Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev

Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev

::"See Alexander Yakovlev for other individuals with the same name"

Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, Александр Николаевич Яковлев (December 2, 1923 to October 18, 2005 ) was a Russian economist who was a Soviet governmental official in the 1980s and a member of the Politburo and Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The chief of party ideology, the same position as that previously held by Mikhail Suslov, he was called the "godfather of glasnost" [] and "God's commie" [] as he is considered to be the intellectual force behind Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program of glasnost and perestroika.

Early career

Yakovlev was born to a peasant family in a tiny village on the Volga near Yaroslavl. He served in the Red Army during World War II and became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1944. Beginning in 1958, he was an exchange student at Columbia University for one year. [Keller,Bill. Moscow's other Mastermind: Aleksandr Yakovlev," "New York Times Magazine", February 19, 1989, pp.30-33, 40-43. ISSN: 0362-4331.]

Yakovlev served as editor of several party publications and rose to the key position of head of the CPSU's Department of Ideology and Propaganda from 1969 to 1973. In 1972 he took a bold stand by publishing an article critical of Russian chauvinism and Soviet anti-Semitism. As a result he was removed from his position and appointed as ambassador to Canada remaining at that post for a decade. [Keller,Bill. Moscow's other Mastermind: Aleksandr Yakovlev," "New York Times Magazine", February 19, 1989, pp.30-33, 40-43. ISSN: 0362-4331.]

During this time, he and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau became close friends. Trudeau's second son, Alexandre Trudeau, was given the Russian nickname "Sacha" after Yakovlev's.Fact|date=June 2007

In 1983, Yakovlev accompanied Mikhail Gorbachev, who at the time was the Soviet official in charge of agriculture, on his tour of Canada. The purpose of the visit was to tour Canadian farms and agricultural institutions in the hopes of taking lessons that could be applied in the Soviet Union, however, the two renewed their earlier friendship and, tentatively at first, began to discuss the need for liberalisation in the Soviet Union.

In an interview years later, Yakovlev recalled::"At first we kind of sniffed around each other and our conversations didn't touch on serious issues. And then, verily, history plays tricks on one, we had a lot of time together as guests of then Liberal Minister of Agriculture Eugene Whelan in Canada who, himself, was too late for the reception because he was stuck with some striking farmers somewhere. So we took a long walk on that Minister's farm and, as it often happens, both of us suddenly were just kind of flooded and let go. I somehow, for some reason, threw caution to the wind and started telling him about what I considered to be utter stupidities in the area of foreign affairs, especially about those SS-20 missiles that were being stationed in Europe and a lot of other things. And he did the same thing. We were completely frank. He frankly talked about the problems in the internal situation in Russia. He was saying that under these conditions, the conditions of dictatorship and absence of freedom, the country would simply perish. So it was at that time, during our three-hour conversation, almost as if our heads were knocked together, that we poured it all out and during that three-hour conversation we actually came to agreement on all our main points." []

Two weeks after the visit, as a result of Gorbachev's interventions, Yakovlev was recalled from Canada by Yuri Andropov and became Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He was succeeded by his friend Yevgeny Primakov in 1985.

Perestroika and its aftermath

Mikhail Gorbachev and Yakovlev opposite George H. W. Bush on board the SS "Maxim Gorkiy" at the Malta Summit in 1989.] When Gorbachev became Soviet leader in 1985, Yakovlev became a senior advisor, helping to shape Soviet foreign policy by advocating Soviet non-intervention in Eastern Europe, and accompanying Gorbachev on his five summit meetings with United States President Ronald Reagan. Domestically, he argued in favour of the reform programs that became known as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) and played a key role in executing those policies.

For decades, it was the official policy of the Soviet Union to deny the existence of the secret protocol to the Soviet-German Pact. At the behest of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yakovlev headed a commission investigating the existence of such a protocol. In December 1989 Yakovlev concluded that the protocol had existed and revealed his finds to the Soviet Parliament. As a result, the first democratically elected Congress of Soviets "passed the declaration admitting the existence of the secret protocols, condemning and denouncing them". [Jerzy W. Borejsza, Klaus Ziemer, Magdalena Hułas. "Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes in Europe". Berghahn Books, 2006. Page 521.]

He was promoted to the Politburo in 1987 but by 1990 he had become the focus of attacks by conservatives in the party opposed to liberalisation. At the 28th Congress of the CPSU in July 1990, a cynical Alexander Lebed caused uproar when he asked Yakovlev: "Alexander Nikolaevich... How many faces have you got?" An embarrassed Yakovlev consulted his colleagues and continued on with the proceedings, ignoring Lebed. [cite episode |title=General in Exile |episodelink= |url= |series=Assignment |serieslink= |credits=Tom Carver |network=BBC2 |station= |city= |airdate=1996-11-16 |began= |ended= |season= |number= |minutes=45 |transcript= |transcripturl=] As the conservatives gained strength his position became more tenuous, he was ultimately removed from the Politburo and was expelled from the Party two days before the August Coup in 1991. During the coup Yakovlev joined the democratic opposition against it. Following the failed coup attempt, Yakovlev blamed Gorbachev for having been naive in bringing the plotters into his inner circle saying Gorbachev was "guilty of forming a team of traitors. Why did he surround himself with people capable of treason?"citequote

In the years following the fall of the Soviet Union, Yakovlev wrote and lectured extensively on history, politics and economics. He acted as the leader of Party of Russian Social Democracy, which in the mid 1990s fused into United Democrats (a pro-reform alliance that was later reorganized into Union of Right Forces). In 2002, acting as head of the Presidential Committee for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, he was present at the announcement of the release of a CD detailing names and short biographies of the victims of Soviet purges. In his later life, he founded and led the International Democracy Foundation - He advocated taking responsibility for the past crimes of communism and was critical of President Putin's restrictions on democracy.

In 2000, he publicly alleged that Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who has become famous for his role in saving thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust, was shot and killed in Soviet secret police headquarters in 1947.Fact|date=June 2007

As the intellectual force behind glasnost and perestroika, Yakovlev is often blamed for the demise of the Soviet Union and the victory of the United States in the Cold War. Latterly an outspoken anti-communist and regarded by most Russians as a traitor, he was accused of being a CIA agent and regularly received death threats. During a newspaper interview in 2001, Yakovlev was approached by a woman in Moscow who demanded: "Aren't you in jail yet?" Yakovlev grinned and replied with an obscenity. [cite news |first=Geoffrey |last=York |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Why father of glasnost is despised in Russia |url= |work=The Globe and Mail |publisher= |date=2001-03-09 |accessdate=2008-05-17 ]

ee also

Alexandre Trudeau, son of late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is named for Yakovlev. The Trudeaus had asked Yakovlev about whether "Sacha" was the nickname for "Alexander".


Further reading

* Alexander N. Yakovlev and Abel G. Aganbegyan, "Perestroika, 1989", Scribner (1989), trade paperback, ISBN 0-684-19117-2
* Alexander Yakovlev, "USSR the Decisive Years", First Glance Books (1991), hardcover, ISBN 1-55013-410-8
* Alexander Yakovlev and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, "The Fate of Marxism in Russia", Yale University Press (1993), hardcover, ISBN 0-300-05365-7; trade paperback, Lightning Source, UK, Ltd. (17 November 2004) ISBN 0-300-10540-1
* Alexander N. Yakovlev, forward by Paul Hollander, translated by Anthony Austin, "Century of Violence in Soviet Russia", Yale University Press (2002), hardcover, 254 pages, ISBN 0-300-08760-8; trade paperback, Yale University Press (2002), 272 pages, ISBN 0-300-10322-0
* Alexander N. Yakovlev, "Digging Out: How Russia Liberated Itself from the Soviet Union", Encounter Books (December 1, 2004), hardcover, 375 pages, ISBN 1-59403-055-3
*Christopher Shulgan, "The Soviet Ambassador: The Making of the Radical Behind Perestroika", McClelland and Stewart (June 10, 2008), Hardcover, ISBN 978-0-7710-7996-2 (0-7710-7996-6), 288 pages.

External links

* Site of Alexander Yakovlev's foundation
* Interview with Alexander Yakovlev
* Full text of a 1993 lecture by Yakovlev
* Obituary in the New York Times
* BBC: Perestroika architect dies at 81
*,2763,1595945,00.html Alexander Yakovlev
*, "The West Lost The War: Vladimir Bukovsky" by Jamie Glazov. FrontPageMagazine, May 9, 2001
* [ Interview with Christopher Shulgan, author of "The Soviet Ambassador", June 29, 2008]
* Audio interview with Christopher Shulgan re: The Soviet Ambassador, June 2008

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