In the spring of 1982 as Brezhnev’s power was waning, Yuri Andropov decides to tackle corruption and apathy in the Soviet Union.
A number of company directors were targeted, but Andropov’s first aim was to arrest Berkutov, director of the country’s First Yeliseyev Grocery Store, who, it was believed, had been supplying faulty goods to influential government officials for many years.
With Brezhnev’s rule almost at an end and Andropov tipped to replace him, Colonel Skachko, Head of the Investigation Department approaches some of Berkutov’s inner circle, starting with his assistant Zoya Platonova. During the ‘cultivation’ of Zoya Platonova, an interesting fact is established – her son, Anton had had an affair with Skachko’s wife, Masha, who had given Anton a book forbidden by the regime. To save Masha, Skachko has no alternative but to release Anton and give up his interrogation of Zoya Platonova.
Berkutov is soon arrested and questioned by Skachko, who takes an instant liking to him. Being a war veteran, Berkutov has become a ‘hostage’ of the state system, having been ordered to get rid of surplus goods, which he distributed among the power-holding structures without making any profit for himself. He had even bought his second-hand Mercedes with money that he had earned honestly. Skachko realizes that Berkutov is not guilty but is nevertheless going to be made a scapegoat, as the machinery of justice has already been started. After Brezhnev’s death events spiral out of control as Andropov, needing to set a srong example, demonstrates an increasingly tough line against corruption.
Berkutov is tried and executed, and after his death, his carefully kept accounts are filed away in the archives.