A Soviet newspaper Wednesday called Yuri V. Andropov the "last Stalinist" boss in the first open criticism of the former Soviet leader, considered at home and in the West as a reformer and mentor of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, the daily of the Communist Youth League, also pulled the wraps off Andropov's 15-year career as the head of the dreaded KGB secret police, calling him "the most enigmatic figure" of the Brezhnev era.
Andropov succeeded Leonid I. Brezhnev in November, 1982, as Soviet leader upon Brezhnev's death. He ruled just 15 months but instituted a crackdown on loafers by sending police squads into movie houses, bathhouses and stores to nab the idlers. But Komsomolskaya Pravda said Andropov's adoration from the public was bought by giving the people cheap prices for vodka while frightening higher-ups whose secrets he knew from his KGB service.
The newspaper also said that during the Andropov crackdown, "constitutional norms were violated, and human rights were openly trampled upon."
"Because of his extreme modesty bordering on asceticism, Yuri Andropov represented to young party apparatus workers an example of a state leader . . . but he still was the last leader of the Stalinist mold," it said. As dictator from 1924-53, Josef Stalin imprisoned millions, while also keeping prices low.
Unlike major denunciations in the past of departed Soviet leaders like those that befell even Stalin himself, the article reflected the new glasnost, or openness, approach of trying to analyze fairly Andropov's record.
"Andropov's positive role in revealing corruption and strengthening the state's defense is universally acknowledged," it said. "But he failed to enter the country's history as a reformer."