Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Archival Documents Show CPSU Leadership Knew Far More about USSR’s Problems than Many Assume

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 28 – Given Yury Andropov’s famous remark that he and other CPSU leaders didn’t know the country they were living in, many have assumed to this day that the Politburo and its Central Committee departments really lived in isolation from what was going on in the Soviet Union.

            But the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta say that this vision of reality is deeply flawed and that information prepared for the CPSU Central Committee’s Secretariat “mercilessly exposed” even the greatest flaws in Soviet life including crime, alcoholism, and theft at state enterprises (

            On the basis of their review of a 2020 book containing reports sent to the secretariat in 1965-1967, the editors conclude that “the analytic reports contain invaluable information about real life in the USSR – and without any embellishment. The level of reliability of statistics and facts in the preparatory materials is probably the highest possible achievable in principle.”

            Further, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says, “misleading the party was punishable. It was possible to lie, distort and remain silent only in one direction, downward toward society and gullible citizens.” It was a dangerous criminal offense to lie to one’s superiors at the very top of the Soviet system.

            The editors provide example after example of this remarkable honest in reporting upwards. And while these are important to an understanding of what conditions in Soviet times were like and what the party leadership knew about those conditions, it seems likely that the purpose behind this editorial is more contemporary.

            Indeed, it appears that the editors are providing an implicit comparison with the situation of Soviet times with that of today, when lying downward has intensified and when lying upward becoming more common, a situation that means Moscow today is closer to the situation Andropov described than Andropov and those in his position at the end of Soviet times.   

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