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Zhdanov, Andrei Alexandrovich


(18961948), Soviet political leader.

Andrei Zhdanov was one of Stalin's most prominent deputies and is best known as the leader

of the ideological crackdown following World War II. After the assassination of Leningrad leader Sergei Kirov in 1934, Zhdanov became head of the Leningrad party organization. Also in 1934 he became a secretary of the party's Central Committee and in 1939 a full Politburo member. He spent most of World War II leading Leningrad, which was besieged by Hitler's troops.

Zhdanov was transferred to Moscow in 1944 to work as Central Committee secretary for ideology and began playing a growing leadership role, which intensified his rivalry with Central Committee Secretary Georgy Malenkov. Zhdanov, as chief of the Central Committee's Propaganda Department, became identified with official ideology, while Malenkov, chief of the party's personnel and industrial departments, was identified with management of party activity and industry. In the maneuvering between these leaders, Zhdanov scored a victory over his rival by starting an ideological crackdown in August 1946, denouncing deviations by some literary journals and harshly assailing prominent writers. During Zhdanov's campaign, Malenkov lost his leadership posts and fell into Stalin's disfavor, while Zhdanov became viewed as Stalin's most likely successor.

Zhdanov's role in the harsh postwar ideological crackdown earned him the reputation of the regime's leading hardliner; the wave of persecution of literary and cultural figures became known as the Zhdanovshchina. In June 1947 Zhdanov denounced ideological errors and softness toward the West in Soviet philosophy. At a September 1947 conference of foreign communist parties, Zhdanov laid out the thesis that the world was divided into two camps: imperialist (Western) and democratic (Soviet). Zhdanov's pronouncements fostered development of the Cold War and an assertion of basic hostility between Soviet and Western ideas.

However, the worst excesses of the Zhdanovshchina ironically were committed after Zhdanov's death and were directed against Zhdanov's allies. Zhdanov refused to back biologist Trofim Lysenko's attacks on modern genetics, and Zhdanov's son, who was head of the Central Committee's Science Department, actually denounced Lysenko's ideas in April 1948 and was later forced to recant publicly. In July 1948 Zhdanov was sent off for an extended vacation, during which he died on August 31, 1948. Malenkov returned to power in mid-1948, and, as Zhdanov was dying in August 1948, Lysenko was given free reign in science and initiated the condemnation of genetics and other allegedly pro-Western scientific ideas. In 1949 a campaign against Jews as cosmopolitans began. Also in 1949 Zhdanov's proteges in Leningrad were purged (the Leningrad Case), many of them eventually executed. Zhdanov himself was spared public disgrace, unlike his proteges and his Leningrad party organization, which was cast into disfavor for years. Zhdanov continued to be treated as a hero, and when Stalin concocted the Doctors' Plot in 1952, he cast Zhdanov as one of the victims of the Jewish doctors, who allegedly had poisoned the Leningrad leader.

Although the symbol of intolerance in literature and culture and of hostility toward the West, Zhdanov was probably no more hard-line than his rivals. His denunciations of ideological deviations appeared largely motivated by his struggle to retain Stalin's favor. But Stalin turned to a crack-down and a break with the West and drove the Zhdanovshchina into its extremes of anti-Semitism, Lysenkoism, and the execution of Leningrad leaders and Zhdanov proteges.

See also: jews; lysenko, trofim denisovich; malenkov, georgy maximilyanovich; purges, the great; stalin, josef vissarionovich


Graham, Loren. (1972). Science and Philosophy in the Soviet Union. New York: Knopf.

Hahn, Werner G. (1982). Postwar Soviet Politics: The Fall of Zhdanov and the Defeat of Moderation, 194653. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Medvedev, Zhores. (1969). The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko. New York: Columbia University Press.

Werner G. Hahn

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