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#10 - 7037
The Guardian (UK)
January 28, 2003
Andropov's flat to be auctioned
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow

The flat where the former Russian leader and head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, lived is to be sold at auction in an attempt to cash in on the taste of the wealthy for the heirlooms of Soviet power. It is expected to fetch around 325,000.

Number 26 Kutuzovsky Prospekt may not sound like a prestigious address but it contains the sparse, three-bedroom flat which Mr Andropov chose as his city dwelling for his last 16 years. It is to be auctioned by a Moscow property firm that specialises in selling and leasing luxury apartments to wealthy foreigners.

The new owners of the 155 square-metre (1,600 sq-ft) flat will buy themselves the chance to live in the building that once housed Communist party secretary general Leonid Brezhnev, on the floor below Mr Andropov, and the chief party ideologist, Mikhail Suslov, on the top floor.

Its current resident, the composer Nikolai Petrov, thinks the flat's links with the Soviet hierachy will not dissuade potential buyers. "No one was killed here, but it is possible that he [Andropov] signed some working documents here," he said.

The flat has never before been sold on the open market, and it is not clear who is actually selling it now. Mr Petrov reportedly got to live there through his contacts with Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov. He asked a priest to bless the flat, as he feared evil spirits and ghosts could still be there, and may write a book about the flat's history.

Roy Medvedev, a leading dissident and Mr Andropov's biographer, said that some commentators have explained Mr Andropov's kidney illness - which killed him 15 months into his leadership - as being the result of an assassination attempt carried out at the flat. "One legend says that special troops were sent by his enemies to arrest him," he said. "Another says that the wife of a political rival shot him. But these are wild and invented fantasies."

He added that all the flats inhabited by politburo members were very modest and that they spent most of their time outside of Moscow in their dachas.

"It is not a very comfortable flat", he said. "Modern flats are better. The rooms are badly laid out. The kitchen is small. There is, as usual, only one loo. There are no Jacuzzis. And all the famous buildings, built in Stalin's times, suffered from cockroaches. But I suppose it is very nice to be able to say you live in Andropov's flat."

A recent poll suggested that 18% of Russians liken Mr Andropov to another former spy who weaved his way to the top, Vladimir Putin.

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