Yegor Ligachyov

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Yegor Ligachyov
Его́р Лигачёв
Yegor Ligachev 2.jpg
Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
10 March 1985 – 14 July 1990
Preceded byMikhail Gorbachev
Succeeded byVladimir Ivashko (as Deputy General Secretary)
Head of the Organizational-Party Work Department of the Central Committee
In office
29 April 1983 – 23 April 1985
Preceded byIvan Kapitonov
Succeeded byGeorgy Razumovsky
First Secretary of the Tomsk Regional Committee
In office
26 November 1965 – 29 April 1983
Preceded byIvan Tikhonovich Marchenko
Succeeded byAlexander Melnikov
Additional positions
Full member of the 26th, 27th Politburo
In office
23 April 1985 – 14 July 1990
Member of the 26th, 27th Secretariat
In office
26 December 1983 – 14 July 1990
Member of the 26th, 27th Central Committee
In office
3 March 1981 – 14 July 1990
Personal details
Born (1920-11-29) 29 November 1920 (age 98)
Dubinkino, Russian SFSR
NationalitySoviet and Russian
Political partyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union (1944-1990)
Communist Party of the Russian Federation (1993-present)
Children1 son

Yegor Kuzmich Ligachyov (also transliterated as Ligachev; Russian: Его́р Кузьми́ч Лигачёв; born 29 November 1920) is a Soviet politician who was a high-ranking official in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Originally an ally of Mikhail Gorbachev, Ligachyov became a challenger to his leadership.

Early life[edit]

Ligachyov was born on 29 November 1920 in a village called Dubinkino (now the Chulymsky District) in the Novosibirsk Oblast. Between 1938 and 1943 he attended the Ordzhonikidze Institute for Aviation in Moscow and attained a technical engineering degree. Ligachyov joined the Communist Party at the age of 24 in 1944, later studying at the Higher Party School in 1951.

Political career[edit]

Ligachyov's career began in his native Siberia and took him to some of the highest functions of the Party, he was often regarded as Gorbachev's second man, holding important posts such as Secretary for Ideology. However, Ligachyov lost his posts in 1990, a year before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, resigning from his political career at the 28th Party Congress. Ligachyov was critical of Yeltsin and Gorbachev to an extent, although he is often held as most remarkable for being Gorbachev's primary critic.

In the USSR[edit]

Ligachyov (right) meets with German farmers in Neuzelle during a visit to East Germany in 1989.

Ligachyov was First Secretary of the Novosibirsk Komsomol, before becoming Deputy Chairman of the Novosibirsk Soviet, and then Secretary of the Novosibirsk Obkom between 1959 and 1961.

Ligachyov's first major post was attained in 1961, when he began working in the CPSU Central Committee. In 1965, he became First Secretary of the Party in Tomsk, Siberia. During his time there he led the cover-up of the Stalin-era mass grave at Kolpashevo,[1] he was to hold this position until 1983, when he was discovered by Yuri Andropov and made head of the Party Organization Department and a Secretary of the Central Committee.

In 1966, Ligachyov was elected a candidate member of the Central Committee, and ten years later in 1976 he was promoted to a full member; when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary in 1985, Ligachyov was promoted to become a Secretary of higher status, and was generally viewed as one of Gorbachev's primary allies: he had helped organize a pro-Gorbachev faction in hope of having Gorbachev succeed Andropov in 1984, although this attempt failed (instead, Konstantin Chernenko was chosen as a stop-gap candidate). Ligachyov was made head of the Secretariat.

Ligachyov supported reform of the Soviet Union and initially supported Gorbachev; however, as Gorbachev's policies of perestroika and glasnost began to resemble social democratic policies he distanced himself from Gorbachev, and by 1988 he was recognized as the leader of the more conservative, anti-Gorbachev faction of Soviet politicians.[2] During this period Ligachyov uttered his famous catch phrase "Boris, you are wrong", targeting Boris Yeltsin in a political discourse. Ligachyov served in the Politburo between 1985 and 1990. Ligachyov, having made some speeches criticising Gorbachev, was demoted from his more prestigious position as Secretary for Ideology to Secretary for Agriculture on 30 September 1988.[3]

Perhaps the highlight of Ligachyov's career was the 28th Congress of the CPSU in 1990, he criticized Gorbachev for circumventing the Party via Soviet Presidency, and he argued Glasnost had gone too far. During the Party Congress, Ligachyov challenged Gorbachev for the office of General Secretary, standing as the "Leninist" candidate. Having been defeated, Ligachyov left the Politburo and went into temporary retirement.

Russian Federation[edit]

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ligachyov became a notable communist politician in the Russian Federation. Ligachyov was elected three times to the Russian State Duma as a member for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, a position he currently holds, and became the Duma's oldest member.

Ligachyov remains an active politician in the Communist Party and has been a member of its Central Committee since co-founding the party in 1993.[4] However, he lost his seat in the Duma in 2003, when he polled 23.5 percent of the vote against United Russia candidate Vladimir Zhidkikh's 53 percent.[5]

Ligachyov released his memoirs, Inside Gorbachev's Kremlin, in 1996; the memoirs reveal Gorbachev's role in the USSR's dissolution, from a personal, up-close perspective. Serge Schmemann of The New York Times wrote that the author was driven "to seek explanations for what went wrong, to understand his own role" and while the reviewer wished for more intrigue (in the form of detailed accounts of events other than the dissolution of the USSR), he believed the book was an interesting and detailed account of that period from the perspective of an "honest Bolshevik".[6][7]


Ligachyov became one of Gorbachev's primary critics, and was accused of leading a conservative faction.[8][9] Although publicly endorsing perestroika, Ligachyov was opposed to Gorbachev's attempts to expand Soviet authority and limit the responsibilities of party officials. Ligachyov did not support the decision to end the CPSU's monopoly of political power in 1990, nor did he support Gorbachev's response to the gradual withdrawal of Soviet authority in Eastern Europe, saying, for example, that "We should not overlook the impending danger of the accelerated reunification of Germany".[10]

However, in 1988, Ligachyov denied that he was leading a conservative faction, saying that the Party leadership were united behind Gorbachev,[8] he also rejected suggestions after the fall of the Soviet Union that he had been opposed to Gorbachev in his memoirs and in speeches.[11] Ligachyov clearly demonstrated conservative ideas in his opposition of Yeltsin's political ideas, on the other hand, opposing the principles of glasnost,[12] he later repudiated his opposition to Gorbachev's policies, saying it was "only too late [he] discerned a social democrat in Gorbachev".[11]

Ligachyov denied time and again that he was opposed to Gorbachev in sources including his memoirs.[8][11][13]

Ligachyov's economically hard-line views were upheld in speeches he made to the CPSU's Congress in 1990; the following deplored privatization of the economy:

However, in this speech he also rejected the idea he was a conservative, saying he was a realist.[10] Ligachyov also stated earlier that "the slackening of state discipline" was "among the reasons for the troubled state of the economy".[14] Furthermore, together with KGB head Viktor Chebrikov, Ligachyov took several opportunities before he was demoted to Secretary for Agriculture in 1988 to warn against rapid reform.[15]

Although not mentioned in his memoirs to any notable extent, Ligachyov played a notable role in dismissing Yeltsin, arguing with him for long periods of time in 1987. Ligachyov opposed Yeltsin's idea that Party officials enjoyed greater privilege,[15] he became well known after the phrase "Boris, you are not right!", that was quoted widely in 1990s.

Ligachyov was considered "Second Secretary" of the Central Committee (and thus the Soviet Union) for most of his time in the Politburo.[9]

Ligachyov appears in the videogame Crisis in the Kremlin and also in the eponymous game developers from the CIS "Kremlingames" (2017).

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Hochschild, Adam. "The Secret of a Siberian River Bank". New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  2. ^ Stephen F. Cohen (2009). "The Tragedy of Soviet Conservatism". Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 61 to 84. ISBN 978-0-231-14896-2.
  3. ^ Garthoff, Raymond L. (1994). The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. pp. 363–364. ISBN 0-8157-3060-8.
  4. ^ Example: CPRF Novosibirsk Website Article (in Russian)
  5. ^ Psephos: Russia 2003
  6. ^ "From Comrade to Critic in Five Years": New York Times, 21 February 1993. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  7. ^ Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  8. ^ a b c "Ligachev Says Kremlin Is United on Changes": New York Times, 5 June 1988. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  9. ^ a b "The real Yeltsin legacy": The Guardian, 26 April 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  10. ^ a b c "Evolution in Europe; Excerpts From Speeches at the Communist Party Congress": New York Times, 4 July 1990. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  11. ^ a b c "11 March 1985": Time, 31 March 2003. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  12. ^ "Excerpts From Remarks by Yeltsin and Ligachev": New York Times, 2 July 1988. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  13. ^ See also his memoirs (Sources).
  14. ^ "Excerpts From Speech By Ligachev to Party": New York Times, 7 February 1990. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  15. ^ a b Retrieved 22 November 2007.


  • Inside Gorbachev's Kremlin: The Memoirs of Yegor Ligachev. Pantheon Books: 1993 (ISBN 0-679-41392-8)
  • Ligachev on Glasnost and Perestroika. Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, no. 706: 1989.