Kremlin Drops Hard-Line Culture Minister Demichev

Associated Press

The Kremlin dismissed the culture minister Wednesday in a possible stirring of the “fresh wind” that Soviet intellectuals and artists have hoped for under Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s leadership.

Removal of Pyotr N. Demichev, 68, who confined the arts within a conservative mold for 12 years, was announced at a session of the Supreme Soviet. He was given the largely ceremonial job of deputy to President Andrei A. Gromyko.

There also were indications of the ascendancy of Anatoly F. Dobrynin, who was brought home earlier this year after more than a quarter of a century as ambassador to Washington.

The meeting of the Supreme Soviet, the nominal Parliament, is focused primarily on providing formal approval of the economic five-year plan Gorbachev has designed to streamline and revitalize the bureaucracy-ridden economy.


Replaces Kuznetsov

Demichev, an alternate Politburo member since 1964, replaced Vasily V. Kuznetsov as first deputy president. Official announcements said that Kuznetsov, the oldest man in the Soviet leadership at 85, retired for health reasons.

Gorbachev, 55, has made sweeping personnel changes in 15 months as Communist Party chief. His dismissal of Demichev, for whom no successor has been named, could open the way for more of the changes recently detected on the Soviet cultural scene.

Many aged or aging leaders have been removed from the day-to-day operations of government.


Kuznetsov and another octogenarian, Boris N. Ponomarev, lost their alternate memberships in the ruling Politburo when a new order of leadership was named at the end of the 27th party congress in March.

Politburo member Yegor K. Ligachev, who oversees personnel matters, announced the retirement of Kuznetsov to the Supreme Soviet. He had been first deputy president since 1977.

Heads Commission

Dobrynin replaced Ponomarev on the influential Central Committee Secretariat, and on Wednesday took over his duties as head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of one of the Parliament’s two houses.


Ligachev also told the 1,500 Parliament members that Viktor V. Grishin, replaced as Moscow party chief in December when reports of widespread corruption were circulating, would be dropped from the 40-plus membership of the parliamentary Presidium.

Grishin, a Supreme Soviet member, was present to hear the announcement that marked his complete removal from the leadership.

Demichev was trained as an engineer and he became a Communist Party ideologist. He rose rapidly under Nikita S. Khrushchev to top party posts in Moscow and flourished under Leonid I. Brezhnev, who put him in charge of a commission on ideology and chose him as culture minister in 1974.

He is said to have had little sympathy for the more liberal policies sought by Soviet artists and intellectuals.


With Gorbachev’s accession to power, they began talking of a “fresh wind” in the cultural field, which had slowly ossified since a period of relative freedom known as “the thaw” ended in the early 1960s.