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"Yuri Vladimirovich! The people will not follow you!"


In the first half of the 1980s Soviet politics revealed an astonishing paradox: the frail and ailing supreme leader seemed to be the key to ensuring the stability and strength of the system. A brutal and tyrannical leader like Stalin was no longer required to maintain the regime. The “cult of personality” gave place to a “cult without personality” and a nominal leader, who ensured bureaucratic consensus by showing due respect for the rights and privileges of the party elite.

The advent of the more activist and strong-minded leader Yuri Andropov (1914–84), who succeeded Brezhnev in 1982, sent shock waves through the system, threatening to undermine its conservative foundations. However, his tenure was too short to effect any lasting change: in February 1984 Andropov himself died.

As Andropov's bad health became common knowledge (he was attached to a dialysis machine by the end), several jokes made the rounds:

"Comrade Andropov is the most turned on man in Moscow!"

"Comrade Andropov is sure to light up any discussion!"

"Why did Brezhnev go abroad, and Andropov did not? Because Brezhnev ran on batteries, but Andropov needed an outlet."
(Reference to Brezhnev's pacemaker and Andropov's dialysis machine).

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