Nikolai Ryzhkov : biography
Nikolai Ivanovich Ryzhkov (Russian: Николай Иванович Рыжков, Nikolaj Ivanovič Ryžkov; born 28 September 1929) is a former Soviet official who became a Russian politician following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He served as the last Chairman of the Council of Ministers (the post was abolished and replaced by that of Prime Minister in 1991). Responsible for the cultural and economic administration of the Soviet Union during the late Gorbachev Era, Ryzhkov was succeeded as premier by Valentin Pavlov in 1991. The same year, he lost his seat on the Presidential Council going on to become Boris Yeltsin’s leading opponent in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) 1991 presidential election.
Ryzhkov was born in the city of Dzerzhynsk, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1929. After graduating in the 1950s he started work in the 1970s and began his political career in local industry, working his way up through the hierarchy of Soviet industrial ministries. In 1979 Ryzhkov was appointed First Deputy Chairman of the State Planning Committee. Following Nikolai Tikhonov’s resignation as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Ryzhkov was voted into office in his place. During his tenure, he supported Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1980s reform of the Soviet economy.
Elected to the State Duma of the Russian Federation in December 1995 as an independent, Ryzhkov subsequently led the Power to the People block, later becoming the formal leader of the People’s Patriotic Union of Russia alongside Gennady Ziuganov, who was an unofficial leader. On 17 September 2003, he resigned his seat in the Duma and became a member of the Federation Council.
Early life and career
Ryzhkov was born on 28 September 1929 in Dzerzhynsk, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Union. He graduated from the Ural Polytechnic Institute in 1959. A technocrat, he started work as a welder then rose through the ranks at the Sverdlovsk Uralmash Plant to become chief engineer, then between 1970–1975, Factory Director of the Uralmash Production Amalgamation. Ryzhkov joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1956. He was transferred to Moscow in 1975 and appointed to the post of First Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Heavy and Transport Machine Building. Ryzhkov became First Deputy Chairman of the State Planning Committee in 1979 and was elected to the CPSU Central Committee in 1981. He was one of several members of the Soviet leadership affiliated to the "Andrei Kirilenko faction".
Yuri Andropov appointed Ryzhkov head of the Economic Department of the Central Committee where he was responsible for overseeing major planning and financial organs, excluding industry. As head of the department he reported directly to Mikhail Gorbachev and as head of the Central Committee’s Economic Department he met with Andropov once a week. Ryzhkov became convinced that had Andropov lived at least another five years, the Soviet Union would have seen a reform package similar to that implemented in the People’s Republic of China. During Konstantin Chernenko’s short rule, both Ryzhkov and Gorbachev elaborated several reform measures, sometimes in the face of opposition from Chernenko.
When Gorbachev came to power, Nikolai Tikhonov, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, was elected Chairman of the newly established Commission on Improvements to the Management System. His title of chairman was largely honorary, with Ryzhkov the de facto head through his position as deputy chairman. Along with Yegor Ligachev, Ryzhkov became a full rather than a candidate member of the Politburo on 23 April 1985 during Gorbachev’s tenure as General Secretary. Ryzhkov succeeded Tikhonov on 27 September 1985.
Following the Chernobyl disaster, along with Yegor Ligachev, Ryzhkov visited the crippled plant between 2–3 May 1986. On Ryzhkov’s orders the government evacuated everyone within a radius of the plant. The 30 km radius was a purely random guess and it was later shown that several areas contaminated with radioactive material were left untouched by government evacuation agencies.