Monday, November 14, 2022

Had Andropov Lived, Ukraine and Other National Republics would Have Been Destroyed and the USSR would have Survived, Some Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 12 – It has long been one of the favorite parlor games in Russia to speculate what the country would have been like if Yury Andropov, the longtime KGB chief, had been the leader of the USSR for longer than the two years between his selection 40 years ago this week and his death shortly thereafter.

            Because this is a round anniversary of his selection as party leader and because many of his unrealized goals have been taken up by his fellow KGB officer and successor in the Kremlin, these discussions have intensified in recent days, especially concerning what Andropov had he lived would have done with administrative-territorial divisions of the country.

            Komsomolskaya Pravda commentator Oleg Adamovich takes up this issue and says bluntly that “if Andropov had ruled for a longer period of time, there wouldn’t have been any Ukraine” or indeed any other non-Russian republic or autonomy and that the USSR would have survived (

            The journalist points out that Andropov was hardly the first who wanted to do away with the national republics, although he had special reasons for wanting to eliminate Ukraine and create a Moscow-centric country of 29 states based on economic considerations and having roughly equal populations.

            In the run-up to the adoption of the Brezhnev constitution, several officials urged that Moscow abolish the republics lest they cause trouble; and even before that, Andropov was furious that Ukrainian party leader Pyotr Shelest dared to suggest that Kyiv should have the power to conclude trade deals with foreign countries. At the time, that proposal was rejected, but Shelest survived.

            When Andropov gained power, he was able to get Shelest removed and began to think about doing away with Ukraine and the other republics and establishing in their place 29 states. But when he asked his aides for advice on what the borders of these states should be, neither they nor he could come up with an agreed-upon plan before his death, Adamovich reports.

            According to the Komsomlskaya Pravda journalist, this history is intriguing because Andropov’s ideas were realized to a certain extent by “another leader of the country, who also came out of the special services,” Vladimir Putin, albeit in what Adamovich calls “a ‘lite’ variant” with the creation of the federal districts.

            But despite being in office more two decades, Putin has had no more success than his KGB predecessor did in doing away with the national republics – or recovering those who have gained independence in the meantime. 

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