Nagorno-Karabakh be transferred to Armenia. Even the local authorities in Yerevan
supported this demand.
Gorbachev sent in troops and appealed for calm, promising that the Soviet
government would consider the problem. However, in July, his verdict was "no frontier
changes." Demonstrations took place in Armenia again in September, while strikes broke out
in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Troops were again sent in. A dissident
group formed a special committee for the return of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, while
some Armenians began talking of independence from the USSR.
Gorbachev cut short his visit to New York in early December 1988, because of the disastrous earthquake in Armenia. Soviet authorities welcomed Western rescue experts and equipment, also medical and food supplies. They had not accepted such aid since Herbert Hoover's relief organization during the famine of the early 1920s. However, when the Gorbachevs flew to the affected region, they faced resentment, for there were not enough Soviet cranes, operators, supplies, etc. Furthermore, many buildings had collapsed because of shoddy construction.
In January 1990, Azeris massacred members of the Armenian minority in the Azeri
capital, Baku. Soviet troops were sent in to restore order, but it seems their real mission was
to crush the Azeri independence movement; they failed.
Gorbachev tried to rule Nagorno-Karabakh from Moscow, but without success. After
independence, Armenians and Azerbaijanis still fought over Nagorno-Karabakh, and the
issue has not been resolved. 
Georgia had a long history of independence before being conquered by the Russians
in the course of the 19th century. It also has its own Orthodox Church. There has always been
a deep resentment against Russian rule and the expansion of the Russian language and culture
at the expense of the Georgian.
Georgia experienced a brief period of independence in 1918 -1921, when it was a
democratic republic under a Menshevik-dominated government. The Red Army reconquered
the country in 1921, after which Stalin brutally crushed the Georgian socialists and installed
his own henchmen to rule the republic.
In October 1987, an independence movement, the Il'ya Chavchavadze Society, named
after Prince Il'ya Chavchavadze (1837 - 1907), a great poet and publicist, was established to
defend the Georgian language and culture. The National Democratic Party of Georgia was
established in August 1988; it called for an independent, Christian, Georgian state. There
were strikes and demonstrations against the violation of human rights, the destruction of
Georgian historical monuments, and pollution by the Batum oil refinery. A mass
demonstration by some 100,000 people took place in the capital, Tbilisi, on November 12,
1988. The National Democrats lead the protest against proposed changes in the Soviet
constitution, which would restrict the right of secession from the USSR.
On April 8, 1989, a peaceful demonstration in Tbilisi demanded independence for
Georgia. Early the next morning, Soviet Interior Ministry troops (MVD) -- which had been
flown in, but it is not clear on whose orders -- attacked the crowds using clubs, spades and
poison gas. About 200 people were killed, mostly women and children. Soviet Foreign
Minister Edward Shevardnadze (b. 1928), a Georgian and former party boss of Georgia,
flew to Tbilisi to investigate. He blamed both the people and the authorities, but
recommended that the local party leaders hear the people out. (40)
In October 1990, the pro-independence movement won a land-slide victory in the first
multiparty elections to be held in Georgia. Despite security police attempts to intimidate
voters and to fake ballots, the clear winner was the leader of the independence movement,
Zviad Konstantinovich Gamsakhurdia (b. 1939). A former dissident, literary critic, and son
of Georgia's greatest modern writer, he now became president. He set out to establish a free
and democratic Georgia, but with economic ties to the USSR. However, he had to battle
strong resistance and was overthrown. He refused to give up, so a civil war broke out.
Shevardnadze resigned from Gorbachev's government in December 1990, protesting
that no one defended him against unwarranted criticism and warning that a right-wing coup
was imminent. He returned to Georgia and, after Gamsakhurdia was overthrown, became the
head of the Georgian government. He had to fight against Gamsakurhurdia and his
supporters, as well as against separatist movements by non-Georgian ethnic groups. In fall
1993, he led the Georgian forces in their fight against the Abkhazians to keep this region in
Georgia. He narrowly escaped death in the siege of Sukhumi, in Abkhazia, which fell in late
September 1993 to Abkhazian forces, supported by Russian troops. These troops switched
their support to Shevardnadze, when the latter agreed that Georgia should join the
Commonwealth of Indepedent States under Moscow leadership (C.I.S.) and to the stationing
of Russian troops in Georgia.
The western part of this republic consisted of territory taken from Romania (Bessarabia) after World War II, which was mostly Romanian-speaking, while the eastern part is mostly Ukrainian-speaking. There is also a Turkic minority, the Gagauz, which declared independence. Soviet troops were sent in to restore order, but clashed with Romanian Moldavians. Moldavia proclaimed its sovereignty in 1990 as the Republic of Moldova. However, endemic fighting continuedbetween Russians and Moldovans in what the Russians call "Trans-Dniestria.." where Russian troops are still stationed.
(g) The Autonomous Chechen Republic - Chechenya.
The Chechens, a moslem people in the Transcaucasus, were conquered by the
Russians after decades of fighting, and became part of the Russian Empire in 1859. After the
revolution, they became part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic. Stalin
abolished it and deported masses of Chechen and Ingush peoples as punishment for their
alleged cooperation with German occupying forces in World War II. Khrushchev allowed
the survivors to return home and re-established the republic. In late 1991, the Chechens
separated from the Ingush and proclaimed an independent Chechen Republic. A former
Soviet general, Dudayev, was elected President.
The Russian government of BorisYeltsin refused to recognize Chechen independence because they feared this would lead not only to the loss of Chechnya but also to the secession of other non-Russian autonomous republics in the Russian Federation. Furthermore, the oil pipeline from Baku to Russia went through the Chechen capital, Grozny. Yeltsin launched a Russian attack on Chechnya in December 1994. Fighting destroyed Grozny.. However, the Chechens fought the ill-equipped, ill paid, and unfed Russian army to a standstill. After the failure of many promises by Yelstsin to end the war, his National Security Adviser, General Aleksandr Lebed, signed a 5 year armistice with Chechen leaders in September 1996, leaving the question of Chechen sovereignty - demanded by the Chechens but rejected by Russia - in abeyance. It was approved, after some delay. by President Yeltsin. (In fall 1997, Yeltsin signed another treaty with Chechnya).
Gorbachev, like most Russians, was surprised to find that the nationalities had not
become homogenized Soviet citizens. He tried to defuse the danger and so prevent the
dissolution of the USSR. But the new 1990 law regulating secession from the Soviet Union
aroused strong opposition in most non-Russian republics. It stipulated that two-thirds of a
republic's population must vote for secession in a referendum, after which the republic must
go through a five year waiting period to negotiate secession. This was unacceptable because,
for one thing, in some non-Russian republics Russian settlers and other non-natives made
up between one-third to one-half of the population, thus making a two-thirds "yes" vote for
secession very difficult, if not impossible. For example, in Latvia, Russians still make up 33%
- 40% of the population, while in Estonia they account for about 30%. Furthermore, the five
year waiting period would have given Moscow plenty of opportunity to create other obstacles
Of course, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 stimulated the national movements in the USSR. Its greatest impact was on the Baltic republics and the Ukraine (see section above). It seems, however, that the deepening Soviet economic crisis and the rivalry between Yeltsin and Gorbachev, were more of a stimulant for the non-Russian nationalities than the collapse of communism in the former Soviet bloc. This was particularly true of Yeltsin's actions after he was elected Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federal Republic in spring 1990. He then opposed Gorbachev's policy of keeping the Soviet Union together by proclaiming his (Yeltsin's) support for the secession of those republics which wished to do so, and for replacing the USSR with a freely negotiated association. As mentioned earlier, he negotiated economic agreements with Lithuania which reduced some of the economic pressure exerted on her by Gorbachev.
Whether Gorbachev changed his mind because he realized there was no other way,
or for some other reason, he adopted a similar policy. In spring 1991, he negotiated a
preliminary agreement on a new union with 9 of the 16 Soviet republics. However, this was
merely an agreement in principle. Indeed, some of the key provisions proposed by Moscow,
e.g., direct taxation by the center and control of military affairs, were opposed by the
In the 1992 edition of this textbook (completed in spring 1991), I wrote that if the
economic crisis and national movements should lead either to peaceful secession or to civil
war, the Russians would probably lose the Baltic states, perhaps also the Caucasian republics
and the Ukraine, although I thought its eastern, heavily russified region, might opt to join the
Russian Federal Republic. But I also thought that, in either case, Russia, with its vast
resources and population, would eventually reassert its control, or at least dominant influence,
over some of the other independent republics (p. 389). The first part of this forecast proved
more or less correct after the failed Moscow coup of late August 1991, while signs of
economic reintegration appeared in summer 1993 (see Part V below). Now let us turn to
Gorbachev's most successful and influential policies in the realm of foreign affairs.
4. Gorbachev's Foreign Policy: "How to Win Friends and Influence People." (No offense to Dale Carnegie intended).
Gorbachev's "new" foreign policy must be viewed against the background of the
economic and nationalities problems in the USSR. In particular, the need to revamp the
Soviet economy dicated Gorbachev's primary aim, i.e., to bring about a halt, or at least a
slowdown, in the arms race. At first, however, the chief external impetus toward this goal
was President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI (domination of the earth
through domination of outer space).
The first Reagan-Gorbachev summit, held at Geneva in November 1985, did not
bring any concrete results, but the personal contact established between the two men can be
seen as marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War. At the second summit, held on
Soviet initiative at Reykjavik, Iceland on October 10-12, 1986, Gorbachev suddenly proposed
a "zero-zero option" in nuclear weapons -- if Reagan gave up SDI. The President -- who had
made a zero-zero proposal on nuclear weapons earlier -- refused the offer. In any case,
verification had to be agreed on first. Furthermore, with or without SDI, such an agreement
at this time would have sanctioned Soviet conventional arms superiority in Europe.
However, the next two summits, i.e., the first in Washington in December 1987 and
the second in Moscow in May-June 1988 resulted in a series of important agreements:
(a) On December 8, 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty for the elimination
of IBMs (intermediary ballistic missiles) and shorter range missiles.
(b) At the same time, they affirmed their commitment to conduct further negotiations
on Strategic Offensive Arms, and agreed to mutual on-site inspections.
(c) Full-scale negotiations on nuclear testing began on November 7, 1987; exchanges
of experts on nuclear test sites were agreed on and took place in both countries in 1988.
(d) The two leaders approved the signing of the September 7, 1987 agreement to
establish nuclear risk reduction centers in Washington and Moscow.
(e) They signed an agreement for advance notification of missile launchings.
(f) They expressed determination to negotiate an agreement on nuclear weapons.
(g) They sanctioned talks in Vienna to reduce nuclear weapons from the Atlantic to
the Urals, i.e., in Europe and in the European (western) USSR.
(h) The Warsaw Pact nations, led by th USSR, expressed the intention of reducing
their conventional forces. At the same time, however, the Soviets claimed that NATO was
not weaker in this respect than the Warsaw Pact; here they cited NATO naval superiority
and demanded reductions. (41)
It is clear that the arms limitation agreements of 1988-90, particularly those regarding
conventional forces in Europe, were signed by Gorbachev under the pressure of the deepening
economic and nationalities crisis in th USSR. He realized that he could not afford to continue
the arms race with the United States. But Western statesmen and public opinion were mostly
unaware of these problems - so Gorbachev enjoyed great admiration and even popularity in
both Western Europe and the United States.
Important U.S.-Soviet agreements were also reached on regional issues:
(i) In 1988, Gorbachev promised to withdraw Soviet troops from Afghanistan by
February 15, 1989. This took place on schedule, but the Mujahedeen (Moslem fighters of the
Holy War, "Jihad") attacked the departing Soviet transports, while the Soviets retaliated by
shelling Afghan villages. At the same time, the USSR threatened to move against Pakistan,
if it did not stop transferring U.S. arms to the Mujahedeen..
Indeed, the death of the Pakistani leader, Zia Ul-Haq, in a plane crash on August 17,
1988, in which some Americans also perished, might have been the work of Soviet agents.
Whatever the case may be, a Pakistani investigation showed that some form of gas was
released in the pilots' cabin, which probably caused the crash. Some U.S. journalists suspected
former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz of vetoing an FBI investigation into the crash
because he did not want to publicize any Soviet complicity and thus spoil U.S.-Soviet
relations. (42) Nevertheless, the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, agreed to
continue the arms supplies.
In late 1988 and early 1989, Soviet diplomats conducted talks with the representatives
of various factions of the Mujahedeen in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and in Saudi
Arabia; however, these talks brought no results.
In late January 1989, the Afghanistani capital, Kabul, ruled by Moscow's protege,
General Mohammed Najibullah, was cut off from food supplies and heavily shelled by
Mujahedeen forces. The U.S. Embassy was evacuated on January 30th. At the same time,
Najibullah stated that he and his government would remain in power. The combined forces
of several Mujahedeen leaders finally took Kabul in late April 1992. However, they continued
to fight each other for power (on Afghanistan, see ch. 14).
(ii) A tentative agreement was reached in New York on July 13, 1988, for the
withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola, and for a political settlement there; this was to be
accompanied by the withdrawal of South African troops from Namibia, which was to become
an independent state. This agreement was finalized in December 1988, and Cuban troop
withdrawal was supervised by U.N. representatives. The last Cuban troops left on schedule
in early 1991, and South African troops also left Namibia. However, Jona Savimbi, leader of
the anti-communist Unita, who used to have U.S. support, refused to accept the election
victory of the formerly Soviet-backed Popular Front in September 1992, and the civil war
continued. (See ch. 14, under Africa).
(iii) Although no formal agreements were reached between the U.S. and USSR on reducing Soviet aid to Cuba, Soviet economic difficulties led to a drastic reduction thereof. We may also assume that the Soviet government pressed for, or supported, the decision of the Sandinista leaders in Nicaragua to agree to free elections in February 1990. As we know, they expected to win, but lost to the anti-communist forces led by Violetta Chamorro, who beceame the President of Nicaragua (on Cuba and Nicaragua, see ch. 13).
There were also great improvements in U.S.-Soviet cultural relations. The United
States and the USSR agreed in principle to increase exchanges of high school students in
1989-90 from 50 to 1,500, and to expand cultural exchanges. These have been developing
IV. The Glorious Year 1989 in Eastern Europe; the Unification of Germany, 1990, and
As mentioned earlier, democratization made great strides in Poland and Hungary in
the spring of 1989. However, no one foresaw either the rapid collapse of all communist
governments (except Albania) in the second half of that year, nor the unification of Germany
on October 3, 1990. Poland led the way to the collapse of communism.
As mentioned briefly earlier, the elections of June 4, 1989, produced a shattering
defeat for the Polish communists. The Round Table Agreements between the party-government leaders headed by General Kiszczak on the one hand, and Solidarity leaders
headed by Walesa, on the other (early April), specified that Solidarity was to get only 35%
of the seats in the House of Representatives, while elections would be free for the re-established Senate.The Communists expected to win because they had the organization and
the funds. However, in the short time available before the elections, Solidarity organized local
citizens' committees to canvass the voters, while Walesa personally confirmed Solidarity
candidates and was photographed with them. This was crucial for voters because the election
rules, drawn up by the communists, did not allow the printed ballots to specify the candidates'
On election day, June 4th -- the very day of the massacre in Tienanmen Square, which
overshadowed Poland in the Western media -- most Polish voters crossed off all communist
candidates on their ballots, showing their true feelings. Thus, not one of the leading
communists was elected - for none obtained the requisite 50% of the vote. However,
Solidarity honored the April agreements, out of fear of provoking the use of force by the
Polish communists or/and a violent Soviet reaction. Therefore, they were allowed to win seats
in a second round of voting. Even so, the communists and their allies failed to secure their
"guaranteed" 65% of the seats in the House of Representatives because the puppet peasant
and democratic parties lined up with Solidarity, thus producing a non-communist majority.
In the Senate, 99 out of 100 seats went to Solidarity. The one communist Senator elected was
considered a maverick by the party. He was a private entrepreneur who won many votes by
distributing free sausages and beer during the election campaign.
In this situation, two communist Premiers in succession (Rakowski and Kiszczak)
failed to form a coalition government dominated by communists. Therefore, in August,
General Jaruzelski invited Walesa for consultations on selecting a new Premier. Walesa
favored Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a Solidarity journalist and devout Catholic, who had been one
of his leading advisers since 1980. Mazowiecki was duly nominated, then confirmed as
Premier by the Parliament. After a series of long consultations with various party leaders, a
new government emerged on September 12, 1989. It was the first government in a former
communist state in which communists were a minority. However, as per the April agreement,
a communist was Minister of the Interior, as well as Deputy Premier (General Kiszczak),
while another communist, General Florian Siwicki was Minister of National Defense.
However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Krzysztof Skubiszewski (b. 1926) a professor of
Law at the A. Mickiwicz University, Poznan, was not a communist Again, as per the
agreement, General Jaruzelski was elected by Parliament to be President for six years; he just
managed to get the requisite number of votes plus one. Although he had great powers on
paper, (mostly in defense and foreign policy), he could hardly exercise them without the
support of Parliament and here the decisive power belonged to the Civic Parliamentary Club,
an umbrella organization including all supporters of Solidarity, led by the historian and
former dissident, Bronislaw Geremek. (43)
It seems that like the Polish communists, Gorbachev had originally assumed they
would win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and thus control the
government, the army, and police. He may have envisaged something like the "national fronts"
existing in the Soviet satellite states in 1945-47/9, i.e., coalitions in which the communists
held key positions. He seems to have believed these arrangements would avert anti-communist revolts which might, in turn, force him to send in Soviet troops. He did not want
such a development for it would not only encourage his hardliner enemies in the USSR to
overthrow him, but would also break off, or at least suspend, the good relations he was
developing with the U.S. and West European states, especially West Germany.
Gorbachev most likely accepted the Polish elections results and the new government
for the reasons suggested above. As we shall see, the Hungarians followed the Polish model
to some extent, and then went beyond it.
While the Polish elections of June 4th opened the way for the demise of communism
in Poland - in Hungary the key signal for change was the official reburial on June 16, 1989,
of Imre Nagy and his close collaborators, who were executed with him on that day in 1958.
The setting for the ceremony was designed by the architect and political dissident Laszlo
Rajk, Jr., son of the communist leader, Laszlo Rajk, who had perished in the purges. Another
key participant was Sandor Racz, head of the Budapest Workers' Councils in October-November 1956. A third participant was Nagy's adviser in 1956, Miklos Vasarhelyi, who had
worked for years for the rehabilitation and reburial of his chief. As he recalled, Nagy had
told him when they were both imprisoned in Romania, that the final words in his case would
be said by the Hungarian people, by history, and by the international workers' movement.
Thirty-three years later, his people honored his memory and that of the revolution of 1956,
but the international workers' movement, led by Moscow, was in a state of collapse. Janos
Kadar, who had "invited" the Soviet troops to crush the Hungarian revolution, died three
weeks later - on the very day that the Hungarian Supreme Court announced Nagy's full legal
A week after Nagy's funeral, the Hungarian Party's Central Committee overthrew the
First Secretary, Karoly Grosz, and replaced him with a Presidium of Four. Although Grosz
was a member, he was overshadowed by the popular reform communist, Imre Pozsgay and
the economist Rezso Nyers. The new party leaders negotiated with the opposition. This was
organized in a Round Table, which was an umbrella organization similar to the Polish Civic
Club. The talks between the new Hungarian party leaders and the opposition began on June
13th and lasted more than three months. An agreement was finally signed with several
political groups on September 13th, 1989. It included a series of draft laws, but unlike the
Polish precedent, it also mandated completely free parliamentary elections to be held in
spring 1990. Still, as in Poland, the President was to be elected by the old Parliament.
Unlike Poland, however, three political groups, the Free Democrats, the Young
Democrats, and the Independent Trade Unions, refused to sign the agreement. They wanted
a referendum on the most controversial points; in particular, they wanted the President to be
elected in countrywide elections. This was to prevent the election of the popular reform
communist, Imre Pozsgay.
On October 7th, the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (communist) dissolved itself
and resumed deliberations under a new name -- "The Hungarian Socialist Party." It had some
500,000 members by year's end. Meanwhile, the hardliners reformed under the old name of
the "Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party," led by Karolyi Grosz.
On October 18th, Parliament passed the constitutional amendments agreed on in
September. The name of the state was changed from the Hungarian People's Republic, to the
Hungarian Republic, and the flag reverted to its old form, without the hated communist
symbol. At noon on October 23rd, 1989, thirty-three years to the day after the outbreak of
the revolution of 1956, the Hungarian Republic was officially proclaimed from the balcony
of the parliament building. (44)
Meanwhile, in May, 1989, Hungarian border guards took down the barbed wire on
the frontier with Austria; it was sold off in small pieces as souvenirs. The opening of the
Austro-Hungarian border started the great exodus from East Germany to West Germany
by way of Hungary and Austria, which led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of
communism in East Germany.
(c) East Germany and German Unification.
While there was some opposition to the government and party leadership by a few
pastors of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, as well as by some democratic socialists and
ecologists, nobody expected any great changes in summer 1989. The decisive impetus for
upheaval was Gorbachev, who clearly favored liberalization in the DDR. In fact, when he
arrived there on October 7th to participate in the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the
founding of the DDR, he declared: "Life itself punishes those who delay." It was also rumored
that he had told party head Erich Honecker not to count on Soviet troops in repressing his
people. (About 500,000 Soviet troops were still stationed in East Germany).
The crucial breakthrough, however, came earlier. It was the opening of the Hungarian
border with Austria. As thousands of East German tourists flooded into Hungary and crossed
illegally into Austria, the Hungarian government decided in early September to ignore the
DDR government's protests and let them cross freely into Austria. 15,000 crossed in the first
three days; by the end of October, this had increased to 50,000. The DDR government
decided to allow these people to pass through its territory in sealed trains on their way to
West Germany. Crowds of people tried to jump onto the trains as they slowed down in
passing through East German stations, but they were beaten off by police.
Meanwhile, East German public opinion was outraged by the government's
congratulations to the Chinese government for its bloody massacre of students in Tienanmen
Square, Beijing, on June 4th. In September, political demonstrations began Leipzig. The
people demanded the legalization of the newly founded "New Forum," an umbrella group
demanding democracy. On October 7th -- the DDR's 40th anniversary, when Gorbachev
made his famous statement -- the police brutally repressed another demonstration in Leipzig.
But two days later they did nothing to stop another when some 70,000 people demonstrated
peacefully and were undisturbed. It seems, however, that it was not the communist leaders,
but three prominent citizens of Leipzig who called for non-violence and persuaded the police
to stay in their barracks.
Egon Krenz replaced Erich Honecker as head of state on October 17th, and claimed
credit for avoiding police violence, but the demonstrations continued. There was a mass
demonstration in East Berlin on November 4th. Everywhere, the people demanded free
elections. On November 9th, the East German authorities made an opening in the Berlin
Wall and for the first time since 1961, people could pass freely back and forth. The next day,
East German troops began to dismnatle the wall and and on November 22, came the opening
of the Brandenburg Gate.
The fall of the Berlin Wall was a symbol of great change -- but of what? Before
November 9th, the question was: would there be a new, democratic, but socialist East
Germany, as envisaged by the "New Forum"? Hardly anyone thought a united Germany was
possible in the near future, because of Soviet opposition - but there was none. For Germans,
the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9th marked another turning point, for it was now
clear that most East Germans favored union with West Germany. This was the cry of another
mass demonstration in Leipzig, when the crowd shouted: "Deutschland, Einig Vaterland"
(Germany, united fatherland). .
To begin with, however, a new, non-communist government came to power in East
Germany. Then came the revelation that the communist leaders had lived in great luxury,
while preaching austerity for the people. Furthermore, as time went on, several new leaders
were found to have worked in some way for the hated secret police, the "Stasi." In the
meanwhile, work on unification proceeded with breathtaking speed. Gorbachev at first
followed the old Soviet line by insisting that a united Germany must be neutral - which
meant that West Germany must leave NATO. However, he then agreed to unification,
providing no NATO troops be stationed in East Germany. Finally, he agreed to German
unification and the phased withdrawal of the some 350,000 Soviet troops in return for
some 3 billion DM (German marks), earmarked to build accommodations for the troops in
the USSR. (In summer 1991, this sum was apparently increased by several billion more DM).
A final peace treaty was signed with Germany in Paris in September 1990 by the
four victorious powers of World War II. In this treaty, the Germans officially recognized
their postwar borders with Poland. On October 2, 1990, Germany was finally reunited as
one state. Fears of a powerful Germany again dominating Europe were expressed by her
former victims, especially Poland. However, most people agreed that Germany was now a
democratic state without expansionist goals. (In summer 1991, Poland and Germany signed
another treaty, regulating several outstanding problems, including minority rights in each
Once the euphoria had passed, harsh reality set in. The bill for modernizing the East
German economy, estimated at some 300 billion dollars over the next several years, aroused
great concern in the former West Germany, which would have to pay it. At the same time,
as deficit state plants were closed down, East Germans lost their jobs, their cheap, subsidized
housing and other benefits. Collective farms went bankrupt, and prices went up. The warm
feelings of the West Germans, the "Wessies" for the East Germans, the "Ossies," soon cooled
as their pocket books felt the pinch of financial aid for their brothers. It will take some time
to fully integrate the two Germanies.
Czechoslovakia's "velvet revolution" lasted from November 17 through December 10,
1989, when a new, non-communist government was sworn in.
As noted earlier, there had been a growing protest movement since late 1988.
Encouraged by the changes in Poland and Hungary, by the collapse of the Berlin Wall -- all
of this seen on West German or Austrian TV -- and most of all, by the lack of Soviet
intervention, students organized discussion clubs in Prague. They decided to hold a
demonstration on November 17th, ostensibly to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the death of
a student, Jan Opletal, murdered by the Nazis on that day in 1939. However, as people joined
the students, the crowd began to call for the removal of the communist leaders. When the
demonstrators reached the embankment on the Vltava River, they ran head on into the police.
People offered them flowers, but they beat up the demonstrators, including women and
children who could not make a fast get away. This was the spark that set off the revolution.
When it was rumored that that at least one student had been killed (this proved false), some
students decided to go on strike. Next day, a Saturday, these strikers were joined by others
who occupied Charles IV University, and also by theater actors.
On Sunday evening, November 19th, the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel
convened a meeting of representatives of existing opposition groups, led by members of
Charter 77. They met in a Prague theater, and then moved to another called The Magic
Lantern. They agreed to establish a Civic Forum, which was an umbrella organization for
various opposition groups clearly modelled on the Polish organization. The Civic Forum
called for the immediate resignation of party leaders responsible for preparing the Warsaw
Pact invasion of 1968, i.e., President Gustav Husak and Party leader Milos Jakes; the
immediate resignation of the federal Minister of the Interior, Frantisek Kincl, and of
Prague's First Secretary, Miroslav Stepan, responsible for the police attack on
demonstrators on November 17th. They also demanded the establishment of a special
commission to investigate that attack, and for the immediate release of all prisoners of
Thousands of people came out into the streets over the weekend to demonstrate in
support of these demands. They were encouraged by Premier Ladislav Adamec's statement
that martial law would not be declared. Demonstrations continued on November 21 and 22nd,
while intermediaries shuttled back and forth between Havel and Adamec. The Civic Forum
was joined by economists and by a representative of the workers, Petr Miller, from the huge
CKD engineering works. In Slovakia, an organization emerged called The Public Against
Violence; however, the main action was in Prague.
Alexander Dubcek arrived in Prague on November 24th, and was welcomed
enthusiastically by huge crowds when he spoke, along with Havel, from the balcony of the
publishing house of the socialist paper, Svobodne Slovo (The Free Word). In a mass
demonstration that evening, thousands of people shook their key rings, symbolizing the
opening of doors, i.e. freedom. On Saturday, November 25th, the revered ninety-year old
Cardinal Francis Tomasek, who had fought hard for the rights of Catholics, celebrated the
canonization of a medieval princess, Agnes of Bohemia. The whole service was broadcast by
TV, the first time this had ever been done in Czechoslovakia. That afternoon, half a million
people gathered in the park near the Lena sports stadium, and roared their approval for a
general strike in support of the Civic Forum and its demands. Petr Miller promised the
workers would come out too.
Next day, Havel and Adamec met face to face for the first time. That afternoon, there
was another mass meeting near the sports stadium. On Monday, November 27th, there was
a general strike in support of the people's demands, as well as a mass demonstration in
Vaclav square, in the center of Prague. On November 28th, the Civic Forum called on the
government to resign by December 10th.
The communists tried to mobilize for action. On November 29th, the new party leader
Karel Urbanek -- who had succeeded Jakes five days earlier -- made a fighting speech on TV.
However, the National Assembly, packed though it was by hand-picked deputies who had
supported the communist leaders, voted to delete the leading role of the party from the
Constitution and to eliminate Marxism-Leninism as the basis of education. On November
30th, the first meeting took place between a Civic Forum delegation and party leaders.
On December 2nd, people began sporting badges, which read "Havel for President."
(They were allegedly made in Hungary). However, Premier Adamec proposed a coalition
government of 21, of which 16 were party members. This was obviously unacceptable. On
December 4th, a huge demonstration took place in Vaclav Square (Vaclavske Namesti) and
called for a general strike on December 11th, if the government did not give in.
Finally, after more talks between the Civic Forum and the government-party leaders,
a new government was agreed on. President Husak swore it in on December 10th. It was
made up of many former dissidents and included Petr Miller for the workers. On December
28th, the National Assembly elected Alexander Dubcek as Chairman (i.e., Speaker of the
House). The next day, it elected Vaclav Havel as President. (He was re-elected by popular
vote in 1990). Thus the "velvet revolution" had overthrown communism in Czechoslovakia.
What were the key ingredients in this success? As elsewhere, there had been deep-seated resentment against communist rule, propped up by Moscow. This was especially true
since the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968. As in Poland and Hungary, leaders appeared,
capable of organizing action and mobilizing the people. The road to change was paved by the
fall of communism in Poland and Hungary, and by the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Finally,
in Czechoslovakia, as elsewhere, there was a crucial ingredient: Gorbachev indicated that
the USSR would not intervene. On the evening of November 29th, Czech TV broadcast a
long interview with Zdenek Mlynar, a member of the Dubcek leadership in 1968, who later
lived in Vienna. Mlynar stressed the importance of Gorbachev's reforms and attitude, and of
the whole international context for the end of communism in Czechoslovakia. Indeed, the
Soviet embassy in Prague received a delegation from the Civic Forum and treated it with
great courtesy. It is also said that Gorbachev himself gave their marching orders to party
leader Urbanek and Premier Adamec during the Warsaw Pact meeting held immediately after
the Gorbachev-Bush summit at Malta (December 2-3rd). 
Gorbachev must have decided that after allowing the changes in Poland and Hungary,
the opening of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in East Germany, he would
spoil his own chances for a continued, successful relationship with the United States if he
ordered a crackdown in Czechoslovakia. However, while he wrote off East Germany along
with Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, he seemed to have succeeded in his goal of
bringing reform communists to power in Bulgaria and Romania.
There are indications that Gorbachev had been trying for some time to get rid of the
conservative and repressive Todor Zhivkov. Whatever the case may be, there had been an
unsuccessful attempt to unseat him in 1988. There was no dissident movement as such in
Bulgaria. The Independent Association for the Defense of Human Rights was crushed, as
was the Club for the Support of Perestroika and Glasnost, both in 1988. Grass root demands
for a more open press were also put down that year.
The change, when it came, had all the earmarks of a planned coup. On November
10th, Zhivkov was overthrown and arrested; three days later, he was replaced as President
and Party chief by former Foreign Minister Petar T. Mladenov, who had just returned from
Moscow. However, a newly established Union of Democratic Forces, speaking for 10 little
known opposition groups, published a reform program very similar to those of East Germany
and Czechoslovakia, i.e., free elections, the rule of law, a free and indepedent press, free trade
unions, and multiparty politics. On December 10th, after a pro-democracy demonstration in
Sofia, Mladenov promised to abolish the Communist Party's monopoly of power and to hold
free elections in spring 1990.
Indeed, the Communist Party's "leading role" was deleted from the Constitution in
January 1990. In April, the party changed its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which
pledged itself to democratic socialism. New political parties and groups came into being. The
elections took place in June 1990, which resulted in the victory of the BSP, which obtained
48% of the vote versus 34% by the chief opposition bloc. The latter accused the BSP of using
threats and even force. A new coalition government was established in November, including
the Union of Democratic Forces, or UDF. In the elections of October 1991, the BSP and
UDF obtained 34% of the vote each, and the UDF formed a coalition with the Movement for
Rights and Freedom, representing the Turkish minority (about 10% of the population).
Zhivkov's trial, delayed for health reasons, finally ended with a prison sentence.
Romania was the only country in the former Soviet blocto experience a bloody
revolution. It seems that a group of reform communists, who had been dismissed by Nicolae
Ceausescu, teamed up with some army generals in a plot to overthrow the dictator.
However, whether they hatched such a plot or not, they were upstaged by a popular
revolution which they manipulated for their own ends.
On December 16, 1989, unrest erupted in the Transylvanian town of Timisoara
(Hungarian: Temesvar). Here, a Hungarian pastor, Laszlo Tokes, who was a champion of
human rights, especcially for the 2 million Hungarians living in Romania, refused his bishop's
order to move to another parish. (Of course, the bishop had been persuaded to give this
order by the government). Tokes took refuge in his parish church, which was then surrounded
by both Hungarians and Romanians who vowed to defend him. The dreaded Securitate,
Ceausescu's well-paid, heavily armed security police, fired on the crowd, killing about a
hundred people (not the thousands rumored to have been killed).
When Ceausescu returned from a state visit to Iran, he made a speech from the
balcony of the People's Palace in Bucharest on December 21st, in which he labelled the
events in Timisoara a "counter-revolutionary uprising" organized by "foreign conspirators,"
i.e., Moscow. However, when the usual crowd of supporters started to applaud, a few
students whistled and shouted that Ceausescu was a tyrant. The state TV then went off the
air, but millions of Romanians had seen a shocked and frightened Ceausescu. Fighting broke
out in Bucharest, in which the army joined the people against the hated Security Police.
Almost immediately, uprisings broke out all over the country.
Ceausescu fled from the palace roof in a helicopter with his equally hated wife, Elena,
and a few loyal supporters. Unable to reach a safe airport, they landed on a country road and
commandeered one car, then another. On reaching the town of Tirgoviste, they phoned the
local militia (regular police) for help. However, as the militia men drove them to their local
HQ - the remaining militia deserted in droves, fearful of the crowds in the streets, who were
calling for the death of Ceausescu. The militia handed the Ceausescus to the officer in charge
of the local military garrison. He brought them to the military barracks and kept them hidden
in a small room for three and a half days, allegedly for fear they might be rescued by the
town's Securitate - the dictator's hated Security Police.. Later, however, it was learned that
the shots heard from the Securitate building were only a taped recording, for the police had
fled in fear of their lives.
Finally, on Christmas Day, General Victor Stanculestu arrived from Bucharest and
declared that the dictator would not be taken to the capital, but must stand trial in the
barracks at Tirgoviste. A military court was organized; Ceausescu was accused of genocide
against the Romanian people. His two defense attorneys tried to persuade him to plead
diminished responsibility on the grounds of insanity. The dictator refused and demanded to
be tried by the National Assembly (legislature), which was his right as President. The trial
lasted 55 minutes, and was quite obviously designed to lead to the immediate execution of the
Ceausescus. The reason given was that the Securitate forces would not give up their
resistance to the new government unless they knew that Ceausescu was dead. However, an
unspoken reason that was equally valid, if not more important, was the fear that in a public
trial Ceausescu would discredit the reform communists in the new government by revealing
their past services to him. Once the "trial" was over, the soldiers tied the prisoners' hands,
took them outside, and executed them in the courtyard. Some scenes from the "trial" and the
dead bodies were shown on Romanian TV, and then all over the world. It was a gruesome
sight. There was great relief, but the new government began its rule with a flagrant disregard
of the rule of law, which it claimed to support.
The new government, calling itself the Council of National Salvation claimed to
represent the National Salvation Front (shades of Jaruzelski, Poland, December 1981). Most
of the council members were reform communists dismissed by Ceausescu. The council was
headed by Ion Illiescu, who had worked with Ceausescu in the 1970s. There was much
speculation that the NSF had been organized before the uprisings and that it manipulated them
in order to seize power, which seems to be true. At the same time, however, as in Bulgaria,
there was no organized opposition which could challenge the NSF.
The National Salvation Front won the elections, held on May 20, 1990. The
opposition parties charged that threats were used and students conducted a sit-down
demonstration against the government in a square in the center of the city. They condemned
it for being communist. On June 15-16th, Illiescu brought in hundreds of miners from Brasov,
who beat up the students and demolished the offices of the opposition parties. Later, it turned
out that some of the "miners" were former Securitate thugs, now serving the new
Romania and Bulgaria have since shed their communist leaders, but they still have far
to go to catch up with Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.
As noted earlier, the Serbian Communist leader, Slobodan Milosevic, became leader
of the League of Yugoslav Communists (party name), in 1987. He was elected President of
Serbia in the fall of 1990. In both cases, he won as the exponent of extreme Serbian
In the meanwhile, Yugoslav unity had begun to crack. The Serbian leaders had called
an extraordinary party congress in January 1990, with the goal of unifying the party. They
wanted to strengthen Serbian dominance by abolishing autonomous party organizations in the
republics. By recentralizing the party, the Serbs aimed also to recentralize the government of
the whole country, which would once again be dominated by Serbia. The Slovenian
delegation proposed a confederation of independent parties and free elections. Their
proposals were rejected, so they walked out. The party leaders of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina declared they would not stay on without the Slovenes. Thus, the Serbian
communist leadership provoked the disintegration it had wished to prevent.
Free elections held in Slovenia and Croatia in April and May 1990 led to the defeat
of communist candidates. Center-right coalition governments came to power, with the goal
of national independence. They were led by two former communists, now nationalists: Franjo
Tujdman in Croatia and Milan Kucan in Slovenia. Milosevic declared the elections illegal. As
noted above, in the fall of 1990, he was elected President of Serbia. Here we should note that
his (communist) party defeated the nationalist, but democratic party, Serbian Renewal
Movement, led by the writer Vuk Draskovid. But Milosevic owed his victory largely to his
control of the media. Elections held at this time in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia
produced non-communist governments. Thus, of the six republics of Yugoslavia, only Serbia
and Montenegro retained communist governments. However, the Serbian communists
controlled the Yugoslav or Federal Army, most of whose officers were Serbs; they
supported the goal of keeping the country united under Serb leadership.
As the Serbian economy went from bad to worse, Milosevic and his party played
Serbian nationalism to the hilt. They even claimed that the Austrians, Hungarians, Croats
and Slovenes were plotting the re-establishment of the Austro-Hungarian empire (!), and that
the Croats were intent on exterminating the Serbian minority in Croatia.
On June 25, 1991, the Slovenian and Croatian parliaments declared the two
republics to be sovereign states. The Federal Army came out of its barracks in Slovenia and
tried to crush the independent state, but was defeated. Bitter fighting broke out between
Serbs and Croats over the region of Krajina, which had a large Serb population.. The Serbs
claimed they were in danger of being exterminated, as their grandfathers had been by the
"Ustashe" Croats in World War II. Milosevic and his government pulled out all the stops in
propagandizing this claim. A symbol of the bitter hatred which emerged on both sides was
the siege of the city of Vukovar. The Serbo-Croat war cost the lives of over 10,000 people
and wounded some 30,000. The Serbs of Krajina set up a republic of this name. Athough
European Community and U.N. observers were accepted, sporadic fighting went on until
August 1995, when a Croat offensive defeated the Serbs and led thousands to leave the
In May 1992, another war broke out over Bosnia-Herzegovina. This multi-ethnic
Serb-Croat-Bosnian-Moslem region, in which the Moslems formed the largest group of some
40%, proclaimed itself a sovereign republic. Here we should note that the Moslems of
Bosnia are the descendants of those inhabitants of the region who converted to the Moslem
faith under Ottoman rule. However, they speak Serbo-Croatian and live mostly in the towns;
they are modern, tolerant, people, not fundamentalists. The Serbs, the next largest ethnic
group in Bosnia, most of whom livd in the countryside, refused to accept the new state of
affairs and began a bloody war against the Moslems. Serb leaders whipped up hatred by
evoking historical Serb memories of Ottoman Turkish rule, identifying today's Moslems with
the Ottoman Turks, and accusing them of plans to exterminate the Serbs of Bosnia. There is
no evidence whatever to support this claim.
The Bosnian Serbs, led by Dr. Radovan Karadjic (a psychologist), and supported by
Milosevic from Belgrade, attacked Moslem towns and villages. They had vast stocks of arms,
for Bosnia had been the arms factory of Yugoslavia. They implemented a consistent policy
of "ethnic cleansing," i.e., they massacred the men they captured and raped the women in
order to terrorize and thus drive out the rest. As they cleared each locality they had taken,
they brought in their own people to take the place of the Moslems. This worked so well, that
2 million -- mostly Moslem -- refugees from Bosnia wound up living in Croatia, Hungary,
The Bosnian capital of Sarajevo was under siege by the Serbs for almost two years,
from May 1992 to spring 1994. Serbian artillery and snipers shelled and strafed the city,
preying on the civilian population. They cut off power and water, but the city's military
defenders fouight on, while the civilians lived as best they could.
The Croats, who also claim a part of Bosnia, mainly in the coastal areas, at first joined
the Moslems in fighting the Serbs, but then switched sides because they wanted more of
Bosnia. In the meanwhile, the Western nations kept out of the war, merely imposing
economic sanctions on Yugoslavia (i.e., Serbia), while Russia gave moral support to the
Several countries -- including Russia but excluding the U.S. -- contributed military
contingents to serve with the U.N. teams to provide humanitarian aid, but the Serbs and/or
Croats routinely blocked convoys to Moslem towns. Unfortunately, but predictably, while
the Serbs committed most of the war crimes, the Croats and Moslems have also committed
The threat by the U.S. and other N.A.T.O. members finally forced a cease fire in
Sarajevo in spring 1994. A U.N. force was sent in to protect the Moslems from the Serbs, but
failed to prevent massacres, the worst of which was in Srebrenica, where some 10,000
Moslems were massacred by Serbs under the command of General Radko Mladic. Finally, the
U.S. government stepped in. In December 1995, the Serbs, Croats and Moslems signed
anagreement at Dayton, Ohio, engineered by Assistant Secretary of State Holbrook Its main
points were an end to fighting; the sending of a U.S. force into Bosnia for one year; and,
most important of all, free elections. The elections were held in September 1996, and a three
person presidency emerged: a Serb, a Croat, and the Moslem leader, A. Izetbegovic.
Municipal elections were held on Sept.14, under heavy U.N. guard. Refugees were brought
in to vote in areas from which they had been driven. But can democracy heal the war-torn
land? The wounds of the fighting are very deep. Only time can tell whether Bosnia-Herzegovina will survive as a state, but the odds seem against i, especially since the U.N.
forces, including U.S. troops are to withdraw. Meanwhile, Karadjic and Mladic, who have
been designated as war criminals, are still at large in the Serb part of Bosnia, Pale and the
Bosnian Serbs have not given up their claim to rule the whole region..(48)
The last Stalinist stronghold in Eastern Europe began to show cracks in late 1989.
Unrest in the north of the country was reported in January 1990 by the Greek and Yugoslav
press. In May, the government decreed several liberalizing measures, including freedom of
religion and freedom to travel abroad. The last measure led to the massive flight of thousands
of Albanians by ship to Italy, where most were placed in camps and the rest were forcibly
returned to Albania.
Communists won the elections in spring 1991, but this seems to have been largely due to intimidation and misinformation of the rural population, because the opposition won in the cities. On May 4, 1991, the communist President, Ramiz Alia, gave up his party posts pursuant to a change in the Constitution to the effect that the head of state could not hold party office. In the parliamentary elections of March 1992, the Democratic Party led by Dr. Sali Berisha won the majority of votes, and Ramiz Alia resigned as President; he was succeeded by Sali Berisha. Ramiz Alia was arrested and held under house arrest pending trial. In 1997, the collapse of several "Pyramid" investment schemes, which had been allowed by the government - which may also have profited from them - led to revolts all over the country against Sali Berisha and after several months of anarchy. he was forced to step down. Italian troops helped restore order and distributed food.
Part VI. The Collapse of Communism in Russia and the Disintegration of the USSR.
On October 15, 1990, Gorbachev was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.
He was the second Russian to win it after Andrei Sakharov in 1975, recognized for his work
for human rights. Gorbachev was also the second head of state to be so honored. (The first
was President Theodore Roosevelt, who received the prize in 1906, for mediating the Peace
of Portsmouth (N.H.) between Russia and Japan, thus ending the Russo-Japanese war). The
Nobel Prize Committee commended Gorbachev for bringing greater openness to Soviet
society, producing a slowdown in the arms race; and encouraging democratic reform in
Eastern Europe. (49)
Did Gorbachev deserve the peace prize? There is no doubt that he had brought about
great political liberalization in the USSR, accepted the fall of communist governments in the
former satellite states, and accepted German unification. Of course, he had also done much
to slow down the arms race. However, as we know, he had made these concessions because
he saw them as necessary, indeed unavoidable, if he was to gain the time and the Western help
he needed to reform and save the Soviet Union.
Sakharov's widow, Yelena Bonner, was disgusted at the award, while the Baltic
peoples were also dubious that Gorbachev deserved the prize. Other non-Russian nationalities
must have shared these doubts as well. In any case, the prize did not help Gorbachev at home.
By July 1991, the economic breakdown had shrunk his popularity ratings to a disastrous low.
The most popular Russian leader was now Boris Yeltsin, elected by popular vote President
of the Russian republic on June 12, 1991. In July, he walked out of the Soviet Party
Congress and out of the Communist Party. He was invited to Washington, and made a better
impression than on his first visit.
We should also note that on June 12, 1991, the majority of Leningraders voted to
change the name of their city back to St. Petersburg. This was a symbolic rejection of
communism. Democrats were elected to municipal governments all over Russia. However,
it was soon apparent that much power remained in the hands of provincial party secretaries
and city Soviets, who controlled the bureaucratic apparatus and the police.
Gorbachev tried to balance between democrats, on the one hand, and the hardliners
in the party, army, and KGB, on the other. He leaned more toward the latter in the second
half of 1990, perhaps because he shared their strong opposition to the disintegration of the
USSR, perhaps also because he feared. they would otherwise use the people's economic
hardship to oust him. Whatever the case may be, his alignment with the
conservatives/hardliners led Edward Shevardnadze to resign his post as Foreign Minister in
December 1990. (As mentioned earlier, he also warned of the danger of a new dictatorship,
and returned to his native Georgia where he became President after the overthrow of
However, by mid-1991, Gorbachev swung again toward the democrats. At the same
time, he showed more interest in economic reform -- from which he had backed off earlier --
and he also worked hard to produce a Union Treaty with the non-Russian republics. The
text was ready in late July and was to be signed on August 20th. All these policies led the
hardliners to overthrow him. Indeed, in the early summer, they first tried to do this legally.
On June 17th, Premier Valentin Pavlov asked the Supreme Soviet of the USSR to give him
more power to issue decrees. He was not alone. In a closed debate, KGB head, Vladimir
Kryuchkov, came out in opposition to Gorbachev's policy of good relations with the U.S. He
accused the CIA of working for the collapse of Soviet currency (!). Finally, some deputies
called for the replacement of Gorbachev by the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Anatoly I.
Lukyanov (b.1930).. However, Gorbachev managed to overcome the opposition, and refused
to believe warnings that they would try to overthrow him. It seems he thought them
incapable of any significant action.
As far as the Union Treaty was concerned, we should note that in 1991, most of the
non-Russian republics -- except the Baltic states -- were willing to negotiate a new federation,
though most were also wary of Moscow. They concluded a series of economic agreements
among themselves, while some also concluded agreements with East European states. In
the 1991 edition of this textbook (completed in spring 1991), I wrote: "It is unlikely that the
USSR will survive in its present shape. The question is, are we going to see a new
dictatorship based on the army and KGB, designed to hold the union together by force, or will
there be a new, free, confederation, or a number of independent republics? Only time will tell"
As we know, Gorbachev's closest and, as he later claimed, most trusted conservative
supporters turned against him at the last moment to prevent the signing of the Union Treaty,
which was to set up a new, loosely organized confederation between Russia and most non-Russian republics. The conservative hardliners saw this as the collapse of the USSR, which
they wanted to preserve at all costs. They decided to seize power on August 19th, one day
before Gorbachev was due to return from a vacation in the Crimea to sign the treaty. They
proclaimed a state of emergency, and claimed that Gorbachev was ill, so he could not carry
on as President. In fact, some of them had gone down to see Gorbachev at his vacation home
in the Crimea, and had failed to get him to join them. He, his family and staff were then put
under house arrest, and their telephones and TV were cut off. However, they had a short-wave radio, which served as their link to the outside world, so they knew what was going
The new eight man State Committee for the State of Emergency in the USSR, was
headed by Vice-President Gennady I. Yanaev, hand-picked by Gorbachev, who had fought
hard to put him in this post. It was Yanaev who announced that Gorbachev was ill, so he,
Yanaev, was now President. The other members of the Committee were: Premier Valentin
Pavlov (b.)1937); KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov; Interior Minister Boris K. Pugo
(1937-1991), and Defense Minister, General Dmitry Yazov. They were joined by Igor
Baklanov, representing the military-industrial complex, by Alexander Tizyakov, President of
the Association of State-Owned Industries, and by Vasily Starodubtsev, head of the Peasants'
Union which, in fact, represented the managers of the collective farms.
American viewers saw stirring scenes shown on CNN (who televised the whole crisis
in Moscow) of crowds cheering Boris Yeltsin, as he stood on a tank and rallied the people
to fight for democracy. We also know that the expected military attack on the "White House,"
i.e., the Russian Parliament, did not take place, although some half-hearted moves were made
in this direction. But we should note that popular support was small at first; it grew as it
became clear that the armed forces did not support the coup.
In fact, Yeltsin had carefully cultivated good relations with the military for months, and his military adviser in the White House in August 1991, was General Konstantin I. Kobets (b. 1939), whom he had made the head of the nucleus of a Russian Defense Command in May. Kobets was not only the leader of a group of parliamentary deputies from the armed forces, but he was also the head of military communications, Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff and Chairman of the Russian State Committee for Defense and Security. Thus, Kobets assured army support for Yeltsin. This was decisive, for though Western leaders supported Gorbachev against the coup leaders, they could not intervene.
The coup leaders and their supporters were arrested, but Boris Pugo committed suicide, as
did Marshal Akhromeyev, who supported the coup. (It is worth noting, however, that the trial
of the suriving coup leaders was repeatedly postponed on pleas of poor health by some of
the defendants. It was finally abandoned when the Parliament amnestied the coup leaders
along with the rebels of October 1993, in February 1994).
When the shaken Gorbachev arrived back in Moscow with his family, he did not seem
to realize that he would have to yield power to Yeltsin. He also refused to condemn the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the coup, arguing that a few traitors did not
represent the majority. He could not, however, prevent Yeltsin from banning the party in the
capital cities (not the provinces), and confiscating its property. His project for a new
federation dominated by Moscow, which would preserve the USSR, also fell through, at least
for the time being. It is true that a revised Union Treaty was signed at Alma Ata in December,
1991, but the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, was only a loose association
consisting of 11 republics, the most important of which were Russia, Belarus, and the
Ukraine, without the Baltic states and Georgia (which joined later). At the same time, the
treaty declared that the USSR had ceased to exist, so Gorbachev had no choice but to resign.
He did so at the end of December 1991, and took on the new role of an elder statesman. He
travelled round the world giving speeches and investing the proceeds in his Institute on
Foreign Policy in Moscow. As for CIS, the agreement on a central High Command broke
down over Ukraine's refusal to give up nuclear warheads and its share of the Black Sea fleet.
Plans for a single currency -- the ruble -- broke down likewise when Russia freed prices and
Ukraine introduced coupons for wages. It later established its own currency, the Grivna. The
CIS continues to exist, but mainly on paper.
As we know, by the fall of 1993, Yeltsin's attempts to reform the Russian economy
brought chaos and suffering for the Russian people. Inflation proceeded at the rate of 20-30%
per month, though it stabilized in 1994. The distribution network suffered a partial breakdown
with the various regions and autonomous republics of Russia keeping most of their produce
for themselves, or selling it to the highest bidder. This situation led to the growth of various
Mafias, along with a great increase in crime. However, all this is not really surprising because
a successful free market economy cannot develop without the necessary infrastructure of
distributors, without price reform, and of course, without a modern banking system.
Gorbachev backed off from thorough-going reform, while Yeltsin tried by fits and starts to
develop all of these simultaneusly. We should also bear in mind that the economies of the
Russian Republic and other former Soviet republics had been interdependent, so that the loss
of supplies and markets created enormous difficulties, especially for Russia, the Ukraine, and
Belarus, whose economies were interdependent. Finally, Yeltsin faced the inevitably growing
unemployment, along with mass impoverishment.
The stand-off of late September-early October 1993, between Yeltsin and his
economic reform programmers, on the one hand, and the Russian Parliament on the other,
was, of course, a struggle for power. Nevertheless, Yeltsin's opponents claimed to speak for
the masses of disillusioned and impoverished Russians. As it turned out, however, their chief
support came not from the masses -- who remained apathetic and distrustful of all politicians
-- but from extreme communists, as well as extreme right-wing nationalists, including
monarchists, all of whom hated Yeltsin. All of them bitterly resented the disintegration of the
Russian/Soviet empire, the fall of which they identified with Yeltsin.
It was ironic that Colonel Alexander V. Rutskoi (b.1947), a veteran of the war in
Afghanistan, and Vice-President of Russia, as well as Ruslan I. Khasbulatov (b.1942., the
speaker of the Parliament, both of whom had supported Yeltsin during the coup of August
1991, and had stood with him on the balcony of the White House -- opposed all his policies
and made economic, as well as political reform, impossible. When he lost patience and tried
to end the stalemate, they refused to implement his decree dissolving the parliament, which
had been freely elected in March 1990, but was dominated by former communists. They
decided to stay put, defying Yeltsin, the popularly elected President of Russia. At the same
time, his decree, dissolving Parliament, was unconstitutional. He also proclaimed
parliamentary elections for early December 1993, which gave his opponents very little time
to campaign, while setting presidential elections for June 1994.
Still, Yeltsin showed great restraint. He did not use force to drive the deputies out of
the White House. He accepted negotiations, provided the deputies gave up all the arms
gathered in the White House. Indeed, Yeltsin accepted negotiations even without this
condition being fulfilled, and talks were taking place at a monastery, mediated by the head of
the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksei II, (b.1928, became Patriarch in 1990).The
dispute might have been resolved peacefully, if Rutskoi had not told a crowd of supporters
outside the White House on Sunday, October 3rd, to march on the Mayor's Office and on the
Russian TV station at Ostankino. Armed men occupied the Mayor's Office and tried to take
Ostankino, but were repulsed in a fire fight which lead to casualties.
The situation was clearly out of hand, and Yeltsin had to act. At the same time, there were signs of support for Rutskoi as President of Russia -- as he had declared himself to be with the support of Parliament -- from some provincial Soviets, though most preferred to support his demand for simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections in March 1994. On the morning of Monday, October 5th, after a last minute appeal for deputies to leave the building (many had left over the preceding days), the military and riot police attacked the White House. Fighting went on for several hours, and the upper floors were burned. Rutskoi and Khasbulatov surrendered, as well as the remaining deputies; they were taken to Lefortovo prison in Moscow.
The Parliamentary elections of December 1993, resulted in a significant number of
seats going to the Liberal-Democratic Party of Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, who seems to have
gained the support of many frustrated Russians, including the army. At the same time, the
new Russian Constitution, passed by popular referendum in December, gave the President
very extensive powers and made the Duma (Parliament) almost powerless.
New elections were held in June 1996, in which Yeltsin received a small majority, with General Alexander. Lebed coming in second, and the communist leader Zyuganov, third. There was a run off election won by Yeltsin, who had co-opted Lebed beforehand into his government. Yeltsin won. However, the world learned in September that Yeltsin had had a heart attack in Jul. He underwent a quintuple bypass operation in November 1996 and seems to have made a very good recovery - which is more than one can say for the Russian economy.
The questions for both Russia and its former republics, as for the new democracies
of the former Soviet bloc, are: Will they be able to make a successful transition to a free
market economy? If so, how long will this take? Will democracy survive in the extremely
difficult economic crisis which each and every one of these countries is experiencing and will
go on experiencing for some time?
As far as the former Soviet republics are concerned, a "common market" between
Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus may emerge sometime in the future. Indeed, a preliminary
agreement to this effect was concluded in July 1993, also in 1994, Belarus and Russia agreed
to have a common currency (the ruble), while Belarus also ceded military bases to the Russian
armed forces. President Aleksandr Lukashenko, elected in 1994, seems bent to effect a
reunion between Belarus and Russia, but is meeting with opposition, but its two key leaders
were granted asylum in the U.S. in 1996. What is more, Yeltsin and other Russian politicians
do not seem very keen on a full union between the two states, perhaps because of the
economic burden for Russia as well as the terms of the union agreement, which specifies that
the Presidency of the union be held alternatively by a Russian and Belorussian. This
Presidency seems to be Lukashenko's great ambition. In the meanwhile, he does not tolerate
any opposition at home and economic reforms are going nowhere.
Russia has been trying to recover its domination over most, if not all, of the
Transcaucasian and Central Asian republics. Russian forces have been coming in, or growing
larger, where one side or the other called for their help in wars over territory, or in civil wars.
Russian forces were active in Abkhazia (northwest Georgia), where they supported the
Abkhazians in capturing Sukhumi, later switching to support Shevardnadze when Georgia
joined C.I.S. They are also in Tajikistan, where they are helping to defend the borders against
attacks from Afghanistan, but there is fighting between the Tajik government and the
Moscow's influence also seems assured in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, where former
communist leaders have returned to power and need Russian support. Russiann troops are
still in eastern Moldova, or "Trans-Dniestria,." where General Alexander Lebed first rose to
fame. He brokered a 5-year cease fire in Chechenya in September 1996. However, he also
said the Russian Army is in a state of collapse for lack of funds.
Russia is still (Sept. 1997) in a state of economic collapse. Miners , other industrial
workers and even civil servants are often on strike demanding the payment of wages and
salaries held back for months. If Yeltsin dies or resigns, the people may well elect the
communist leader Zyuganov, who promises to restore the communist welfare state. This is
bound to have far reaching consequences in both domestic and foreign policy. However, if
Yeltsin survives, or is succeeded by a non-communist leader and Russiat attains economic
stability, it would not be surprising, if she regained her influence in most of the non-Russian
republics. The question then will be, whether we will see a reborn Russian empire, or a
federation of autonomous states in which Russia has the decisive voice.
Russia also want to have a decisive voice in the foreign policies of the former satellite
states of Eastern Europe. Few Russian leaders have given up the belief that this region is
Russia's security zone, and therefore must be dominated by her. Even as Yeltsin was facing
the Rutskoi-Khasbulatov revolt in late September 1993, his government told the Western
powers that Russia did not want the East European states to join NATO. Instead, it suggested
that their security be "guaranteed" jointly by Russia and NATO. The Polish government
immediately expressed its opposition, and other states followed.
In 1997, Russia finally accepted the extension of NATO into Eastern Europe. In July 1997, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been invited to join. though this is to happen in the year 2,000. Meanwhile, Russia is still fighting a rearguard action against such an expansion of NATO. We must bear in mind that East European countries fear a resurgent Russia will once again impose its domination on them. Let us hope that the Western Powers, and the U.S. in particular, do not abandon Eastern Europe once again to foreign domination. The history of the last fifty years has shown that German or Russian "guardianship" can be disastrous not only for Eastern Europe but also for the world.
Eastern Europe Since 1989.
The former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe are proceeding toward a free market
economy and stable government with varying degress of success.
Poland took the most radical economic steps toward a free market economy,
beginning in January 1990. The results were mixed. On the one hand, inflation was curbed,
the zloty became convertible, and much private business developed, particularly in the service
sector. On the other hand, in 1997, many large industrial enterprises were still state-owned,
still operating at at a deficit, still employing most of country's workers, and lagging with their
pay. Unemployment stood officially at some 12%, but is probably nearer 18-20% - which is
also the figure for Finland, whose economy was very closely tied to the USSR. Polish
workers are frequently striking for higher pay and the peasant farmers strike for fixed prices
and farm subsidies. Western investment is smaller in Poland than in Hungary and the Czech
Republic, though it is growing. However,the West has invested seven times more in
developing the oil resources of Kazakhstan than in all of the newly democratic states of
The political alliance of Solidarity and other opposition groups broke down after the
collapse of the common enemy: communism plus Soviet domination. Lech Walesa, frustrated
with being left on the sidelines, complained that the government was moving too slowly. He
forced a presidential election, which he won in the second round, in December 1990. Still,
almost 33% of the vote in the first round and about 25% in the second round went to "Party
X" led by an unknown businessman-politician, Stanislaw Tyminski. He had grown rich in the
West (mostly in Latin America), and captured the support of many desperate people,
especially the young men in the provinces -- rather neglected by the leading parties -- with the
promise that he would teach the Polish people how to make money as he had done.
In the meanwhile, the United Polish Workers' Party (PZPR, communist) dissolved
itself in March 1990, and reappeared as the Social Democratic Party. Many new political
groups emerged, and the former Solidarity movement split between the supporters of
Mazowiecki, Geremek & Co, who led the Democratic Union (UD), the supporters of Walesa,
and those who opposed both. At the same time, right-wing, nationalist parties appeared, some
of which espoused the nationalist, "Polish-Catholic," anti-Semitic and no-holds-barred, dirty
politics of the pre-war National Democrats. Multi-party coalition governments were unsteady,
and the third government since 1989, headed by Hanna Suchocka, lost power by one vote in
Parliament in summer 1993. It continued as a caretaker government until the elections of
By fall 1993, there were some 200 political parties and groups in Poland, but the new election law established a 5% vote as minimum for parties to elect deputies and an 8% minimum vote for coalitions. On September 19, 1993, parliamentary elections took place, in which 42% of all voters cast their ballots. The largest percentage of votes, 20%, went to the "Left Wing Alliance" (SLD), a coalition including former communists. Next came the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), with the Democratic Union (UD) in third place and the Party of Work (UP), fourth. Most right-wing parties failed to elect deputies because of the 5% and 8% rule. The victory of the Left wing coalition -- which finally yielded a coalition government under the leader of the Peasant Party, W. Pawlak -- did not mean that Poland was reverting to communism. Nor did the election of former communist Aleksander Kwasniewski as President in December 1995, beating Walesa by a few percentage points, mean a return to communism. Their victories (Pawlak was replaced in 1995 by Jozef Oleksy, and the latter by W. Cimoszewicz in 1996) were the result of the same factor as that which brought to power a left-wing government in Lithuania and elsewhere - this is the economic misery of much of the population, which is the hallmark of the transition period in most post-communist states. The majority of the people want work and decent wages, plus at least some of the welfare benefits of the former communist state, but they also want democracy. New parliamentary elections are to be held on September 21, 1997.
We should note that the greatest floods in over 200 years struck Poland, the Czech
Republic and eastern Germany, particularly along the Oder River, in July 1997. This is an
economic disaster of major proportions and time is needed for recovery.
In Hungary, the ruling center-right coalition suffered a defeat in the elections held on
October 15, 1990, in which the "Democratic Forum" -- which advocated slower change with
"compassionate transition," won the largest number of votes. However, popular apathy was
reflected in the low, 30% turnout at the polls. Hungary then adopted a more evolutionary
approach than Poland was taking at this time. Perhaps this will only postpone the pain. The
elections of May 1993 resulted in a left-wing majority, for the same reason as in Poland.
In Czechoslovakia, the Civic Forum, which won handily in the June 1990
parliamentary elections, elected the pro-capitalist Finance Minister, Vaclav Klaus, as its first
chairman, over President Havel's candidate, Martin Palous. Klaus favored a rapid transition
to a free market economy, while Havel and his advisers wanted a gradual transition so as to
avoid the economic hardships suffered by the Poles. In fact, Czech prosperity, dues to
western, mostly German investments, has allowed the government to go on subsidising large,
inefficient state enterpirses. Slovakia suffered greater hardships than the Czech lands, because
its heavy industry had produced armaments for the Soviet Union, and this market
The Slovaks, led by former communist Vladimir Meciar (Premier), demanded full
autonomy but wished to remain in a confederate relationship with the Czech lands. However,
leading Czech politicians, notably Klaus, refused this compromise. Unfortunately, politicians
on both sides rejected a referendum, though there was much popular support for retaining a
confederated Czechoslovak state. Therefore, on January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia, which
owed its birth in late 1918 to Tomas Masaryk (1850-1937), ceased to exist. It was replaced
by the Czech and Slovak Republics. Vaclav Havel, who had resigned as President of
Czechoslovakia, was elected President of the Czech Republic. The Czechs seems to be doing
quite well with large German investment, and their unemployment rate was, as of May 1994,
a mere 3.5%.
Romania, Bulgaria are struggling along, while the poorest of all East European
countries, Albania, brings up the rear.
We do not know how long the transition from communist to free market economies
will take; it has never been done before. Nor do we know whether it will lead to the Western-type of free market, or to some compromise with state ownership of at least part of the
resources and productive units. After all, "state capitalism" existed in the NEP period in the
USSR (1921-28), and also in interwar Eastern Europe, though it was accompanied by a free
market system. Indeed, in most European countries, there is some state capitalism, e.g., the
railways and airlines are often state-owned.
Finally, we do not know how fast some of these countries, notably Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Yugoslavia and Albania, will develop the type of democracy that exists in the West, or whether they will evolve some semi-authoritarian political model. Both the economic and the political processes will probably take years to finalize and will also be influenced by the history of the various nations. Meanwhile, we should bear in mind that all these countries have also lost their old markets and need much capital investment to retool. Therefore, they need a great deal of help, mainly through investment, from the West.
1. For developments in Poland, 1968, see Jakub Karpinski, Countdown. The Polish
Upheavals of 1956, 1968, 1970, 1980 ., New York, 1982 (particularly valuable for 1968,
when the author was an active dissident in Poland); also, Jack Bielasiak, "Social
Confrontation and Contrived Crisis: March 1968 in Poland," East European Quarterly, vol.
XXII, spring 1988, pp. 81-105; see also, Gale Stokes, ed., From Stalinism to Pluralism: A
Documentary History of Eastern Europe since 1945, New York and Oxford, 1991. For "anti-elitist" interpretations of the 1970 revolts and the roots of Solidarity, 1980, see Roman Laba,
The Roots of Solidarity. A Political Sociology of Poland's Working-Class Democratization,
Princeton, New Jersey, 1991, and Lawrence Goodwin, Breaking the Barrier. The Rise of
Solidarity in Poland, Oxford and New York, 1991.
2. For the Gierek era, see M. K. Dziewanowski, Poland in the Twentieth Century, New
York, 1977, chaps. 7-9 (rather too favorable to Gierek), and Neal Ascherson, The Polish
August. The Self-Limiting Revolution, New York, 1981, 1982, chaps. 3-4. Documents and
commentary in: Peter Raina, Political Opposition in Poland, 1954-1977, London, 1978; see
also Michael Bernhard, "The Strikes of June 1976 in Poland," EEPS, vol. 1, no. 3, fall 1987,
3. See Bogdan Szajkowski, Next to God . . . Poland. Politics and Religion in Contemporary
Poland, New York, 1983, pp. 31-33.
4. Ibid., pp. 40-41.
5. See Jan Jozef Lipski, "The Founding of KOR," in Leopold Labedz, ed., Poland under
Jaruzelski, New York, 1983, pp. 61-79; also, Lipski, KOR. Workers' Defense Committee in
Poland, 1976-1981, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1985.
6. See the eyewitness account of Timothy Garton Ash in his The Polish Revolution.
Solidarity, New York, 1983, and later paperback editions, ch. I, "Inside the Lenin Shipyard."
(Best book on Solidarity period, by a British historian-journalist).
7. For the text of the 21 Points, see Stokes, From Stalinism to Pluralism, also Ascherson, The
Polish August, appendix 2; also, Radio Free Europe Research, August 1980, Munich, West
Germany, 1980, pp. 423-34 (note: this collection has full documentation on the strikes); also
Peter Raina, Social Movements in Poland, 1978-1981, London, 1983; for the full transcript
of the negotiations in the Lenin shipyard see A. Kemp-Welch, The Birth of Solidarity. The
Gdansk Negotiations, 1980, New York, 1983. A full translation of the transcript of the talks
was published by George Sandford in England, 1991.
8. See Claire Sterling, The Time of the Assassins, New York, 1983.
9. See Kuklinski interview published in the leading Polish emigre journal, Kultura, Paris,
April, 1987; English summary, see U.S. News and World Report, April 20, 1987, pp. 32-33;
see also information and comments in Werner G. Hahn, Democracy in a Communist Party.
Poland's Experience since 1980, New York, 1987, pp. 189-191.
10. On party plenums, the constitution, and martial law, see Hahn, Democracy in a
Communist Party, pp. 186-189; on U.S. warnings to Soviet leadership against invading
Poland and warnings to Solidarity leaders, December 1980, see Jimmy Carter, Keeping Faith.
Memoirs of a President, New York, 1982, pp. 584-85, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Power and
Principle. Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977-1981, New York, 1983, pp. 464-66.
11. On studies of the martial law period in Poland, see Labedz, Poland under Jaruzelski,
(note 5), and Sabrina (formerly Pedro) Ramet, Social Currents in Eastern Europe. The
Sources and Meaning of the Great Transformation, Durham, North Carolina and London,
Duke University Press, 1991, ch. 3.
12. On the murder of Father Popieluszko and the trial that followed, see Hahn, Democracy
in a Communist Party, pp. 247, 249, 250, 339-49. In October, 1990, the new Polish
government began judicial proceedings against two security police generals implicated in the
murder, Platek and Ciaston.
13. On the Pope's statements during his visit to Poland in June 1987, see George
Kolankiewicz, "Poland and the Politics of Permissible Pluralism," Eastern European Politics
and Societies (EEPS),, vol. 2, no.1, 1988, p. 182.
14. Rakowski quote from Timothy Garton Ash, "The Opposition," New York Review of
Books, October 13, 1988, p. 4, note 9.
15. On Poland in 1988-89, especially the round table talks, Polish-speaking students can read
Rok 1989. Bronislaw Geremek Opowiada, Jacek Zakowski Pyta, Warsaw, Plejada, 1990;
see also the account of another participant, Janusz Ziolkowski, "The Roots, Branches and
Blossoms of Solidarnosc," in Gwyn Prins, ed., Spring in Winter. The 1989 Revolutions,
Manchester, England, 1990.
16. For the quote from Karoly Gross and demands of the HVG journal, see Timothy Garton
Ash, "The Empire in Decay, New York Review of Books, September 29, 1988, p. 59
(column, 1, top); for the HVG journal, see "Opposition," October 13, 1988, p.6 (col. 3, end);
on Hungary, see Garton Ash, "The Hungarian Lesson," The New York Review, December
5, 1988; for the attempted Czechoslovak seminar in Prague, November 1988, see Garton
Ash, "The Prague Advertisement," in his The Uses of Adversity. On Romania, see Vlad
Georgescu, "Rumania in the 1980's: The Legacy of Dynastic Socialism," East European
Politics and Societies, vol. 2, no. 1, 1988, pp. 70-93. On the Hungarian political scene in the
fall of 1988, see East European Reporter, v. 3, no. 3 London, Autumn 1988; see also
Uncaptive Minds, v. II, no. 1, 1989, pp. 1014.
17. On the Czechoslovak economic reform plans, see Vlad Sobell, "Czechoslovakia: The
Legacy of Normalization," East European Politics and Societies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 37-69; see
also Milan Svec, "The Prague Spring: 20 Years Later," Foreign Affairs, summer 1988, pp.
988-1001. On Czechoslovakia in 1988, see "The Prague Advertisement," in Timothy Garton
Ash, The Uses of Adversity. Essays on the Fate of Central Europe, New York, 1989, pp.
18. For Hungary, see Elmer Hankiss, "What the Hungarians Saw First," in Prins, Spring in
Winter; see also "Budapest Journal," New York Sunday Times, February 8, 1989, sec. 1, p.
7, and New York Times, February 12, 1989, sec. 1, p. 11; see also "Hungary: The
Democratic Stakes," Eastern Europe. Newsletter, vol. 3, no. 2, London, Januaary 25, 1989,
also nos. 3-4, February 8, 22, 1989.
19. On Romania, see journalist Edward Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite. The Rise and
Fall of the Ceausescus, New York, Villard Books, 1991, (basis for the TV documentary,
shown on PBS July 1991), and the earlier, scholarly study by Mary Ellen Fischer, Nicolae
Ceausescu. A Study in Political Leadership, Boulder, Colorado and London, Lynne Rienner
20. On Bulgaria, see R. J. Crampton, A Short History of Modern Bulgaria Cambridge,
England and New York, 1987, pp. 185-209; see also R. J. Crampton, "Stumbling and Dusting
Off, or an Attempt to Pick a Path Through the Thicket of Bulgaria's New Economic
Mechanism," East European Politics and Societies, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 333-395; also Ramet,
social Currents in Eastern Europe, ch. 11.
21. On Yugoslavia, see Charles Bukowski, "Politics and the Prospects for Economic Reform
in Yugoslavia," East European Politics and Societies, vol. 2, no. 1, 1988, pp. 94-114; also
Ramet Social Currents in Eastern Europe, chaps. 7, 12.
22. On Gorbachev, see Zhores A. Medvedev, Gorbachev, London and New York, 1986,
1987; also Dusko Doder and Louise Branson, Gorbachev. Heretic in the Kremlin, New York,
Viking, 1990, and Robert G. Kaiser, Why Gorbachev Happened. His Triumph and His
Failure, New York, Toronto and London, Simon and Schuster, 1991. For a broad political
treatment, see Moshe Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon. A Historical Interpretation,
Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1988, and revised ed; for the mechanics of power in
Gorbachev's USSR, see Jerry Hough, Russia and the West. Gorbachev and the Politics of
Reform, 2nd ed., New York, 1990. (The author believes that Gorbachev proceeded according
to plan, though in Eastern Europe things got out of hand; most other Gorbachev watchers
believe he had certain goals, but improvised as he went along). See also: Mikhail Gorbachev,
Memoirs, Doubleday, New York, 1996, and Jack F. Matlock Jr., Autopsy of an Empire. The
American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union, Random House, New
23. See Abel Aganbegyan, The Economic Challenge of Perestroika, Bloomington, Indiana,
1988, pp. 3, 23, and ch. 3 passim; see also Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika. New Thinking
for Our Country and the World, New York, 1987.
24. See Marshall I. Goldman, "Perestroika in the Soviet Union," Current History, October
1988, pp. 313 ff. and same, Lost Opportunity. What has made economic reform in Russia so
difficult, New Edition,W.W. Norton, New York, 1996, ch. 1.The Reform that Never Was.
25. See Fyodor Burlatsky in Stephen F. Cohen and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, eds., Voices of
Glasnost. Interviews with Gorbachev's Reformers, New York, 1989, p. 176; for Arbatov on
Andropov, see, Ibid., p. 309.
26. See New York Times, January 28, 1989, p. A-1.
27. See letter written by Nina Andreeva, a Leningrad chemistry teacher, published in
Sovetskaya Rossiia, March 13, 1988, which was publicly praised by Yegor Ligachev.
Andreeva complained that criticism of Stalin had gone too far, berated Gorbachev's
democratization of Soviet society, and even hinted that "camouflaged cosmopolitan
tendencies," (code word for Jews) and "left-liberal intellectuals" had captured the state.
Three weeks later, on April 5th, Pravda responded by accusing the writer of
publishing an "anti-restructuring manifesto," and of "looking for the roots of anti-socialist
sentiments in people's genes." Sovetskaya Rossiiaa also recanted. See Mark R. Beissinger,
"Political Reform and Soviet Society," Current History, October 1988, p. 318.
For an attack on Stalin for misleading the Soviet people over relations with Germany
in 1939-41, see extracts from Dmitry Volkogonov's biography of Stalin, Pravda, June 20,
1988, and Current Digest of the Soviet Press, July 20, 1988, pp. 11-13 (the Russian language
three-volume biography came out in 1989, and the English translation in 1991). On Stalin's
war leadership, see also historian Samsonov's statements on Stalin's despicable wartime
orders that soldiers were to stand and fight to the death, and that those who surrendered were
to be condemned as traitors, along with their families, Izvestia, August 15, 1988, and Current
Digest of the Soviet Press, September 14, 1988, pp. 17-18.
28. See "Jewish Cultural Center Will Open in Moscow, New York Times, February 8, 1989,
29. See Current Digest of the Soviet Press, November 1988.
30. Extracts from the speeches at the 19th Party Conference appeared in the Current Digest
of the Soviet Press, beginning July 1988. For the changes in party leadership, see Jerry
Hough, Russia and the West. Gorbachev and the Politics of Reform, 2nd edition, New York,
1990, pp. 174-75.
31. See "Gorbachev's Power Play," Newsweek, October 10, 1988, p. 48 ff.
33. See Boris Yeltsin, Against the Grain. An Autobiography, New York, 1990.
34. See Marshall I. Goldman, What Went Wrong with Perestroika, updated edition, New
York and London, 1992, p. 226, see also same cited in note 5 above..
35. What Went Wrong, p. 225.
36. See "Baltic Republics, in Uncaptive Minds, vol. 1, no. 3, September-October, 1988, pp.
25-32; also Current Digest of the Soviet Press, December 1988; for an overview, see Uri
Ra'anan, ed., The Soviet Empire. The Challenge of National and Democratic Movements,
Lexington, Massachusetts, 1990, ch. 6; also Nadia Diuk and Adrian Karatnycky, The Hidden
Nations. The People Challenge the Soviet Union, New York, William Morrow and Co, Inc.,
1990, pp. 105-140.
For a comprehensive overview with good historical background, and information
about former German and present Russian minorities, see Anatol Lieven, The Baltic
Revolution. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Indepndence, New Haven, Connecticut
and London, 1993.
37. On Ukrainians, Belorussians, Crimean Tatars, see Hajda, Current History, October 1988;
see also "Ukraine," in Uncaptive Minds, vol. I, no. 3, September-October 1988, pp. 17-24;
also Roman Szporluk, in Kontakt, Paris, September 1988 (in Polish); for an overview, see
The Soviet Empire, ch. 5; also Diuk and Karatnycky, Hidden Nations, pp. 72-102.
38. For data collected by Jan Plater Gajewski, and his memorandum, see Edward
Osmanczyk, "Poland? Russia; The Balance Sheet of the Last 50 Years," (in Polish), Nowy
Dziennik, Przeglad Polski, January 26, 1989, pp. 2-3.
39. On the crisis over Nagorno-Karabakh, see Bill Keller, "Ethnic Problem for Moscow: Few
Likely Options," New York Sunday Times, September 25, 1988, sec. A; for an overview of
the Central Asian republics, see The Soviet Empire, ch. 7; also Diuk and Karatnycky, Hidden
Nations, pp. 141-167.
40. On Georgia, see Geoffrey Hosking, The Awakening of the Soviet Union, Cambridge,
Massachusetts, 1990, pp. 85-87 (the author misspells Chavchavadze as Chavchadze), also
Diuk and Karatnycky, n. 37 above.
41. See Lawrence T. Caldwell, "Washington and Moscow: A Tale of Two Summits,"
Current History, October 1988, p. 305 ff; see also Benjamin Lambeth and Kevin Lewis, "The
Kremlin and SDI," Foreign Affairs, spring 1988, pp. 755-771, and articles on arms reduction
and INF agreements in the same volume; also F. Stephen Larrabee, "Gorbachev and the
Soviet Military, Foreign Affairs, summer 1988, pp. 1002-26, and Rosanne Klass,
"Afghanistan: The Accords," Ibid., pp. 992-43; Graham T. Allison, "Testing Gorbachev,"
Foreign Affairs, fall 1988, pp. 18-22; Robert McFarlane, "Effective Strategic Policy, Ibid.,
pp. 33-48, and Strobe Talbott, "Why START stopped," Ibid., pp. 49-69.
42. On the death of Zia ul-Haq, see Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, "Chemicals Linked
to Pakistan Crash," reprinted in the Lawrence Journal World, February 1, 1989, sec. 1, p. 5A.
However, military opponents of Zia, who had concluded an agreement with Najibullah in
Geneva, cannot be ruled out.
43. On Poland, see Timothy Garton Ash, The Magic Lantern. The Revolution of 89
Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague, New York, 1990, pp. 25-46.
44. On Hungary, see Ibid., pp. 47-60.
45. On East Germany and Berlin, see Ibid., 61-77.
46. On Czechoslovakia, see Ibid., pp. 78-130.
47. On Bulgaria and Romania, see Elie Abel, The Shattered Bloc. Behind the Upheaval in
Eastern Europe, Boston, 1990, ch. 6; on Romania, see also the Behr and Fischer studies; also
Jonathan Eyal, "Why Romania Could Not Avoid Bloodshed," in Prins, ed., Spring in Winter,
48. On Yugoslavia, see Ramet, Social Currents in Eastern Europe, on 1990-91; for a
comprehensive overview, see Leonard J. Cohen, Broken Bonds. The Disintegration of
Yugoslavia, Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco, California and Oxford, 1993.
49. See New York Times, October 17, 1990.
(Note: this does not include all the sources listed in the footnotes).
Eastern Europe. General
J.F. Brown, Eastern Europe under Communist Rule, Durham, London, 1988.
Same, Surge to Freedom,The End of Communist Rule in Eastern Europe,Durham, London, 1991.
Same, Hopes and Shadows. Eastern Europe after Communism, Durham, 1994.
Janusz Bugajski,, Nations in Turmoil. Conflict and Cooperation in Eastern Europe,.Boulder, Co., San Francisco, Oxford, 1993, 1995 (General overview from the past to the present).
Christiane Lemke and Gary Marks, eds., The Crisis of Socialism in Europe, Durham, London, 1992.
Poland: Solidarity, 1980-81-1990..
Michael H. Bernhard, The Origins of Democratization in Poland. Workers, Intellectuals and
Oppositional Politics, 1976-1980, New York, 1993 (a balanced overview).
Jane Leftwich Curry and Luba Fajfer, Poland's Permanent Revolution. Peoples vs. Elites
1956-1990, Washington, D.C., 1996.
Thomas M. Cynkin, Soviet and American Signalling in the Polish Crisis, New York, 1988.
Timothy Garton Ash, The Polish Revolution: Solidarity, New York, 1984.
Lawrence Goodwyn, Breaking the Barrier. The Rise of Solidarity in Poland, New York and
Oxford, 1991 (argues that this was purely a workers' revolution).
Roman Laba, The Roots of Solidarity. A Political Sociology of Poland's Working-Class
Democratization, Princeton, New Jersey, 1991 (denies that intellectuals played a
crucial leadership role in 1980; claims roots of 1980 are to be found in revolts of
December 1970; similar views to Goodwyn's but more balanced).
Poland Today. The State of the Republic, Armonk, New York, M. E. Sharpe, 1981 (papers
forwarded by Polish experts in 1978-79 to government officials, but ignored by them).
Peter Raina, Poland 1981. Towards Social Renewal, London, 1985 (detailed account of the
events of 1981).
Kevin Ruane, ed., The Polish Challenge, London, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982
(excellent chronological account with illustrations and some documents).
Jadwiga Staniszkis, Poland's Self-Limiting Revolution, Princeton, New Jersey, 1984 (a
sociological account and analysis written by one of the experts advising Solidarity in
the Gdansk negotiations).
Andrzej Szczypiorski, The Polish Ordeal. The View from Within, London, 1982 (a Polish
journalist and activist's view of recent Polish history, up to March 1981).
Alain Touraine et al., Solidarity. The Analysis of a Social Movement: Poland 1980-81, New York and London, Cambridge University Press, 1983 (an excellent cooperative work by French and Polish sociologists, first published in France).
Jan B. de Weydenthal, Bruce D.Porter, and Kevin Devlin, The Polish Drama, 1980-1982,
Lexington Books, 1983 (authors were on the research staff of Radio Free Europe).
Bartlomiej Kaminski, The Collapse of State Socialism. The Case of Poland, Princeton, N.J.,
Zbigniew Landau and Jerzy Tomaszewski, The Polish Economy in the Twentieth Century,
New York, 1985 (translation of a work published in Poland; covers the period 1918-80).
Maurice D. Simon and Roger E. Kanet, eds., Background to Crisis: Policy and Politics in
Gierek's Poland, Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1981.
C. H. Hann, A Village Without Solidarity. Polish Peasants in Years of Crisis, New Haven,
Connecticut and London, 1985.
Wladyslaw Majkowski, People's Poland. Patterns of Social Inequality and Conflict, Westport
Connecticut and London, 1985.
Jadwiga Staniszkis, The Dynamics of the Breakthrough in Eastern Europe. The Polish Experience, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford, 1991. (Includes beginning of transition period).
Janine Wedel, The Private Poland, Oxford and New York, 1986 (an anthropologist looks at
everyday life in Poland).
Jean Woodall, ed., Policy and Politics in Contemporary Poland. Reform, Failure and Crisis,
David S. Mason, Public Opinion and Political Change in Poland, 1980-1982, New York,
1985 (excellent use of public opinion polls during and after Solidarity).
Martial Law and Resistance.
Timothy Garton Ash, "Poland after Solidarity," New York Review of Books, June 13, 1991
(reviews of books with the author's penetrating comments, especially on resistance to
Stanislaw Baranczak, Breathing under Water and Other East European Essays, Cambridge,
Massachusetts and London, 1990 (fascinating essays by a leading Polish poet, now
holder of the Chair of Polish Literature at Harvard University. The author shows how
culture, and especially literature, kept the spirit of intellectual independence alive in
the USSR and East Central Europe).
Michael T. Kaufman, Mad Dreams, Saving Graces. Poland: A Nation in Conspiracy, New
York, 1989 (fascinating observations by the then Warsaw correspondent of the New
Leopold Labedz, ed., Poland under Jaruzelski, part I-II, Survey, London, vol. 26, nos. 3-4,
1983 (dated 1982; this work later appeared in one volume).
Maciej Lopinski, Marcin Moskit and Mariusz Wilk, Konspira. Solidarity Underground, trans.
by Jane Cave, Berkeley, California, University of California Press, Wake Forest
University Studium Book, v. 3, 1990.
Adam Michnik, Letters from Prison, and Other Essays, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London,
Bronislaw Misztal, ed., Poland After Solidarity. Social Movements Against the State, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Transaction Books, 1985 (a good selection of papers by political scientists).
Jan Mur, A Prisoner of Martial Law. Poland, 1981-1982, New York, 1984 (memoirs).
On Trial in Gdansk. A Transcript of the Proceedings Against Adam Michnik, Bogdan Lis,
Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, May-June 1985, edited by Jane Cave, Washington, D.C.,
Poland Watch Center, 1986.
Sabrina P. (formerly Pedro) Ramet, Social Currents in Eastern Europe. The Sources and
Meaning of the Great Transformation, Durham, North Carolina and London, Duke
University Press, 1990, ch. 3.
John Rensenbrink, Poland Challenges a Divided World, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and London,
1988 (an insightful book by an American political scientist who spent five months in
Poland in 1983, and returned for another visit in 1985).
Sisyphus and Poland. Reflections on Martial Law, edited by J. L. Black and J. W. Strong,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, The Carleton Series in Soviet and East European
Studies, Ronald P.Frye & Co., 1986.
Robert Zuzowski, "KOR after KOR: The Intelligentsia and Dissent in Poland, 1981-1987"
Polish Review, vol. XXXII, no. 2, 1988, pp. 167-190.
The Book of Lech Walesa, New York, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster, 1982 (a
collective portrait of Walesa by Solidarity members and friends).
Jaroslaw Kurski, Lech Walesa. Democrat or Dictator?, translated by Peter Obst, Boulder,
Colorado, 1993 (a critical look by Walesa's press spokesman in 1988-90).
Lech Walesa, A Way of Hope. An Autobiography, New York, 1987 (partly authored by
Walesa, partly by others).
Lech Walesa, The Struggle and the Triumph. An Autobiography, New York, 1992 (his life
from 1983 to election as President in December 1990).
Andrzej Micewski, Cardinal Wyszynski. A Biography, New York, 1984.
Father Jerzy Popieluszko, The Way of My Cross, translated by Father Michael J. Wrenn
(sermons, 1982-84), Chicago, Illinois, Regnery Books, 1986.
Grazyna Sikorska, Jerzy Popieluszko. A Martyr for the Truth, Grand Rapids, Michigan,
William B. Erdman's Publishing Co., 1985.
Romuald Spasowski, The Liberation of One, New York, 1986 (autobiography of a successful
communist diplomat, who was the Polish ambassador in Washington when he
defected in December 1981).
Teresa Toranska, "Them." Stalin's Polish Puppets, New York, 1987 (translation of work
published in the underground press, then republished in London; it consists of a young
journalist's interviews conducted in 1980-81 with retired communist dignitaries, who
were active in the period up to 1956; fascinating reading).
2. Gorbachev: Glasnost, Perestroika, Foreign Policy, Nationalities (works on nationalities
Anders Aslund, Gorbachev's Struggle for Economic Reform. The Soviet Reform Process,
1985-1989, Ithaca, New York, 1989 (detailed economic analysis).
Seweryn Bialer, The Soviet Paradox. External Expansion and Internal Decline, New York
1986, 1987 (a survey from Stalin to early Gorbachev by a prominent Sovietologist).
Seweryn Bialer and Michael Mandelbaum, eds.,Gorbachev's Russia and American Foreign
Policy, Boulder, Colorado and London, 1988 (articles by experts).
Valery Boldin, TEN YEARS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD. The Gorbachev Era as
Witnessed by his Chief of Staff, New York, 1994.
(N) Martha Brill Olcott, "The Lithuanian Crisis," Foreign Affairs, vol. 69, no. 3, summer
1990, pp. 30-46.
Abraham Brumberg, ed., Chronicle of Revolution. A Western-Soviet Inquiry into Perestroika,
New York, 1990 (a team of Western specialists write on various aspects of
Gorbachev's USSR, while a team of Soviet experts comments. Fascinating
contributions by experts on both sides).
(N) Helene Carrere d'Encausse, The End of the Soviet Empire. The Triumph of the Nations,
New York, 1992 (trans. from the French original written by a well-known French
scholar of Russian des-cent).
Patrick Cockburn, Getting Russia Wrong. The End of Kremlinology, London and New York,
1989 (insights into Gorbachev's reforms and foreign policy by the then Moscow
correspondent of the London Financial Times).
Stephen F. Cohen, Rethinking the Soviet Experience. Politics and History Since 19l7, Oxford
and New York, 1985 (a brilliant historical analysis of Soviet reformism and
conservatism, providing an essential background to Gorbachev's USSR. The author,
an American political scientist and historian, sees NEP as the inspiration and model
for Gorbachev's reforms).
Stephen Cohen and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Voices of Glasnost. Interviews with Gorbachev's
Reformers, New York, 1990.
Joan Frances Crawley and Dan Vaillancourt, Lenin to Gorbachev. Three Generations of
Soviet Communists, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 1989 (by two professors of
Mundelein College; useful survey, with graphs, of the politics, economics, etc., of
Soviet leaders from Lenin through Gorbachev).
R. W. Davies, Soviet History in the Gorbachev Revolution, Bloomington, Indiana, 1989
(fascinating chapters on the reinterpretation of key eras of Soviet history in the era of
glasnost, as presented in in the Soviet press in the years 1987-88).
Dusko Doder and Louise Branson, Gorbachev. Heretic in the Kremlin, New York, Viking,
1990 (excellent study by an American and British journalist, correspondents in
(N) Nadia Diuk & Adrian Karatnycky, The Hidden Nations. The People Challenge the Soviet
Union, New York, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990.
Mark Frankland, The Sixth Continent: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union, New York,
1987 (by a former Moscow correspondent of the London Observer).
Marshall I. Goldman, What Went Wrong with Perestroika, updated edition, New York, 1992
(good, popular analysis, mainly of the economic aspect).
same: Lost Opportunity. What has made economic reform in Russia so difficult, New edition,
New York, 1996.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Memoirs, New York, 1996.
(N) Lubomyr Hajda and Mark Beissinger, eds., The Nationalities Factor in Soviet Politics and
Society, Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1990.
Michael Heller, Cogs in the Wheel: The Formation of Soviet Man, New York, 1988 (a survey
of Soviet history by an emigre Soviet historian).
A. Hewett, ed., Reforming the Soviet Economy. Equality versus Efficiency, Washington,
D.C., The Brookings Institution, 1988 (excellent economic studies).
Geoffrey Hosking, The Awakening of the Soviet Union, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1990
(fascinating, BBC lectures by an English historian of Russia).
Jerry Hough, Russia and the West. Gorbachev and the Politics of Reform, 2nd edition, New
York, 1990 (by an American expert on the USSR, who believed that Gorbachev
proceeded according to plan).
William G. Hyland, Mortal Rivals. Understanding the Hidden Pattern of Soviet-American
Relations, New York, 1987 (survey and analysis of the subject from Nixon to Reagan,
by an expert and current editor of Foreign Affairs).
Robert G. Kaiser, Why Gorbachev Happened. His Triumph and His Failure, New York,
London and Toronto, etc., Simon & Schuster, 1991 (probably the best analysis up to
that time, by the Moscow correspondent of the Washington Post).
Jacob W. Kipp, "The Zhirinovsky Threat," Foreign Affairs, May/June 1994, pp. 72-86.
Moshe Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon: A Historical Interpretation, Berkeley, California,
1988; see later editions (political-historical-sociological study by a long-time expert).
(N) Anatol Lieven, THE BALTIC REVOLUTION. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path
to Independence, New Haven, Connecticut and London, 1993 (insightful analysis by
a British-educated descendant of Baltic Germans, who travelled in the region as it was
breaking away from Russia).
Martin Malia, "A New Russian Revolution?", New York Review of Books, July 18, 1991
(interesting and unusual analysis of the development of Gorbachev's reforms in USSR
and how they were influenced by developments in Eastern Europe in 1989).
Jack F. Matlock Jr., Autopsy of an Empire. The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union, New York, 1995.
Roy Medvedev and Giuletto Chiesa, Time of Change. An Insider's View of Russia's
Transformation, translated from the Italian by Michael Moore, New York, 1989 (fascinating
insights by the dissident Roy Medvedev, but mostly by Chiesa, the long-time Moscow
correspondent of the Italian Communist paper, L'Umanita. Like the Italian Communist Party,
Chiesa was a sharp critic of the USSR since the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in
1968, which led the Italian Party to split with Moscow).
Zhores A. Medevev, Gorbachev, Oxford, 1986 (an early and very favorable biography by a
John Morrison, BORIS YELTSIN. From Bolshevik to Democrat, 1991 (popular history).
(N) Bohdan Nahaylo and Victor Swoboda, Soviet Disunion. A History of the Nationalities
Problem in the USSR, New York, The Free Press, Macmillan, 1990 (up to 1985).
Alec Nove, The Economics of Feasible Socialism, London and Boston, Massachusetts, 1983
(knowledgeable forecast of reforms by a leading British specialist in Soviet
economics; see also his introduction to Aganbegyan's book on economic perestroika,
and his most recent books on the Russian/Soviet economy).
(N) Uri Ra'aanan, ed., The Soviet Empire. The Challenge of National and Democratic
Movements, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1990 (this has especially good contributions
by experts on the non-Russian nationalities under Gorbachev).
David Remington, Lenin's Tomb. The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, New York, 1993
(brilliant, lively, study by the former Moscow correspondent of the Washington Post;
parts I-II provide the background; parts III-IV deal with the coup and the end of the
Andrei Sakharov, Memoirs, translated by Richard Lourie, New York, 1990 (these memoirs
really belong in the bibliography for ch. 7, since Part Two deals with Sakharov's
struggle for human rights in the USSR in the period 1968-1986, when Gorbachev
ended his exile with Yelena Bonner in Gorky. The book includes a chapter on
Sakharov's correspondence with President Jimmy Carter).
(N) Alfred Erich Senn, Lithuanian Awakening, Berkeley, California, University of California
Press, 1990 (the first book on the subject by an American historian of Lithuania, who
is of Lithuanian origin).
Edward Shevardnadze, The Future Belongs to Freedom, New York and Toronto, 1991 (an
account of his career as Foreign Minister, with reflections on freedom after his
resignation before he became head of Georgia).
(N) Graham Smith, ed., The Nationalities Question in the Soviet Union, London and New
York, 1990 (chapters by specialists with a short English language bibliography).
Hedrick Smith, The New Russians, New York, Random House, 1990 (brilliant follow-up by
the author of The Russians).
Anatoly Sobchak, For a New Russia. The Mayor of St. Petersburg's Own Story of the
Struggle for Justice and Democracy, New York and Toronto, 1992 (covers the story
through the August coup, 1991).
(N) Rein Taagepera, Estonia. Return to Independence, Boulder, Colorado, 1993 (historical
background and history of period 1980-91).
Robert C. Tucker, Political Culture and Leadership in Soviet Russia: From Lenin to
Gorbachev, New York, 1987 (by a U.S. expert on Stalinism).
Boris Yeltsin, Against the Grain. An Autobiography, translated by Michael Glenny, New
York, 1990 (fascinating autobiography; deals mostly with 1989).
(N) Jan Zaprudnik, Belarus at the Crossroads of History, Boulder, Colorado, 1993 (extensive
historical background plus history of period 1985-1992).
3. The Failed Coup of August 1991, the Collapse of the USSR and After..
Timothy J Colton and Robert Legvold eds., After the Soviet Union. From Empire to Nations, New York, London, 1992.
Mikhail Gorbachev, The August Coup. The Truth and the Lessons, New York, Harper
Collins, 1991 (a rather skimpy account, valuable for what the author wanted readers
Bernard Gwertzmann and Michael T. Kaufman, eds., The Decline and Fall of the Soviet
Empire, by the correspondents of the New York Times, New York, Times Books,
1992 (excellent selection of reports from 1985 throuh 1991, with index).
Ruslan Khasbulatov, The Struggle for Russia. Power & Change in the Democratic
Revolution, edited by Richard Sakwa, London and New York, 1993 (see description
of the August coup, then author's ideas on Russia's future as of 1992).
Gail W. Lapidus et al., From Union to Commonwealth. Nationalism and Separatism in the Soviet Republics, Cambridge, England, 1992.
Jack F. Matlock, Jr., Autopsy of an Empire. The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union, New York, 1995 (Matlock was U.S. ambassador in Moscow in 1987-1991. He knew both the Russian leaders and opposition leaders, al so leaders of the Baltic States. This is a fascinating, almost day by day account of
of events in the USSR to its collapse,as well as of U.S.-Soviet relations during this
Michael McFaul, Sergei Markov, The Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy. Parties, Personalities and Programs, Stanford, Ca., 1993.
John Morrison, Boris Yeltsin. From Bolshevik to Democrat, 2nd printing, New York,
Penguin, 1991 (very informative on coup).
Putsch. The Diary. Three Days That Collapsed The Empire, Oakville, New York and
London, Mosaic Press, 1992 (minute-by-minute information received by two Russian
Vladimir Pozner, Eyewitness. A Personal Account of the Unravelling of the Soviet Union,
New York, 1992 (interesting book by the well-known Soviet journalist, but readers
must have a good grasp of the background).
4. Eastern Europe: Background to 1989, the Revolutions of 1989, and After.
General. (See also beginning of the bibliography, p. 427).
Elie Abel, The Shattered Bloc. Behind the Upheaval in Eastern Europe, Boston,
Ivo Banac, ed., East Europe in Revolution, Ithaca, New York and London, 1992 (chapters
on each country by specialists, and general overview).
Tufton Beamish and Guy Hadley, The Kremlin's Dilemma. The Struggle for Human Rights
in Eastern Europe, San Rafael, California and London, Presidio Press, 1979.
Timothy Garton Ash, The Uses of Adversity. Essays on the Fate of Central Europe, New
York, 1989 (excellent for the 1980s, excluding 1989).
Timothy Garton Ash, The Magic Lantern. The Revolution of 1989 Witnessed in Warsaw,
Budapest, Berlin and Prague, New York, 1990 (fascinating accounts by one who was
Charles Gati, The Bloc that Failed. Soviet-East European Relations in Transition,
Bloomington, Indiana, 1990.
Marvin R. Jackson, "Economic Development in the Balkans since 1943 Compared to
Southern and East-Central Europe," East European Politics and Societies, vol. 1, no.
3, fall 1987, pp. 393-455.
Tony R. Judt, "The Dilemmas of Dissidence: The Politics of Opposition in East-Central
Europe," East European Politics and Societies, vol. 2, no. 2, spring 1988, pp. 185-240.
Jon Lovenduski and Jean Woodall, eds., Politics and Society in Eastern Europe,
Bloomington, Indiana, 1987 (political science studies).
David S. Mason, Revolution in East-Central Europe. The Rise and Fall of Communism and
the Cold War, Boulder, Colorado, 1992 (a political science point of view).
Gwyn Prins, ed., Spring in Winter. The 1989 Revolutions, Manchester University Press,
England, 1990 (valuable contributions, mostly by East European authors).
Uri Ra'anan, ed., The Soviet Empire. The Challenge of National and Democratic Movements,
Lexington, Massachusetts, 1990 (covers both the USSR and Eastern Europe, as well
Pedro Ramet, ed., Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics, Durham,
North Carolina, 1984.
Pedro Ramet, Cross and Commissar. The Politics of Religion in Eastern Europe and the
USSR, Bloomington, Indiana, 1987.
Sabrina P. (formerly Pedro) Ramet, Social Currents in Eastern Europe. The Sources and
Meaning of the Great Transformation, Durham, North Carolina and London, Duke
University Press, 1991 (excellent study of social-political currents before 1989 and
in 1989-90; includes cultural developments).
Jacques Rupnik, The Other Europe. The Rise and Fall of Communism in East-Central
Europe, New York, 1988, 1989 (fascinating history and political analysis of Poland,
Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany from 1945 to 1987. The author is a
Czech scholar working in Paris).
H. Gordon Skilling, Samizdat and an Independent Society in Central and Eastern Europe,
Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State University Press, 1989 (best on underground press in
Czechoslovakia, but also covers other East European states up until 1987).
Gale Stokes, THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN. The Collapse of Communism in
Eastern Europe, New York and Oxford, 1993 (takes the story through spring 1992).
Jan F. Triska and Charles Gati, eds., Blue-Collar Workers in Eastern Europe, Boston,
Massachusetts and London, 1981.
Stephen White, Judy Batt and Paul G. Lewis, Developments in East European Politics,
Durham, North Carolina, 1993.
Gale Stokes, ed., From Stalinism to Pluralism. A Documentary History of Eastern Europe
Since 1945, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1991 (part IV
documents the period from 1970s to 1990); 2d edition, 1996.
John Halliday, ed., The Artful Albanian: The Memoirs of Enver Hoxha, London, 1986.
R. J. Crampton, A Short History of Modern Bulgaria, Cambridge, England, 1987 (best in
John R. Lampe, The Bulgarian Economy in the Twentieth Century, New York, 1986.
Karel Kaplan, The Communist Party in Power: A Profile of Party Politics in Czechoslovakia,
edited and translated by Fred Eidlin, Boulder, Colorado, 1987.
Mark Sommer, Living in Freedom. The Exhilaration and Anguish of Prague's Second Spring,
San Francisco, California, 1992 (covers the period 1983-91).
Bernard Wheaton & Zdenek Kavan, The Velvet Revolution. Czechoslovakia, 1988-1991,
Boulder, Colorado, 1992.
Sharon L. Wolchik, Czechoslovakia in Transition. Politics, Economics & Society, London
and New York, 1991.
East Germany and Unification of Germany..
V. R. Berghahn, Modern Germany. Society, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century,
2nd ed., Cambridge, England and New York, 1987, (ch. 6, "The Two Germanies
Since the 1960's").
David Childs, The GDR. Moscow's German Ally, London, 1983.
David Childs, ed., Honecker's Germany, London, 1985.
M. Donald Hancock and Helga J. Welsh, eds., German Unification. Process and Outcomes. Boulder, Co., 1994.
Erich Honecker, From My Life, London, 1981 (by the party boss of East Germany from 1971
to November 1989; released from trial for health reasons, he joined his daughter in Chile).
A. James McAdams, East Germany and Detente. Building Authority After the Wall,
Cambridge, England and New York, 1985.
M. McCauley, The German Democratic Republic Since 1945, New York, 1983.
Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed. A Study in Statecraft, Cambridge, Mass., 1995. (Best account so far)
Michael Burawoy and Janos Lukacs, The Radiant Past. Ideology and Reality in Hungary's
Road to Capitalism,
Miklos Haraszti, The Velvet Prison: Artists under State Socialism, New York, 1987 (by a
dissident Hungarian sociologist; the work first appeared in French in 1983 and
circulated in the Hungarian underground).
Jorg K. Hoensch, A History of Modern Hungary, 1867-1994, London, New York, 1996.
"The Hungarian Revolution Twenty Years After," Canadian-American Review of Hungarian
Studies, vol. III, no. 2, fall 1976 (articles on Hungary from 1945 to Kadar in 1975).
JANOS KADAR, Selected Speeches and Interviews, with an Introductory Biography by L.
Gyurko, Oxford and New York, Pergamon Press, 1985 (this is an official collection
and biography. The Pergamon Press has also published the same type of book on
Brezhnev, Ceausescu, Chernenko, Honecker, Zhivkov, and Andropov).
George Konrad, Antipolitics, New York, 1984 (by a Hungarian dissident).
Ivan Szelenyi, Socialist Entrepreneurs. Embourgeoisement in Hungary, Madison, Wisconsin,
1988 (sociological-economic study on Hungary's private farmers).
Edward Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite. The Rise and Fall of the Ceausescus, New
York, Villard Books, 1991 (by a roving journalist with extensive knowledge of
Romania, but careless about other great events, e.g., he confuses the Yalta and
Potsdam conferences; the book served as the basis for the PBS documentary on the
Ceausescus, July 1991).
Sylviu Brucan, World Socialism at the Crossroads: An Insider's View, New York, 1987 (by
a Romanian economist, who incurred Ceausescu's displeasure; the author, a Marxist
and professor in Bucharest, summarizes proposals for the reform of socialist
economies; he later became a member of the new Romanian government in late
Andrei Codrescu, The Hole in the Flag. A Romanian Exile's Story of Return and Revolution,
New York, William Morrow & Co., 1991 (a writer who returned in December 1989
to examine the Romanian revolution; claims that the Security Police manufactured
photos of victims of the Timisoara massacre, and that the revolution was manipulated
by reform communists to seize power).
Mary Ellen Fischer, Nicolae Ceausescu. A Study in Political Leadership, Boulder, Colorado
and London, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1989.
Michael Shafir, Rumania: Politics, Economics and Society, London, 1985.
Yugoslavia, Its Collapse, Wars. .
Lenard J. Cohen, Broken Bonds. The Disintegration of Yugoslavia, Boulder, Colorado,
Philip J. Cohen, Serbia's Secret War. Propaganda and Deceit of History, Texas A&M, College Station, 1996.
Robert J. Donia & John V.A. Fine, Jr., Bosnia & Hercegovina. A Tradition Betrayed,
New York, 1994.
Branko Horvat, The Yugoslav Economic System, White Plains, New York, 1976.
David Owne, Balkan Odyssey, New York, London, 1995 (co-author of Vance-Owen Plan for Yugoslavia).
Pedro Ramet, "The Rock Scene in Yugoslavia," East European Politics and Societies, vol.
2, no. 2, pp. 396-410.
Sabrina P. Ramet, Social Currents in Eastern Europe, Durham, North Carolina, Duke
University Press, 1991 (relevant chapters covering 1988-1990).
Dennison Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948-1974, Berkeley and Los Angeles,
California, 1977 (excellent study on Tito's Yugoslavia by an American expert on
Catherine Samary, Yugoslavia Dismembered, trans. Peter Drucker, New York, 1995. (By a French expert on the country).
Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe. Yugoslavia's Destroyers - America's Last Ambassador Tells What Happened and Why, New York, 1996.
5. The USSR and Eastern Europe.
Helene Carrere d'Encausse, BIG BROTHER. The Soviet Union and Soviet Europe, New
York and London, 1983 (survey of the period from Stalin to 1982, with afterword
Karen Dawisha and P. Hanson, eds., Soviet - East European Dilemmas, London, 1981.
Charles Gati, The Bloc that Failed. Soviet-East European Relations in Transition,
Bloomington, Indiana, 1990.
Robert L. Hutchings, Soviet-East European Relations. Consolidation and Conflict, 1968-1980, Madison, Wisconsin, 1983.
Christopher D. Jones, Soviet Influence in Eastern Europe. Political Autonomy and the
Warsaw Pact, New York, 1981.
Henry S. Rowen and Charles Wolf, Jr., eds., The Future of the Soviet Empire, New York,
(N) George W. Simmonds, ed., Nationalism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, Detroit,
Michigan, 1977 (useful collection of articles by experts).
Sarah Meiklejohn Terry, ed., Soviet Policy in Eastern Europe, New Haven, Connecticut
and London, 1984.
6. The West, USSR, and Eastern Europe.
Lincoln Gordon et al., Eroding Empire. Western Relations with Eastern Europe,
Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, 1987.
Jerry Hough, Russia and the West. Gorbachev and the Politics of Reform, 2nd edition,
New York, 1990.
7. Interpretations and Reflections on the Fall of Communism.
Richard H. Hudelson, The Rise and Fall of Communism, Boulder, Colorado, 1993 (by a
George Weigel, The Final Revolution. The Resistance Church and the Collapse of
Communism, New York and Oxford, 1992 (sees main factor in fall of communism
in the Catholic church).
For articles on literature, arts, and the history of East Central Europe, see Cross
Currents. A Yearbook of Central European Culture, Ann Arbor, Michigan, (one volume per
year, beginning in 1982). For politics, sociology, and economics, see East European Politics
and Societies (EEPS).