CONSPECT OF CONVERSATIONS WITH V. I. POTAPOV, CHIEF OF ROMANIAN SECTOR OF CPSU CC SECTION
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get citationV.I Potapov informs about a visit to Bucharest of the CPSU delegation led by A. A. Gromyko and the discussions regarding the “Bessarabian question,” criticism of the CPSU regarding RSR’s relations with the USA and NATO and independent relations with China, RSR’s distancing from the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries in terms of foreign policy."Conspect of Conversations with V. I. Potapov, Chief of Romanian Sector of CPSU CC Section" October 27, 1978, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Document No. 3 in Gheorghe Negru, “Disputa dintre URSS si RSR privind 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. 192-197; Arhiva Organizatiilor Social-Politic din Moldova [AOSPRM], fond 51, inv. 47, dosar 11, filele 108-119. Translated for CWIHP by Larry L. Watts http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114158
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Conspect of Conversations with V. I. Potapov, Chief of Romanian Sector of CPSU CC Section (27 October 1978)
On the request of the CC of the Communist Party of Moldavia, on 26 October of this year, a conversation was held within the CPSU CC with Cde. V. I. Potapov, head of the Romanian Sector of the CC Section, who informed us about the visit to Bucharest of the CPSU delegation led by A. A. Gromyko, member of the Politburo of the CPSU CC and Foreign Minister.
Presenting the attitudes and opinions of both parties vis-à-vis the wide spectrum of problems discussed, Cde. Potapov V. I. focused in detail on some aspects of the negotiations such as the problems artificially created by the Romanian side regarding the “Bessarabian question,” a problem long-resolved.
The exposition of this information is presented below:
On 13-14 October of this year, conforming to understandings between L. I. Brezhnev and N. Ceausescu referring to bilateral meetings, at the level of Politburo members and CC secretaries, negotiations were held in Bucharest between the CPSU delegation and that of the RCP, as well as the meeting of the Soviet delegation with N. Ceausescu.
Guided by the interests of continually developing Soviet-Romanian cooperation, of consolidating the unity of the socialist community, of the international situation and of the world Communist movement, the CPSU CC underscored that the separate approach of Romania towards a series of important problems brought prejudice to the common interests of the fraternal socialist countries.
As regards us, economic, technical-scientific and cultural relations between the two countries are good enough, but there are some divergent practices connected with their future development.
Great attention was accorded the necessity of decisively improving cooperation in the political sphere, of increasing the efficacy of consultations [on] problems related to foreign policy. In this context, the importance of collaboration within the Warsaw Pact was underscored in a special manner. The CPSU delegation subjected the Romania position to criticism for, frequently, failing to make a principled distinction between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. Attention was drawn to the fact that the reduced involvement of Romania in military cooperation within the framework of the Warsaw Treaty Organization prejudiced the defense efforts of the countries participating in the Pact during times of peace, as well as in case of an armed aggression.
The CPSU delegation subjected to criticism the ambiguous course, from the political perspective, of the RSR in its relations with the USA and its allies, before which the RSR demonstrates an ostentatious distancing from the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries and does not unmask the actions of the imperialist powers that place the cause of peace in danger and regarding important aspects of international policy.
During the examination of international problems, attention was accorded, in the first place, to those questions in which the positions of the RCP and the RSR differ considerably from the coordinated positions of the socialist countries. Attention was drawn to the false nature of some contemporary Romanian tendencies regarding global development (the intensification “of the struggle for spheres of influence,” issues connected with “rich countries and poor countries” and of “superpowers”, the evaluation of the Belgrade meeting, etc.) The CPSU delegation signaled the serious negative aspects of the approach, by Romania, to some international problems such as the halting of the arms race and disarmament, European security, translating the Final Act of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe into fact, cooperation in the Balkans, the situation in the Near East, in Africa, the attitude towards the neutral [non-aligned] movement, issues connected with the statute of the UN.
The representatives of the RCP were told to their faces that we are worried about the character of the relationship established between Romania and China. Being ourselves adepts of the normalization of relations with the PRC, we, certainly, are not against Romania developing relations with this country. Nevertheless, we are not indifferent with regard to the basis of the current development of Romanian-Chinese relations. It is impossible not to observe that China, in developing its relations with Romania, pursues the aim of creating “a single international front” in the struggle against the USSR. During the visit of Hua Guofeng in Romania, this aim was manifest clearly enough. We do not understand why the Romanian side, along with its failure to delimit itself from the barely concealed anti-Soviet interventions of the Chinese, declared that it maintained a “combative solidarity” with China. We are especially worried by the manner in which the cooperation between Romania and China is evolving.
The CPSU delegation mentioned the hope that the Romanian side would take into account our considerations and, as in the framework of its relations with China, would not act to the detriment of the content and spirit of the engagements that result from the Soviet-Romanian accord on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, or of its quality as a member of the Warsaw Treaty Organization. It was noted that, although the Chinese press besmirches in the most mean-spirited manner the results of the Berlin Conference of the Communist and Workers Parties in Europe, the press in the RSR gave no riposte to such interventions, nor did it unmask the interference of Beijing in the internal affairs of other parties, through the creation of diverse Maoist groups.
Within the framework of the exchange of opinions regarding the situation of the international communist and workers movement, the RCP’s policy of flirting with various currents that, one way or another, adopt an attitude against the international cooperation of the fraternal parties, was criticized. Underscored, especially, was that the right of each party to elaborate and promote an independent policy must not be contra-posed to the interests of the consolidation of the international communist movement.
The regret was expressed that the RCP refused to adhere, in 1977, to the common project of the communist parties of Europe against the neutron bomb. At the same time, the CPSU delegation noted that the Romanian press preserved silence when some communist parties criticized the problems with which the socialist countries are confronted, the experience accumulated by us.
The Romanian side was invited to give a decisive riposte to the attempts of imperialist propaganda to intervene in the discussions initiated within the framework of the communist movement with regard to the issues of the consolidation of the international cooperation of the Marxist-Leninist parties. It would be proper to fight more actively and with more perseverance against the anti-communist, anti-socialist, and anti-Soviet campaigns.
The problem was seriously raised with regard to the principled attitude towards the commonly-adopted documents, and, in this order of ideas, the CPSU delegation expressed, among other things, its confusion referring to the Budapest Conference communiqué coordinated by the CC secretaries of the Communist Parties of the socialist states that was published in the Romanian press with many omissions.
Within the framework of the negotiations the behavior of the Romanian representatives in international democratic organizations was also discussed. It was noted that, in a series of cases, their position made the elaboration of a coordinated approach to certain problems difficult, as happened, for example, at the 11th International Festival of Youth and Students in Havana.
From the very beginning, the Romanian delegation formulated the thesis, as a point of departure for its position, that “our respective parties respect, that which pertains to fundamental issues, whether from common perspectives or from those which coincide,” while the divergences among the socialist countries are [described], supposedly, a “fairly normal” phenomenon.
In the course of the negotiations, the Romania side underscored, repeatedly, that the development of international cooperation, of the relations of friendship and good neighborliness with the Soviet Union and with the other socialist countries was and remains an object of permanent preoccupation of the RCP.
Referring to the issue regarding cooperation in the framework of the Warsaw Pact, N. Ceausescu reiterated several times that Romania has fulfilled and will fulfill its obligations “up until [the Pact’s] dissolution.” The RCP delegation negated the fact that, basically, Romania places the Warsaw Pact and NATO on the same plane. With regard to maneuvers, the Romanian side gave the pretext that the deployment of foreign troops on the territory of the RSR could be accepted only with the approval of the Grand National Assembly, that, in each case, the issue could become the object of a special treaty, that, in general, maneuvers lend, supposedly, nothing to the instruction of the troops, their importance being confined to the regulation of cooperation between general staffs. The Romanian side maintained that “the right to lead armed forces, both in peacetime as well as in time of war, is an inalienable attribute of the sovereignty of each state.”
Referring to cooperation within the framework of the CMEA, the Romanian side declared that, to the measure of its economic possibilities, the RSR participates in common actions, in which it is interested. In general, in its opinion, the process of equalizing the economic levels of the member countries of the CMEA has not succeeded and, in comparison with other countries, Romania finds itself in the worst situation and remains a poorly developed country. The Romanian delegation negated the fact that the separate ties of the RSR with the “Common Market” brought prejudice to the common interests of the member countries of the CMEA.
The RCP delegation affirmed that the visit of Hua Guofeng in Romania increased the possibility of exercising “a positive influence” over the Chinese leader, that Hua Guofeng is, it seems, the adept of normalizing relations with the Soviet Union, for which only some “small efforts by both sides” would be sufficient.
With regard to the divergences in the Middle East, the Romanian side justified in every way possible the activity of A. Sadat [and] it requested that the USSR support Egypt and the negotiations underway there.
Regarding disarmament, the Romanian delegation pronounced in favor of enlarged consultations and of coordinated positions of the socialist countries. Basically, prior to their acceptance for examination in international forums, the problem should be coordinated with Romania. The CPSU delegation, certainly, could not make such promises, taking into account the position of Romania, although, in general, it pronounced in favor of the consultations.
The RCP representatives underscored, through every means possible, that the RSR maintains good relations with all of the socialist countries, noting only the fact that the relations with Hungary are affected by “artificially raised problems, from time to time, by certain circles of that country, regarding the situation of the Hungarian population in Romania.”
Referring to the issues connected with the international communist movement, the Romanian delegation classified “Eurocommunism” with the tendency of independently identifying the ways and means of struggling for socialism, as a function of the particularities of each country, but disapproved of the attacks of some communist parties against the experience and policies of the socialist countries. Evidently making an allusion to China, the Romanian side declared that the RCP would not become involved, as in other times in the actions and interventions of international social organizations against some socialist countries or fraternal parties. N. Ceausescu pronounced in favor of the organization, at the appropriate time, of a conference of communist parties in Europe.
The Romanian delegation adamantly opposed that the communiqué of the visit of the CPSU delegation should speak of the importance of “the common efforts” of the countries of the socialist community in the cause of the struggle for détente and about the importance of multilateral cooperation within, among other institutions, the framework of the Warsaw Pact. Only after a long discussion did it accept the inclusion of this thesis in the text of the communiqué.
Referring to the African problem, the RCP delegation declared that this “must be resolved by the Africans, without any outside intervention.” In this order of ideas, the Romanian side again pronounced itself against the presence of Cuban troops in Ethiopia. The CPSU delegation declared that the majority of African countries were grateful to Cuba for the assistance accorded Angola and Ethiopia, that, through its actions, Cuba supported the victims of aggression and that these actions were in conformity with the UN.
The Soviet delegation requested the RCP representatives to respect assumed engagements and to stop, finally, the publication in Romania of materials that cultivate nationalism and hostile attitudes towards the Soviet Union, which could be considered as a formula for expressing territorial pretensions against our country.
Broaching the issues which block the development of bilateral relations, A. A. Gromyko, the head of the CPSU delegation, also evoked the problem connected with the continued diffusion in the RSR of materials referring to territorial questions. He underscored that, following the declaration of Ceausescu in June 1976 – that the RSR has no [territorial] problem with the USSR – the problem appeared to be closed. In spite of this, even after the respective declaration, we are again placed in a situation of drawing the attention of the Romanian leadership to the continued publication of some materials of this type. These actions cannot fail to leave an imprint on Soviet-Romanian relations. It is time to put a stop to this. Can we not, once and for all, reach agreement on these problems?
The respective theme was also developed in the discourse of C. V. Rusakov, who recalled that, in discussion with N. Ceausescu, L. I. Brezhnev noted: “Certainly, there are not frontal actions in this regard, but the considerations regarding the legality of the frontiers between us are manifest, in one form or another, at every step.”
C. V. Rusakov recalled that in May 1976, C. F. Katushev, CPSU CC secretary, visited Bucharest. During a long conversation with N. Ceausescu, the adoption of a declaration was agreed through which it was confirmed that between Romania and the Soviet Union there were no territorial problems, and that RSR publications would not use formulas that would contradict this declaration. Soon, in the Romanian press, in historical literature, in school and higher education manuals, in manuals for the network of Party instruction, the problem of “to whom Bessarabia belonged” began to be broached, something which continues up to the present.
Among us in the USSR, C. V. Rusakov underscored, especially in the Moldavian SSR, where your organizations and institutions expedite, without being requested, a colossal number of such editions, this gives birth to bad reactions. The CPSU CC receives numerous letters, in which Soviet peoples express their confusion, even their indignation vis-à-vis this problem.
You affirm that it is an issue of historical scientific study consecrated entirely to the past. We declare to you categorically that it is an issue that has a greater importance as political principle than as history. The Soviet side considers inadmissible the fact that territorial questions long resolved become, under any form – directly or obliquely – the object of discussion. The permanent interventions of the Romanian press on this issue are in measure to cultivate only hostile sentiments towards the USSR and the Soviet people among Romanian citizens, to erode friendly and truly fraternal foundations. This worries us.
C. V. Rusakov mentioned that the periodical press and historical sciences have an orientation clearly traced by the CPSU CC: to broach with attention, from the political perspective, the complicated aspects of Russo-Romanian and Soviet-Romanian relations, to direct attention towards the development of cooperation, the interactions of our peoples at different stages of history in the struggle for progressive goals. Among us we do not publish material hostile towards the Romanian people. In the Moldavian SSR, savants study the history of the republic, but in their works territorial pretentions towards the RSR are not formulated– neither directly nor indirectly – they do not contain theses hostile towards Romania, and the Romanian population of Moldova is considered an organic part of the Romanian nation. The studies of Soviet savants referring to the formation and the development of the Moldavian nation and of the Moldavian SSR confirm unassailable historical fact – the formation of Moldavian statehood, the sovereignty of the socialist republic within the USSR.
Then, in order to remove aspects that complicate our relations, C. V. Rusakov proposed to the RCP delegation that the publication of the materials that cultivate hostile sentiments towards the Soviet Union be stopped. It would be opportune, C. V. Rusakov mentioned, that at the appropriate time, the Romanian side should reconfirm the declaration regarding the lack of any territorial pretentions in Soviet-Romanian relations. He recalled yet once more that, in the opinion of the Soviet side, the studies of savants regarding associated issues connected with Russo-Romanian and Soviet-Romanian relations, manuals and other publications, must have a truthful and good-faith character and he proposed that the activity of the Soviet-Romanian historians’ commission should be more productively used.
Member of the RCP CC Political Executive Committee, P. Niculescu, the head of the RCP delegation, did not negate in his discourse that Romanian publications complicated our bilateral relations, but, at the same time, he tried to avoid the examination of the political essence of this problem, and to reduce them to divergences between the historians of the two countries. He tried to affirm, without presenting arguments, how the Soviet historians had broken the 1976 accord. Passing in silence over the formulation of territorial questions in the RSR, P. Niculescu underscored that Soviet historians present especially important aspects of Romanian history in a distorted manner, such as the formation of the Romanian language and of the Romanian people, negating the presence of the Romanian people in the course of centuries on the territory of the country, as well as the historically objective tendency towards the unification of the Romanian principalities, from that period up until the formation of the unitary centralized Romanian state.
P. Niculescu then remarked that Soviet publications present, in a distorted manner, the process of the unitary Romanian national state, and underestimate the role of the Romanian people in winning the independence of the Romanian state, the role of the anti-Fascist military uprising of 23 August 1944 and the participation of the Romanian people in the anti-Fascist war. Materials of this sort, edited in the USSR, P. Niculescu underscored, give rise to confusion and respective reaction from the part of Romanian savants and specialist historians. According to him, recently, in a series of articles signed by Soviet authors, the idea has begun to be promoted, more or less obliquely, of the illegality of a series of Romanian territories belonging to Romania. Under the pretext of criticizing the former leaders of Romania and of the policies promoted by leadership circles during the First World War, although it is recognized that beyond the borders of Romania there then-lived three million Romanians, the process of the formation of the Romanian unitary national state is presented as an annexation of foreign territories. Thus, in a university manual, recently edited in Leningrad, the Union of Transylvania with Romania is presented as the conquering of foreign territory or as recompense made to Romania by the imperialist powers. P. Niculescu immediately raised the question: What kind of sentiment towards the Romanian people can the Soviet youth be educated in through these types of affirmations?
P. Niculescu referred also to the aspects that led to the modification of the Romanian-Russian frontier in the flow of history. He affirmed that the accord in 1976, regarding the use of some more acceptable formulations referring to the years 1812, 1918 and 1940 did not apply only to the Romanian side, the same engagement was also assumed by the Soviet side. In the aim of treating the problem in both countries, the RCP delegation proposed the use of concise formulas, without any commentary: “In 1812, Bessarabia was incorporated into Russia,” “In 1918 Bessarabia was incorporated into Romania,” “in 1940 Bessarabia was returned to the Soviet Union.” P. Niculescu tried to affirm that the Soivet side should accept these formulations in order not to complicate the problem. Although V. I. Lenin, P. Niculescu underscored, in his “Notebooks on Imperialism” wrote with regard to the colonial annexations and wars of Russia that “Russia took part of Bessarabia and Asia Minor,” nevertheless materials continue to be published in the USSR that underestimate the annexationist character of Tsarist Russian foreign policy.
In continuation, evoking the affirmations of N. Ceasuescu, P. Niculescu noted that:
“we do not have territorial problems with the Soviet Union. We start off from the premise that the Moldavian SSR is a part of the USSR, we recognize it and we desire to collaborate with it in the framework of our common relations with the USSR. However, we must also clarify the issue about which N. Ceausescu spoke with C. F. Katushev in May 1976: We can in no case accept the thesis which flagrantly contravenes historical truth, that the Romanians and the Moldavians are two different nations [peoples], that the Romanian and Moldavian languages are two different languages.
We accept – the head of the delegation said – to make a new declaration that we have no territorial pretensions on the USSR, but come on, let’s make a reciprocal one, let’s terminate the public discussion. We are for the discussion of the issues still needing elucidation by historians on a scientific basis, in a friendly atmosphere, for the invigoration of the activities of the Joint Soviet-Romanian Commission of Historians. It is, however, necessary that we abstain from the publication of uncoordinated materials, and that only those questions that contribute to the consolidation of friendship between our countries be broached in the press.”
Commenting on the affirmations of P. Niculescu, A. A. Gromyko underscored:
“You affirm that we have a certain type of publications, but you have not named them. If someone among us were to publish materials about territorial pretensions on Romania, about such an unresolved question, that author would suffer badly. Among us such a thing is excluded. Referring to the abovementioned issue, in our writings it appears as a resolved issue, but with you, in contrast, it is treated as unresolved.”
At the conclusion of the discussion, C. V. Rusakov underscored that there must be an end put to the hostile Romanian publications, referring to the states and events that have become political – the years 1918 and 1940. On that depends the disposition of people on your side and on ours. We declare categorically: we do not have unfriendly territorial problems towards the RSR.
Cde. V. I. Potapov informed [us] that the Romanian side again raises for discussion the issue of extending commercial relations along the border and of simplified frontier-crossing [procedures] up to a distance of 15 km, recalling that in regard to the [same] problems with the other socialist countries, this issue has long been resolved. The Soviet side responded that this question is under examination, but that it is improbable that it will be resolved positively, because the USSR does not practice such types of border relations with the other socialist countries and it is improbable that an exception will be made for a single country.
Making a balance of the negotiations, the CPSU CC considers, Cde. Potapov V. I. concluded, that they were useful, being one of the means of working with the RCP leadership. In ensemble, the exchange of views contributed to the identification of a series of issues that remain to be studied in the future. At the same time, the negotiations confirmed, yet again, that there are divergences regarding important problems of bilateral relations and international politics. The CPSU CC considers that the Romanian leadership will take into account the considerations expressed by our delegation.”
Head of Section of Information and Relations with Foreign Countries of the Moldavian CP CC
(signature) V. Andrushchak
27 October 1978
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.
In fact, the USSR maintained a substantially more liberal border-crossing regime with Hungary vis-à-vis the Transcarpathian region, where there were several communities of ethnic Hungarians (and ethnic Romanians), than it allowed between Romania and the Moldavian SSR or the Ukrainian SSR, where much larger communities of ethnic Romanians/Moldavians existed.