A new leader for the USSR
Be prepared for a new world figure who may soon become the best known leader after President Ronald Reagan of the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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His name is Yuri Andropov, the new leader of the Soviet Union.
He has taken the place of Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled the Soviet Union for 18 years. Mr. Brezhnev's funeral took place earlier this month.
From now on we will be hearing a great deal about Mr. Andropov because he represents a very important and powerful country.
Together the United States with 230 million people and the Soviet Union with 270 million are the world's two superpowers.
In addition, the Soviet Union is larger in area than any other country in the world. It spreads from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. Because of its huge size, it stretches across Europe and Asia.
Not only is the Soviet Union a very powerful country, but also its new leader , Yuri Andropov, is a very powerful man.
From 1967 to May 1982 he was head of the KGB, which in Russian stands for the Committee for State Security. The KGB does for the Soviet Union what America's Central Intelligence Agency does for the United States.
The CIA protects the US from possible enemies who might want to sabotage the country or steal secrets or ruin the reputation of the nation.
In addition to taking on those functions for the Soviet Union, the KGB is also the world's most powerful secret police organization and has tremendous powers to arrest Soviet citizens. Today the KGB is considered the most efficient and most powerful of all the government agencies in the Soviet Union. As head of the KGB, Mr. Andropov was the Soviet Union's secret-police chief.
Now he will become the sixth person to become the leader, or party chief, of the ruling Communist Party in the Soviet Union. The person who holds this rank is called the general secretary, which is a more important title than president. Mr. Brezhnev held the titles of both general secretary and president.
Unlike the United States or Britain which have at least two major recognized political parties, the Soviet Union is a one-party state. This party, of course, is the Communist Party which runs almost every aspect of Soviet life.
And unlike the West, whose governments allow more freedom of expression, the Communist government in the USSR permits really no opposition to what the state thinks. Its control is so total that we call the Soviet Union a totalitarian state.
The Communists didn't always control the Soviet Union.
In 1917, toward the end of World War I, Russia as it was called then was still a monarchy. Instead of calling their monarch a king or emperor the people called him a czar. Sometimes it is spelled ''tsar.'' The word czar is thought to come from the Latin word caesar which came to mean emperor.
In 1917, however, Russia had a revolution. On March 15 of that year the czar, Nicholas II, was forced to abdicate. That is to say he had to give up his throne. That ended czarist rule in Russia.
A new government was formed by a leader called Alexander Kerensky. He's not very well known in history because his government proved to be too weak. It was only in power a few months before a group of revolutionaries called Bolsheviks forcibly took over in November 1917. The Bolsheviks later came to be called the Communists.
The Bolsheviks or Communists were led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who founded the Communist Party. The second largest city in the Soviet Union, Leningrad, was named after him. Earlier, it was known as St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great, and was the capital of czarist Russia.
Today the capital of the Soviet Union is Moscow, the nation's largest city. The Soviet government, often referred to as the Kremlin, is based here.
Just as the United States has its Congress so the Soviets have their equivalent: the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. USSR is short for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. There are 15 of these republics. The reason we don't refer to the USSR as Russia is because Russia is only one part of the Soviet Union, though about half the people living within the Soviet Union are Russian. Russian is also the official language.
Although the Supreme Soviet of the USSR could be compared to Congress, all power rests with the Communist Party. The Communist Party Congress meets every four years and elects the powerful Central Committee.
The Central Committee carries on the work of the Communist Party and government work between congresses. The Central Committee, in turn, elects the Politburo. The Politburo determines, that is to say, shapes, the policy of the Communist Party.
Here are some other Russian names that may be familiar to you:
Aeroflot: The government-owned airline of the Soviet Union.
Pravda (means Truth): the daily newspaper of the Communist Party.
Izvestia (means news): the daily newspaper of the government.
TASS (stands for Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union): the official news agency of the Soviet Union.
Volga: the great river of the USSR. There is a famous song about the Volga boatmen.
The new leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, was a boatman on the Volga when he was young.