Yuri Andropov

Yuri Andropov

Yuri Andropov, the son of a railway official, was born in Nagutskoye, in the Soviet Union. He trained as a water transport engineer and worked in the shipyards at Rybinsk. He was politically active and joined the Communist Party (CPSU).

In 1940 Andropov was placed in charge of the Karelian peninsula. After the German Army occupied the area in 1941 Andropov organized the partisan resistance movement in the area.

After the Second World War Andropov became the Second Party Secretary in Karelia. Later he was sent to Moscow where he worked for the Communist Party Central Committee.

In 1954 Andropov was posted to Budapest and played an important role in crushing the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. On his return to the Soviet Union he was appointed head of the Committee for State Security (KGB).

Andropov, met Mikhail Gorbachev while he was First Secretary for Stavropol Territory. Andropov was impressed with his work and used his considerable influence to promote Gorbachev's career.

In 1973 Andropov became a member of the Politburo and on the death of Leonid Brezhnev in 1982 became General Secretary of the Communist Party. Andropov attempted to introduce a series of reforms but he died in 1984 before he could complete his programme.

Primary Sources

(1) Mikhail Gorbachev, Memoirs (1995)

First and foremost, Andropov was a brilliant and large personality, generously endowed with gifts by nature, and a true intellectual. He resolutely denounced all the features commonly associated with Brezhnevism, that is, protectionism, in-fighting and intrigues, corruption, moral turpitude, bureaucracy, disorganization and laxity. Andropov's tough, and sometimes exaggerated, attitude to these problems instilled hope that an end would at last be put to all the outrageous practices, that those who had alienated themselves from the people would be held responsible. Consequently his actions, though they were sometimes excessive, created hope and were considered the harbingers of general and deeper changes. And here is the crux of the matter - would Andropov have gone any further and embarked upon the path of far-reaching transformations had his fate turned out differently? I do not believe so. Some of those who were not close to Yury Vladimirovich asserted that he had been nurturing ideas of reforming the system long before becoming General Secretary. I do not believe it. He realized the need for changes, yet Andropov always remained a man of his time, and was one of those who were unable to break through the barrier of old ideas and values.

The thought often occurs to me: he knew Stalin's crimes better than anyone else. Yet he never mentioned them. He witnessed Brezhnev's attempts to revive both Stalin's image and his model of organizing society. Nonetheless, he did

not even attempt to counteract it. And what about his role in the events in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, in the Afghan War, and in the struggle against those who thought differently, the 'dissidents'?

Apparently the years spent in KGB work had left an imprint on his attitudes and perceptions, making him a suspicious man condemned to serve the system.

No. Just like Khrushchev, Andropov would not have initiated drastic changes. Who knows, maybe it was his fate that he died before he came face to face with the problems which would have inevitably frustrated him, dispelling people's illusions about him.