A Letter From the Publisher: Mar. 18, 1985

During his nearly four years as TIME's Moscow bureau chief, Erik Amfitheatrof has reported in depth on the KGB, the changing life-styles of Soviet youth, Soviet military strength and scores of other stories. But no subject has preoccupied him more deeply than the waning lives and deaths of the Soviet Union's superannuated rulers. Since November 1982, Amfitheatrof has attended the obsequies for three top Soviet leaders, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, as well as those for the powerful Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov.

To Amfitheatrof, each ritual had its memorable moments. "Brezhnev's was the first of my Red Square state...

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