Soviets predict more ideology under Chernenko

By LOUISE BRANSON  |  Feb. 13, 1984
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MOSCOW -- Soviet citizens questioned about their new leader predicted Monday that Konstantin Chernenko will be a weaker Kremlin boss than Yuri Andropov, but said they were preparing for larger doses of communist ideology.

'Andropov shook things up but everything should calm down again,' said Lyena, a 38-year-old engineer. She declined to give her last name.

The Central Commitee of the Communist Party announced Monday that Chernenko, the closest aide to the late Leonid Brezhnev, would succeed Andropov, who died Thursday after a long illness.

'We think he will not be a strong leader like Andropov and things will go back to the way they were under Brezhnev,' said another woman, who asked not to be identified.

Since Andropov's death was announced last Friday many Soviets, like Western observers, had picked Chernenko as his most likely successor.

'We were pretty sure it would be Chernenko when he was chosen to arrange the funeral,' a middle-aged physicist said.

But his friend said he was 'surprised that such an old man has been chosen.'

After 18 years of relative stagnation under Brezhnev, Andropov led a vigorous discipline and anti-corruption campaign that included sending policemen into cinemas and shops to catch people away from their jobs.

But though they think that campaign is probably over, many Soviets suspect a different kind of government offensive may be about to begin. Chernenko was responsible for ideology under Andropov's regime.

'We are expecting a big campaign of communist propaganda and ideology,' one Soviet woman said.

'We will probably have to start reading more about communism and Leninism and have more political meetings,' a man said.

Some people questioned had little information about their new leader. 'People don't know an awful lot about Chernenko,' one young man said.

Though Moscow is in its third day of official mourning, shoppers seemed scarcely aware of the buildings draped in black. They fought to get into a supermarket as it opened after lunch hour. Two women discussed their husbands' drinking problems.

Many Soviet citizens had not heard in the morning that their country had a new leader and expressed little interest when told.

'Oh, it's Chernenko,' one middle-aged man said. 'Yes, I suppose he will be good for the country. Anybody who is chosen will be good for the country.'

At least one young man, named Tomas from the southern republic of Georgia, was less than happy that Chernenko had been elected.

'My friends and I had a bet on it and they all put their money on Chernenko but I was sure it was going to be (Grigory) Romanov,' he said. 'I guess I lost out.'

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