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Andropov, Yuri

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Updated: 03.12.2003

Yuri Andropov - former first head of the Committee of State Security (KGB) who rose to the top of the Soviet Union.

He did this against odds and succeeded where others before him had failed. Differing circumstances and times as well as using the KGB to its maximum allowed Andropov to succeed where others, notably Lavrenty Beria and Alexander Shelepin, had failed before him in making the cross from the Lubyanka building, the headquarters of the KGB, to the Kremlin.

Yuri Andropov was born 1914 in Nagutskoye near Stavropol in southern Russia (Mikhail Gorbachev was born in the same area).

He entered politics in the 1930s and joined the Communist Party in 1939. He was head of the Komsomol in the Karelo-Finnish Autonomous Republic (1940-1944) and worked in the local party organization until his transfer to Moscow in 1951.

After spending a few years in the party's Secretariat staff, he was made ambassador to Hungary 1954. When the Hungarian revolution began in 1956 and Hungary left the Warsaw pact, Andropov played an important role in co-ordinating the Soviet invasion that violently crushed the opposition.

After his return to Moscow in 1957 he rapidly advanced in the hierarchy and was made head of the KGB in 1967.

He remained head of the KGB until 1982 when he resigned. He was elected to succeed Leonid Brezhnev as general secretary by the Communist Party Central Committee on November 12, 1982.

In his 15 months in power he cracked down hard on dissidents and the controls of the borders were strengthened to stop "unwanted" literate from entering the USSR. He also began to combat the widespread corruption and Tjurbanov, Brezhnev's son-in-law, was arrested and sentenced to prison.

On September 1, 1983 the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet SU-15 fighter when it flew off course and entered Soviet airspace. 269 people are killed.

He became ill in August 1983 and died February 1984. He was succeeded by his former rival, Konstantin Chernenko.

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