A year ago today, on August 30, 2022, Mikhail Gorbachev, final leader of the Soviet Union between 1985 and 1991, died in a Moscow hospital at the age of 91.
Fifty-five years ago today, five Soviet-led Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia to put an end to the Prague Spring reform attempts led by Alexander Dubček. Operation Danube, the largest military maneuver ever undertaken by the Warsaw Pact, was also the first major foreign “intervention” by the Soviet Union since its tanks had crushed the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. Documents in the Blinken OSA Archivum’s archival series on Non-Ruling Communist Parties reveal that in the intervening 12 years, a number of key lessons had been learned, both East and West.
On April 26, 1986, 37 years ago, an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant caused a radioactive cloud that spread over a large area in Europe, with the western parts of the Soviet Union—today’s Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia—receiving the strongest portion of it. More than eight million people were exposed to radiation leading to death, diseases, and despair.
April 16 is the Memorial Day of Hungarian Victims of the Holocaust. The Blinken OSA Archivum opened its Auschwitz 1945–1989. Reconstruction exhibit in 2004 on this day; the exhibition was on display for two months, but was quickly followed by an open-access virtual version (only in Hungarian) the same year. However, this online exhibit became unavailable in 2021 for technical reasons.
On December 5, 1994, an event took place in Budapest, Hungary, which became the final and defining step in a series of decisions toward the third-largest nuclear state abandoning its nuclear arsenal and becoming a non-nuclear-weapon state. That country was Ukraine. With the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine took third place in the list of nuclear states, behind the United States and the Russian Federation.
Matthew Nimetz, a Trustee of Central European University, told the following story on a cold winter’s day in Nádor Street: “In the late fall of 1977, when US President Jimmy Carter decided to return the crown of St. Stephen to Hungary, he instructed me, as his chief advisor to the Secretary of State, to travel to Fort Knox, Arizona, where the Hungarian crown jewels were stored along with the gold holdings of the US Federal Reserve Bank, and see the condition of the crown jewels.
”Westerners ask how Soviet citizens feel about their government's actions in Afghanistan; this question is difficult to answer in the absence of a free press and without public opinion polling on sensitive issues.
“Whose terror was it? . . . The mass consciousness views mass terror the same way it viewed the Plague during the Middle Ages. We were living our lives, and then suddenly—the Plague! It came and it killed many, many people. And then it left, and we continued on living. But this is not right. Memorial’s response is a fairly simple one.
“Gerő suggested it, and Rákosi consented, adding that he had talked it over with Soviet comrades. . . . Politically, I think... my activities were very negative. Thinking about it now, I know that accepting the premiership was a bad decision,” András Hegedüs said in his 1985 oral history interview conducted by democratic opposition figure Zoltán Zsille, broadcast on Radio Free Europe and also distributed in samizdat in print.