Monday, 3 September 2012

Averbakh 9: The first Karpov - Kasparov match, part one.

Some of the personages discussed in the book held notable positions in Soviet history, situations that would be unknown to the casual reader. Page 214 reveals that the Praesidium member E. Pitovranov was a member of the Appeals Committee for the first world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov. In a match held under the aegis of FIDE, rulings and their enforcement are the responsibility of the arbiter, here the late Svetozar Gligoric, and his assistants, Averbakh and international master Vladas Mikenas (1910-1992), all well qualified. However, should a principal wish to challenge a decision, then the Appeals Committee would conventionally be called upon. Although, as those who have followed the history of world title bouts in chess understand,the competences of such committees are not always respected, with the president of FIDE sometimes supervening.

Yevgeny Petrovich Pitovranov (1915-1999) was rather a scary character, having previously been an important NKVD general. He joined the Soviet Communist Party in 1937 during the Yezhovschina (the Great Purge). Having progressed steadily through the ranks, he was arrested on the 29th October, 1951 for inaction over the soon to be revealed Doctors' Plot, tortured, exonerated and then promoted! When in custody he had managed to pass on to Stalin a plan for the reorganisation of the MVD, as this particular security organ was then known. Sidelined after the death of the dictator; his intelligence career came to an end in the mid-sixties when he was made deputy chairman of the USSR Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps his most important post was when he was head of counter intelligence (the Second Main directorate of the MGB).

Amongst other things, Pitovranov was accused of complicity in the murder in 1948 of Solomon Mikhoels the artistic director of Moscow's Yiddish Theatre. He won a court action for libel over this allegation. More substantive is the assertion that he personally arrested victims of the Leningrad Affair. In his favour, it should be recorded that he enabled the prima ballerina assoluta (a ballerina recognised to be not merely a principal dancer, but one of the all time greats) Maya Mikhailovna Plisetskaya to travel abroad. Indeed, this article took longer than it should have done because I devoted time to watching the videos available on youtube and elsewhere. As an aside, readers of Averbakh (page 103) will recall that the late Mikahil Botvinnik considered himself a better dancer than Galina Ulyanova, Plisetskaya's predecessor at the Bolshoi Ballet!

There are quite a few Russian language articles devoted to Pitovranov, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. A photograph of his grave is available here. There is a downloadable CIA document here.

Amongst the spectators, Averbakh reveals (page 218) that their number included Petro Yukhymovych Shelest (1908-96), the former First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party. According to The Soviet Union, a Biographical Dictionary Shelest was a Khruschchev protégé. He occupied a number of posts, spending many years in Chelyabinsk, which is in the Urals, returning to his native Ukraine in 1954. He became First Secretary of the Kiev Communist Party in 1957, rising to First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party in 1963. He became a candidate member of the Praesidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in December 1963, a position he retained after the fall of Khrushchev. Brezhnev kept him in situ until 1972, when he ceased to be head of the Ukrainian Communist Party, a year later he was dropped from the Politburo.

Another guest retiree, to borrow a word from American English, was Kirill Trofimovich Mazurov (1914-89). The  Biographical Dictionary reveals that he was a partisan in Belorussia during the Great Patriotic War, which required considerable courage. After the war he occupied a number of Party posts, rising to First Secretary of the Belarusian Communist Party in 1956, which title he kept until 1965. Brezhnev promoted him to First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers (not Soviets, the English translation of или бывший Первый зампред Совмина СССР К. Мазуров as given in the book is imprecise, not ... or the  former First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Ministry of Soviets, Mazurov. Instead, Council of Ministers should have been preferred to Ministry of Soviets {Soviet means Council}) and a full member of the Politburo. In 1978 Brezhnev removed him. After the death of Brezhnev, he became head of the Council of Veterans of War and Labour. Unsurprisingly, he was known for his antipathy towards Brezhnev, which gives me a good excuse to lighten the material somewhat with a Soviet era joke about Brezhnev. It contains a sly dig that the erstwhile ruler was gaga. One Easter Brezhnev rose from bed and goes on his shambling walk through the Kremlin corridors. Christ is risen! remarked a cheeky retainer, giving the traditional Orthodox greeting. Leonid Ilyich nodded and walked on to be greeted identically by another flunky, who also had to be close by should the ageing leader stumble. I know, it has already been reported to me, responded the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

It is often rather difficult to find out much about many Soviet bureaucrats. For instance, on page 217 Averbakh reveals the presence of the two Sports Committee Deputy Chairmen Gavrilin and Rusak, and another government representative, V. Kamenev ... According to this page Gavrilin was previously an editor of Red Star. Of the others, Nikolai Ivanovich Rusak, who was born in 1934, was made a deputy chairman of the Sports Committee in 1983. The US Department of Commerce released a file. Note, additionally, that the Russian source also mentioned that V. Kamenev was a foreign ministry spokesman ( представитель МИДа В.Каменев). I haven't been able to satisfy myself that this was Vladimir Mikhailovich Kamenev, a deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and chairman of the State External Economic Affairs Committee under the USSR Council of Ministers.

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