Table of Contents
A Weidenfeld & Nicolson ebook
First published in Great Britain in 2009
by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
© Victor Sebestyen 2009
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Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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eISBN : 978 0 2978 5788 4
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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In memory of my mother Éva
and Patricia Diggory
Brezhnev and Honecker, East Berlin, 7 October 1979
Lech Wałesa, Lenin shipyard, Gdansk, 26 August 1980
The Plastic People of the Universe,
Václav Havel, Prague, 10 December 1988 (
Chernobyl, 14 hours after the explosion, 27 April 1986 (
Boy runs after a Soviet tank patrol, Kabul, April 1989
Yakub Khan militants in Afghanistan (
George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Pavel Palazchenko and Mikhail Gorbachev, Governors Island, 1 December 1988 (
Time & Life
Lech Wałesa and Wojciech Jaruzelski, Westerplatte, 1 September 1989 (
Chip Hires, Gamma
Boris Gromov, Termez, 6 February 1989 (
Mother embracing her son, Termez, 6 February 1989
Gorbachev in Prague, 4 November 1987
(Patrick Aventurier, Gamma / Camera Press)
Dismantling the Iron Curtain, Hungarian border, 1 May 1989
(Eric Bouvet, Gamma / Camera Press)
East German refugees flee through a gate near Sopron, 19 August 1989 (
Lech Wałesa, Gdansk, 3 June 1989 (
James Baker and Eduard Shevardnadze, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, September 1989SECTION TWO
Torchlit procession, Berlin, 6 October 1989 (
Stiebing, Bridgeman Art Library
Günter Schabowski’s press conference, 9 November 1989 (
Crowds at the Berlin wall, 9 November 1989
(Bouvet-Merillon, Gamma / Camera Press)
East German soldier peers through Berlin Wall, 12 November 1989
Crowds at the Berlin Wall, 9 November 1989
Berliners dance on the Berlin Wall, 10 November 1989
Opening of the Berlin Wall, 11 November 1989
(Patrick Piel, Gamma / Camera Press)
Prague demonstrations, 21 November 1989
(Bouvet-Merillon, Gamma / Camera Press)
Václav Havel and Alexander Dubcek, Prague, 24 November 1989
(Bouvet- Hires-Merillon, Gamma / Camera Press)
Protestor with riot police, Prague, 21 November 1989
Nicolae Ceausescu, rally in Bucharest, 21 December 1989
Tanks in Palace Square, Bucharest, December 1989
Soldiers in Palace Square, Bucharest, December 1989
Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu after their arrest, 25 November 1989
(Romania TV / Gamma / Camera Press)
Image of Ceausescu released immediately after his execution, 25 December 1989
(Romanian National Television / Getty)
Pope John Paul II, Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev, Vatican, December 1989
Soviet tanks leave Hungary, 1989
(Eric Bouvet, Gamma / Camera Press)
I have been travelling to Central Europe for work and pleasure since the late 1970s when, to Westerners, cities like Prague and Budapest were considered mysterious, occasionally sinister, faraway places of which we knew little. It is directly because of the events I describe here that once again they are thriving cities at the heart of the European tradition. This book is the result of more than two hundred trips over three decades and it could not have been written without enormous help from a great number of people, some of whom in the dark days of totalitarianism risked a great deal to talk with me. I have space to mention just a few of them here. I have weaved into the narrative interviews and conversations from many years ago - a lot of them in 1989 - with more recent reflections. Often I talked to the same people again years later, who spoke with the benefit of hindsight.
In Poland I am grateful to Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Jerzy Urban, Lech Wałesa and the Lech Wałesa Institute, Anna Walentynowycz, Danuta Galecka and Jadzia Komornicka. While I was researching and writing this book three people died who, over the years, and during many visits to Poland, had been extremely helpful: Mieczyslaw Rakowski, Alina Pienkowska and Bronislaw Geremek. The Andrzej Stelmachowski papers were very useful, as were the staff at the Central Military Archives and at the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw.
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia I am particularly indebted to Ondrej Soukoup, Michael Kocáb, Jefim Fistein, Peta Brod, Jacques Rupnik, Dasa Antelova, Jirí Dienstbier, Anna Bryson, Peter Uhl, Tom Gross, Jan Urban, and the staff at the Archive of the President’s Office, at the Home Office archive and at the Czech Parliament’s archive. The Alexander Dubcek Institute in Bratislava and surviving members of the late Mr Dubek’s family were hugely helpful.
In Hungary Katalin Bogyay, Miklós Haraszti, Maria Vásárhelyi, László Rajk, Csilla Strbik, Adam LeBor, Imre Pozsgay, Ferenc Köszeg, Gábor Demszky, Béla Szombaty, Istvan Rév, Csaba Békes, Dominic Arbuthnott, Nora Walko, Andrea Kalman, János Kis, László Eörsi, Gábor Kélemeri, Károly Makk, Sándor Revesz and Nick Thorpe went out of their way to help me. I would like to thank the staff at the Hungarian National Archive, the archive of the Hungarian Parliament, the Institute for the Study of the 1956 Revolution and the archive of the Open Society Institute in Budapest.
In Germany I am immensely grateful to Dr Matthias Mueller, Reinhard Schult, Aram Radomsky, Rüdigger Rosendahl, Carsten Krenz, Christian Führer, Klaus Peter Renneberg, Philip Lengsfeld, Günter Schabowski, and the staff in charge of the Stasi Files, the Commission for Records of the State Security, Berlin, and the State Archive of Political Parties and mass organisations of the GRD, also in Berlin.
In Romania I want to thank Mircea Dinescu, Gheorghiu Constantinescu, Alex Serban, Pavel Câmpeanu, Sergiu Celac, Oleanna Tedescu, Petre Roman, and the staff at the Presidential Commission for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship, the archive of the Romanian Ministry of Home Affairs and of Foreign Affairs, and the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes in Romania.
Ivan and Tanya Pojarleff and Lyubo Markov were exceptionally generous with their time in Sofia, where I am also grateful to Stefan Tafrov, Petar Mladenov, Blaga Dimitrova, Kalin Manolov, Krassen Stanchev, Rumen Danov, staff at the Institute for the Study of the Recent Past, the Archive of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers and of the Files Commission, the Inquiry into the records of the Bulgarian State Security Service.
In the US, James Baker III was immensely generous with his time and I would like to thank the office of General Brent Scowcroft. Charles Gati, Jamie Dettmer, Rebecca Mead, Joan Stein and Christopher Hitchens were thought-provoking companions who gave me new ideas about American foreign policy. The Cold War International History Project in George Washington University, the Hoover Institution at Stanford, the Library of Congress and the US State Department were vastly helpful.
In Moscow, I am indebted to staff at the Russian Presidential Archive, the Gorbachev Foundation and the Centre for the Preservation of Contemporary Documents. Many people in Russia were extremely helpful over the years. For depressing reasons to do with politics in Moscow now, most of them asked not to be mentioned by name. But you know who you are and how much I owe you.
Two books in particular were inspirational: Timothy Garton Ash’s
We the People
and Michael Dobbs’s
Down With Big Brother.
In England I am immensely grateful to Lord Powell, Simon Sebag Monte- fiore, Maria Stanowski, Mitko Dimitrov, Annabel Markova, Joachim von Halasz, Anjelica von Hase, John Hamilton, Lucy Perceval, Christopher Silv- ester, Mátyás Sárkozi, Sir Bryan Cartledge, Peter Unwin, Anna Reid, Amanda Sebestyen, Tira Shubart, Mark Jones, Anne McElvoy, Daniel Johnson, Boris Marelic, Marina Daskalova, my sister Judith Maynard and brother John Walko. The staff at the London Library, at Chatham House, the British Library and the Bodleian Library were ever useful, as were the staff at the library of King’s College, London, where the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives houses a set of invaluable transcripts of interviews for two TV series: Brian Lapping Associates’ ‘Fall of the Wall’, and CNN’s ‘Cold War’. The constant support of Paul, Wendy, Peter and Jayne Diggory and Adil Ali has been vital.