The Communist Party named a longtime protege of President Leonid Brezhnev to full voting status in the ruling Politburo today and shuffled several others in the leadership councils. Western exports here said the moves reflect Brezhnev's continued personal control and may offer clues to his eventual successor as Soviet leader.
Konstanin U. Chernenko, 67, who has worked closely below Brezhnev for more than 20 yeas, was named to the Politburo, capping an unusually quick march by him into the inner ruling cicle. He was named a candidate (nonvoting) Politburo member just a year ago and has been a full member of the Communist Party's Central Committee just seven years.
Chernenko now is the youngest man in the Kremlin government to function as both a full Politburo member and a member of the powerful executive body, the Secretariat.
The Central Committee in its plemum today "relieved" Kiril T. Mazurov, 64, the number two man to Premier Alexei Kosygin, from his Politburo job "for reasons of health at his own request."
The party also elevated to nonvoting Politburo status a longtime party apparatchik, Nikolai Tikhonov, 73, and the Georgian Communist Party boss, Eduard Shevardnadze, 50. Tikhonov, a Central Committee member since 1966, also functions as a Kosygin deputy in the council of ministers.
Shevardnadze's promotion puzzled Western diplomats. Soviet Georgia has been disturbed by nationalist protests from both Georgians and the minority Abkhazians this year.
The plenum also moved up a regional party man, Milhail Gorbachev, 47, of the Stavropol northern Caucasus area, to the Central Committee Secretariat.
But interest focused on Chernenko, one of a group whose oldest members began rising in the party when Brezhnev emerged as a figure in Dnepropetrovsk, southeastern Ukraine, in the late 1930s. Chernenko served as propaganda chief when Brezhnev was Moldavian party chief in the early 1950s.
When Brezhnev became a national party secretary for Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, chernenko became a national domestic propaganda chief. Brezhnev later made him chief of his personal staff and in 1976 appointed him as a national party secretary.
The accession of Chernenko and removal of Mazurov leaves the Politburo at 13 voting members, where it has been since the death last summer of Fyodor Kulakov, who held the agricultural portfolio.