6.1 CORRUPTION TO PERESTROIKA: THE LONG ROAD TO REFORM On November 10, 1982, Leonid Brezhnev, in bad health for years and increasingly enfeebled, died of a heart attack. In what was considered by many in the Soviet Union as a triumph for the system, it took only fifty-four hours for Yuri Andropov to emerge as Brezhnev’s successor. But the smooth succession from Brezhnev to Andropov did nothing to solve a far bigger succession crisis the transfer of power from one generation to another. The generation that had ruled the Soviet Union since Stalin’s death had become a gerontocracy as well as an oligarchy, a developmentthat owed much to Brezhnev’s stress on stablilty. . . The problem with the Brezhnev era was that stability had turned into stagnation. Unlike Stalin, who threatened everyone with prison or death, or Khrushchev, who rocked the boat with his egalitarianism, appeals to popular sentiment, and utopian or unworkable schemes, Brezhnev guaranteed the elite’s status, privileges, and life style. Consequently, the Soviet Union was rendered impervious to reform (Kort, 1993, p. 275). Yuri Andropov, a shrewd political administrator, had given careful consideration to his own personal advancement. A ruthless proponent of Brezhnev throughout the post-Khrushchev succession wars, Andropov was well rewarded for his loyalty. He was appointed to the head of the KGB in 1967, and granted elite status as a full member of the Politburo less than six years later, in 1973. Witness to the darkest secrets of the politburo, Andropov’s alliances changed gradually, and inexorably in...
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