During World War II, Andropov was active in partisan guerrilla activities. After the war, he held positions in regional CPSU bureaus before being appointed to the CPSU Central Committee in 1951. In the immediate wake of Soviet leader Josef Stalin's death in 1953, Andropov was appointed counselor to the Soviet embassy in Budapest. Promoted to ambassador in 1954, his tenure witnessed the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Andropov had warned Moscow of growing unrest in Hungary prior to the Revolution and then requested Soviet troop deployments to Hungary after the revolt began. He played a crucial role in establishing the new Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party under the leadership of János Kádár.
Andropov returned to Moscow in 1957 as the head of the Department for Liaison with Socialist Countries. He also succeeded Mikhail Suslov as a member of the Central Committee Secretariat in 1962 and became the head of the KGB in 1967. In 1973, he assumed a permanent membership in the Politburo but continued to serve as KGB leader until 1982.
On 10 November 1982, Andropov was elected the new general secretary of the CPSU, succeeding the late Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev. Andropov soon thereafter became the Soviet president and chairman of the Defense Council. During his fifteen-month rule, he sought to improve the Soviet economy by increasing productivity. He gave priority to the fight against corruption in the Soviet bureaucracy and attempted to improve Soviet work habits through vigorous campaigns against alcohol and for the improvement of work discipline.
In foreign policy, Andropov sought to maintain the status quo. He kept Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and despite his efforts to improve his image in the West, relations with the United States continued to deteriorate. He strongly opposed President Ronald Reagan's stationing of Pershing Missiles in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany), but Soviet relations with the West took a nosedive after Soviet forces shot down a civilian South Korean jetliner (KAL Flight 007) in September 1983 when it strayed into Soviet airspace. All 269 passengers perished. The Soviets claimed clumsily and falsely that the jetliner was designed to spy on Soviet installations.
After months of poor health, Andropov died on 9 February 1984 in Moscow. He had declared Mikhail Gorbachev to be his successor, but on 12 February 1984 Andropov was instead replaced by Konstantin Chernenko.
Steel, Jonathan, and Eric Abraham. Andropov in Power: From Komsomol to Kremlin. Oxford, UK: Martin-Robertson, 1983.