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New Left Review I/136, November-December 1982

Roy Medvedev

The Death of the ‘Chief Ideologue’

Many Soviet politicians have attracted the attention of the world’s press over the last ten years but very little has been said or written about Mikhail Suslov. He kept himself to the shadows, shunning all publicity. He served neither as a minister nor as Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers; he avoided all the top government posts. Almost all his working life was spent in the party apparatus. He was an out-and-out apparatchik, like Malenkov only more skilful. He made his way up the party hierarchy more slowly than everyone else. At thirty-three Molotov had reached the Secretariat of the Russian Communist Party, as had Kaganovich. At the same age Mikoyan was a People’s Commissar and a candidate member of the Politburo, and Malenkov headed one of the most important sections of the All-Union Communist Party. Suslov, when he was thirty-three, was just a rank-and-file inspector working for the Central Control Commission. And yet, at the end of his eighty-year life-span, he had become more than a modest old-age pensioner or honorary member of the Central Committee—he was a man who wielded enormous power, occupying second place in the party hierarchy. This is why his recent death has been the subject of so much comment, speculation and prediction.

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Roy Medvedev, ‘The Death of the 'Chief Ideologue'’, NLR I/136: £3

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