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Chinese and Soviet reform in the 1980s

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In the meantime, in the Soviet Union, Brezhnev died in 1982 and was replaced by another old man and the head of the KGB, the Soviet intelligence agency, Yuri Andropov who himself died within 15 months. By that time three relatively young men were appearing on the Soviet scene: Lukyanov, Gorbachev, and Ryzhkov – all in their early fifties.

Lukyanov had been instrumental in drafting the 1977 Soviet constitution and he was also chief of the secretariat of the Supreme Soviet from 1977 to 1983. Ryzhkov was a secretariat and Central Committee member. Gorbachev was the secretary of the Central Committee from 1978.

Now some explanation of the terms used here. The Central Committee was a Communist Party organ which had over 300 members from all over the USSR. The Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic – the USSR or the Soviet Union for short – was the official name of the country that comprised 15 republics or provinces. The Supreme Soviet was the legislature. The politburo was a smaller body of the top party brass comprising 15 to 25 members elected by the Central Committee, but mostly selected by the top brass itself led by the GS.

After Andropov's death in 1984, another senior politburo member Chernenko who was even older than Andropov became the new GS. But he appointed Gorbachev as the second secretary of the party making him the number two in the Soviet hierarchy. Because of Chernenko’s old age and failing health, he frequently missed politburo meetings and asked Gorbachev to chair the politburo. This made it clear that Gorbachev would replace him as the next leader. And that’s what happened when Chernenko died in March 1985. The Soviet foreign minister and a senior politburo member, Gromyko, proposed Gorbachev’s name as new GS and it was approved by the politburo.

In China, in 1983 the office of the ceremonial head of state was........

© The News International