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Ex-KGB Head Semichastny Dies at 77

Published: January 16, 2001 (Issue # 636)


MOSCOW - Vladimir Semichastny, former head of the Soviet KGB security service and a key figure in the 1964 plot to oust Soviet leader Nikita Khru shchev, died Friday at age 77, the radio station Ekho Moskvy reported.

Ekho Moskvy quoted Semichastny's wife as saying he had died of a stroke.

Semichastny moved into the upper echelons of the Soviet hierarchy by taking on the job of first secretary of the Kom somol, the communist youth movement, in 1958.

He became head of the KGB under Khru shchev in 1961 and served for six years during the Cuban missile crisis and construction of the Berlin wall. He welcomed British spy George Blake after his 1966 escape from jail in his homeland.

Semichastny outstayed Khrushchev only to be removed in 1967 by his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, who appointed him deputy prime minister of his native Ukraine.

He had no regrets for his role in toppling Khrushchev, who denounced Josef Stalin in a landmark 1956 speech and led efforts to liberalize the Soviet Union.

"I have no regrets and nothing to reproach myself. I believe everything was done correctly," he said in a recent interview broadcast on NTV television.

Semichastny was charged with the task of meeting Khrushchev at the airport on Oct. 13, 1964, on his return from a Black Sea resort to tell him of his removal as party first secretary.

He said Khrushchev's call for rapid reform had made his departure inevitable. But he persuaded Brezhnev against killing him, advocating instead "more democratic" means of ousting him through the Communist Party apparatus.

"In the end, he went too far. Khrushchev wanted everything at once and he had to go," he told Britain's weekly Observer newspaper in a 1998 interview.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in “Downton Abbey” if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russia’s best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russia’s most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkin’s, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontov’s short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library System’s website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Club’s weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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