Aleksandr Yakovlev

Aleksandr Yakovlev (1923-2005) - one of the main ideologists of «Perestroika».

He was head of the International Foundation “Democracy,” former member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and one of the architects of the reform and destroy totalitarian communism of the Soviet Union.


Yakovlev was born on 2 December 1923 into a peasant family in a village near Yaroslavl.

He was 18 when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, and he fought near Leningrad. In 1943, having risen to become a company commander, he was seriously wounded and demobilized. Yakovlev then enrolled in the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute, from which he graduated in 1946 and began a career in teaching.

In the postwar period, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union badly needed qualified people, and Yakovlev was invited to work for the Yaroslavl Oblast Party Committee (Obkom), in the department overseeing institutions of higher education. Yakovlev's party career developed swiftly and by 1953, the year of Josef Stalin's death, Yakovlev already occupied a key staff post in the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow.

In 1958, he was sent for further study at Columbia University in New York, and those two years of study in the United States certainly formed the starting point in the evolution of his view of the communist regime and the history of his country. After he returned to Moscow in 1959, Yakovlev's party career accelerated further, and he quickly advanced to some leading positions, first in the science and education department of the Central Committee and then in its ideological department. Yakovlev was and remains the only member of the Soviet political elite who fully renounced and repented for all the crimes of the totalitarian regime.

Yakovlev was only allowed to return to Moscow after he made the acquaintance of Gorbachev -- who was then the No. 2 person in the Communist Party hierarchy -- in 1983. In March 1985, Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union and he quickly brought Yakovlev back into the Central Committee. In 1986, he appointed Yakovlev as Communist Party secretary responsible for ideology, information, and culture. This coincided with the beginning of the policy of glasnost, which broke the party monopoly on information and opened up many banned chapters of Soviet and Russian history.

Under Yakovlev's guidance, such flagships of glasnost as "Moskoskie novosti," "Ogonek," "Izvestiya," and others began publishing previously banned worked by emigre and Russian writers, while theaters began showing previously censored movies. The national television channels, which were also under Yakovlev's jurisdiction, threw open numerous windows by providing reports on life in the West and airing free discussion of life at home. Many archives began releasing information about Stalin's repressions after Yakovlev took over as chairman of the Central Committee's committee on rehabilitation in 1988.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian President Boris Yeltsin named Yakovlev to head a new rehabilitation commission, a position that he held until his death. Unlike its Soviet predecessor, the new commission also looked into Lenin-era repressions. Under Yakovlev's chairmanship of both commissions, more than 4 million victims of political repression were officially rehabilitated.