Worked as a telegraph worker, film projectionist, seaman, 1930-1932. Education at Petrozavodsk University interrupted during World War II. Komsomol activist at a shipyard. Joined the Communist Party in 1939.
Secretary, then 1st Secretary of the Central Committee of the Karelian Komsomol during World War II. Probably already then connected with the security services since he did not serve at the front but was involved with the control of partisans in Karelia (normally the task of the security organs). 1st Secretary of Petrozavodsk City Committee, 1944-1947. 2nd Secretary of the Central Committee of the Karelian CP, 1947-1951.
USSR Ambassador to Hungary, 1953-1957, superv ised the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Thereafter Chief of the Central Committee Liaison Department for Communist and Workers’ Parties of Socialist Countries, 1957-1967. From 1962 member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the USSR Supreme Soviet.
1962-1967. Member of the Central Committee from 1961. Secretary of the Central Committee, 1962-1967. Chairman of the State Security Committee (Head of the Committee for State Security), 1967-1982.
Elected successor to Brezhnev as General Secretary of the Central Committee in 1982, aged 68. Under his mle the Committee for State Security systematically silenced human rights activists including Dr. Andrei Sakharov. The use of psychiatry for political purposes was widely introduced.
International terrorism received Committee for State Security support. Terrorist acts committed abroad were linked by observers to the Committee for State Security (Markov’s murder in London, the shooting of Pope John Paul II in Rome, etc). Considered highly intelligent, knew some English and had a taste for art collecting.
In September 1977 went on Soviet TV to give his opinion on dissidents, an unprecedented step for a Committee for State Security chief. During his rule as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union tried to fight the entrenched Brezhnevites in the Central Ctte. and introduced some economic reforms but without much success. Contracted a kidney disease which was kept secret and described as a cold.
Never recovered and after a long illness died in Moscow.
Born June 15, 1914