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After Khrushchev

Brezhnev evidently had learned a lesson from Khrushchev's experience and went out of his way to raise the status of the police and clamp down on political dissent. The KGB's investigative powers were extended in 1965 to include certain categories of economic crime, and it continued to be accorded favorable publicity in the Soviet press. Its growing prestige and authority accommodated those neoconservative trends that manifested themselves during the late 1960s and 1970s: curbs on cultural freedom, a crackdown on dissent, and a partial rehabilitation of Stalin.

Brezhnev and his party colleagues became worried about the ambitions of Shelepin, however, and decided to put an end to his influence over the security police. In May 1967, Semichastnyi was removed as KGB chief, and by November of that year Shelepin was out of the Central Committee Secretariat. The new KGB chairman was Iurii I. Andropov, a Central Committee secretary who had served as ambassador to Hungary and later as head of the Central Liaison with Communist and Workers' Parties of Socialist Countries Department. He was apparently a neutral figure politically, agreed upon by all members of the collective leadership; Brezhnev, however, managed to bring in several of his own protégés to serve directly below Andropov. The most important of these was a KGB official named Semen Tsvigun, reportedly Brezhnev's brother-in-law, who was made first deputy KGB chairman in December 1967. Viktor M. Chebrikov was another official with links to Brezhnev who was brought to Moscow to serve in the KGB. The presence of his allies in the KGB leadership was a source of strength for Brezhnev, and he made certain that their careers prospered. In addition to encouraging favorable publicity for the KGB, Brezhnev was careful to ensure that employees of the KGB were well paid and enjoyed significant privileges and perquisites.

Brezhnev may have underestimated the political prowess of Andropov, however. Andropov benefited from the increased powers and prestige that the KGB gained under the Brezhnev leadership and became a powerful political leader in his own right. As Brezhnev's death became imminent in 1982, Andropov began contending for the top party post. His success in reaching his goal in November 1982 was due partly to his attack, using KGB files as weapons, on the Brezhnevites for their involvement in corruption. Not surprisingly, Andropov's short tenure as general secretary (November 1982- February 1984) was marked by a stronger KGB role. Even Andropov's illness and death did not result in a decline for the KGB. On the contrary, the extended period of political upheaval in the Kremlin following his death seemed to increase the KGB's influence. Its officials received prominent coverage in the press, and KGB representation on party and state leadership bodies grew.

Data as of May 1989

Sources and Methods

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Created by John Pike
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Updated Wednesday, November 26, 1997 5:56:23 PM