Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Moscow expos'e bodes ill for Kremlin hard-liners

SHE lives alone, almost always drunk, in her luxurious country residence just outside Moscow. Her efforts to go into the capital are thwarted by the small group of security men who constantly watch her. ``They say in Moscow that sometimes at night she goes out into the grounds of her magnificent dacha, spade in hand, to check that the valuables she buried there are still safe.'' Her name is Galina Brezhnev, daughter of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. And the descriptions come from a document circulating in Moscow, obtained by the Monitor, entitled ``The end of the sweet life for Galina Brezhnev.'' The document identifies its author as the dissident historian Roy Medvedev, and internal evidence indicates it was written last year. Its tone is authoritative, implying a knowledge of such hidden processes as the KGB interrogation of the man the document describes as Galina Brezhnev's last lover. Mr. Medvedev could not be contacted for comment.

The 10-page study is almost certainly a weapon in the struggle to totally discredit former Soviet leader Brezhnev, who ruled the country from 1964 to 1982. It comes at a time of growing political ferment: Supporters of radical reform see next month's 19th Communist Party conference as a watershed in the struggle to reform the Soviet Union, and are increasing their pressure on more conservative members of the Soviet leadership.

About these ads

The discrediting of Leonid Brezhnev could embarrass conservative leaders who have either - like No. 2 ranking leader Yegor Ligachev - expressed qualified approval of aspects of Brezhnev's rule or - like Ukrainian party chief Vladimir Shcherbitsky - were close to the former leader.

Galina Brezhnev's third husband, police general Yuri Churbanov, is under investigation for corruption, a capital offense in the Soviet Union. Soviet sources expect him to come to trial in July, and predict the trial will further blacken Brezhnev's name. But the allegations leveled at Galina Brezhnev by the document are even more devastating the charges against Mr. Churbanov.

The document paints a picture of massive corruption reminiscent of the rule of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. It accuses Galina Brezhnev of making vast amounts of money by manipulating the market price in diamonds, and says that the man it claims to have been her last lover was involved in a series of spectacular diamond thefts.

It further compounds the attack on Leonid Brezhnev by alleging that Galina's main accomplice in speculation was the wife of Gen. Nikolai Shchelokov, Soviet interior minister and one of her father's closest friends. Virtually its only positive characters are KGB men, including Yuri Andropov, KGB chief from 1967 to 1982, and Soviet leader from 1982 to '84.

``Luxurious living, big bribes ... even machinations concerning diamonds - none of this was considered a major sin during the Brezhnev era,'' the document alleges. This was the life style not only of Brezhnev's relatives, but people in the circle of Konstantin Chernenko (party leader in 1984 and '85), ``and many local party bosses.''

The document describes in detail Galina's three main alleged passions: the circus, younger men, and diamonds. In 1951 Leonid Brezhnev was party chief of the southern republic of Moldavia. The circus came to the Moldavian capital of Kishinev in 1951. Galina, then in her early '20s, left with it: She had fallen in love with the strong man in an acrobatic group, the document says.

After the breakup of this marriage she married another circus performer 15 years her junior. When her father, by then Soviet leader, heard of the marriage, ``a plane landed at a nearby airport. Several well-built men got in a car and drove to the villa where the newlyweds were staying.'' Galina's husband received a new internal passport describing him as single. The unfortunate marriage registrar was put on trial. Galina's parents took her home.

About these ads

Several years later, to her parents' relief, the document says, she met Lt. Col. Yuri Churbanov. Seven years her junior, married with two children, he nonetheless soon became Galina's husband. He swiftly became a general and deputy minister of the interior. But Galina is said to have taken another theatrical lover, Boris Buryatse, also known as Boris the Gypsy or Boris Diamonds. Thanks to her he lived in sumptuous style and became a member of the troupe of the Bolshoi Theater.

Galina's main source of income was from speculation in diamonds, the document says. The price of gold and diamonds in the Soviet Union tripled ``between the end of the '60s and the start of the '80s,'' it notes pointedly. A steady pattern set into the Soviet diamond market, the study claims.

Several days before the prices rose, jewelry shops were closed ``for stocktaking.'' Galina and her friend Mrs. Shchelokov would then acquire hundreds of thousands of rubles' worth of diamonds. Once the prices had increased, the diamonds would go back on sale at the new prices, the document claims, implying that Galina and the minister's wife had sold the diamonds back at the new price which they had themselves created.

Galina's problems began, the document says, with a jewel theft from one of Moscow's superrich - the lion tamer Irina Bugrimova. The KGB investigated the theft, its suspicions fell on Mr. Buryatse, and early in 1982 he was summoned to an KGB interrogation. Confident of Galina's protection, the document says, he was not particularly worried.

Dressed in his mink coat and mink boots, carrying his lap dog, Buryatse drove in his Mercedes to the KGB investigative section at Lefortovo prison. There he found himself under arrest. (He was recently released after five years' imprisonment.) Brezhnev died later that year. Mrs. Shchelokov committed suicide when criminal charges were brought against her husband.

During the rule of Brezhnev's old friend Konstantin Chernenko, Galina's situation began to improve. ``At the personal request of Andrei Gromyko'' (now the Soviet president), she was given a large pension. But the KGB investigation against Shchelokov continued, and he shot himself. With the death of Chernenko, the study concludes, Galina lost her last hope of protection.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.