Helsinki Accords, human rights, Fall of Communism


When the Final Act of the Helsinki Accords was signed by the nations of Europe and North America in 1975, the potential effect of the document was met with skepticism. Those who were a party to the act expected little. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in uncaring fashion, said dismissively, "I don't care if they're written in Swahili. " Kissinger's counterpart, Andrei Gromyko, made sure Soviet authority was not questioned by stating, "We are masters in our own house." Nonetheless, the language contained in the Final Act definitely entitled all citizens of the signatory powers to specific human rights. These included "the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; equal rights and self-determination of peoples." In considering the language in these accords and that of the faithless politicians who signed them, one must ask the questions, what caused the accords to attain legitimacy, and what was their effect?