EXPOSITION OF THE CONVERSATIONS WITH CDE. V. I. POTAPOV, CHIEF OF THE ROMANIAN SECTOR OF THE CPSU CC
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get citationBriefing given by V. I. Potapov on the dispute between the USSR and the SSR regarding the historical treatment of Soviet-Romanian relations. The SSR was accused of pursuing an independent foreign policy and offering a bad example for other socialist countries. Some issues examined were: the Romanian position in the Belgrade Negotiations, the RCP attitude towards “Eurocommunism," the Romanian position towards Africa, the Middle East and China and the Moldavian question."Exposition of the Conversations with Cde. V. I. Potapov, Chief of the Romanian Sector of the CPSU CC" June 27, 1978, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Document No. 2 in Gheorghe Negru, “Disputa dintre URSS si SRR privind tratarea istoriei relatiilor ruso- si soviet-române” [The Dispute Between the USSR and the SRR Regarding the Historical Treatment of Russo- and Soviet-Romanian Relations], Destin românesc [Romanian Destiny], no. 3-4 (2010), pp. 187-192; Arhiva Organizatiilor Social-Politic din Moldova [AOSPRM], fond 51, inv. 47, dosar 11, filele 70-80. Translated for CWIHP by Larry L. Watts. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114154
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Exposition of the Conversations with Cde. V. I. Potapov,
Chief of the Romanian Sector of the CPSU CC (27 June 1978)
At our request, on 20 June, Cde. V. I. Potapov, the chief of Sector of the CPSU CC, informed us regarding some aspects of the policies promoted by the leadership of the Romanian Communist party and the SRR. We present below an exposition of this information:
Through its foreign policy actions regarding a series of problems, the leadership of the Romanian Socialist Republic offers a bad example for the other socialist countries. In unofficial discussions with the representatives of some socialist states, the representatives of Romania try to convince them to follow the example of the SRR and to combat, together, through joint action, the actions and measures of the USSR within the framework of the CMEA [and] the Warsaw Pact, as well as in many other questions connected with the communist and workers movement and the resolution of a series of problems of international importance.
The confrontation sharpened between the SRR and the other socialist countries in a series of problems during the final stage of the Belgrade Conference. The official Romanian representatives and the Romanian intelligence organs harshly criticized its results.
Bucharest occupies an evasive position towards the efforts of the fraternal countries to interdict the fabrication of a neutron bomb and the supply of that weapon to NATO troops. Pursuing a separate course towards the Middle East, the leadership of the RCP and the SRR encourage the actions of A. Sadat, oriented towards a separate transaction with Israel [and] towards the unraveling of a single front of the Arab states, which oppose the expansionist and annexationist aspirations of Israel.
Bucharest adopts a special attitude toward events in the Horn of Africa, towards the aggression of Somalia against revolutionary Ethiopia. In indirect fashion, the attitude of the USSR vis-à-vis this issue is subjected to criticism and, in unofficial conversations, the fraternal assistance accorded by socialist Cuba to the people of Ethiopia is categorized – by some representatives of the SRR – even as an act of aggression.
Regarding the events in Zaire, the leadership of the RCP and the SRR fundamentally share the position of Beijing: these events are not described by the SRR as an intervention by the NATO countries.
Recently, adopting the position of China, the SRR criticizes as unfounded the policy of the great powers, their fight for so-called zones of influence in the world. The contours of an even closer [Romanian] relationship with China in the political, economic and military domains are evident. The visit of N. Ceausescu in China is evaluated by leadership circles in the USSR as a reaction to our efforts to exercise influence over the leadership of the SRR and to compel it to renounce its foreign policy actions, which bring damage to the socialist community.
According to the data of which we dispose, before the visit, through the RCP ambassador in the PRC, N. Ceausescu forewarned the Chinese leadership and expressed the hope that Beijing would not admit, during his stay, anti-Soviet attacks and attacks against the allies of the SRR in the Warsaw Pact, in case of the contrary, he will be forced to give the appropriate riposte to these attacks. Hua Guo-Feng did not permit this sort of direct attack in the official discussions during the stay of N. Ceausescu in China. Nevertheless, according to the data of which we dispose, Hua Guo-Feng tried to convince N. Ceausescu to leave the Warsaw Pact and to create, in opposition, a sort of Balkan Pact. N. Ceausescu did not accept this proposal. However, China insistently tried to impose the respective idea on other countries as well. In this aim, Yugoslavia and Turkey were visited by Huan Hua, the CCP foreign Minister.
The leadership of the SRR tries in every way possible to oppose the steps undertaken by the USSR and the other socialist countries regarding the coordination of common actions both within the framework of the CMEA and of the Warsaw Pact, as well as in many questions of foreign policy.
The leadership of the RCP has established a clear course of supporting Eurocommunism. In the recent period, the Romanian press and other means of mass public information transmit with increasing frequency material about Eurocommunism, interviews with its representatives, etc.
All of these negative tendencies in the policy of the RCP and SRR leadership encourages, supports along all lines, and tries to use the leadership circles of the USA and China. It is no simple coincidence that during the visit of N. Ceausescu to these countries they made him a warm, cordial and festive welcome, and gave speeches praising him. For his part, N. Ceausescu made – but not from a class position – a series of evaluations of the actions of Carter and Hua Guo-Feng. Among others, he lauded “the efforts of the leadership of the PRC in the struggle for the cause of peace on earth.”
In this complicated situation, the USSR and the fraternal allied states seek ways of realizing measures for drawing in the SRR and neutralizing the damaging consequences of its separate foreign policy course for the entire socialist community.
In August 1977, during the meetings in Crimeea, L. I. Brezhnev attracted his attention to the fact that the continuation of indirect polemics in the Romanian press regarding territorial questions of the USSR is not opportune. N. Ceausescu then proposed that a meeting should be organized between CC secretaries of both parties, Cde. C. V. Rusakov and St. Andrei, in order to examine and resolve these problems. Such a meeting was foreseen for the end of 1977. Unfortunately, however, the Romanian side did not create a favorable atmosphere for the meeting: more and more new publications began to appear in the SRR, including fundamental studies, in which territorial pretensions towards the USSR were expressed, in one form or another. May of these were destined, in principle, for the youth. Among the publications of permeated with noxious anti-Russian and anti-Soviet conceptions one can cite the works such as: The Road to Glory: The Romanian War For Independence in 1877-1878 [Calea gloriei, Razboiul pentru independenta României în 1877-1878] , the manual for institutions of higher education Fundamental Issues In The History Of The Fatherland And The Romanian Communist Party [Probleme fundamentale ale istoriei patriei si Partidul Comunist Român] , the brochure of P. Zaharia, The National Anti-Fascist And Anti-Imperialist Military Revolt Of August 1944 [Rascoala armata nationala antifascista si antiimperialista din august 1944] from the series Knowledge For Everyone [Cunostinte pentru toti], a series of articles and historical reviews, among which the journal History Annals [Anale de istorie] , no. 6, 1977.
In the same order of ideas, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister N. N. Rodionov was instructed, that a corresponding oral declaration should be made to Cde. G. Badrus, Romanian Ambassador to the USSR. This declaration was given on 7 February of the current year. It drew attention to the fact that the Romanian side broke the agreement regarding the halting in the SRR of publications that damaged the interests of the USSR and expressed the hope that in the future these publications would be suspended.
SRR Ambassador Cde. G. Badrus said, in response, that the Romanian side could also present an entire list of books and articles published in the USSR, which denature, in various disguises, the policy of Romania. He referred, among others, to the article of S. I. Afteniuk, published in the newspapers Sovietskaia Moldavia [Soviet Moldavia] and Moldova socialista [Socialist Moldavia] on 3 February of the current year. Then the Ambassador said that the Soviet side passes over in silence, as it were, the truth about the past of Romania in the materials published in the journalNovaia i noveiishaia istoriia [New and Modern History] and in many publications edited in Moldavia, while the books and brochures published in the SRR and cited in the declaration of Cde. N. N. Rodionov constituted the response of the Romanian side to the Soviet publications.
The Ambassador underscored in continuation that Soviet authors dismiss the role of the Romanians in the 1877-1878 War for Independence, they give an erroneous interpretation of the difficulties within the RCP during the interwar period (1921-1939), when the Comintern sent as RCP CC [first] secretaries foreigners who had no knowledge of Romanian realities and who committed egregious errors in the activity of the Party. He accused Soviet historians for making reference in their works to the decisions of the 4th and 5th Congresses of the RCP regarding the national question (as well as to the thesis that Romania would be a multinational state and the RCP must therefore support the struggle of the Moldavians for their right of self-determination up to the separation from Romania). These decisions, the ambassador underscored, have been reviewed and considered by the current RCP leadership as being erroneous and damaging.
The Ambassador refused to accept the declaration of the Soviet side on how the Romanian publications aimed, in every way possible, at raising territorial pretensions with the USSR. He said that no one in the SRR even thinks of raising the issue of the frontiers. The Soviet side should follow what is published in the USSR about the SRR.
There was no official response to the declaration of N. N. Rodionov. Only on 12 May of the current year did the SRR Minister for Foreign Affairs, St. Andrei, receive Cde. V. I. Drozdenko, the USSR Ambassador in Bucharest, and expressed the considerations of the Romanian side connected with the declaration of Cde. N. N. Rodionov from 7 February of the current year. Underscoring the SRR tendency to do everything for the development and consolidation of Romanian-Soviet relations, [Andrei] brought up the accord regarding the treatment of litigious questions in the literature of the two countries in the framework of the meetings of N. Ceausescu with C. F. Katushev, at Snagov (near Bucharest) in May 1976. There followed the visit of N. Ceausescu to Moldavia, I. I. Bodiul also visiting Romania. St. Andrei then accused the Soviet side of not acting in the spirit of the Snagov accord, because after the respective meeting over 100 monographs, studies, [and] articles were published in the USSR, in which some questions connected with Russo-Romanian and Soviet-Romanian relations were presented in a distorted manner. Among the publications that contain incorrect evaluations, in the opinion of St. Andrei, are the works of Soviet historians A. A. Sheveakov, M. M. Zalishkin, I. S. Grosul, N. A. Mohov, A. M. Lazarev, A. S. Esaulenko, S. I. Afteniuk, V. S. Zelenchuk etc., as well as a long line of interventions in the periodic press, signed by workers in functions of responsibility.
He declared, as was mentioned during the meeting between L. I. Brezhnev and N. Ceausescu in the Crimeea, that the Romanian side does not share the opinion of authors who attempt to justify Tsarist expansion in the Balkans, conferring upon it the character of a liberating mission; nor can the Romanian side agree that a Moldavian people, different from the Romanian, was formed between the Prut and Nistru Rivers, and that there now exists a Moldavian nation different from the Romanian. The minister underscored that N. Ceausescu expressed himself clearly in this regard already at Snagov, in 1976, during the meetings with C. F. Katushev, and that, in fact, this is also the historical truth.
St. Andrei then mentioned that Soviet authors denatured the truth regarding Romania’s participation in the Second World War; [and] Romanian policy during the interwar period, underlining some aspects that were criticized by contemporary Romanian historiography. There are, St. Andrei explained, erroneous treatments of 1812, which speak about the strivings of the Moldavian people to enter as a component part of Russia, when [the approach agreed and] signed in the accord was to qualify this act in concise terms: “In 1812, Bessarabia became part of Russia.” In light of these facts, said St. Andrei, we do not understand the sense of the Soviet demarche of 7 February of this year and we consider that it does not correspond to reciprocal friendly relations, the reason for which it was rejected by Ambassador G. Badrus. St. Andrei underscored that the Soviet side does not treat the 1976 accords correctly; it seems they refer only to the SRR and that the USSR follows only the Romanian press, without following its own press regarding these questions.
We reject affirmations, St. Andrei said, that the Romanians have, allegedly, territorial pretensions and that nationalism and bad intentions towards the USSR are being incited in the SRR. Up to the present, no attitude has been taken in the USSR regarding materials that falsify historical truth (he probably was referring to the work of A. M. Lazarev, Soviet Moldavian Statehood and the Bessarabian Question [Moldavia sovietskaia gosudarstvennost i Bessarabskii vopros] ). The minister opined that the questions related to history should be examined by the historians of the two countries [together].
Cde. Drozdenko V. I. did not accept the arguments of the Romanian foreign minister and rejected all of the accusations brought against the Soviet side as unfounded. In reply, St. Andrei declared: “I do not defend everything written by Romanian historians, but I cannot accept all the theses of Soviet historians either. This has nothing to do with the frontier between our countries. If someone were to raise this issue, he would be considered crazy. But when it is written that the Moldavians represent a separate nation, it is also affirmed that a part of this nation lives in Romania, that Romania is a multinational state. For example, S. I. Afteniuk writes about the Moldavians of both the right and left sides of the river” (probably, St. Andrei intended not the left and right banks of the Nistru River, but those of the Prut River). St. Andrei underscored that the problems tied to history are extremely delicate and must be overcome in order for problems not to be created where none exist and this should be realized by the time of the future meeting of N. Ceausescu with L. I. Brezhnev in Crimeea, this year.
Basically, the Romanian side, proposing to transmit questions regarding Russo-Romanian and Soviet-Romanian relations for examination by historians, tries in this manner also to raise the territorial question. However the territorial question cannot be subjected to discussion and thus will not be examined. Given that, on 8 June, the CPSU CC decided to delegate Cde. V. I. Drozdenko, the USSR Ambassador to the SRR, to discuss with the SRR Foreign Minister, St. Andrei, in order to inform him that Moscow has taken account of the response of the Romanian leadership to the declaration of the Soviet side from 7 February of this year and will make a declaration regarding publications in Romania hostile to the USSR; the declaration was presented by our ambassador on 12 June of this year.
The declaration mentioned that: “guiding ourselves by friendly relations, we have repeatedly drawn attention to the publication of materials unfriendly to the USSR, in which the idea is imposed that a considerable part of the territory of the Moldavian SSR is “ancient Romanian territory, a Romanian province.” Such publications do nothing other than invigorate a nationalist spirit, and incite hostile sentiments in Romania towards the USSR, towards the Soviet people, which can only be considered an artificial aggravation of issues decided long ago. This issue must be clear: it is not a case of a point of view regarding the distant past, but of some concrete publications, of diverse types of action in Romania, referring to Soviet territories which cannot be the subject of discussion. We have accepted in the appropriate manner the declaration of N. Ceausescu regarding the frontiers (a reference to the declaration of 4 June 1976) and we consider that the suspension of publications regarding territorial issues would disembarrass our relations of artificial problems. That would permit us to “avoid creating problems where they do not exist,” as the Romanian side stated in response to the Soviet declaration of 7 February 1978 and not to burden the leaderships of our countries with their examination.
The declaration also mentions that: “in regard to the publications about past Russo-Romanian and Soviet-Romanian relations, we start off from the premise that the current level of fraternal ties obliges that the studies of savants in this domain, the manuals and publications should have a truthful and well-intended character. The Soviet side salutes the proposal of the Romanian leadership to extend contacts between the historians of the two countries. If the Romanian side has concrete proposals in this regard, the Soviet side is ready to examine them.
In response to this declaration, St. Andrei underscored that he is charged by N. Ceausescu with assuring the Soviet side that the Romanian leadership will undertake all measures for consolidating the relations of friendship, of fraternal cooperation and of solidarity between the two countries. St. Andrei contested the affirmation of Cde. V. I. Drozdenko, that the Romanian side invigorates a nationalist spirit and incites hostile sentiments towards the USSR through its publications. He recalled that, repeatedly, the Romanian leadership, including N. Ceausescu – in the name of the Party – publicly recognized that Romania has no territorial pretensions towards the socialist countries and desires that our frontiers be frontiers of friendship. St. Andrei acknowledged that not everything published by Romanian historians coincides with the official line of the RCP and that the same thing could be said about the studies of Soviet historians. “We can resolve the problems in meetings at the party level, as well as in the meetings of the historians. We desire that these should contribute to the strengthening of Romanian-Soviet ties, [that] we should achieve principled, correct relations,” remarked Andrei. In continuation, he said that he will inform N. Ceausescu about the Soviet declaration, but that he is convinced that he expresses the opinion of the Party leadership regarding common efforts referring to the removal of shortcomings in our relations.
The USSR ambassador in Bucharest replied that he is not against historical debates and discussions. It is something else when, in SRR publications, the territory between the Nistru and Prut is called Romanian territory, a Romanian province. This is already a fact. The Romanian historian M. Musat underscored, in a recent article, that the component parts of Romania included “ancient Romanian territories, situated between the Prut and Nistru and Bucovina.” This conception generates and forms a nationalist spirit. In truth, if you continually convince people, and especially the youth, that an ancient Romanian territory lies beyond the Prut River, this will give rise to a sentiment of hostility towards the USSR and its people, and that is no longer a question of history. Cde. V. I. Drozhdenko then remarked that already after the conversation with St. Andrei, of 12 May this year, in the review Anale de istorie, no. 2 of 1978, an article was published by I. Popescu-Puturi, Director of the Institute for Historical and Social-Political Research, which contains formulations of this type. It is not clear what aim is sought by doing this. In short, Cde. V. I. Drozhdenko underscored, full clarity must be brought to this issue: the publications referring to Soviet territories should be interrupted.
St. Andrei responded, showing the file on his desk, that: “I could bring up many citations that confirm some opinions, but, probably, we should not go down that path. In the first place, the territorial issue is absolutely clear. In the second place, just as the Soviet comrades are not responsible for Tsarist policies neither is the Romanian side responsible for the bourgeois-landholder leadership. In the third place, it is rather early to establish state policy; we must find a means of resolving issues of interest in the development of our relations, while respecting historical truth.
I do not know how you would like to present the territory between the Prut and Nistru Rivers before 1812: As a Ukrainian territory, occupied for centuries by the Moldavians? Because it is a part of Moldova and, as a result, in this case, the maps should indicate territory taken from the Moldovans on the right bank of the Prut. Referring to northern Bucovina, it must be said that it was a part of Moldova up until 1775, when it was annexed by the Austrian Empire, and in 1940 it passed to the USSR. As Molotov said, this was a compensation for the fact that Romania occupied Bessarabia for 22 years. These are the facts. What do we write about them and how do we present this territory from 1775 and up until 1940? What I want to say is this: one is an issue of territory, the respect for frontiers, while the other – history. For history to remake frontiers is impossible, because everything is interconnected in this world.
We cannot agree with the affirmations of your historians that Tsarist Russia liberated the Moldavians on the left side (probably, St. Andrei was referring to the left bank of the Prut River) and that this corresponded to their aspirations. It is impossible to falsify history to suit political consumers. We have learned from Lenin that the truth has a revolutionary character. We must find this truth and take care that it should not become an impediment in the development of our relations.”
Thus, the understanding that was reached in Crimeea in the summer of 1977 pertaining to the meeting of CPSU CC and RCP CC secretaries for the purposes of examining and renouncing the problems that the Romanian side created artificially, was not organized because of the unfavorable conditions, also created by the Romanian side.
As Cde. V. I. Potapov informed us, in the future as well the CPSU CC will undertake a number of efficient measures and will exert efforts regarding the removal of divergences in the above-mentioned questions, divergences created artificially, although resolved long ago, regarding the consolidation of the friendship and fraternal collaboration between the CPSU and the RCP, [between the] USSR and SRR.
Chief of the CC Section of Information and Relations with Foreign Countries of the Moldavian Communist Party
(signature) V. Andrushchak
Translator’s Note: The Nistru/Dniestr River delineated the border between the Ukrainian SSR and the Moldavian SSR while the Prut River delineated the frontier between Romania and the Moldavian SSR
Translator’s Note: The declaration of 4 June 1976 explicitly rejected any Romanian claims on territory within the USSR. The Romanian leadership made the same declaration – with the same stipulations - in a 22 June 1976 White House meeting with President Gerald Ford, Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, and Ambassador Harry G. Barnes, Jr.