Transformation of Soviet Ideological Attitudes in the Works of A.N. Yakovlev in 1985-1991

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Abstract


The present article studies the views of the “godfather of Glasnost,” CPSU Central Committee Secretary Alexander N. Yakovlev (1923-2005), and how they evolved during the Perestroika period in the second half of the 1980s. The author analyzes Yakovlev's positions on issues of Soviet ideology at the beginning of Perestroika, arguing that at that time his statements on the need for radical improvement of ideological work did not differ from the views of other party leaders. Yakovlev's personal biography shaped his interpretation of important events of twentieth-century Russian history; he had fought in the Great Patriotic war and participated in the work of the 20th Party Congress and in the Commission of the CPSU Central Committee for the rehabilitation of victims of political repression. Yakovlev became the target of critique from the leaders of the newly created Communist party of the RSFSR, as well as from conservative CPSU members, in particular during the XVIII Party Congress in the summer of 1990; they criticized Yakovlev's work in the Central Committee of the CPSU and the extent of his influence on M.S. Gorbachev. The article traces changes in Yakovlev's assessments of the socialist formation, of Marxism, and of the political and legal structure of the CPSU. The author identifies a direct link between the problems of social and political life in the Soviet Union and changes in Yakovlev's public statements. This analysis leads to the conclusion that Yakovlev's influence on the President of the USSR, M.S. Gorbachev, was not as big as sometimes assumed. Since the beginning of 1991, Yakovlev's influence was gradually declining, and on the eve of the August putsch it reached its lowest point. The article is based on Yakovlev's published articles and public speeches as well as on archival materials from his personal fund that is preserved in the State Archive of the Russian Federation.


About the authors

Anatoly N. Sivov

Moscow State Pedagogical University

Author for correspondence.
Email: sivov.tolya@mail.ru
88, Vernadsky Av., Moscow, 115571, Russia

Postgraduate Student of the Department of modern Russian history

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