Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

In office

12 November 1982 – 9 February 1984

Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov (15 June [O.S. 2 June] 1914 – 9 February 1984) was the fourth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Following the 18-year rule of the Leonid Brezhnev, Andropov served in the post for only 15 months, from November 1982 until his own death in February 1984.

His appointment was received in the West with apprehension, in view of his roles in the KGB and in Hungary. During his rule, Andropov attempted to improve the economy by raising management effectiveness without changing the principles of socialist economy. In contrast to Brezhnev's policy of avoiding conflicts and dismissals, he began to fight violations of party, state and labor discipline, which led to significant personnel changes during an anti-corruption campaign against many of Brezhnev's cronies.

During 15 months in office, Andropov dismissed 18 ministers, and 37 first secretaries of obkoms, kraikoms and Central Committees of Communist Parties of Soviet Republics; criminal cases on highest party and state officials were started. For the first time, the facts about economic stagnation and obstacles to scientific progress were made available to the public.

In foreign policy, the war continued in Afghanistan, although Andropov - who felt the invasion was a mistake - did half-heartedly explore options for a negotiated withdrawal. Andropov's rule was also marked by deterioration of relations with the United States. On March 8, 1983, during Andropov's reign as General Secretary, U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire."

In August 1983 Andropov made a sensational announcement that the country was stopping all work on space-based weapons. One of his most notable acts during his short time as leader of the Soviet Union was in response to a letter from a 10-year-old American child from Maine named Samantha Smith, inviting her to the Soviet Union.

In February 1983, Andropov suffered total renal failure. In August 1983, he entered the Central Clinical Hospital in western Moscow on a permanent basis, where he would spend the remainder of his life. In late January 1984 Andropov's health deteriorated sharply and he died on 9 February 1984 in his hospital room at age 69. He was succeeded by Chernenko, who similarly had a very short tenure in office.