VLADIMIR PROMYSLOV was a veteran apparatchik who was mayor of Moscow for over 30 years and the city's unchallenged ruler. Moscow was the centre of the Communist establishment, which he did his best to serve. At his behest houses with huge flats, garages and security were constructed for the elite - all at the taxpayers' expense.
Promyslov was a man who had the ability to deal with those in power, a quality to which he owed his survival. He served under every leader from Stalin to Gorbachev, until he was fired in January 1986 by the newly appointed Moscow Party boss - Boris Yeltsin. It emerged that Promyslov never kept proper accounts for the 30 years he controlled the city.
He was born in 1908, in a suburb of Moscow, the son of a peasant. He started his career as a fitter at Moscow Construction Trust in 1924, and in 1928 joined the Communist Party. He became a trade-union activist and was put through technical school, from which he graduated in 1934. In 1933, at the peak of Stalin's five-year plans he was promoted Deputy Head with the Main Board for Planning the Construction of Hydro-electric Plants. 'Communism is Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country,' said Lenin.
Promyslov worked his way into the high echelons of power at the time of the purges in 1938 - joining the powerful Moscow City Communist Party Committee, where he worked initially for a year and returned after the war. In 1939 he was appointed as head of a department at the USSR People's Commissariat (Ministry) for Heavy Machine Construction and on the brink of the Second World War (in Russia it started in June 1941) entered the highly secretive defence industry - the Tank and Main Munitions Industry Construction Board - which exempted him from military service.
He was promoted in 1951 as Deputy Minister of Higher Education, although it was not until 1956 that, at the age of 48, he graduated by correspondence course frum the Moscow Institute of Construction Engineering. He was moved from this post on Stalin's death in 1953. In 1954 for a year he served as Secretary of Moscow City Communist Party Committee. He was then moved to the Main Board for Housing Construction and Civil Engineering with the Moscow City Soviet, whose Deputy Chairman, or Deputy Mayor, he became in 1954, and Chairman or Mayor a year later. (The Moscow City Soviet or Mossovet, the body which runs Moscow, is more or less equivalent to the former GLC.) The position brought him considerable notoriety.
Under Khrushchev he also occupied a number of top executive positions - Chairman of the State Construction Committee at the Russian Federation Council of Ministers, 1959-63; a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee with the Soviet Union Supreme Soviet, from 1962; Deputy Chairman, in 1963, of the Russian Federation of Council of Ministers. In 1949-51 and 1953-54 he was Deputy Chairman and from 1963 Chairman of the Moscow City Executive Committee of Workers' Deputies. From 1956 for 10 years he was a member of the Central Auditing Commission of the Soviet Union Communist Party. The peak of his career was when, in 1966, Brezhnev promoted him to membership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In 1955 he headed the Soviet construction planners' delegation to England; he made a second visit in 1964. He was awarded the Order of Lenin three times.
I visited one of his buildings a week ago, in Schusev Street, behind Architects' House. One of the apartments there, designed especially for Brezhnev and his family, has been taken over by Ruslan Khasbulatov, chairman of the Russian parliament, and a principal opponent of President Yeltsin, and another by Yevgeny Primakov, head of Russian intelligence. This luxurious block of flats was built in 1978, but Brezhnev refused to move in.
People close to Vladimir Promyslov say he hated glasnost and perestroika and, most of all, Gorbachev, whom he accused of ruining his life.
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