The new Kremlin leadership paid its respects to the late Leonid Brezhnev today with a massive review of his posthumously published essays in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda.
Both the publication of sections of his memoirs and Pravda's 2,400-word review indicated that Brezhnev will have a place in Soviet history books.
This in itself is a major development. After the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev denounced the dictator's entire career. The same thing happened to Khrushchev when he was ousted in a 1964 coup that lifted Brezhnev to the post of party leader.
The two upheavals left the Soviet Union with a period of 40 years that was glossed over in history books. Soviet historical accounts, except those of Lenin, read like reports of a construction company building up a vast country. All references to Stalin and Khrushchev were eliminated, their images painted over in art works and cut from films.
The man who succeeded Brezhnev as party leader, Yuri Andropov, apparently does not intend to deny his predecessor a place in history. However, that place seems likely to be modest and perhaps not entirely in keeping with the authority and official adulation Brezhnev enjoyed before his death in November.
When the earlier parts of his memoirs were published during his lifetime, Brezhnev was hailed in the Soviet media as one of "the planet's best read authors." Entire chapters dealing with his wartime exploits and subsequent party work were read over radio and television.
Today's Pravda review was a warm tribute to Brezhnev's activities as a worker in the party and eventually its top leader. It contained no exaggerated praises and assessed the latest works--published in the monthly journal Novy Mir--as the end to "a great and serious effort."
The posthumously published essays include sketches of some leading figures in the Kremlin leadership, including Andropov, Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov, and Politburo member Konstantin Chernenko, who was Brezhnev's closest associate.
Brezhnev said he "highly appreciated" Andropov's "modesty, humaneness and outstanding efficiency."
Praising Marshal Ustinov's "great organizational abilities," Brezhnev described him as a tireless worker who personally supervised Moscow's arms industry.
Brezhnev lavished his greatest praise on Chernenko, citing his "talent and experience" as a party leader. He described Chernenko, who was a rival of Andropov for the post of party general secretary, as a man knowing how to "convince people, how to find the right organizational forms" and a "convinced fighter, sensitive toward comrades while making great demands on his own work performance."
The sketches appeared to confirm the perception during the last years of Brezhnev's life that he favored Chernenko to succeed him.