Following the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934, Stalin appointed Zhdanov to the powerful post of party boss in Leningrad. Zhdanov played a leading part in the Great Purges of the late 1930s, sending tens of thousands of suspect communists and their families to Siberia. During World War II, he took a key role in the defense of Leningrad during the long German siege of that city. Following the capitulation of Finland, which had reentered the war against the Soviet Union, he supervised reparations from that country to the Soviet Union.
Immediately after the war, Zhdanov was instrumental in the establishment of the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) and in ensuring Soviet control over Eastern Europe. In line with this, he developed an anti-Western ideology that played on the intense patriotism roused by Soviet military accomplishments and suffering in the war to enforce discipline and stifle dissent.
In the summer of 1946, with the full support of Stalin, Zhdanov mounted an intense ideological crusade against Western influence, or bourgeois cosmopolitanism, and culture. Known as the Zhdanovshchina, it had three key elements: the glorification of Stalin, to whom all accomplishments were attributed; the achievements of the Soviet people, above all the Great Russians, in the war and in science and the arts (firsts were claimed for a variety of scientific advances); and communism. Numerous writers, artists, and scientists were sent to labor camps for failing to toe the party line.
Zhdanov, regarded by many as Stalin's heir apparent, was a heavy drinker and also suffered from heart disease. He battled a prolonged and unspecified illness for some time before his death at Valdai Heights near Moscow on 31 August 1948. Zhdanov's death precipitated a power struggle and triggered the Leningrad Affair, a sudden purge of thousands of government and party officials in and around Leningrad.
Spencer C. Tucker
Hahn, Werner G. Postwar Soviet Politics: The Fall of Zhdanov and the Defeat of Moderation, 1946–53. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982.; Swayze, Harold. Political Control of Literature in the USSR, 1946–1959. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962.; Zubok, Vladislav, and Constantine Pieshakov. Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.