Friday, November 2, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Andropov Wanted to Do Away with National Republics, Journalist Says, and Putin Would Like to But Can’t

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 2 – Yuri Andropov, the KGB head who became CPSU General Secretary in 1982, wanted to do away with the ethno-territorial division of the country as part of a more general plan to undermine the entrenched nomenklatura and introduce radical economic reforms, according to a Moscow journalist.

            In an article published today in “Russkiy reporter,” Dmitry Kartsev says that Andropov’s plan, about which there have been many rumors but which he documents on the basis of interviews with Andropov’s associates, is what Vladimir Putin would like to do but lacks the power to carry through (

            An assistant to the late KGB General Vladimir Kryuchkov said Andropov’s program as was like that of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, one in which “the representative of a force group, who operating on this force group by non-democratic means, that is without public discussion, introduces a complex of unpopular modernizing transformations directed at the Westernization of the country.”

            That is what Andropov wanted, and that is what Putin is doing as far as he is able.  “All of [Putin’s] key reforms … have taken place without real public discussion. And note,” the former KGB aide says, “they all are absolutely liberal.”  But he continues, the current president’s powers are “very limited” by other power blocks in Moscow.

            In the view of the aide, Putin “has secured the maximul level of Westeernization to which the force elite would agree and which in its turn secures the carrying out of modernization. This is Andropov’s plan, only without the GULA and without civil war. But [precisely for those reasons], the effect is not so impressive.”

            Kartsev’s 4200-word article provides details on many aspects of Andropov’s plan and the way in which it has been realized, at least in part. Some of the most intriguing of these are the following:

            First, Kryuchkov’s aide said that “the present Russian opposition does not understand one thing.” It does not recognize that it will dispense with its call for honest elections as soon as the people vote against liberal reforms.  Then, because its members believe more in liberal reforms than in democracy, “they [will] cry again “Give us Pinochet!” and that will happen again.

            Second, Gennady Gudkov, the former Duma deputy who earlier served in the KGB, said that Andropov’s plan was “was prepared already in 1965” but was ignored by the Politburo.  For the times, he said, Andropov’s plan was “quite radical” but it may have been developed “over the course of 20 years.”

            Third, Kartsev points, one of the few statements about the plan that have been published that reflect direct contact with Andropov was that of Arkady Volsky,who said that Andropov foresaw “the introduction for several years of a harsh, almost Stalinist dictatorship” because of the opposition he knew his liberal reforms would generate.

            Andropov had “an idee fixe,” Volsky said: he wanted “to liquidate” the ethno-territorial divisions of the USSR.  He told his aides that they needed to “draw a new map of the USSR,” one that would dispense with the non-Russian republics.  They brought him 15 different plans, but Andropov was not pleased with any of them.

            Third, destroying the national republics would have been destroying much of the party nomenklatura, and so, one retired KGB general told Kartsev, “the activity of all parties in the country would have been banned” – and in the Soviet context, that meant the banning of the CPSU through the elimination of Article 6 of the USSR Constitution.

            Fourth, in place of the republics, Andropov wanted to create ten competing economic zones, the best of which would guide the country as a whole and overcome the degradation of the system more generally, much as the Chinese have done, according to several people with whom Kartsev spoke. 

            Fifth, to run these zones, a former KGB officer said, Andropov knew he had to find “new people,” “professionals,” and for that he looked to certain officers in his own organization and to others who, even if they did not recognize what they were doing and were not recruited as such, were prepared to work with the KGB in this direction.

            Sixth, Andropov’s radicalism, his decision to pursue “an ultra-liberal” policy by authoritarian means reflected what was “fashionable” in the mid-1980s – Reaganism and Thatcherism,” Kartsev’s KGB interlocutors said. There was the alternative of “Swedish socialism, “but we did not want to be Sweden.”

            Seventh, to prepare for this transformation, the former KGB officers say, “certain major functionaries, mostly from the KGB itself, began” to keep the earnings of Soviet export sales abroad in offshore accounts so that they would be able to invest in the new companies in the USSR and then Russia itself.

            Eighth, many in the KGB though Andropov was a utopian.  The former aide to Kryuchkov, for example, said that “the problem with the Andropov Plan is that it in general would lead to civil war.”  The population would oppose it, and who “would defend” the system in that event?

            Ninth, in the early 1990s, a former KGB officer said, “Andropov’s heirs made a temporary tactical compromise with the party bureaucracy … agreeing to give it part of the property and practically all political power in exchange for the chance to appoint a group of ‘its own oligarchs.” But this compromise did not last.

            “Of course,” Kartsev concludes, “with the coming to power of Vladimir Putin, power did not pass to the KGB.” Instead, his small group often found itself in opposition to “the corporation of the chekists as a whole. More than that, with the coming to power of former KGB officers, the intra-corporate struggle intensified sharply.”

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