Yuri Andropov

General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov (15 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".

Official Portrait, 1974
Identity cards The Chairman of the KGB of the USSR Yuri Andropov. Expires on 31 December 1980

Upon Brezhnev's death on 10 November 1982, 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. 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.

Quotes edit

  • We shall do everything possible for further increasing cohesion of the great community of socialist states, the unity of the ranks of Communists of the whole world in the struggle for common aims and ideals. We shall guard and develop our solidarity and our cooperation with the countries that have gained freedom from colonial oppression, with the struggle of the peoples for national independence and social progress. We shall always be loyal to the cause of the struggle for peace, for the relaxation of international tension.
  • It’s necessary to create conditions-economic and organizational-that will stimulate good-quality, productive labor, initiative and enterprise. Conversely, poor work, sluggishness and irresponsibility should have an immediate and inescapable effect on the remuneration, job status and moral prestige of personnel.
  • In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons—terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That's precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never—never—will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on earth.
  • The Soviet state has successfully overcome many trials, including crucial ones, during the six and a half decades of its existence. Those who encroached on the integrity of our state, its independence and our system found themselves on the garbage heap of history. It is high time that everyone to whom this applies understood that we shall be able to insure the security of our country, the security of our friends and allies under any circumstances. The Soviet people can rest assured that our country's defense capability is being maintained at such a level that it would not be advisable for anyone to stage a trial of strength. On our part, we do not seek a trial of strength. The very thought of it is alien to us.
  • As it is, we are living in too brittle a world. That is why responsible statesmen must evaluate the developments and adopt a rational decision. It is human reason alone that can and must save mankind from the grave danger. We call on those who are pushing the world along the road of the ever more dangerous arms race to give up their unrealizable hopes of thus achieving military superiority in order to dictate their will to other peoples and states. The Soviet Union is convinced that peace can be strengthened and the security of peoples guaranteed not by way of building up and inventing ever new types of armaments but, on the contrary, by way of reducing the existing armaments to immeasurably lower levels.
  • The Soviet Union, and we stress this again, does not strive for military superiority, and we will do only what is absolutely necessary to prevent the military balance from being disrupted.
  • The Soviet Union declares with all firmness and in no uncertain terms that it remains an adherent of the principled course of ending the arms race, first of all the nuclear arms race, of lessening and ultimately totally removing the threat of nuclear war. It will further exert every effort for the attainment of these lofty aims.

About edit

  • Decided on by NATO ministers on 12 December 1979, in response to the deployment of Soviet SS-20 intermediate range ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe, and despite considerable West German division and reluctance, the Cruise and Pershing missiles arrived from November 1983. Their deployment demonstrated the continued strength and effectiveness of the Western alliance. In addition, American rhetoric, notably Reagan’s ‘evil empire’ speech, which in some respects matched a longstanding Soviet pattern in rhetoric, rankled the Soviet leaders. Moreover, the American invasion of the unstable, left-wing Caribbean island of Grenada in October 1983 accentuated Soviet concern about American actions and intentions. Yuri Andropov, the Soviet leader from 1982 to 1984, interpreted these actions to support his suspicions of the USA, and he suspended Soviet participation in the arms-control talks in Geneva. Andropov came out of Gosbes (State Security) and was a genuine ideologue. He believed in the inherent mendacity of Western imperialist leaders and society, and in imperialists’ treachery and willingness to wage war against the Soviet Union. However, there was no precipitant to conflict, in part due to Soviet caution and in part because the Soviet Union could not afford war.
  • A second escape from determinism involved the discrediting of dictatorships. Tyrants had been around for thousands of years; but George Orwell's great fear, while writing 1984 on his lonely island in 1948, was that the progress made in restraining them in the 18th and 19th centuries had been reversed. Despite the defeats of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, it would have been hard to explain the first half of the 20th century without concluding that the currents of history had come to favor authoritarian politics and collectivist economics. Like Irish monks at the edge of their medieval world, Orwell at the edge of his was seeking to preserve what little was left of civilization by showing what a victory of the barbarians would mean. Big Brothers controlled the Soviet Union, China, and half of Europe by the time 1984 came out. It would have been Utopian to expect that they would stop there. But they did: the historical currents during the second half of the 20th century turned decisively against communism. Orwell himself had something to do with this: his anguished writings, together with the later and increasingly self-confident ones of Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Havel, and the future pope Karol Wojtyla, advanced a moral and spiritual critique of Marxism-Leninism for which it had no answer. It took time for these sails to catch wind and for these rudders to take hold, but by the late 1970s they had begun to do so. John Paul II and the other actor-leaders of the 1980s then set the course. The most inspirational alternatives the Soviet Union could muster were Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko, a clear sign that dictatorships were not what they once had been.
  • Brezhnev died in November 1982 and the USSR acquired Yuri Andropov as its new Party General Secretary. Andropov recognised the need for political and economic changes if the USSR was to remain at all competitive with the USA. He called for a renewed emphasis on discipline and a rooting out of corruption. Dozens of central and local party functionaries were shunted into retirement. Punctuality and conscientiousness at work was demanded. Andropov stated that the leadership had failed to understand conditions in society; by implication he was conceding that a gap had opened between the party and most citizens. Behind the scenes he set up a group of younger politicians including Mikhail Gorbachëv and Nikolai Ryzhkov to explore what kind of reforms were needed in the Soviet economy.
    • Robert Service, Comrades!: A History of World Communism (2010)
  • He also put in train a revision of the country’s foreign policy. Andropov quietly proposed that both the USA and the USSR should formally guarantee not to intervene militarily in the countries under their control. Thus he signalled disapproval of what had happened to Hungary in 1956 and to Czechoslovakia in 1968. Confidential indications were given to Cuba that the USSR was withdrawing its military guarantee for the island’s defence. He called not just for limitations on the superpowers’ stockpiles of nuclear weaponry but for their drastic reduction. Andropov, ex-Chairman of the KGB, understood that he would have a weak bargaining hand unless the USSR could show a sustained capacity to develop its military technology. The Politburo approved. Investment was sanctioned for upgrading the Soviet armed forces. The military-technological parity with the USA won by Brezhnev was to be reattained even at the expense of the popular standard of living. Andropov wanted to ‘perfect’ the communist order; he had hoped for plenty of time to do this. But Reagan’s geopolitical challenge would be met. The Cold War was going to get hotter.
    • Robert Service, Comrades!: A History of World Communism (2010)

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