Eurasian Politician

The Eurasian Politician - Issue 4 (August 2001)

Putin and Andropov

By: Igor Minutko
Source: Independent Information Centre Glasnost

[Note: Editors have added comments in brackets and corrected the numerous misspelled Hungarian names, which were obviously translitterated from Russian in the original text.]

The first days and months of Vladimir Putin’s presidency were highlighted by two events. The first was the re-establishment of a memorial plaque, missing since the 1991 putsch, bearing Yury Andropov’s bas-relief on a building in Kutuzovsky Prospekt where Andropov used to live. The re-establishment of the plaque honouring a former head of the mighty KGB was a rather demonstrative, but still publicly unexplained, act. The other event was not public either: On May 9th 2000, Vladimir Putin, meeting with the veterans of the Great Patriotic War, proposed a toast to the "genius commander" Iosif Stalin.

What was the purpose of these acts? At that time, at the beginning of his presidency, we might conjecture three answers to this question. The first is that it was prudent populism – there are many people in different strata of society who are longing (and that’s the right word) for re-establishment of order in all spheres of life. And they believe it could be done only with the "strong hand" of leaders like Stalin and Andropov. For this rather numerous sector of the electorate, which consists of mainly old people, both former leaders are still idols. The second answer follows from the first: the strengthening of supreme power, a policy of reforms which should be based on structures of force (Putin’s "Godfather" Yeltsin had the same desire) – the army (mainly generals), the FSB, and other departments of the shattered but not purged KGB and militia. In these same structures pro-Stalin and pro-Andropov spirits prevail as well as the anguish about days past and the methods of fighting "the people’s enemies" (now they are called oligarchs, spies and often democrats). And the third answer is that Putin regards Stalin and Andropov as his teachers – not in everything, of course, but he is definitely their successor in strengthening the verticality of power and keeping (at least for the time being) Russia within its present borders.

Vladimir Putin is an adherent of supreme power and this is not meant as a reproach. Lets make a supposition: that the third answer is correct. It is quite logical: Mr. (though "comrade" would be a better title) Putin is an alumnus of the Soviet secret services. He has ascended to the summit from their depths and now many of the persons he is promoting to the highest state positions are former KGB officers. And Yury Andropov is a brilliant symbol of this organization and of course its most prominent director. Let’s ask a naive question! Does Vladimir Putin know everything about his teacher?

In 1997-98, my book "The Abyss (the myth about Yury Andropov)", based on numerous little-known archive materials, was published. It would be better to say anti-myth, because the myth about Andropov as a reformer, progressive politician, member of the intelligentsia, and humanist was created by Andropov himself with the help of his numerous loyal followers. That’s the people’s memory about him: "He had no time to…" (How familiar this expression is!) And today this legend is alive. Vladimir Lykianov, a staunch devotee of Marxist-Leninist ideas, says today: "If he had several years…". And there is no need to continue. To my regret, the documentary "Andropov" by Yevgeny Kiselev, which has been shown twice on TV, supports this legend.

I will quote only a few documents from my book about Andropov and comment on them: 1950. "The Leningrad Case". Its bloody wave touched Karelia: on January 24-25 in Petrozavodsk there was a plenum of the Central Committee of the Karelo-Finskaya SSR [Karelian-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, i.e. Republic of Karelia]. Here is a record of the plenum: "Plenum is held by Gennady Nikolayevich Kuprianov, the second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CK KP(b)) of Karelia..." (Then his expulsion from the Communist Party, his arrest, cross-examinations, exile, release in 1955, and rehabilitation … follows.)

Kuprianov had for a long time, while working together, been promoting and supporting a prospective young party activist named Andropov. Andropov used to say that he was a pupil of Gennady Nikolayevich Kuprianov, and that he was devoted to him. At the plenum Andropov was guided by the inspector of CK All-Russia KP(b) Kuznetsov. Andropov betrayed his teacher; he was the main accuser of "the people’s enemy". Andropov’s "Judas" speech was unexpected by Kuprianov. Immediately after the plenum Kuprianov was asked to justify himself to the close circle of party members. They meant the guerilla war headed by Kuprianov against the fascists in Karelia [that means, the Finns!].

His right hand man was Andropov. Kuprianov’s book "Guerilla War in the North", written after his rehabilitation but still unpublished, contains some episodes concerning that plenum. The manuscript of the book is in the State Archive of Public and Political Associations in Petrozavodsk town, Karelia [i.e. Petroskoi]. Here are some extracts: "The whole discussion took place in the CK KP(b) of Karelia, where all the secretaries were present. I said, looking for support from my colleagues, that Yury Andropov, my first deputy, knew all those people very well, as he had taken part in casting, training and sending those people to the rear when he had been the First Secretary of the CK Komsomola (Communist union of youth); he could corroborate my statements. But to my great surprise he stood up and said: ‘I did not take part in organizing any underground work. I know nothing about the underground workers. And I cannot answer for any of them’.

Kuprianov was accused of intentionally sending "people’s enemies" to the fascists’ rear. I.M. Kuprianov continues: "I could not believe my ears and merely said: ‘Yury Vladimirovich, I don’t recognise you!’ ... It was due to the extraordinary chronic cowardice and to the wonderful gift of opportunism which that man had. ... This gift of reincarnation is certainly an advantage for a clown or an actor. Perhaps, it is true for a diplomat, too. A party activist using such a gift in his private goals is called a chameleon – opportunist. That’s the fact of history and life. ... I know that everything I write about will undergo many difficulties and even provoke the discontent of some people like Yury Andropov. But I believe that it will someday be published. Because it is true evidence of a live witness before the highest court of history. Those who have already passed away, including many of my contemporaries who at that time worked in Karelia, and those who are still alive now would come before the jury of history and proclaim loudly: ‘We accuse Yury Andropov of careerism, calumny and self-interest!’"

"Andropov succeeded in many things in the year after my arrest: he continued to work as the second secretary of Karelia’s CK KP(b) and then acted for the first secretary Kondakov when the latter became ill. During that time he persecuted people for their relationship with Kuprianov. For this activity Andropov enjoyed Malenkov’s and Beria’s confidence. And because of that he ascended to the peak of power. V. Virolainen, I. Vlasov, P. Solyakov, A. Trofimov and former underground fighter Ms. Bultyakova and many others were arrested after me. Their prosecutions were organized by Andropov. ... In general, during his Karelian career and the beginning of his Moscow career, Andropov’s activities harmed many people’s lives, including children. I think philosopher Brown was right when in his book ‘Communism and Christianity’ he states: ‘Except for the death that demolishes all conscience, the most immoral and inhuman thing is shortening a man’s life, and – as a result – the shortening of life’s happiness’."

November 1956 – Hungary. Here is one episode in the tragic chronicle of the Hungarian anti-communistic revolution: Before the Soviet intrusion into this "friendly" country on November 3, the negotiations between the Hungarian delegation and representatives of the Soviet Union were to take place on Tokol military base. The negotiations concerning the question of the possible withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary were suggested by the Soviet Ambassador there, Yury Andropov. As soon as all the members of the Hungarian delegation had entered the negotiations room, KGB agents rushed into the room and arrested the delegates. The head of the Hungarian delegation, General Pál Maléter, was shot on the spot. Thus the Hungarian army was beheaded immediately. [According to our information, this is incorrect. Maléter was not shot but only arrested on the spot. He was executed together with Imre Nagy and some other "rebels" on 16th June 1958. The Eurasian Politician.]

And now some evidence from the witnesses to these events. The then chief of the Budapest Police, Colonel Sándor Kopácsi, says: "I will never forget the last meeting with that terrible man. It occurred on the last day of our revolution. My wife and I were hurrying to the Yugoslavian Embassy to ask for political refuge. In the street we were stopped by the KGB agents, who delivered us to the Soviet Embassy. We were met by Andropov. He was cordial and hospitable, as if we were invited guests and he was very glad to see us. He invited us to table for a cup of tea and said with a smile that János Kádár was forming a government and he would like to see in it Colonel Kopácsi. I believed the Soviet Ambassador. ‘It’s not safe now’, he said. ‘If you don’t mind, we will give you a car to get you to the head of the new government.’ I agreed. An armed vehicle drove up to the porch. I will never forget Andropov in that last minute of our meeting: He was standing at the head of the stairs smiling and waving his hand to us in farewell. ... The Soviet armed vehicle took us straight to prison, from which I was released seven years later in 1963."

György Heltai, Deputy Foreign Minister in the government of Imre Nagy, says: "Intellect and composure are Andropov’s main characteristics. This man was definitely the highest echelon in making decisions about who and how many people were to be executed. I’m sure he was given absolute power in the matter of punishing revolutionaries. So the epoch of terror in Hungary was the epoch of Yury Andropov’s terror. It is bound with his name for ever."

Major-General Béla Király, former chairman of the National Defense Council and commander of the Hungarian National Guard (and a member of the "negotiating" delegation on Tokol base): "25 years have passed, but I still remember Andropov’s false smile, his cold gray-blue eyes that obviously had hypnotic power. Those were the eyes of an inquisitor: you immediately realized that he could either smile upon you or destroy you. That was a man who perfectly understood what was going on in reality. But until the last moment he pretended with me, and with the prime minister and others, that everything was all right, as usual. Even pirates before attacking a ship hoist a black flag. Andropov was a real cynic. For Hungarians Andropov is a symbol of the terror that followed the Soviet intrusion. He reduced Hungary to the silence of a cemetery. He deported thousands of Hungarians into Russia and executed hundreds of defenseless young people."

And there are more details of the characteristics of Chekist No. 1 in the new Soviet history. The destruction of the dissident movement is Andropov’s deed too. He quietly, calmly and as if without sensibility incinerated the dissident movement. The deportation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from the country, Andrei Sakharov’s exile to Gorky town, the wide-spread use of psychiatric clinics for dissidents, open-and-closed investigations – all of this is Andropov.

Andropov did not have any economic program. To put it mildly, he was not competent in economics, and all his innovations in it came down to the thesis of increasing production discipline. In foreign as well as in internal policy, he admitted of only one thing: the use of force, including military force. And the symbol of his short (thank God) term of governing is a battered Korean Boeing, because none of the high-ranking authorities would have dared to make that criminal order if Andropov, the Commander-in-Chief, hadn’t uttered just one word: "Destroy".

Mr. President! Don’t you know all this about that man whose memorial plaque you have re-established on the house he once lived in?

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Igor Minutko is the author of "The Abyss – the Myth of Yury Andropov". This article was contributed by the Independent Information Centre Glasnost - Caucasus.