(b. Koroleva, near Yaroslavl, 12 Feb. 1923; d. Moscow, 18 Oct. 2005)
Russian; member of the Politburo 1987–91 Yakovlev was born into a Russian peasant family. During the Second World War he served in the marines, commanding an intelligence platoon, but was seriously wounded in 1943 and discharged. He joined the Communist Party in 1944 and graduated from the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute in 1946. From 1948 to 1953 he worked as a party official in the Yaroslavl region, before being transferred to the apparatus of the Central Committee in Moscow. In 1956 he decided to follow a period of historical study at the Central Committee's Academy of Social Sciences. In 1960 he graduated from the Academy of Social Sciences with a doctorate and from then until 1973 he worked in the apparatus of the Central Committee. In 1972 he incurred official anger for publishing a newspaper article which attacked Russian nationalism and was sent into semi-exile in 1973 as Soviet ambassador to Canada. Gorbachev organized his return to Moscow in 1983, where he was made Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).
After Gorbachev came to power in 1985, Yakovlev was a key mover behind the introduction of the ‘New Political Thinking’, which reduced the role of Marxist-Leninist ideology in the Soviet Union, and of perestroika in general. He entered the Central Committee as secretary in 1985, becoming a full member the next year. In 1987 he became a full member of the Politburo and was a member of a commission investigating repression under Stalin. He entered the Congress of People's Deputies in 1989 as one of the quota allotted to the CPSU but resigned from the party the next year and thus left the Politburo and Central Committee. In June 1991 he, along with Shevardnadze and others, founded the Movement for Democratic Reform. After Gorbachev's fall in 1991 he lectured and wrote on the history and politics of the Soviet Union and was on the Presidential Committee on Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression.