|“||One must say bluntly that it is an unattractive sight when, with a view to smearing the Soviet people, leaders of such a country as the United States resort to what almost amounts to obscenities alternating with hypocritical preaching about morals and humanism.||„|
|~ Yuri Andropov|
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov (15 June [O.S. 2 June] 1914 – 9 February 1984) 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.
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 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.
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. 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. He was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko.
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.
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 rumours. It is also questionable whether Andropov spoke any English at all. 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.