Yuri Andropov

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Yuri Andropov
Юрий Андропов
Yuri Andropov - Soviet Life, August 1983.jpg
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
12 November 1982 9 February 1984
Preceded by Leonid Brezhnev
Succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko
Chairman of the
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
In office
16 June 1983 9 February 1984
Preceded by Vasili Kuznetsov (acting)
Succeeded byVasili Kuznetsov (acting)
Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
24 May 1982 10 November 1982
Preceded by Konstantin Chernenko (acting)
Succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko
4th Chairman of the Committee for State Security (KGB)
In office
18 May 1967 26 May 1982
Premier Alexei Kosygin
Nikolai Tikhonov
Preceded by Vladimir Semichastny
Succeeded by Vitaly Fedorchuk
Personal details
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov

(1914-06-15)15 June 1914
Stanitsa Nagutskaya, Stavropol Governorate, Russian Empire
Died9 February 1984(1984-02-09) (aged 69)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Cause of death Renal failure
Citizenship Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s)Tatyana Andropova (m. 1940s–1984; his death)
ChildrenIgor Andropov
Irina Andropova
Residence Kutuzovsky Prospekt
Signature Yuri Andropov Signature.svg
Military service
Allegiance Soviet Union
Branch/service Soviet Armed Forces
Years of service1939-1984
Rank Major General

Leader of the Soviet Union

Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov ( /ænˈdrpɔːf, -pɒf/ ; [1] Russian :Ю́рий Влади́мирович Андро́пов, tr. Júrij Vladímirovič Andrópov,IPA:  [ˈjʉrʲɪj vlɐˈdʲimʲɪrəvʲɪtɕ ɐnˈdropəf] ; 15 June [ O.S. 2 June] 1914 – 9 February 1984) [2] was the sixth paramount leader of the Soviet Union and the third 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.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Romanization of Russian Romanization of the Russian alphabet

Romanization of Russian is the process of transliterating the Russian language from the Cyrillic script into the Latin script.

Old Style and New Style dates 16th-century changes in calendar conventions

Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are terms sometimes used with dates to indicate that the calendar convention used at the time described is different from that in use at the time the document was being written. There were two calendar changes in Great Britain and its colonies, which may sometimes complicate matters: the first was to change the start of the year from Lady Day to 1 January; the second was to discard the Julian calendar in favour of the Gregorian calendar. Closely related is the custom of dual dating, where writers gave two consecutive years to reflect differences in the starting date of the year, or to include both the Julian and Gregorian dates.


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. Under the leadership of Nikita Kruschev, he was named Chairman of the KGB on 10 May 1967. In this position, he oversaw a massive crackdown on dissent that was carried out via mass arrests and the wholesale application of involuntary psychiatric commitments of people deemed "socially undesirable". As Brezhnev's health declined during the latter years of his leadership, Andropov formed a troika alongside Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Defense Minister Dmitry Ustinov that ultimately came to dominate Soviet policymaking.

Hungary Country in Central Europe

Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.

Involuntary commitment or civil commitment is a legal process through which an individual who is deemed by a qualified agent to have symptoms of severe mental disorder is ordered by a court into treatment in a psychiatric hospital (inpatient) or in the community (outpatient).

Andrei Gromyko Soviet diplomat

Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko was a Soviet Belarusian communist politician during the Cold War. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1957–1985) and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1985–1988). Gromyko was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until he retired in 1988. In the 1940s Western pundits called him Mr. Nyet or "Grim Grom", because of his frequent use of the Soviet veto in the United Nations Security Council.

Upon Brezhnev's death on 12 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 Soviet system 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. [3] However, upon suffering total renal failure in February 1983, Andropov's health began to deteriorate rapidly. On 9 February 1984, he died after leading the country for only 15 months.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union De facto Leader of the Soviet Union

General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was an office of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) that by the late 1920s had evolved into the most powerful of the Central Committee's various secretaries. With a few exceptions, from 1929 until the union's dissolution the holder of the office was the de facto leader of the Soviet Union, because the post controlled both the CPSU and the Soviet government. Joseph Stalin elevated the office to overall command of the Communist Party and by extension the whole Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev renamed the post First Secretary in 1953; the change was reverted in 1966.

Yegor Ligachyov Soviet politician

Yegor Kuzmich Ligachyov is a Soviet politician who was a high-ranking official in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Originally an ally of Mikhail Gorbachev, Ligachyov became a challenger to his leadership.

Nikolai Ryzhkov Soviet official and a Russian politician

Nikolai Ivanovich Ryzhkov is a former Soviet official who became a Russian politician following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He served as the last Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Responsible for the cultural and economic administration of the Soviet Union during the late Gorbachev Era, Ryzhkov was succeeded as premier by Valentin Pavlov in 1991. The same year, he lost his seat on the Presidential Council, going on to become Boris Yeltsin's leading opponent in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) 1991 presidential election.

Early life

There has been much contention over his family background. [4] According to the official biography, Andropov was born in stanitsa Nagutskaya (modern-day Stavropol Krai of Russia) on 15 June 1914. [5] [6] 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 mentioned her name) was a school teacher who died in 1931. [7] [8] 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. [9] [10] Later researches has shown that many details about Andropov's biography were largely falsified during his lifetime which has contributed to the confusion connected to his family history.


Stanitsa is a village inside a Cossack host (viysko). Stanitsas were the primary unit of Cossack hosts.

Stavropol Krai First-level administrative division of Russia

Stavropol Krai is a federal subject of Russia. It is geographically located in the North Caucasus region in Southern Russia, and is administratively part of the North Caucasian Federal District. Stavropol Krai has a population of 2,786,281 (2010).

Ryazan Governorate governorate of the Russian Empire

Ryazan Governorate was an administrative division of the Russian Empire and Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, which existed from 1796 to 1929. Its administrative center was in the city of Ryazan.

His earliest documented name was Grigory Vladimirovich Andropov-Fyodorov; he changed it to Yuri Andropov only several years later. [11] 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 since 1913 throughout 1914 and until 1917. [9] [11]

To make things more complicated, he named different dates of her death at various occasions: 1927, 1929, 1930 and 1931. [8] [9] The story of her adoption was also highly likely a mystification. In 1937 Andropov went through a check when applied for the 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 serving at Fleckensteins long before he was born. [8] [9]

Communist Party of the Soviet Union Ruling political party of the Soviet Union

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the founding and ruling political party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU was the sole governing party of the Soviet Union until 1990, when the Congress of People's Deputies modified Article 6 of the most recent 1977 Soviet constitution, which had granted the CPSU a monopoly over the political system.

It was also reported that his mother belonged to merchantry. In fact Karl Fleckenstein was a rich jewel merchant, owner of a jewellery store, 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). [11] [12] The whole family could've turned into lishentsy stripped of basic rights if she hadn't abandoned the store after another pogrom in 1917, invented herself a proletarian background and left Moscow for the Stavropol Governorate along with Andropov's mother. [8] [9]

He gave different versions of his father's fate: in one case he divorced his mother soon after his birth, in another — died of illness. [11] 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 assistant turned a school teacher. His real father remains unknown; he probably died in 1916 — a date written in Andropov's 1932 resume. [9] [11] 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 dropped all charges. He joined the Communist Party in 1939. [8] [9]

Early career in the Communist Party

Komsomol membership card issued to Yuri Andropov in 1939. Andropov Iurii Vladimirovich, komsomol'skii bilet.png
Komsomol membership card issued to Yuri Andropov in 1939.

Andropov was educated at the Rybinsk Water Transport Technical College and graduated in 1936. [5] As a teenager he worked as a loader, a telegraph clerk, and a sailor for the Volga steamship line. [10] [7] 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. [5]

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. [10]

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. [11] 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. [10] [13]

In 1951 Andropov was transferred to CPSU Central Committee. He was appointed an inspector and then the head of a subdepartment of the Committee. [10]

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 Nikita Khrushchev that military intervention was necessary. [14] He is known as 'The Butcher of Budapest' for his ruthless suppression of the Hungarian uprising. [15] 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". [14]

Chairmanship of the KGB and Politburo career

Party identity card of Yuri Andropov one month before becoming a full member of the Politburo in April 1973. Andropov Iurii Vladimirovich, partiinyi bilet.png
Party identity card of Yuri Andropov one month before becoming a full member of the Politburo in April 1973.

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. He 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". [14] 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". [14] However his message was destroyed because it contradicted the conspiracy theory fabricated by Andropov. [14] Andropov ordered a number of active measures, collectively known as operation PROGRESS, against Czechoslovak reformers.

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". [14] 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. [16]

On 3 July 1967, he made a proposal to establish the KGB's Fifth Directorate for dealing with the political opposition [17] :29 (ideological counterintelligence). [18] :177 At the end of July, the directorate was established and entered in its files cases of all Soviet dissidents including Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. [17] 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. [14]

After the assassination attempt against Brezhnev in January 1969, Andropov led the interrogation of the captured gunman, Viktor Ivanovich Ilyin. [19] [20] Ilyin was pronounced insane and sent to Kazan Psychiatric Hospital. [21] 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. [18] :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. [22] The proposal by Andropov to use psychiatry for struggle against dissidents was implemented. [23] :42 Andropov was in charge of the widespread deployment of psychiatric repression since he was the head of the KGB. [24] :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, Philipp Bobkov. [25]

The repression of dissidents [26] [27] 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. [28] A declassified document revealed that Andropov as KGB director gave the order to prevent unauthorized gatherings mourning the death of John Lennon. [29]

In 1977, Andropov convinced Brezhnev that the Ipatiev House, where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by communist revolutionaries, had become a site of pilgrimage for covert monarchists. [30] 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. [31]

Role in the invasion of Afghanistan

In March of 1979, Andropov and the Politburo initially opposed their subsequent decision to intervene militarily in Afghanistan. [32] 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. [33] However, his 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. [34] Some have proposed that the Soviet-Afghan War also played an important role in the breakdown of the Soviet Union. [35]

Role in the non-invasion of Poland

On 10 December 1981, in the face of Poland's Solidarity movement, Andropov, along with Mikhail Suslov and Wojciech Jaruzelski, [36] persuaded Brezhnev that it would be counterproductive for the Soviet Union to invade Poland by repeating Prague 1968. [37] This effectively marked the end of the Brezhnev Doctrine. [38]

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. [7] 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

Andropov (seated second from right in the front row) presides over the USSR's 60th Anniversary shortly after succeeding Brezhnev as its leader. 1982 Ceausescu la Moscova la 60 de ani de la formarea URSS.JPG
Andropov (seated second from right in the front row) presides over the USSR's 60th Anniversary shortly after succeeding Brezhnev as its leader.

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. [39]

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. 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. [40]

Domestic policy


At home, Andropov attempted to improve the nation'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. [41] For the first time, the facts about economic stagnation and obstacles to scientific progress were made available to the public and open to criticism. [42] Furthermore, the KGB Chairman-turned-Gensek gave select industries greater autonomy from state regulations [43] and enabled factory managers to retain control over more of their profits. [44] Such policies resulted in a 4% rise in industrial output and increased investment in new technologies such as robotics. [45]

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." [46]

Anti-corruption campaign

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. [7] 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.

Foreign policy

A photograph of Korean Air Lines HL7442, the airliner shot down by Soviet aircraft after drifting into prohibited airspace during the KAL 007 Flight. 1981-09-15 12-00-00 United States Hawaii Aliamanu 2 (cropped).jpg
A photograph of Korean Air Lines HL7442, the airliner shot down by Soviet aircraft after drifting into prohibited airspace during the KAL 007 Flight.

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, Troubles 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. [47] The main response was raising the military budget to 70 percent of the national budget, and supplying billions of dollars worth of military aid to Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Yemen, the PLO, 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. [48] [49] [50]

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. [51] 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. [52] 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 defense 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". [53]

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. [54]

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, 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. Soviet air defense system was unprepared to deal with a civilian airliner, and the shooting down was a matter of following orders without question. [55] Instead of admitting an accident, Soviet media proclaimed a brave decision to meet a Western provocation. Together with its low credibility explanation 1986 of the meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, the episode demonstrated an inability to deal with public relations crises; the propaganda system was only aimed at people who already were committed friends of the Soviet Union. Both crises were escalated by technological and organizational failures, compounded by human error [56]

Death and funeral

Grave of Andropov at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow. Yuri andropov grave in the kremlin wall necropolis july 2016.jpg
Grave of Andropov at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow.

In February 1983, Andropov suffered total renal 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 falling consciousness. He died on 9 February 1984 at 16:50 in his hospital room at age 69. [57] 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 nationwide mourning was announced. 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 an even shorter time in office (13 months). Like Andropov, Chernenko spent much of his time hospitalized, and also died in office, in March 1985.

Personal life

Andropov lived at 26 Kutuzovsky Prospekt, the same building in which Suslov and Brezhnev also lived. He was first married to Nina Ivanovna; she was born not far from the local farm in which Andropov was born. In 1983 she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a successful operation. He met his second wife, Tatyana Filipovna, during World War II on the Karelian Front when she was Komsomol secretary. She had suffered a nervous breakdown during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. 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 (not even seen in public until Andropov's funeral) 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". [58] 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." [58] 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.

According to his former subordinate Securitate general Ion Mihai Pacepa,

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. [59]

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", [58] 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." [58] 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. [60] However, these were unproven rumours. It is also questionable whether Andropov spoke any English at all. [61] 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." [62] Putin has praised Andropov's "honesty and uprightness." [63] 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." [64] 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. [65] According to Roy Medvedev, the year that Andropov spent in power was memorable for increasing repression against dissidents. [65] 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. [66] 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. [67] [68] 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, Vyacheslav Chornovil, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Alexander Ginzburg, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Pyotr Grigorenko, Anatoly Shcharansky, and others. [69] According to Soviet dissident Yuri Glazov, Andropov was a paradigmatic Homo Sovieticus and personally conducted disinformation campaigns against his main opponents and dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. [70]

According to Natalya Gorbanevskaya, now for some reason, we usually say that after Andropov's coming to power dissident movement went into decline, as if it itself went into decline. [71] The movement did not go into decline but was strangled. [71] In the late 1970s and early 1980s, repression was most severe, a lot of people were picked up for a second time, and when you are taken away for a second time, then your term is longer, and the camp regime is not strict but specific, and when Andropov became General Secretary, he introduced an Article under which for violations of camp regime you could be put into not only to a punishment cell but received an additional term up to three years, that is a person for his two or three remarks could be sent not home but to another camp, with [non-political] criminals. [71] And in those years there were a lot of deaths in camps not from hunger-strikes, but just from a disease, lack of medical care, etc. [71]

Various people who closely knew Andropov, including Vladimir Medvedev, Aleksandr Chuchyalin, Vladimir Kryuchkov [72] and Roy Medvedev, remembered him for his politeness, calmness, unselfishness, patience, intelligence and exceptionally sharp memory. [73] According to Chuchyalin, while working at Kremlin Andropov would read ca. 600 pages per day and remember everything he had read. [74] Andropov read English literature and could communicate in Finnish, English and German. [75]

Honours and awards

Soviet Awards
Hero of Socialist Labor medal.png Hero of Socialist Labor, 1974 [10]
Order of Lenin ribbon bar.png Order of Lenin, four times [10]
Order october revolution rib.png Order of the October Revolution [10]
Order of Red Banner ribbon bar.png Order of the Red Banner, 1944 [10]
Orderredbannerlabor rib.png Order of the Red Banner of Labour, three times (incl. 1944) [10]
Partizan-Medal-1-ribbon.png Medal "Partisan of the Patriotic War", 1st class
OrderStGeorge4cl rib.png Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
20 years of victory rib.png Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
30 years of victory rib.png Jubilee Medal "Thirty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
60 years saf rib.png Jubilee Medal "60 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
100 lenin rib.png Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin"
Foreign Awards
Solnce svobody rib.png Order of the Sun of Liberty (Afghanistan)
Hero of the Soviet Union medal.png Hero of the People's Republic of Bulgaria
OrderOfGeorgiDimitrovRibbon.jpg Order of Georgi Dimitrov (Bulgaria)
Hu3ofl0.png Order of the Flag of the Republic of Hungary
OrdenSuheBator.png Order of Sukhbaatar (Mongolia)
OrdenZnam.png Order of the Red Banner (Mongolia)
50 Years Anniversary of the Mongolian Revolution rib.PNG Jubilee Medal "50 Years Anniversary of the Mongolian Revolution"

Speeches and works

Related Research Articles

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Further reading

Primary sources

Government offices
Preceded by
Vladimir Semichastny
Chairman of the State Committee for State Security
Succeeded by
Vitaly Fyodorchuk
Party political offices
Preceded by
Leonid Brezhnev
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Konstantin Chernenko
Political offices
Preceded by
Vasili Kuznetsov
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Succeeded by
Vasili Kuznetsov
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
The Computer
Time's Men of the Year (with Ronald Reagan)
Succeeded by
Peter Ueberroth