Chernyaev diary (3 January 1976)

A brief passage from Anatoly CHERNYAEV’s unpublished “Diary”, in which he responds to a report to the Central Committee by ANDROPOV (29 December 1975*, 3213-A) about the statements of foreign communist parties concerning “political prisoners” in the USSR (NSA, document and translation).


3 January 1976

From interesting things at the Central Committee, in the three days before the New Year, there was, I think, the following.

Andropov presented a memo [29 December 1975] to the Politburo about the situation with the “dissidents” in the USSR. Saying that the Soviet people listen to the radio and wonder why the PCF [French Communist Party] has suddenly come out in defense of Plyushch and Sakharov, and was in general barking at the CPSU Central Committee in connection with “the existence of political prisoners in the USSR.” The memo does not contain an answer about what to do in this regard. And it turns out that the inner intention [of the memo], as it seemed to me, was in self-justification to the Central Committee along the lines that notwithstanding the protests on the part of our détente partners, we will have to “continue to jail” [dissidents].

The document contained some curious data: in the last ten years about 1,500 people have been arrested for anti-Soviet activities. In 1959, when Khrushchev announced to the entire world that there were no political prisoners in the USSR, there were no less than 1,400 of them. In 1975, there were about 850 political prisoners; of these 261 were sentenced for anti-Soviet propaganda.

I was struck by one figure: there are 68,000 “prophylacted” persons in the country, i.e. those, who were summoned to the KGB and warned about the “impermissibility” of their activities. Over 1,800 anti-Soviet groups and organizations were similarly warned after being uncovered through “penetration”. All in all, in Andropov’s opinion, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the Soviet Union, who are either acting or are ready to act (under proper circumstances) against the Soviet regime.


SourceAnatoly S. Chernyaev “Diary” (manuscript), provided by the author.

Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya For the National Security Archive. — translation No 5, document No 12.


Selected extracts from Chernyaev’s diaries were published first in Russia (1993) and subsequently in English translation as My Six Years with Gorbachev (2000). Chapter Six of the expanded edition of Judgment in Moscow (2019) contains passages from the diaries that are more critical of the Soviet Union’s last Communist leader.


  • 1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
  • 2. Text added by hand is indicated in italic script;
  • 3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted in a previously typed document it is indicated by underlined italic script.