The Gorbachev Era
In contrast to the uncertain handling of leadership vacancies in 1982 and 1984, upon the death of Chernenko the Politburo acted within hours to choose unanimously the healthy and relatively youthful Gorbachev as general secretary. In his speech before the Central Committee, Gorbachev announced that he would emphasize policies of labor discipline and increased productivity, calling for a "scientific and technological revolution" to revive heavy industry.
Gorbachev's First Year
Gorbachev quickly changed the composition of the highest CPSU and government bodies, eliminating Brezhnev-era appointees and promoting allies. Among the major changes in the July 1985 Central Committee plenum, Gorbachev promoted Georgian party first secretary Eduard Shevardnadze to full membership in the Politburo and nominated him as minister of foreign affairs, while Boris N. Yeltsin made his national political debut as one of two members added to the CPSU Secretariat. In December Yeltsin advanced again, this time as first secretary of the Moscow city committee of the party.
At the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in February 1986, Gorbachev reaffirmed much of the existing CPSU doctrine and policies, giving little indication of future reforms. While calling for "radical reforms" in the economy, he merely reemphasized the need to increase production and to use more advanced technology in heavy industry. The new party program contained no surprises, and the congress made few changes in high-level CPSU bodies. Among the significant changes that did occur were the appointment to the Central Committee Secretariat of Aleksandr Yakovlev, an advocate of radical reform and the exposure of Stalin's crimes, and the promotion of Yeltsin to candidate membership in the Politburo. It was at this party gathering that Yeltsin first offended conservatives by denouncing the hidden privileges of the party elite.
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