Birthday: June 15, 1914
Died At Age: 69
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov
Born in: Stavropol
Famous as: Former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse/Ex-: Tatyana Andropova (m. ?–1984), Nina Ivanovna
father: Vladimir Andropov
mother: Yevgenia Fleckenstein
children: Evgenia Y. Andropova, Igor Y. Andropov, Trina Andropova, Vladimir Y. Andropov
Died on: February 9, 1984
Who was Yuri Andropov?
Yuri Andropov was the fourth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Orphaned at the age of 13, he spent his adolescent years doing various odd jobs. At 16, he became a member of Komsomol, at 22, the Organizer of the Komsomol Central Committee in Volodarsky Shipyards and at 24, the First Secretary of the Yaroslavl Regional Committee of the Komsomol. Joining the Communist Party at the age of 25, he was appointed a staff member of CPSU Central Committee at 37. At 40, he was appointed Russian Ambassador to Hungary, where he became instrumental in Russian invasion during the 1956 uprising. At the age of 53, he became a Candidate Member of the Politburo and Head of the KGB; holding the later post for 15 long years, ruthlessly squashing descent. Meanwhile, he was made a regular member of the Politburo and slowly began to occupy an important position in it. He finally succeeded the third General Secretary, Leonid Brezhnev, after his death in 1982. v was in office for only 15 months and died from renal failure at the age of sixty-nine.
Childhood & Early Years
Yuri Andropov was born on 15 June 1914 in Nagutskaya, a rail road station in Stavropol Region of Russian Empire. It is now a part of the North Caucasian Federal District of Russian Federation.
His father, Vladimir Konstantinovich Andropov, was a railway official from a noble Don Cossack family. His mother, Yevgenia Karlovna Fleckenstein, the daughter of a Moscow watchmaker, was of Finnish-German descent.
Yuri Andropov was his parents’ only child. His father died from typhus when he was still very young. Thereafter, his mother moved with him to the town of Mozdok, where she remarried. However, some other sources say that his parents were divorced.
Yuri’s mother died in 1927, when he was only thirteen years old. Thereafter, he was raised by his stepfather Viktor Aleksandrovich Fedorov, who sent him to work at the age of fourteen. Concurrently, he also continued his education.
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Andropov spent his teenage years working as a loader, a telegraph operator, film projectionist and a sailor for the Volga steamship line. In 1930, while still in Mozdok, he became a member of All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (YCL), popularly known as Komsomol.
Sometime in early 1930s, he entered Rybinsk Water Transport Technical College to study water transport engineering. Concurrently, he continued to be active in politics, eventually becoming a full-time secretary of Komsomol’s unit at the college.
In 1936, Andropov graduated from Rybinsk Water Transport Technical College as water transport engineer. Thereafter, he joined the Volodarsky Shipyards in Rybinsk and was promoted to the post of Organizer of the Komsomol Central Committee at the shipyard, a job he must have undertaken with utmost efficiency.
He worked at the Volodarsky Shipyards for a brief period; but long enough for his efficiency to be noticed by his superiors. In 1938, he was elected First Secretary of the Yaroslavl Regional Committee of the Komsomol. In the following year, he joined the Communist Party.
In 1940, he was made the First Secretary of the Central Committee of Komsomol in the newly created Karelo-Finnish Autonomous Republic, a position he held till 1944. During this period, he also led a group of partisan guerillas in areas controlled by Finish Army.
Working for the Communist Party
In 1944, Andropov became more active in the Communist Party and was entrusted with the task of organizing the youth in the Karelo-Finnish region. Eventually, he was promoted to a post of Soviet administrator in the same region.
In 1946, he enrolled at the University of Petrozavodsk, studying philology until 1951, concurrently working for the Communist Party. Meanwhile in 1947, he was elected Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Karelo-Finnish SSR.
Turning point of his life occurred when in 1951, he was transferred to Moscow, where he was assigned to the CPSU Central Committee, considered a training ground for promising young officers. Here he was first appointed an inspector and eventually headed a sub-department of the Central Committee.
Ambassador in Hungary
Yuri Andropov remained in Moscow until 1953. Most of his superiors were utmost Stalinists and although he served them very loyally he was never implicated in the terror spread by the secret police during that period, making him a good choice for promotion in the post Stalin period.
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Soon after Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953, Andropov was inducted into the Soviet Diplomatic Service. In the same year, after a short training in Moscow, he was sent to Hungary, then a satellite country of USSR. Initially, he was a consular in the Soviet Embassy at Budapest.
In July 1954, he was appointed Soviet Ambassador to Hungary. Over the next two years, he intently watched the events, which gave rise to the Hungarian Revolution in October 1956, regularly sending reports to Moscow, playing an important role in crushing the uprising.
Initially, Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was reluctant to invade Hungary. Andropov managed to convince him that military invasion was necessary, also sending a cabled request for Soviet military assistance from Erno Gero, first secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party.
He also managed to convince the Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy that he was safe, confusing him about Soviet intension. Ultimately USSR invaded Hungary in November 1956, forcefully crushing descent. Nagy was eventually arrested and executed in 1958.
Head of KGB
In 1957, Andropov returned to Moscow as Head of the Department for Liaison with Communist and Workers' Parties in Socialist Countries, holding the position till 1967. Meanwhile in 1961, he became a full member of the CPSU Central Committee and was apromoted to its Secretariat in the following year.
In 1967, he was made a Candidate Member of the Politburo. Also in the same year, he was appointed the Chairman of Soviet secret police, the KGB, on the recommendation of Mikhail Suslov, the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of USSR.
On taking up the responsibility, he was faced with two major tasks. Firstly, he had to restore the prestige of KGB, which had suffered greatly at the hands of Stalin and his supporters. Secondly, he needed to silence dissenters, who had been demanding further de-stalinization and publicly protesting human rights violation.
Andropov served the KGB as its Chairman for 15 long years, turning it into one of the most efficient secret police organizations in the whole world. To restore its prestige among the countrymen, he organized campaigns, concurrently taking care to prevent its officials from abusing power for personal gain.
Along with restoring KGB’s prestige, he also started working on eliminating dissent. In July 1967, he established KGB’s Fifth Directorate with the aim of destructing all forms of dissents. He believed that the struggle for human rights was an imperial plot to overthrow Soviet ideology.
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In 1968, he gave a call for eliminating dissenters, who were arrested and sentenced to years of hard labor for carrying on anti-Soviet propaganda. Some were sent to psychiatric hospitals where they were administered mind-altering drugs. Still others were sent to permanent exile.
When in January 1968, a movement for liberalization began in Czechoslovakia, Andropov proposed extreme measure. He initiated a false propaganda, accusing NATO of trying to destabilize the country.
His services were quickly recognized and in 1973, he became a full Member of Politburo. Continuing to head KGB, he established himself as an efficient and honest officer. By end of the decade, he had made sure that all groups clamoring for human rights and individual liberty had been silenced.
From mid 1970s, as General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev’s health began to decline, Andropov began to position himself as his successor. When in 1979, USSR decided to invade Afghanistan he opposed the decision, fearing that the international community would blame USSR for its role. Later, he was proved right.
In 1981, when the Solidarity Movement began in Poland, he successfully persuaded General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev not to send troops or invade Poland. During this period, he also took care to promote reform-minded leaders, one of whom was Mikhail Gorbachev.
Leader of Soviet Union
In May 1982, Andropov resigned from KGB to become a member of the Secretariat. On 12 November, 1982, two days after Leonid Brezhnev’s death, he was elected the General Secretary of Communist Party of Soviet Union by the Communist Party Central Committee.
His appointment was not at all welcomed by the Western World. The mainstream papers in the West ran numerous articles about him, most of which painted him negatively. He was perceived as a new threat to the stability of the world, especially to Western Europe and the USA.
Soon after his election, Andropov launched a campaign against corruption. As the Head of KGB, he had accumulated enough material to prove widespread corruption within the bureaucracy. He now used the secret police to hunt out the culprits, dismissing eighteen ministers and thirty-seven first secretaries, starting criminal cases against many.
He also tried to rejuvenate the economy by improving effectiveness without compromising on socialist values. To improve industrial production, he started a scheme of rewarding productivity and punishing absenteeism. He also appointed young officials to the Politburo.
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In foreign affairs, he began to explore ways and means to withdraw from Afghanistan. He also launched a peace offensive in Europe, starting a Soviet-U.S. arms control talks on intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. His intension was to stop the deployment of Pershing missiles in Western Europe by the USA.
In August 1983, he declared that Soviet Union was stopping all works on space based missile. But in September, when his troops shot down a Korean airliner, which had mistakenly entered the Soviet airspace, he defended his frontier forces, straining his country’s relationship with the West.
In November 1983, arms control talks on intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe were suspended and very soon Soviet Union totally withdrew from the talks. By then, his health had greatly deteriorated and he had started working from the hospital.
Personal Life & Legacy
Yuri Andropov first married Nina Ivanovna, whom he possibly knew from his early years. The couple had two children; a daughter named Evgenia Y. Andropova, born in 1936 and a son named Vladimir Y. Andropov, born in 1940. Vladimir died in 1975 under mysterious circumstances. The couple divorced sometime in 1940s.
Andropov married his second wife, Tatyana Filipovna, sometime in 1940s. They had met during the Second World War on the Karelian Front where she was Komsomol secretary. They had two children; a son named Igor Y. Andropov, born in 1941 and a daughter named Irina, born in 1946.
In February 1983, Andropov suffered total renal failure. In August, he was shifted to Central Clinical Hospital in western Moscow, where he lived until his death on 9 February 1984. At the time, he was sixty-nine years old.
Because of his mother’s maiden name it was rumored that Yuri Andropov was of Jewish descent. But it turned out to be false. It has since been proved that many Christian Germans also had Fleckenstein as their surname.
While in office, Andropov received a letter from a ten year old American girl, Samantha Smith. In it, she expressed her apprehension about a nuclear war between US and Russia. Andropov took care to reply in person, assuring her that his country did not want to start a nuclear war.
Tatyana Filipovna Andropova appeared for the first time in public at her husband’s funeral. She was so grief-stricken that her relatives had to help her to walk. She kissed him twice before the lid of the coffin could be closed. Later in a 1985 documentary, she read a love poem written by her husband.