The Soviet Communist Party paid warm tribute today to its former leader, Yuri Andropov, who has emerged as almost a cult figure in the Soviet Union since his death one year ago.

An editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda heaped praise on the former leader in a eulogy suggesting he is being missed by members of the ruling elite as well as among ordinary citizens.

The editorial made a sole mention of Andropov's successor, President Konstantin Chernenko, and did so in the context of continuity of Soviet policy. Diplomatic observers here said the tribute seemed to underscore Moscow's commitment to Andropov's program for change.

Andropov, who headed the KGB secret police for 15 years before he joined the party Secretariat in May 1982, succeeded the late Leonid Brezhnev as Soviet leader in November 1982.

His accession raised hopes here that the Kremlin leadership would undertake reforms and there are widespread feelings here that Andropov could have achieved more had he served longer than 15 months as the country's leader.

Diplomats here noted that Andropov was described not only as "an outstanding figure," an "ardent patriot" who struggled for peace and social progress, but that he was also hailed for making a "weighty personal contribution" in establishing Communist Party strategy.

Most of the article reflected Andropov's views about future tasks facing the Soviet Union. The eulogy cited many of his policies, including drives against corruption and for tighter social and labor discipline. Under his program, Pravda said, anyone could be brought to justice, "from a worker to a minister."

Today's tribute stood in marked contrast to a Pravda eulogy in November 1983 commemorating the first anniversary of Brezhnev's death. The tribute extended modest praise to Brezhnev and hardly dealt with his 18 years in power.

In today's eulogy, the cursory reference to the 73-year-old Chernenko, who has been ailing for the past six weeks, does not indicate an attempt to slight him. Chernenko has stated publicly that he is carrying out the program developed by Brezhnev and Andropov.