Town, Schools Will Be Renamed : Soviets Ordered to Forget Another Stalin Protege
For all the talk of “restructuring” and “new thinking” under President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet Communist Party leadership demonstrated again Tuesday that at least one thing has not changed--the way it deals with its discredited predecessors.
The target this time was the late Andrei A. Zhdanov, a protege of dictator Josef Stalin.
The party leadership ordered government bodies at all levels, from the Supreme Soviet to the lowliest town council, to remove Zhdanov’s name from “cities, districts, townships, streets, industrial enterprises, state and collective farms, military units, and educational establishments.”
In other words, from everything.
Among specific entities affected are Leningrad State University, a school for army engineers, and at least one town in the Ukraine, all of which had been named in Zhdanov’s honor.
According to Tass, the official news agency, the party acted in response to numerous appeals of working people to party and local government bodies and to mass media organs, asking to lift “legal acts commemorating Zhdanov.”
Few are expected to mourn the late revolutionary’s disgrace, which is part of Gorbachev’s continuing efforts to excise the ghost of Stalin from this country’s tortured history.
Zhdanov sat on the ruling Politburo from 1935 to 1948, serving for most of the last five of those years as Stalin’s ideology chief. He led the persecution of returning Soviet soldiers who had been German prisoners of war and that of such famous cultural figures as composers Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich and writers Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak.
Potential Rival to Stalin
Earlier, he led a purge that decimated the ranks of the Leningrad Communist Party.
“It was established that Andrei Zhdanov . . . had been one of the sponsors of massive repressions of the 1930s and 1940s against guiltless Soviet people,” Tass said Tuesday. “He is responsible for criminal actions committed at that time and for the violation of socialist law.”
In the end, according to Soviet historian Roy Medvedev, Stalin feared that his protege was developing into a potential rival, and he forced him into retirement. Some say he ordered the murder of Zhdanov in 1948.
In 1953, Stalin employed the name of his dead protege in a new role, as the linchpin of what was to be his final purge--the “Doctors’ Plot.” A group of Kremlin doctors was accused of having poisoned Zhdanov and other Soviet luminaries in what was later revealed as the opening gambit of a Stalin plan to eliminate a number of his closest colleagues.
Stalin died before he could carry out his plan, and now, nearly 36 years later, Zhdanov has become the latest in a long line of former party leaders officially reduced to non-person status.
The names of the last notables to suffer this indignation were removed from public view last month. They were Leonid I. Brezhnev and Konstantin U. Chernenko, both of whom preceded Gorbachev as party leader.