The place of birth and his parentage is uncertain, but he was probably born in Nagutskoye near Stavropol in southern Russia. He was briefly educated at the Rybinsk Water Transport Technical College before he joined Komsomol in 1930. He graduated to the full party in 1939 and was first secretary of the Komsomol in the Karelo-Finnish Republic from 1940 to 1944. After the war, he moved to Moscow in 1951 and joined the party secretariat.
Andropov returned to Moscow to head the Department for Liaison with Socialist Countries (1957 - 1967) and was promoted to the Central Committee Secretariat in 1962, succeeding Mikhail Suslov, and in 1967 he was appointed head of the KGB. In 1973 Andropov became a full member of the Politburo, although he did not resign as head of the KGB until 1982.
A few days after Brezhnev's death (November 10, 1982), Andropov was the surprise appointment to General Secretary over Chernenko, he was the first head of the KGB to become General Secretary. He quickly added the posts of President of the USSR and chairman of the Defence Council. During his rule he made attempts to improve the economy and reduce corruption. In foreign policy he did little - the war continued in Afghanistan. His rule was also marked by the deterioration of relations with the USA, due to the rabid anti-Soviet stance of Ronald Reagan and exacerbated by the shooting-down of an off course civilian jet liner over Russia on September 1, 1983 and the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe.
Andropov's legacy remains the subject of much debate within Russia, and elsewhere, both amongst scholars and in the popular media. For example, he remains the constant focus of television documentaries and popular non-fiction, particularly around important anniversaries.
Despite his hard-line stance in Hungary and the numerous banishments and intrigues for which he was responsible during his long tenure as head of the KGB, he has become widely regarded by many commentators as a humane reformer; they cite evidence that he promoted Gorbachev through the ranks of the party, and was regarded by many as comparatively tolerant as a KGB chief. Certainly generally regarded as more gradual in reform, by inclination, than Gorbachev, the bulk of the speculation centres around whether Andropov would have reformed the USSR in a manner which did not result in its eventual destruction.
The short time he spent as leader, much of it in a state of extreme frailty, leaves debaters few concrete indications as to the nature of any hypothetical extended rule. As a result, as with the shortened rule of Lenin, these speculators are left much room to advocate favourite theories, and to develop the minor cult of personality which has formed around him.
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