|General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union|
12 November 1982 – 9 February 1984
|Preceded by||Leonid Brezhnev|
|Succeeded by||Konstantin Chernenko|
|Chairman of the Presidium of the |
16 June 1983 – 9 February 1984
|Preceded by||Vasili Kuznetsov (acting)|
|Succeeded by||Vasili Kuznetsov (acting)|
|Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union|
24 May 1982 – 10 November 1982
|Preceded by||Konstantin Chernenko (acting)|
|Succeeded by||Konstantin Chernenko|
|4th Chairman of the Committee for State Security (KGB)|
18 May 1967 – 26 May 1982
|Preceded by||Vladimir Semichastny|
|Succeeded by||Vitaly Fedorchuk|
|Born||15 June 1914|
Stanitsa Nagutskaya, Stavropol Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||9 February 1984 (aged 69)|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Cause of death||Kidney failure|
|Resting place||Kremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow|
|Political party||CPSU (1939–1984)|
|Branch/service||Soviet Armed Forces|
|Years of service||1939–1984|
|Rank||General of the Army|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Central institution membership
Other political offices held
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov[a] (15 June [O.S. 2 June] 1914 – 9 February 1984) was the sixth paramount leader of the Soviet Union and the fourth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Following the 18-year rule of Leonid Brezhnev, Andropov served in the post from November 1982 until his death in February 1984.
Earlier in his career, Andropov served as the Soviet ambassador to Hungary from 1954 to 1957, during which time he was involved in the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. He was named Chairman of the KGB on 10 May 1967. In this position, he oversaw a massive crackdown on dissent carried out via mass arrests and the involuntary psychiatric commitment of people deemed "socially undesirable". After Brezhnev suffered a stroke in 1975 impairing his ability to govern, Andropov effectively dominated policymaking alongside Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, Defense Minister Andrei Grechko and Grechko's successor, Marshal Dmitry Ustinov, for the rest of Brezhnev's rule.
Upon Brezhnev's death on 10 November 1982, Yuri Andropov succeeded him as General Secretary and (by extension) leader of the Soviet Union. During his short tenure, Andropov sought to eliminate corruption and inefficiency within the country by investigating longtime officials for violations of party discipline and criminalizing truancy in the workplace. The Cold War intensified, and he was at a loss for how to handle the growing crisis in the Soviet economy. His major long-term impact was bringing to the fore a new generation of young reformers, as energetic as himself, including Yegor Ligachyov, Nikolai Ryzhkov, and, most importantly, Mikhail Gorbachev. However, upon suffering kidney failure in February 1983, Andropov's health began to deteriorate rapidly. On 9 February 1984, he died after leading the country for only about 15 months.
There has been much contention over Andropov's family background. According to the official biography, Andropov was born in Stanitsa Nagutskaya (modern-day in Stavropol Krai of Russia) on 15 June 1914. His father, Vladimir Konstantinovich Andropov, was a railway worker of Don Cossack descent who died from typhus in 1919. His mother, Yevgenia Karlovna Fleckenstein (none of the official sources mention her name), was a school teacher who died in 1931. She was born in the Ryazan Governorate into a family of town dwellers and was abandoned on the doorstep of a Finnish citizen, a Jewish watchmaker, Karl Franzevich Fleckenstein, who lived in Moscow; he and his wife, Eudokia Mikhailovna Fleckenstein, adopted and raised her.
His earliest documented name was Grigory Vladimirovich Andropov-Fyodorov; he changed it to Yuri Andropov several years later. While his original birth certificate disappeared, it was established that Andropov was in fact born in Moscow where his mother had been working in a women's gymnasium from 1913 until 1917.
To make things more complicated, he named different dates of her death at various occasions: 1927, 1929, 1930 and 1931. The story of her adoption was also highly likely a mystification. In 1937 Andropov went through a check when he applied for Communist Party membership, and it turned out that "the sister of his native maternal grandmother" (he called her his aunt) who was living with him and who supported the legend of his Ryazan peasant origins was in fact his nurse who had been working at Fleckenstein's long before he was born.
It was also reported that his mother belonged to merchantry. In fact Karl Fleckenstein was a rich jewel merchant, owner of a jeweller's, and so was his wife who took over her husband's business after his accidental death in 1915 (he was confused for a German during the infamous anti-German pogrom in Moscow, although Andropov preferred to refer to it as anti-Jewish). The whole family could have been turned into lishentsy and stripped of basic rights if she had not abandoned the store after another pogrom in 1917, invented a proletarian background, and left Moscow for the Stavropol Governorate along with Andropov's mother.
He gave different versions of his father's fate: in one case he divorced his mother soon after his birth, and in another he died of illness. The "father" he referred to, Vladimir Andropov, was in fact his stepfather who lived and worked at Nagutskaya and died from typhus in 1919. The Fyodorov surname belonged to his second stepfather (since 1921) Viktor Fyodorov, a machinist's assistant turned school teacher. His real father remains unknown; he probably died in 1916 – a date written in Andropov's 1932 résumé. During the 1937 check, it was reported that his father served as an officer in the Imperial Russian Army. Andropov was thoroughly interviewed four times, yet he was so convincing that he managed to have all charges dropped. He joined the Communist Party in 1939.
Early career in the Communist Party
Andropov was educated at the Rybinsk Water Transport Technical College and graduated in 1936. As a teenager he worked as a loader, a telegraph clerk, and a sailor for the Volga steamship line. At 16, Yuri Andropov, then a member of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (YCL, or Komsomol), was a worker in the town of Mozdok in the North Ossetian ASSR.
He became full-time Secretary of the YCL organization of the Water Transport Technical School in Rybinsk in the Yaroslavl Region and was soon promoted to the post of organizer of the YCL Central Committee at the Volodarsky Shipyards in Rybinsk. In 1938, he was elected First Secretary of the Yaroslavl Regional Committee of the YCL, and was First Secretary of the Central Committee of Komsomol in the Soviet Karelo-Finnish Republic from 1940 to 1944.
According to the official biography, during World War II Andropov took part in partisan guerrilla activities in Finland, although modern researchers didn't manage to find any traces of his supposed partisan squad. From 1944 onwards, he left Komsomol for Communist Party work. Between 1946 and 1951, he studied at the university of Petrozavodsk. In 1947, he was elected Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Karelo-Finnish SSR.
Suppression of the Hungarian Uprising
In July 1954, he was appointed Soviet Ambassador to Hungary and held this position during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Andropov played a key role in crushing the Hungarian uprising. He convinced a reluctant Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev that military intervention was necessary. He is known as 'The Butcher of Budapest' for his ruthless suppression of the Hungarian uprising. The Hungarian leaders were arrested and Imre Nagy and others executed.
After these events, Andropov suffered from a "Hungarian complex", according to historian Christopher Andrew: "He had watched in horror from the windows of his embassy as officers of the hated Hungarian security service [the Államvédelmi Hatóság or AVH] were strung up from lampposts. Andropov remained haunted for the rest of his life by the speed with which an apparently all-powerful Communist one-party state had begun to topple. When other Communist regimes later seemed at risk – in Prague in 1968, in Kabul in 1979, in Warsaw in 1981, he was convinced that, as in Budapest in 1956, only armed force could ensure their survival".
Chairmanship of the KGB and Politburo career
In 1957, Andropov returned to Moscow from Budapest in order to head the Department for Liaison with Communist and Workers' Parties in Socialist Countries, a position he held until 1967. In 1961, he was elected full member of the CPSU Central Committee and was promoted to the Secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee in 1962. In 1967, he was relieved of his work in the Central Committee apparatus and appointed head of the KGB on recommendation of Mikhail Suslov, at the same time promoted a Candidate Member of the Politburo. In 1970, out of concern that the burial place of Joseph and Magda Goebbels along with their 6 children would become a shrine to neo-Nazis, Andropov authorised an operation to destroy the remains that were buried in Magdeburg in 1946. The remains were thoroughly burned and crushed, and the ashes thrown into the Biederitz River, a tributary of the nearby Elbe. Although no proof exists that the Russians ever found Adolf Hitler's body, it is presumed that Hitler and Eva Braun were among the remains as 10 or 11 individuals were exhumed. Andropov gained additional powers in 1973, when he was promoted to full member of the Politburo.
Crushing the Prague Spring
During the events of the Prague Spring in 1968, Andropov was the main advocate for "extreme measures" being taken against Czechoslovakia. According to classified information released by Vasili Mitrokhin, "[t]he KGB whipped up the fear that Czechoslovakia could fall victim to NATO aggression or to a coup". At this time, agent Oleg Kalugin reported from Washington that he gained access to "absolutely reliable documents proving that neither the CIA nor any other agency was manipulating the Czechoslovak reform movement". However his message was destroyed because it contradicted the conspiracy theory fabricated by Andropov. Andropov ordered a number of active measures, collectively known as operation PROGRESS, against Czechoslovak reformers during the Normalization period.
Suppression of dissidents
Throughout his career, Andropov aimed to achieve "the destruction of dissent in all its forms" and insisted that "the struggle for human rights was a part of a wide-ranging imperialist plot to undermine the foundation of the Soviet state". Towards this end, he launched a campaign to eliminate all opposition in the USSR through a mixture of mass arrests, involuntary commitments to psychiatric hospitals, and pressuring on rights activists to emigrate from the Soviet Union. These measures were meticulously documented throughout his time as KGB chairman by the underground Chronicle of Current Events, a samizdat publication which was itself finally forced out of existence with its last published issue, dated 30 June 1982.
On 3 July 1967, he made a proposal to establish the KGB's Fifth Directorate for dealing with the political opposition: 29 (ideological counterintelligence).: 177 At the end of July, the directorate was established and entered in its files cases of all Soviet dissidents including Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In 1968, Andropov as the KGB Chairman issued his order "On the tasks of State security agencies in combating the ideological sabotage by the adversary", calling for struggle against dissidents and their imperialist masters.
After the assassination attempt against Brezhnev in January 1969, Andropov led the interrogation of the captured gunman, Viktor Ivanovich Ilyin. Ilyin was pronounced insane and sent to Kazan Psychiatric Hospital. Later, on 29 April 1969, he submitted to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union an elaborated plan for creating a network of psychiatric hospitals to defend the "Soviet Government and socialist order" from dissidents.: 177 In January 1970 Andropov submitted an alarming account to his fellow Politburo members of the widespread threat of the mentally ill to stability and the security of the regime. The proposal by Andropov to use psychiatry for struggle against dissidents was implemented.: 42 Andropov was in charge of the widespread deployment of psychiatric repression since he was the head of the KGB.: 187–188 According to Yuri Felshtinsky and Boris Gulko, the originators of the idea to use psychiatry for punitive purposes were the head of the KGB (Andropov) and the head of the Fifth Directorate, Filipp Bobkov.
The repression of dissidents included plans to maim the dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who had defected in 1961. There are some who believe that Andropov was behind the deaths of Fyodor Kulakov and Pyotr Masherov, the two youngest members of the Soviet leadership. A declassified document revealed that Andropov as KGB director gave the order to prevent unauthorized gatherings mourning the death of John Lennon.
In 1977, Andropov convinced Brezhnev that the Ipatiev House, where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries during the Russian Civil War, had become a site of pilgrimage for covert monarchists. With the Politburo's approval the house, deemed to be not of "sufficient historical significance", was demolished in September 1977, less than a year before the 60th anniversary of the murders.
According to Yaakov Kedmi, Andropov was particularly keen to persecute any sign of Zionism in order to distance himself from his Jewish heritage. Andropov was personally responsible for orchestrating the arrest and persecution of Soviet Jewish activist Natan Sharansky.
Role in the invasion of Afghanistan
In March 1979, Andropov and the Politburo initially opposed their subsequent decision to intervene militarily in Afghanistan. Among their concerns were that the international community would blame the USSR for its "aggression" and that it would derail the upcoming SALT II negotiation meeting with President Carter. However, Andropov's stance changed after the assassination of Nur Muhammad Taraki and the seizure of power by Hafizullah Amin. Andropov became convinced that the CIA had recruited Amin to create a pro-Western expansionist "New Great Ottoman Empire" which would attempt to dominate Soviet Central Asia. Andropov's bottom line: "under no circumstances can we lose Afghanistan," led him and the Politburo to invade Afghanistan on 24 December 1979. The invasion led to the extended Soviet–Afghan War (1979–1989) and a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow by 66 countries, something of concern to Andropov since spring 1979. Some have proposed that the Soviet–Afghan War also played an important role in the breakdown of the Soviet Union.
Role in the non-invasion of Poland
On 10 December 1981, in the face of Poland's Solidarity movement, Andropov, along with Soviet Second Secretary Mikhail Suslov and Polish First Secretary Wojciech Jaruzelski, persuaded Brezhnev that it would be counterproductive for the Soviet Union to invade Poland by repeating the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring. This effectively marked the end of the Brezhnev Doctrine.
Promotion of Gorbachev
From 1980 to 1982, while still chairman of the KGB, Andropov opposed plans to occupy Poland after the emergence of the Solidarity movement and promoted reform-minded party cadres including Mikhail Gorbachev. Andropov was the longest-serving KGB chairman and did not resign as head of the KGB until May 1982, when he was again promoted to the Secretariat to succeed Mikhail Suslov as secretary responsible for ideological affairs.
Leader of the Soviet Union
Two days after Leonid Brezhnev's death, on 12 November 1982, Andropov was elected General Secretary of the CPSU, the first former head of the KGB to become General Secretary. His appointment was received in the West with apprehension, in view of his roles in the KGB and in Hungary. At the time his personal background was a mystery in the West, with major newspapers printing detailed profiles of him that were inconsistent and in several cases fabricated.
Andropov divided responsibilities in the Politburo with his chief deputy Konstantin Chernenko. Andropov took control of organizing the work of the Politburo, supervising national defense, supervising the main issues of domestic and foreign policy and foreign trade, and making leadership assignments in the top ranks of the Party and the government. Chernenko handled espionage, KGB, the Interior Ministry, party organs, ideology, and organizational matters, as well as propaganda, culture, science, and higher education. He was also given charge of the Central Committee. It was far too much for Chernenko to handle, and the other Politburo members were not given major assignments.
At home, Andropov attempted to improve the USSR's economy by increasing its workforce's efficiency. He cracked down on Soviet laborers' lack of discipline by decreeing the arrest of absentee employees and penalties for tardiness. For the first time, the facts about economic stagnation and obstacles to scientific progress were made available to the public and open to criticism. Furthermore, the KGB Chairman-turned-Gensek gave select industries greater autonomy from state regulations and enabled factory managers to retain control over more of their profits. Such policies resulted in a 4% rise in industrial output and increased investment in new technologies such as robotics.
Despite such reforms, Andropov refused to consider any changes that sought to dispense with the command economy introduced under Joseph Stalin. In his memoirs, Mikhail Gorbachev recalled that when Andropov was the leader, Gorbachev and Nikolai Ryzhkov, the chairman of Gosplan, asked him for access to real budget figures. "You are asking too much," Andropov responded. "The budget is off limits to you."
In contrast to Brezhnev's policy of avoiding conflicts and dismissals, he began to fight violations of party, state and labour discipline, which led to significant personnel changes during an anti-corruption campaign against many of Brezhnev's cronies. During 15 months in office, Andropov dismissed 18 ministers and 37 first secretaries of obkoms, kraikoms and Central Committees of Communist Parties of Soviet Republics, and criminal cases against high level party and state officials were started. Biographers including Solovyov and Klepikova (1983) and Zhores Medvedev (1983) have discussed the complex possibilities underlying the motivations of anti-corruption campaigning in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and early 1980s: at the same time that it is true that Andropov fought corruption for moral, ethical, ascetic, and ideological reasons, it is also true that it was an effective way for party members from the police and security organizations to defeat competitors for power at the senior levels of the party. Thus Andropov himself, as well as his protégés including Eduard Shevardnadze, could advance their own power by the same efforts that also promised to be better for the country in terms of justice, economic performance, and even defense readiness (which depended on economic performance). Thus there was a certain inevitable amount of "what's better for the country also happens to align with what's best for my own power." It is not possible to measure the exact balance of self-interest versus selfless altruism and patriotism in this equation. Part of the complexity is that in the Brezhnev era, much corruption was implicitly tolerated and was pervasive (although officially denied), and many a member of the police and security organizations themselves participated in it to various degrees, but only those organizations had access to the power to measure it and monitor its details. In such an environment, anti-corruption campaigning is inherently a path by which police and security people have the potential or opportunity to appear to be white-hat heroes cleaning up the malfeasance of black-hat villains and 'coincidentally' increasing their own power, whereas there may be an underlying reality of one set of gray-hat antiheroes defeating another set of gray-hat antiheroes in a morally gray power struggle.
Andropov faced a series of foreign policy crises: the hopeless situation of the Soviet army in Afghanistan, threatened revolt in Poland, growing animosity with China, the polarization threat of war in the Middle East, and the civil strife in Ethiopia and South Africa. The most critical threat was the "Second Cold War" launched by American President Ronald Reagan and a specific attack on rolling back what he denounced as the "Evil Empire". Reagan was using American economic power, and Soviet economic weakness, to escalate massive spending on the Cold War, emphasizing high technology that Moscow lacked. The main response was raising the military budget to 70 percent of the total budget, and supplying billions of dollars worth of military aid to Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Yemen, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Cuba, and North Korea. That included tanks and armored troop carriers, hundreds of fighter planes, as well as anti-aircraft systems, artillery systems, and all sorts of high tech equipment for which the USSR was the main supplier for its allies. Andropov's main goal was to avoid an open war.
In foreign policy, the conflict in Afghanistan continued even though Andropov, who now felt the invasion was a mistake, half-heartedly explored options for a negotiated withdrawal. Andropov's rule was also marked by deterioration of relations with the United States. During a much-publicized "walk in the woods" with Soviet dignitary Yuli Kvitsinsky, American diplomat Paul Nitze suggested a compromise for reducing nuclear missiles in Europe on both sides that was ultimately ignored by the Politburo. Kvitsinsky would later write that, despite his own efforts, the Soviet leadership was not interested in compromise, instead calculating that peace movements in the West would force the Americans to capitulate. On 8 March 1983, during Andropov's reign as General Secretary, U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire". The same month, on 23 March, Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative. Reagan claimed this research program into ballistic missile defence would be "consistent with our obligations under the ABM Treaty". However, Andropov was dismissive of this claim, and said that "It is time they [Washington] stopped ... search[ing] for the best ways of unleashing nuclear war. ... Engaging in this is not just irresponsible. It is insane".
In August 1983, Andropov made an announcement that the country was stopping all work on space-based weapons. One of his most notable acts during his short time as leader of the Soviet Union was in response to a letter from a 10-year-old American child from Maine named Samantha Smith, inviting her to the Soviet Union. She came, but he was too ill to meet with her, thus revealing his grave condition to the world. Meanwhile, Soviet–U.S. arms control talks on intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe were suspended by the Soviet Union in November 1983 and by the end of the year, the Soviets had broken off all arms control negotiations.
Massive bad publicity worldwide came when Soviet fighters shot down a civilian jet liner, Korean Air Flight KAL-007, which carried 269 passengers and crew. It had strayed over the Soviet Union on 1 September 1983 on its scheduled route from Anchorage, Alaska, United States, to Seoul, South Korea. Andropov kept secret the fact that the Soviet Union held in its possession the black box from KAL 007 which proved the pilot had made a typographical error when entering data in the automatic pilot. The Soviet air defence system was unprepared to deal with a civilian airliner, and the shooting down was a matter of following orders without question. Instead of admitting an accident, Soviet media proclaimed a brave decision to meet a Western provocation. Together with the low credibility created by the poor explanation of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the episode demonstrated an inability to deal with public relations crises; the propaganda system was only useful for individuals and states that were aligned with the Soviet Union. Both crises were escalated by technological and organizational failures, compounded by human error.
Death and funeral
In February 1983, Andropov suffered total kidney failure. In August 1983, he entered the Central Clinical Hospital in western Moscow on a permanent basis, where he would spend the remainder of his life.
In late January 1984, Andropov's health deteriorated sharply and due to growing toxicity in his blood, he had periods of failing consciousness. He died on 9 February 1984 at 16:50 in his hospital room at age 69. Few of the top Soviet leaders, not even all the Politburo members, learned of his death on that day. According to the Soviet post mortem medical report, Andropov suffered from several medical conditions: interstitial nephritis, nephrosclerosis, residual hypertension and diabetes, which were worsened by chronic kidney deficiency.
A four-day period of mourning across the Union was announced. Syria declared seven days of mourning; Cuba declared four days of mourning; India declared three days of mourning; Bulgaria, North Korea and Zimbabwe all declared two days of mourning, Czechoslovakia and Costa Rica declared one day of mourning. He was honored with a state funeral in Red Square, in a service that was attended by numerous foreign leaders such as U.S. Vice President George H. W. Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Italian President Sandro Pertini, East German First Secretary Erich Honecker, Polish First Secretary Wojciech Jaruzelski, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Irish President Patrick Hillery. Those giving eulogies were Chernenko, Ustinov, and Gromyko as well as Georgi Markov (head of the Union of Soviet Writers), and Ivan Senkin (First Secretary of the Karelian Regional Committee of the CPSU). He was buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
Andropov was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko, who seemed to mirror Andropov's tenure. Chernenko had already been afflicted with severe health problems when he ascended to the USSR's top spot, and served even less time in office (13 months). Like Andropov, Chernenko spent much of his time hospitalized, and also died in office, in March 1985. Chernenko was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev, who implemented perestroika and glasnost policies to reform the Soviet Union politically and economically. In 1991 the USSR was dissolved on 26 December.
Andropov lived at 26 Kutuzovsky Prospekt, the same building in which Suslov and Brezhnev also lived. He married Nina Ivanovna, who had been born not far from the local farm in which Andropov was born, and divorced her in 1941. He met his second wife, Tatyana Filippovna, during World War II on the Karelian Front when she was Komsomol secretary. She suffered a nervous breakdown during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and was never seen in public until Andropov's funeral. Andropov's chief guard informed Tatyana about the death of her husband. She was too grief-stricken to join in the procession and during the funeral her relatives helped her to walk. Before the lid could be closed on Andropov's coffin, she bent to kiss him. She touched his hair and then kissed him again. In 1985, a respectful 75-minute film was broadcast in which Tatyana reads love poems written by her husband. Tatyana became ill and died in November 1991.
Andropov's legacy remains the subject of much debate in Russia and elsewhere, both among scholars and in the popular media. He remains the focus of television documentaries and popular non-fiction, particularly around important anniversaries. As KGB head, Andropov was ruthless against dissent, and author David Remnick, who covered the Soviet Union for The Washington Post in the 1980s, called Andropov "profoundly corrupt, a beast". Alexander Yakovlev, later an advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev and the ideologist of perestroika, said: "In a way I always thought Andropov was the most dangerous of all of them, simply because he was smarter than the rest." However, it was Andropov himself who recalled Yakovlev back to high office in Moscow in 1983 after a ten-year exile as ambassador to Canada after attacking Russian chauvinism. Yakovlev was also a close colleague of Andropov associate KGB General Yevgeny Primakov, later Prime Minister of Russia. Andropov began to follow a trend of replacing elderly officials with considerably younger replacements.
In the West, if Andropov is remembered at all, it is for his brutal suppression of political dissidence at home and for his role in planning the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. By contrast, the leaders of the former Warsaw Pact intelligence community, when I was one of them, looked up to Andropov as the man who substituted the KGB for the Communist party in governing the Soviet Union, and who was the godfather of Russia's new era of deception operations aimed at improving the badly damaged image of Soviet rulers in the West.
Despite Andropov's hard-line stance in Hungary and the numerous banishments and intrigues for which he was responsible during his long tenure as head of the KGB, he has become widely regarded by many commentators as a reformer, especially in comparison with the stagnation and corruption during the later years of his predecessor, Leonid Brezhnev. Andropov, "a throwback to a tradition of Leninist asceticism", was appalled by the corruption during Brezhnev's regime, and ordered investigations and arrests of the most flagrant abusers. The investigations were so frightening that several members of Brezhnev's circle "shot, gassed or otherwise did away with themselves." He was certainly generally regarded as inclined to more gradual and constructive reform than was Gorbachev; most of the speculation centres around whether Andropov would have reformed the USSR in a manner which did not result in its eventual dissolution.
The Western media favored Andropov because of his supposed passion for Western music and scotch. However, these were unproven rumors. The short time he spent as leader, much of it in a state of extreme ill health, leaves debaters few concrete indications as to the nature of any hypothetical extended rule. The 2002 Tom Clancy novel Red Rabbit focuses heavily on Andropov during his tenure of KGB chief, when his health is slightly better. It mirrors his secrecy in that British and American intelligence know little about him, not even able to confirm he was a married man. The novel also depicts Andropov as being a fan of Marlboros and starka vodka, almost never available to ordinary Soviet citizens.
Attitudes to Andropov
In a message read out at the opening of a new exhibition dedicated to Andropov, Vladimir Putin called him "a man of talent with great abilities." Putin has praised Andropov's "honesty and uprightness." According to Russian historian Nikita Petrov, "He was a typical Soviet jailer who violated human rights. Andropov headed the organisation which persecuted the most remarkable people of our country." From Petrov's point, it was a shame for the country that the persecutor of intelligentsia, the persecutor of freedom of thought, a man of whom as an oppressor of freedom legends were composed, became leader of the country. According to Roy Medvedev, the year that Andropov spent in power was memorable for increasing repression against dissidents. During most of his KGB career, Andropov crushed dissident movements, isolated people in psychiatric hospitals, sent them to prison and deported them from the Soviet Union. According to political scientist Georgy Arbatov, Andropov bears responsibility for many injustices in the 1970s and early 1980s: for deportations, for political arrests, for persecuting dissidents, for the abuse of psychiatry, for notorious cases such as the persecution of academician Andrei Sakharov. According to Dmitri Volkogonov and Harold Shukman, it was Andropov who approved the numerous trials of human rights activists such as Andrei Amalrik, Vladimir Bukovsky, Viacheslav Chornovil, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Alexander Ginzburg, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Petro Grigorenko, Anatoly Sharansky, and others.
According to Natalya Gorbanevskaya, after Andropov's coming to power the dissident movement went into decline – not of its own but because it was strangled. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, repression was most severe, many people were picked up for a second time, and sentenced to longer terms. The camp regime was not strict but specific, and when Andropov became General Secretary, he introduced an Article under which violations of camp regime resulted in a punishment cell and an additional term up to three years. A person for his two or three remarks could be sent not home but to another camp with [non-political] criminals. And in those years there were a lot of deaths in camps not from hunger-strikes, but just from disease and lack of medical care.
Various people who closely knew Andropov, including Vladimir Medvedev, Aleksandr Chuchyalin, Vladimir Kryuchkov and Roy Medvedev, remembered him for his politeness, calmness, unselfishness, patience, intelligence and exceptionally sharp memory. According to Chuchyalin, while working at Kremlin Andropov would read ca. 600 pages per day and remember everything he had read. Andropov read English literature and could communicate in Finnish, English and German.
Honours and awards
- Soviet Awards
- Honorary Member of the KGB, 1973
- Foreign Awards
Speeches and works
- Ленинизм озаряет наш путь [Leninism illumes our way] (in Russian). Moscow: Издательство политической литературы. 1964.
- Ленинизм – наука и искусство революционного творчества [Leninism is science and art of revolutionary creativity] (in Russian). Moscow: Издательство политической литературы. 1976.
- Коммунистическая убежденность – великая сила строителей нового мира [Communist firm belief is a great power of builders of new world] (in Russian). Moscow: Издательство политической литературы. 1977.
- "Доклад на торжественном заседании по случаю столетия со дня рождения Ф.Э. Дзержинского" [The report at the solemn meeting on the occasion of the centenary of F.E. Dzerzhinsky's birth]. Izvestiya (in Russian). 10 October 1977.
- Шестьдесят лет СССР: доклад на совместном торжественном заседании Центрального Комитета КПСС, Верховного Совета СССР и Верховного Совета РСФСР, в Кремлевском Дворце съездов, 21 декабря 1982 года [The sixty years of the USSR: a report of a joint solemn meeting of the CPSU Central Committee, the USSR Supreme Soviet and the RSFSR Supreme Soviet in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, 21 December 1982] (in Russian). Moscow: Издательство политической литературы. 1982.
- "Text of Andropov's speech at Brezhnev's funeral". The New York Times. 16 November 1982.
- Speeches and writings. Oxford; New York: Pergamon Press. 1983. ISBN 978-0080312873.
- Selected speeches and articles. Moscow: Progress Publishers. 1984. ASIN B003UHCKTO.
- Speeches, articles, interviews. A Selection. South Asia Books. 1984. ISBN 978-0836411652.
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