Andrei Zhdanov

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Andrei Zhdanov
Андрей Жданов
Andrei Zhdanov cutout.png
Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
21 March 1939 – 31 August 1948
Preceded byLazar Kaganovich
Succeeded byGeorgy Malenkov
Head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Central Committee
In office
21 March 1939 – 6 September 1940
Preceded byPost established
Succeeded byGeorgy Aleksandrov
Additional positions
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet
of the Russian SFSR
In office
15 July 1938 – 20 June 1947
Preceded byMikhail Kalinin
Succeeded byMikhail Tarasov
First Secretary of the Leningrad Regional Committee of the Soviet Union
In office
15 December 1934 – 17 January 1945
Preceded bySergei Kirov
Succeeded byAlexey Kuznetsov
Personal details
Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov

(1896-02-26)26 February 1896
Mariupol, Russian Empire
Died31 August 1948(1948-08-31) (aged 52)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Political partyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union
OccupationCivil servant

Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov (Russian: Андре́й Алекса́ндрович Жда́нов, IPA: [ɐnˈdrej ɐlʲɪˈksandrəvʲɪtɕˈʐdanəf]; 26 February [O.S. 14 February] 1896 – 31 August 1948) was a Soviet Communist Party leader and cultural ideologist. After World War II, Zhdanov was thought to be the successor-in-waiting to Joseph Stalin, but he died before Stalin.


The Soviet leadership signed a treaty with the Finnish Democratic Republic (standing from left to right are Andrei Zhdanov, Klim Voroshilov, Stalin and Otto Kuusinen while Vyacheslav Molotov is seated)

Zhdanov enlisted with the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolshevik) in 1915 and was promoted through the party ranks, becoming the All-Union Communist Party manager in Leningrad after the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934. He was Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Russia from 20 July 1938–20 June 1947. Though somewhat less active than Vyacheslav Molotov, Joseph Stalin, Lazar Kaganovich and Kliment Voroshilov, Zhdanov was a major perpetrator of the Great Terror and personally approved 176 documented execution lists.[1] In June 1940, he was sent to Estonia[2] to supervise the establishment of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and its annexation by the Soviet Union. He was one of those accused during the United States House of Representatives' 1953–1954 Kersten Committee investigation into the annexation of the Baltic states.[3]

Zhdanov took a leading role during the siege of Leningrad in World War II.[citation needed] After the cease-fire agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union was signed in Moscow on 4 September 1944, Zhdanov directed the Allied Control Commission in Finland until the Paris peace treaty of 1947.

Zhdanov was appointed by Stalin to direct the Soviet Union's cultural policy in 1946. His first action (in December 1946) was to censor Russian writers such as Anna Akhmatova and Mikhail Zoshchenko. He formulated what became known as the Zhdanov Doctrine ("The only conflict that is possible in Soviet culture is the conflict between good and best"). During 1946–1947, Zhdanov was Chairman of the Soviet of the Union. In 1947, he organized the Cominform, designed to coordinate and control the communist parties around the world. In February 1948, he initiated purges among musicians, widely known as a struggle against formalism. Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian and many other composers were reprimanded during this period. In June 1948, Stalin sent Zhdanov to the Cominform meeting in Bucharest. The purpose of the meeting was to condemn Yugoslavia, but Zhdanov took a more restrained line in contrast to his co-delegate and rival Georgy Malenkov. This infuriated Stalin, who removed Zhdanov from all his posts and replaced him with Malenkov. Zhdanov was transferred to a sanatorium, where he died. It is possible that his death was the result of an intentional misdiagnosis.[4]

Zhdanov died on 31 August 1948 in Moscow of heart failure. Nikita Khrushchev recalled in Khrushchev Remembers that Zhdanov was an alcoholic and that during his last days Stalin would shout at him to stop drinking and insist that he drink only fruit juice.[5] Stalin had talked of Zhdanov being his successor, but Zhdanov's ill health gave his rivals, Lavrentiy Beria and Georgy Malenkov, an opportunity to undermine him.


Originating in 1946 and lasting until the late 1950s, Zhdanov's ideological code, known as the Zhdanov Doctrine or Zhdanovism (zhdanovshchina), defined cultural production in the Soviet Union. Zhdanov intended to create a new philosophy of artistic creation valid for the entire world. His method reduced all of culture to a sort of chart, wherein a given symbol corresponded to a simple moral value. Zhdanov and his associates further sought to eliminate foreign influence from Soviet art, proclaiming that "incorrect art" was an ideological diversion.[6] This doctrine suggested that the world was split into two opposing camps, namely the imperialistic, led by the United States; and the democratic, led by the Soviet Union. The one sentence that came to define his doctrine was "The only conflict that is possible in Soviet culture is the conflict between good and best". This cultural policy became strictly enforced, censoring writers, artists and the intelligentsia, with punishment being applied for failing to conform to what was considered acceptable by Zhdanov’s standards. This policy officially ended in 1952, seen as having a negative impact on culture within the Soviet Union. The origins of this policy can be seen before 1946 when critics proposed (wrongly according to Zhdanov) that Russian classics had been influenced by famous foreign writers, but the policy came into effect specifically to target "apolitical, 'bourgeois', individualistic works of the satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko and the poet Anna Akhmatova", respectively writing for the literary magazines Zvezda and Leningrad. On 20 February 1948, Zhdanovshchina shifted its focus towards anti-formalism, targeting composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich. That April, many of the persecuted composers were pressed into repenting for displaying formalism in their music in a special congress of the Union of Soviet Composers. These composers were not rehabilitated by the Soviet Union until 28 May 1958.[citation needed] Zhdanov was the most openly cultured of the leadership group and his treatment of artists was mild by Soviet standards of the time. He even wrote a satirical sketch ridiculing the attack on modernism.[7]

Family ties[edit]

Zhdanov's son Yuri (1919–2006) married Stalin's daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva in 1949. That marriage ended in divorce in 1950. They had one daughter, Yekaterina.

Honours and awards[edit]

Zhdanov's birthplace, Mariupol, was renamed Zhdanov in his honor at Joseph Stalin's instigation in 1948 and a monument to Zhdanov was built in the central square of the city. The name reverted to Mariupol in 1989 and the monument was dismantled in 1990.

Political offices
Preceded by
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Russia
Succeeded by
Mikhail Tarasov
Preceded by
Andrey Andreyev
Chairman of the Soviet of the Union
Succeeded by
Ivan Parfenov

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Сталинские списки - Сталинские расстрельные списки" (in Russian).
  2. ^ "Analytical list of documents, V. Friction in the Baltic States and Balkans, June 4–21 September 1940". Telegram of German Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Schulenburg) to the German Foreign Office. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  3. ^ "The Iron Heel". Time Magazine. 14 December 1953.
  4. ^ Jonathan Haslam (2011). Russia's Cold War. Yale University Press. p. 104.
  5. ^ Simon Sebag Montefiore (2003). Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. ISBN 1-4000-4230-5.
  6. ^ Richard Stites (1992). Soviet Popular Culture. Cambridge University Press. p. 117.
  7. ^ Sheila Fitzpatrick (2015). On Stalin's Team. Carlton: Melbourne University Press. pp. 191–194.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kees Boterbloem (2004). The Life and Times of Andrei Zhdanov, 1896-1948. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.
  • Shiela Fitzpatrick (2015). On Stalin's Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

External links[edit]