Officials of the Federal Security Service (FSB) yesterday commemorated what would have been the eighty-fifth birthday of Yuri Andropov, who headed the Soviet KGB for fifteen years and served for less than two years as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. FSB chief Vladimir Putin, who is also secretary of President Boris Yeltsin’s advisory Security Council, laid flowers at Andropov’s tomb on Red Square and at his monument at FSB headquarters at Lubyanka Square, the former KGB headquarters (Moscow Times, June 16).
In a television interview aired yesterday, Putin said that public opinion polls have shown Andropov to be one of the most respected former Soviet/Russian leaders, and spoke positively about the former general secretary’s emphasis on discipline: Andropov, for instance, tried to improve discipline at the work place by sending out squads which hunted down people who were not at their posts during regular work hours. Putin said that FSB workers were addressed yesterday on the subject of Andropov by the former dissident Roy Medvedev, and said also that the discussion of Andropov neither lionized nor vilified him, but simply took an objective look (RTR, June 15).
Interestingly, Putin’s interviewer during his television appearance, RTR’s Vladimir Svanidze, gave rather short shrift to the other side of Andropov’s legacy: Dissidents such as Vladimir Bukovsky have described Andropov as the architect of the KGB’s repression against dissidents during the Brezhnev period. Bukovsky himself spent years in psychiatric prisons, where he was tortured. The tone of the interview was rather surprising, given that RTR in general, and Svanidze specifically, have in the past been associated with the “young reformers,” which include Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar. An NTV television documentary on Andropov which aired last night was more balanced, featuring comments from former dissidents such as Bukovsky and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
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