The death of Yuri Andropov may halt KGB pressure - at least for a short time - in the Baltic states, Western observers say. Visitors to Latvia and Estonia in the past year have quoted local residents as saying they regarded the increased repression to be at the personal instigation of Andropov, a former head of the KGB.
Atis Lejins, a Latvian-born American citizen working at the Swedish Royal Institute of International Affairs, thinks the KGB may have strengthened its grip on Soviet society through promotions and appointments made by Andropov.
Before Andropov's passing last week, several Latvian families, related by marriage or friendship to a Baptist activist who was recently sentenced to five years in a Soviet labor camp, were questioned and threatened with arrest by the Latvian KGB for sending information to the West about political trials, Latvian exile sources say.
In at least two cases, the Latvians fear they will soon be arrested and tried for anti-Soviet activity, like their friend and relative Jamis Rozkalns. He was recently taken from a jail in Riga to an unknown destination, according to a West German source in touch with Latvia.
Among those threatened with arrest are the parents of Rozkalns's wife, Edmunds and Ruta Cirvilis. Mr. Cirvilis, an active Baptist, spent some 10 years in Soviet prison in the 1940s because, as a young man in then-independent Latvia , he had taken flying lessons in Denmark.
Also fearing arrest is Zigrida Veltmanis, a former Aeroflot stewardess who has been interrogated by the Latvian KGB for phone calls to her sister in West Germany telling details of political trials.