Browse Primary Sources
Primary sources from world and global history, including images, objects, texts, and digitally-born materials – annotations by scholars contextualize sources.

Excerpt From the Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev

Anatoly Chernyaev was Mikhail Gorbachev's chief foreign policy advisor during the dramatic events of 1989. In this excerpt from his personal diary, Chernyaev speaks about preparing Gorbachev for his official state visit to East Germany on the occasion of the GDR's 40th anniversary in October 1989.

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Memorandum Regarding a Conversation between Vadim Medvedev and Kurt Hager in the CC of CPSU in Moscow

Following on the heels of Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to the GDR to celebrate its 40th anniversary, GDR Minister of Culture, Kurt Hager, traveled to Moscow for the GDR Culture Days, which opened on October 12, 1989, and included not only a showcase of East German cultural offerings, but the signing of a new "Long Range Conception" for cultural cooperation between the GDR and the Soviet Union.

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US Mission cable, Summary of Berlin Press End of the Cold War

The press excerpts gathered here by the U.S. Embassy in East Berlin and transmitted to offices in Washington, Bonn, Brussels, and Tokyo reflect the growing urgency of the situation in East Berlin. This press report comes just days after two of the largest days of demonstrations in Berlin, Leipzig, and elsewhere on October 7 and 9, 1989.

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Excerpts from Chernyaev's Theses Prepared for Gorbachev's Report to the Defense Council

In this excerpt from the Mikhail Gorbachev's remarks to the Soviet Union's Defense Council, his chief foreign policy advisor Anatoly Chernyaev lays out the argument by Gorbachev that the Soviet Union can no longer sustain the arms race with the west that had raged as a part of the Cold War since the 1940s.

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Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior Memorandum, Information on the Security Situation in the CSSR

In October 1989, the situation was growing dire for the Czechoslovak communists. Increasing unrest and change in other Eastern Bloc countries was quickly isolating conservatives and emboldening the domestic opposition. In the analysis presented here, Federal Minister of the Interior Frantisek Kincl details a number of domestic security threats.

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Berlin Embassy Cable, GDR Crisis: The Honecker Era Fades Quickly

In this excerpt of a diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, we see the first official analysis of East Germany's new leader Egon Krenz, who replaced Erich Honecker on October 18, 1989. In the summary remarks, the embassy officials make clear that Krenz is attempting immediate reform, but not yet on a scale that could be compared to Gorbachev's perestroika.

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Telephone Call from Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany

In this telephone conversation between West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and U.S. President George H. W. Bush on October 23, 1989, the two leaders discuss the revolutionary events in Hungary, Poland, and East Germany.

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Bonn Embassy cable, The German Question and Reunification

As events in Eastern Europe and especially in East Germany continued to pick up the pace, speculation began to grow, both within the two Germanies and internationally, that German reunification was once again a topic for debate. The West European had already speculated that West Germany might abandon its commitment to NATO and the European Community in favor of reunification.

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Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior Memorandum, The Security Situation in the CSSR in the Period Before 28 October

October 28 holds a special place on the Czechoslovak political calendar because on that day the First Czechoslovak Republic was established in 1918. This liberal bourgeois state, symbolized by its founding father and President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, was a powerful counter-example to socialist Czechoslovakia and a magnet for anti-communist protest.

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Memorandum of Conversation Between Egon Krenz, Secretary General of the Socialist Unity Party and Mikhail S. Gorbachev

The new Secretary General of East Germany, Egon Krenz, traveled to Moscow on November 1, 1989 to meet in person with Gorbachev and assess the situation in East Germany and discuss possible paths forward. Throughout the lengthy meeting, Krenz and Gorbachev spoke openly about the challenges that now faced the GDR.

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