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

National Security Directive 23: United States Relations with the Soviet Union

As President George H. W. Bush took office in January 1989, factions within his administration disagreed concerning the approach to take with regard to US-Soviet relations.

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National Intelligence Council Memorandum, Status of Soviet Unilateral Withdrawals

In December 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev delivered what he called a “watershed” address at the United Nations, announcing that he planned unilaterally to reduce Soviet military forces by 500,000, cut conventional armaments massively, and withdraw substantial numbers of armaments and troops from Eastern European countries.

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Berlin Embassy Cable, The GDR Political Crisis: Still Deepening. October 4, 1989

On the eve of East Germany fortieth anniversary celebrations, it appeared that the SED was losing control. Several pressure points in society were mounting at the same time. In Prague, East German citizens had jumped over the walls into the West German embassy and the East German regime had negotiated their safe passage to West Germany planned for October 4.

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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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Berlin Embassy Cable, GDR Political Crisis: Still Deepening. October 6, 1989

The level of unrest in East Germany had been increasing throughout the summer of 1989 and a major focal point of concern for both the East German security forces and international observers concerned the very prominent visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to attend the GDR's 40th anniversary celebrations.

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Record of Main Content of Conversation Between Mikhail Gorbachev and Members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Socialist United Party of Germany

During Mikhail Gorbachev's historic visit to East Germany on the occasion of the GDR's 40th anniversary, he met with the SED politburo. In his remarks, Gorbachev urged reform and uttered what would become one of the most famous phrases of the period: "Life itself will punish us if we are late."

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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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