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Brezhnev, Leonid Mich (1906–82)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


First Secretary (from 1966 General Secretary) of the cpsu (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) (1964–82) and President of the USSR (1977–82). Trained as a land surveyor in the 1920s, he joined the CPSU in 1931, studied engineering and graduated in 1935. During the Second World War he was a political commissar in the Red Army and after it became Party boss in Moldavia (1950) and then in Kazakhstan (1955), where he implemented khrushchev's ‘virgin lands’ scheme. In 1957 he became a full member of the Presidium (Politburo) and in 1960 Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (parliament). He led the group which forced Khrushchev to retire in 1964, replacing him as First Secretary of the CPSU in the collective leadership. Kosygin, the Prime Minister, was at first more important and took the lead from 1964–8 in economic and foreign affairs, but as General Secretary Brezhnev was able to put his supporters into positions of power and by 1971 was the dominant figure. Cheerful and sociable, he treated his colleagues courteously and had considerable charm but he was not as intelligent as Khrushchev. He had no original ideas and did not introduce any major economic or political reforms ( gorbachev called the period 1965–85 ‘an era of stagnation’). The short, sturdy, beetle-browed Brezhnev was exceptionally vain and self-indulgent and, though not a charismatic figure, tried to build a cult of personality ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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