Vladimir Vasilyevich Shcherbitsky

(b. 1918)

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(b. Verkhnedneprovsk, Dnepropetrovsk region, 17 Feb. 1918; d. 16 Feb. 1990)

Ukrainian; First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party 1972–89 Shcherbitsky was a graduate of the Dnepropetrovsk Chemical Technological Institute. He joined the Communist Party in 1941 and served in the Red Army during the Second World War. In 1945 he returned to the Dnepropetrovsk region, where he became a client of Brezhnev. He progressed through the party organization until 1955 when he became First Secretary of the party organization for the Dnepropetrovsk region—a post which Brezhnev had previously held. From 1961 to 1963 he was candidate member of the Presidium of the Central Committee, but was removed at the end of the Khrushchev era. When Brezhnev became leader his career was back on track and he re-entered the Presidium as a candidate member (known as the Politburo after 1966) in 1965; he attained full membership in 1971. In May 1972 he replaced Piotr Shelest as First Secretary of the Ukrainian party. He was considerably less willing to assert Ukrainian interests than his predecessor and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s sought to repress local nationalism. He was honoured as a ‘Hero of Socialist Labour’ in 1974 and 1977 and awarded the Lenin Prize in 1982. He suppressed information on the damage caused by the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster in 1986. He was unwilling to implement the new policies of glasnost and perestroika after Gorbachev came to power in 1989, though he paid lip-service to them. He kept the Ukraine quiet when nationalist unrest was developing in the Baltic Republics and in the Caucasus. In 1989 he was elected unopposed for the Dnepropetrovsk seat in the Congress of People's Deputies, but when he was removed from office soon after, he was the last of the Brezhnevite ‘old guard’ to fall.

Subjects: Politics.

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