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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 17, 1977

SUMMARY OF THE MEETING AND NEGOTIATIONS HELD BY L. I. BREZHNEV WITH N. CEAUSESCU IN CRIMEA, ON 5 AUGUST 1977

This document was made possible with support from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Leon Levy Foundation

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    Summary of a four hour meeting between Ceausescu and Brezhnev in Crimea, in which the two leaders discussed the Romanian position regarding several international problems. The emphasis of the discussion was the development and formation of the Moldavian nation, which Brezhnev claimed were incorrectly interpreted by contemporary Romanian scientific literature and press periodicals.
    "Summary of the Meeting and Negotiations held by L. I. Brezhnev with N. Ceausescu in Crimea, on 5 August 1977" August 17, 1977, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Document No. 1 in Gheorghe Negru, “Disputa dintre URSS si RSR privînd tratarea istoriei relatiilor ruso- si soviet-române” [The Dispute Between the USSR and the RSR Regarding the Historical Treatment of Russo- and Soviet-Romanian Relations], Destin românesc [Romanian Destiny], no. 3-4 (2010), pp. 182-187; Arhiva Organizatiilor Social-Politic din Moldova [AOSPRM], fond 51, inv. 44, dosar 13, filele 126-135. Translated for CWIHP by Larry L. Watts. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114142
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Summary of the Meeting and Negotiations held by L. I. Brezhnev with N. Ceausescu in Crimeea, on 5 August 1977, drawn up by V. I. Potapov, the Chief of the Sector for Romania of the CPSU CC Section (17 August 1977)

Cde. V. I. Potapov communicated to me that the transcript of the negotiations carried out by L. I. Brezhnev with N. Ceausescu along with their results is almost ready and, probably, will be examined within the framework of the CPSU CC Politburo. However, given the fact that the Sector of the CPSU CC Section already began preparing new meetings of the secretaries that coordinate foreign affairs of both parties, something on which, in principle, L. I. Brezhnev and N. Ceausescu agreed, it was decided to inform, beforehand, the Moldavian[1] CP CC with regard to the results of the Soviet-Romanian negotiations held in Crimeea, in order, to the measure possible, to bring our contribution to the preparation of the materials for the planned meeting.

The meeting and discussion of L. I. Brezhnev with N. Ceausescu was the longest of the last five years: it last approximate four hours. Along with the General Secretaries, the following participated on the Soviet side – cde. Chernenko, Blatov and Potapov, and on the Romanian side – cde. Andrei, Mitea and Ciolac.

Numerous issues were examined, including “The Position of Romania in the Belgrade Negotiations,” “The Attitude of the RCP towards ‘Eurocommunism’ and the anti-Sovietism of Carillo”; “The Position of the RCP regarding the demonstrations of the Communist parties of Europe against the intentions of the Americans to undertake the fabrication of a neutron bomb etc.”

Soviet-Romanian economic and commercial relations were likewise examined in detail, the Romanian comrades insisting on the extension of the participation of the USSR in the construction of some large centers of scientific research and industrial enterprises in the SRR (among others, also some nuclear electric stations, as well as some electronic machinery or nuclear plants at Iasi, etc.).

The Romanians have similarly insisted on the necessity of undertaking works for deepening of the riverbed of the Prut River near the Costesti-Stânca Hydrotechnical Plant. Concerning the results of these negotiations, Cde. Potapov informed me only in general lines, underscoring, at the same time, that L. I. Brezhnev demonstrated, in a good faith but insistently and convincingly, the vulnerability and disadvantage for world socialism and, especially, for the SRR [Socialist Republic of Romania] of the position of the Romanian comrades regarding many international problems.

Cde. N. Ceausescu almost always tried to avoid being cornered, to demonstrate that the position of the RCP and of the RSR was not so negative as presented by L. I. Brezhnev, frequently underscoring that such an impression was provoked by the lack of information or because of incorrect information.

At the end of the discussions, on the initiative of L. I. Brezhnev, the questions connected with our divergences regarding the treatment of some Russo-Romanian, Soviet-Romanian and Moldo-Romanian[2] problems, the formation and development of the Moldavian people, of the Moldavian nation etc., were examined, which, as before, are incorrectly interpreted by contemporary Romanian scientific literature and press periodicals.

L. I. Brezhnev declared that, after the meetings and discussions of last year, at the level of general secretaries (in Crimeea and in Bucharest), as well as after the respective accords between the secretaries responsible for foreign affairs, a certain tendency of correcting the errors previously admitted by the Romanian side in the interpretation of aspects of Soviet-Romanian and Moldo-Romanian relations began taking form, but that was only a tendency, and one of short duration.

In the last months, articles and materials which contain anti-Russian and anti-Moldavian attitudes have begun to appear in Romanian literature all the more frequently, expressed in a form that is not only bombastically distorted, but is also direct enough and always persistent. At the same time, they are published not only in reviews and bulletins that are strictly scientific, with small print runs, which have little influence on public opinion, but also in the pages of some historical reviews and solid Party reviews, with mass print runs; [and] in manuals for elementary school pupils, university students, auditors of political education, etc. The anti-Russian, anti-Moldavian declarations echo even in the reports and discussions of Romanian authors within the framework of scientific sessions and conferences, symposiums and congresses.

In dialogue with N. Ceausescu, L. I. Brezhnev mentioned that we have a very positive appreciation of his just declaration regarding the fact that Romania formulates no sort of territorial pretensions towards the Soviet Union and towards the other socialist countries but that, at the same time, we are confused when we find declarations in the Romanian press that contain claims against Soviet territories.

Cde. N. Ceausescu interrupted L. I. Brezhnev and declared that he does not understand what he is talking about, that he is convinced that everything of which L. I. Brezhnev has spoken is the result of incorrect information. All of our understandings which we reached last year, declared N. Ceausescu, are completely respected by the Romanian side, not, however, by the Soviet side.

With much tact, L. I. Brezhnev asked N. Ceausescu to manifest patience and to listen until he was done. He began through a demonstration of the damaging and negative character of such opinions with regard to our relations, the education of the Romanian people, especially of the youth, opinions favorable to our enemies.

Expressing once again confusion regarding Soviet pretensions, N. Ceausescu said that he had not taken with him the respective materials that would illustrate the lack of respect for the understandings by the Soviet side, however, since the question has been broached, he would like to declare that – just as before – in Soviet literature and, especially, Moldavian literature the following three groups of issues are distorted:

1. Tsarism in the Balkans and in the Danube region is being politically rehabilitated; it is presented only in a positive light (especially in connection with the Romanian-Bessarabian question).

2. As before, the issue of the existence of the Moldavian people, of the Moldavian language and of the separate Moldavian nation is treated incorrectly.

3. As before, the classics of Romanian literature are incorrectly labeled as Moldavian in Moldavian literature.

In the opinion of N. Ceausescu, the affirmation that the incorporation, in 1812, of Bessarabia as a component of Russia was legitimate and in conformity with the will of the people is absolutely incorrect not only from the historical, social and class struggle perspectives but also from the Marxist perspective. There was nothing legitimate in that act, N. Ceausescu affirmed. The absorption was produced against the will of the people and against the desire of the Moldavian government. We would like Soviet authors to call these things by their rightful names. In order to confirm his argument, N. Ceausescu evoked the affirmations of K. Marx, especially those conforming to which the Turks had ceded [Bessarabia to Tsarist Russia] that did not belong to them. In addition, N. Ceausescu maintained, affirmations by Moldavian authors that the incorporation of Bessarabia into Russia was only a positive thing, that this inclusion played only a positive role in the region, are profanities. How stands the definition employed by V. I. Lenin – N. Ceausescu inquired – that Russia is the prison of peoples?

Here L. I. Brezhnev interrupted N. Ceausescu and said that such affirmations have no logic, because last year he declared that Romania has no territorial pretensions towards the Soviet Union and, all at once, he requests that we recognize Tsarist Russia as having sometime occupied illegitimately Romanian territories. “Do you have some territorial pretensions regarding us?,” L. I. Brezhnev asked.

N. Ceausescu declared right away that they requested no territory from the Soviet Union whatsoever, but only that it should be said that Tsarist Russia occupied what were then-Romanian lands.

L. I. Brezhnev then replied that this position is similar to that of China regarding the Siberian and Far Eastern territories: today they ask us to recognize that this territory is theirs, while tomorrow they will ask that we restore it to them. However we will never do such a thing.

Tsarist Russia, L. I. Brezhnev continued, pursued annexationist aims but, besides that, objectives that were also of noble aspiration – saving peoples from the extremely reactionary Turkish yoke and assimilating them to Russian socio-economic and cultural society, which was more progressive at the time. In spite of the fact that Tsarism truly was the prison of peoples, in comparison with the Turkish hell, this prison was a heaven: otherwise the peoples would not have been drawn, century after century, towards Russia. This is an historical truth that must not be negated. We have always written about that and we will continue to write in the same way about it.

Referring to the second issue, last year, N. Ceausescu underscored, [the Romanians] promised to recognize the Moldavian SSR and not to ignore it. We have done this, but we will never agree with the idea and we will never recognize that there exists some separate Moldavian nation and separate Moldavian language. (Here he made reference to D Cantemir[3], to one of the Tsar’s ministers, and to the work of Soviet authors published in the 1927-1930 period, as well as to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia edited after the [Second World] War, in which it is said that Romanians inhabit the space between the Prut and Nistru Rivers.)

L. I. Brezhnev opined that we should not base ourselves only on authors or on moments of their works or of that of some personalities, including Cantemir, which contain theses advantageous to the Romanians; matters must be viewed from the perspective of reality. The Moldavian people, language, culture, and national consciousness exist in a real way, he declared, and, no matter how much one might negate that, it will continue to exist. “You, Cde. Ceausescu, visited the Moldavians along with others, and you had the opportunity to convince yourself that they exist in reality,” underscored L. I. Brezhnev.

“Yes,” riposted N. Ceausescu, “I did, but they spoke with me in Romanian.”

L. I. Brezhnev urged him not to rely so much on language, even if the Moldavian and Romanian languages would be absolutely alike (although that is not at all the case), not even then could there be thought of one nation. Because in many other countries the people speak the same language, but there are different nations (Austrian and German, the USA and England, the Arab countries, etc.) And, in this question, concluded L. I. Brezhnev, you, Nicolae Andreievich, will not be basing yourself on Marxist positions.

Referring to the third issue, N. Ceausescu declared that further confirming proof that the Moldavian language and nation do not exist apart is the fact that Moldavians steal the Romanian classics and name them Moldavian. This includes even M. Eminescu[4], a devoted adept of the unification of Moldova and Muntenia, who always considered himself Romanian, who is the founder of Romanian poetry, and who did very much for the development of the Romanian language and literature, the Moldavians name him a Moldavian.

L. I. Brezhnev made no remark on this issue, because, as he mentioned to Cde. V. I. Potapov, we do not have sufficient counterarguments.

N. Ceausescu proposed that the secretaries of both our parties, responsible for international affairs (cde. Rusakov and Andrei), should meet and set reach agreement on all of these questions which preoccupy us. At the end of the discussion, he declared that, although the problems broached by Leonid Ilich were unpleasant, he was happy and pleased that they were expressed sincerely, without reticence.

On the road to the residence and, in continuation, inside of it, for a period of several hours, N. Ceausescu and V. I. Potapov discussed a larger range of problems connected with the evolution of Russo-Romanian and Soviet-Romanian relations, their exchange of views carried out in the form of a sharp polemic, with arguments and altercations, without diplomatic conveniences.

The following aspects were subjected to debate:
• Ancient Dacian settlements;
• The role and influence of the Slavs in the formation of the Balkan and Danubian peoples;
• The attitude of Peter I [the Great] towards the independence of the Principality of Moldova;
• The evaluation of the role of Romania in the First World War conforming to Soviet and Romanian literature;
• The characterization of the activities of N. Titulescu by Soviet and Romanian authors;
• The evaluation of the contribution of Romania to the destruction of Hitlerism by Romanian and Soviet authors;
• The consequences of publishing some works that rehabilitate Antonescu and others in Romania.

Referring to all of these questions, N. Ceausescu never recognized that [the Romanians] were situated on incorrect positions and he always accused Soviet authors for not correctly reflecting the events.

Speaking of the ancient Dacians, N. Ceausescu – just as the entirety of current Romanian historiography – demonstrated that the Dacian people populated the lands almost up to the Bug and that, in those times, this territory belonged to King Burebista. In his opinion, the Slavs played for the Balkan and Danubian peoples almost the same role as that played by the Tatar-Mongol tribes.

He affirms that, at the conclusion of the treaty between Cantemir [and] Peter I, the latter promised that he would preserve the integrity and state independence of the Principality of Moldova; however, the Tsars that succeeded him to the throne broke these promises and annexed Moldovan lands.[5]

Ceausescu very insistently demonstrated that Soviet literature treated neither the role nor the contribution of Romania in the Second World War correctly. He considers that if there had not been a victorious revolt of the army on 23 August in Bucharest, the Iasi-Chisinau operation[6] would not have been concluded in such a brilliant manner, and if the Romanian Army had not turned its weapons against the fascists and had not fought with such manliness and heroism[7], a deed that contributed to the acceleration of the end of the war by six months[8], it would be difficult to say how the Second World War would have concluded, because, as is generally known, N. Ceausescu affirmed, the Hitlerists were only several months away from finishing their atomic bomb and there is little likelihood they would then be destroyed.

Demonstrating that we are now rehabilitating Tsarism, N. Ceausescu declared that this rehabilitation is felt, under various disguises, even at our last Party Congress. Asked by Cde. Potapov where he discovered this fact, he responded not in the report of the state of affairs by the General Secretary and not in the decisions, but in the discourse of foreign guests, who declared that, repeatedly, the Russian soldier has saved the Balkan people, including the Bulgarian people, from inevitable disappearance.

Referring to the territorial problems, N. Ceausescu declared that, although Romania has no territorial pretensions towards the Soviet Union, one aspect, although insignificant, of the territorial problem has not been resolved up until this moment. It concerns the continental platform, rich in petroleum, in the Black Sea. The Romanians want to change the frontier on the sea in such a way that Serpents’ Island would remain with them.[9]

Stressing the lack of rationale for Romanian insistence regarding the fact that Tsarist Russia illegitimately occupied Romanian lands, Cde. Potapov reminded Cde. N. Ceausescu that they (the Romanian desires) could give birth to damaging consequences. They could generate desires from other European countries, neighbors of Romania, for the RCP to recognize their desires in similar fashion, as former conquerers had occupied in their time, illegitimately, foreign territories. Cde. Ceausescu immediately asked: “Whom do you have in mind, the Hungarians?” Cde. Potapov responded that he had no one concrete in mind and that it was useless to stir up the past.

Throughout the discussion, Cde. N. Ceausescu demonstrated that he knew well the essence of the problems broached. He incorrectly named some dates and family names, but in the rest, he expressed comprehensively and with fair precision his opinions, which were similar to the concepts promoted by contemporary Romanian historiography. The impression was that either he studied them meticulously, or that he participated in their elaboration.

At the end of our discussion, Cde. V. I. Potapov said that, in general lines, we must continue the work regarding the implementation of the respective decisions of the CPSU CC and the Moldavian CP CC referring to the nationalist tendencies in Romanian propaganda.

He suggested that research be undertaken, publications inaugurated, sessions [and] scientific conferences, etc. be organized that demonstrate the truth about Russo-Romanian, Soviet-Romanian and Moldo-Romanian relations; that a certain layer of passivity that has settled on savants and information organs since the beginning of last year, after the Soviet-Romanian meetings and after the declarations of N. Ceausescu [that Romanian had not territorial claims on the USSR or the Moldavian SSR] should be wiped clean and swept away. However, although this work must continue as it did before, but without entering into open polemics with the Romanians, without labeling someone, but expressing, in principle, the essence of the works under a positive aspect.

The Romanian comrades, Cde. Potapov said, maintain their positions in all questions, they do not change except as maneuver, seeking more advantageous positions for themselves, trying to obtain some concessions, while they do not desire to make one concession.

The CPSU CC considers that, at present, there is little probability of anticipating any change in the Romanian position on many problems. Given that, the policy elaborated earlier by the CPSU CC to stop the Romanian comrades from sliding down the slope of anti-Russianism and anti-Sovietism is justified and must be continued, but more insistently, with more calculation, more efficiently, through all means of communication.

Cde. Potapov twice expressed the fear that if, before, the Romanians had not recognized Soviet Moldavia, now they try all the more openly to kiss up to and improve relations with the Moldavians, demonstrated, in his opinion, by the arrival in Moldavia of Lina Ciobanu, member of the RCP CC Political Executive Bureau, as well as by the insistent desire of the Romanians to introduce transit without visa for persons living in the frontier zone.

In connection with the meeting between Cde. Rusanov and Cde. Andrei, programmed for the end of the year, Cde. Potapov requested that it arguments regarding the following should be prepared:
• The particularities of the formation and development of the Moldovan and Valah [Wallachian] Principalities;
• The particularities of the formation and development of the Romanian and Moldavian peoples, languages and their nations;
• Why some personalities of the past are considered at the same time both Romanian and Moldavian.

All these materials should be expressed concisely (2-3 p. for each problem), laconically and convincingly, presented around November and expedited to the address of the CPSU CC.

Ad interim head of CC Section for Information and Relations with Foreign Countries of the Moldavian CP.

17.08.1977 (signature) (N. Mumji)

[1] Translator’s note: In conformity with common usage at the time, the terms “Moldavia” and “Moldova” are used to differentiate the territory and populations residing in the Moldavian SSR and in the northeastern province of Moldova in Romania. However, the Romanian language used in Romania proper as well as in Moldavia/Moldova employs the same term (“Moldova”) for both, and before the Russian empire extended into the region in the 18th century the term “Moldova” referred to one territorial unit that included both Romanian Moldova and most of the territory that eventually comprised the Moldavian SSR (as well as the Bugeac region now in Ukraine).  After 1989 the US State Department Geographer officially established the English name of the new independent state as the Republic of Moldova while referring to the Romanian province as “Moldavia” for purposes of differentiation, thus reversing previous practice. This translation likewise uses the terms “Moldavians” and “Moldovans” to differentiate between the majority inhabitants of the Moldavian SSR and the Romanian province in conformity with common American usage at that time, although both referred to themselves as Moldovans then and now.

[2] The term “Moldo-Romanian” appears in the original Russian language document.

[3] Translator’s note: Dimitrie Cantemir was a 17th-18th century Prince of the Principality of Moldova when it encompassed most of the territory on both sides of the Prut River associated with the name Moldova/Moldavia. The southeastern most section - the Bugeac – was transferred by Stalin from the Moldavian SSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1952.

[4] Mihai Eminescu, Romania’s national poet.

[5] Translator’s note: The treaty, signed in April 1711, stipulated the borders of the Principality in article 11. A similar stipulation was made in the treaty concluded by one of Cantemir’s predecessors and Tsar Aleksandr Mikhailovich in 1656.

[6] Translator’s note: Research in Soviet-era archives confirms Ceausescu’s assertion regarding the Iasi-Chisinau Operation. See e.g., David M. Glantz, Red Storm Over The Balkans: The Failed Soviet Invasion of Romania, Spring 1944, Lawrence, University Press of Kansas, 2007.

[7] Translator’s note: On 23 August 1944 Romania officially informed the Third Reich of its withdrawal from the war, offering German forces two weeks to depart the country (the same offer given by Finland to the German forces in their country two weeks later.) Accepting the terms, the German commander on the ground then launched an air assault on Bucharest in an attempt to reverse the situation. This prompted immediate hostilities in which the entire Romanian officer corps turned against their former allies, and Berlin lost the central underpinnings of German military presence in the Balkans.

[8] Translator’s note: To considerable Soviet dismay, the Romanians insisted on the vital nature of their change of alliance throughout the rest of the Cold War. See e.g. Ilie Ceausescu, Florin Constantiniu, and Mihail E. Ionescu, A Turning Point in World War II: 23 August 1944 in Romania, Boulder, East European Monographs, Distributed by Columbia University Press, New York, 1985.

[9] Translator’s note: In the late 1940s, at Stalin’s request, the Romanian Communist leadership at the time transferred Serpents’ Island to the USSR. Given Ceausescu’s insistence throughout this document that Romania wanted no territory held by the USSR, it is probable that he sought a delineation of the continental shelf that would permit his country to exploit the petroleum reserves believed to lie underneath it. After 1991, Ukraine claimed Serpent’s Island as its territory and the delineation of the continental shelf became a matter of international litigation.