13 March 2017
In memory of Anatoly Chernyaev (1921–2017)
The death of Anatoly Chernyaev brings to an end the life journey of a remarkable man whose thoughts and deeds were inextricably linked to a great historical era.
He was born in 1921 in Moscow, and grew up in a hard and contradictory time. He believed in the ideals of the Revolution, valued friendship and books, and tried to make sense of the events he witnessed. This keen desire to understand was his hallmark throughout his entire life.
The Patriotic War – World War II – was a major influence on Chernyaev’s thinking and his life. His memoirs of the war, in which he fought from beginning to end, give a vivid account of its hardships, deprivations and daily dangers and at the same time present an image of a thinking soldier, reflecting deeply and intensely on his country and the world.
Chernyaev emerged from the war believing in the values of goodness, justice and law. For him, those were truly universal values, and a benchmark in assessing himself and others in the post-war years, during the thaw, and in the period of stagnation. Hence his rejection of Stalinism – and his whole-hearted, enthusiastic support for Perestroika, which became his finest hour.
His contribution to the development of Perestroika’s foreign policy and to the country’s democratization was invaluable. Glasnost for him was synonymous with integrity of government and freedom of speech: it was his credo, his sine qua non. Throughout those years, Chernyaev stood by Mikhail Gorbachev, the architect of Perestroika who took responsibility for the difficult decisions that changed the country and the world. The relations between them during those years were a kind of brotherhood.
Anatoly Chernyaev was disturbed by the events that interrupted Perestroika, and it made him all the more determined to preserve the truth, the historical documents and records of those great years. He dedicated to this the last quarter century of his life. His monumental work will be appreciated by historians and by future generations.
For us at the Gorbachev Foundation, Anatoly Chernyaev was a mentor and a friend. His wisdom, vast knowledge and sense of humor, his understanding of people and attention to them, his witty and sometimes biting remarks, the smile that lit up his face – all that will remain in our memories and in our hearts.
We offer our deep condolences to the family and loved ones of Anatoly Chernyaev. We will cherish his memory.