Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev

Overview
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev ' onMouseout='HidePop("2368")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 6 December) – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the title given to the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. With some exceptions, the office was synonymous with leader of the Soviet Union...

 of the Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

 (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 (CPSU), presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Leonid Brezhnev'
Start a new discussion about 'Leonid Brezhnev'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Recent Discussions
Quotations

There is nothing more practical than a good theory.

Quoted in "A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations" - by Alan Lindsay Mackay - Science - 1991

Every man must be made to realize that further retreat is impossible. He must realize with his mind and heart that this is a matter of life and death of the Soviet state, of the life and death of the people of our country...the Nazi troops must be stopped now, before it is too late.

Quoted in "For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War" - Page 237 - by Melvyn P. Leffler - History - 2007

The most important thing in my life, its leitmotif, has been the constant and close contacts with working people, with workers and peasants.

Quoted in "Sputnik: Digest" - Page 48 - 1967

As you know, I am not a writer but a Party functionary. But like every Communist I consider myself to have been mobilized by Party propaganda and deem it my duty to participate actively in the work of our press.

Quoted in "Reprints from the Soviet Press" - Page 5 - Soviet Union - 1977

I shall add that only he who has decided to commit suicide can start a nuclear war in the hope of emerging a victor from it. No matter what the attacker might possess, no matter what method of unleashing nuclear war he chooses, he will not attain his aims. Retribution will inevitably ensue.

Quoted in "Soviet Strategy and the New Military Thinking" - Page 68 - by Derek Leebaert, Timothy Dickinson - History - 1992

Soviet people are better off materially and richer spiritually.

Quoted in "Our Friends Speak: Greetings to the 25th CPSU Congress" - Page 268 - Communism - 1976

Modern science and technology have reached a level where there is the grave danger that a weapon even more terrible than nuclear weapons may be developed. The reason and conscience of mankind dictate the need to erect an insuperable barrier barrier to the development of such a weapon.

Quoted in "Nuclear Disarmament" - by Aleksandr Efremovich Efremov - Nuclear disarmament - 1979

It is madness for any country to build its policy with an eye to nuclear war.

Quoted in "Indefensible weapons: the political and psychological case against nuclearism" - Page 224 - by Robert Jay Lifton, Richard A. Falk - History - 1982

The rout of fascism, in which the Soviet Union played the decisive role, generated a mighty tide of socio-political changes which swept across the globe.

Quoted in "Selected Speeches and Writings" - by Mikhail Andreevich Suslov - Political Science - 1980

We are entirely for the idea that Europe shall be free from nuclear weapons, from medium-range weapons as well as tactical weapons. That would be a real zero option.

Quoted in "Nuclear War: The Search for Solutions" - by Leonard V. Johnson, Helen Caldicott, Thomas L. Perry, Dianne DeMille - History - 1985
Encyclopedia
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev ' onMouseout='HidePop("2368")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 6 December) – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the title given to the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. With some exceptions, the office was synonymous with leader of the Soviet Union...

 of the Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

 (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 (CPSU), presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in length. During Brezhnev's rule, the global influence of the Soviet Union grew dramatically, in part because of the expansion of the Soviet military during this time, but his tenure as leader has often been criticised for marking the beginning of a period of economic stagnation, overlooking serious economic problems which eventually led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 in 1991.

Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoe
Dniprodzerzhynsk
Dniprodzerzhynsk is an industrial city in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast of Ukraine, and a port on the Dnieper River.-History:The first written evidence of settlement in the territory of Dniprodzerzhynsk appeared in 1750. At that time the villages of Romankovo and Kamianske, which make the modern city,...

 into a Russian
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 workers' family. After graduating from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum
Technicum
Technicum was a Soviet institute of vocational education. A mass-education facility of "special middle education" category 1 step higher than PTU, but aimed to train low-level industrial managers or specializing in occupations that require skills more advanced than purely manual...

, he became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry, in Ukraine. He joined Komsomol
Komsomol
The Communist Union of Youth , usually known as Komsomol , was the youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Komsomol in its earliest form was established in urban centers in 1918. During the early years, it was a Russian organization, known as the Russian Communist Union of...

 in 1923 and, in 1929, became a member of the Communist Party
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

, playing an active role in the party's affairs. He was drafted into immediate military service during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

; he left the army in 1946 with the rank of Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

. In 1952 Brezhnev became a member of the Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

, and in 1964, Brezhnev succeeded Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 as First Secretary; Alexei Kosygin succeeded Khrushchev in his post as Chairman
Premier of the Soviet Union
The office of Premier of the Soviet Union was synonymous with head of government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics . Twelve individuals have been premier...

 of the Council of Ministers.

As a leader, Brezhnev took care to consult his colleagues before acting, but his attempt to govern without meaningful economic reforms led to a national decline by the mid-1970s, a period referred to as the Era of Stagnation. A significant increase in military expenditures which by the time of Brezhnev's death stood at approximately 15% of the country's GNP
GNP
Gross National Product is the market value of all products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the residents of a country...

, and an increasingly elderly and ineffective leadership set the stage for a dwindling GNP compared to Western nations. While at the helm of the USSR, Brezhnev pushed for détente between the Eastern and Western countries. His last major decision in power was to send the Soviet military to Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

 in an attempt to save the fragile regime
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was a government of Afghanistan between 1978 and 1992. It was both ideologically close to and economically dependent on the Soviet Union, and was a major belligerent of the Afghan Civil War.- Saur Revolution :...

 which fought a war against the mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

.

Brezhnev died
Death and funeral of Leonid Brezhnev
On 10 November 1982, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, the third General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the fifth leader of the Soviet Union, died a 75 year-old man after suffering a heart attack following years of serious ailments. His death was officially acknowledged on 11...

 on 10 November 1982 and was quickly succeeded in his post as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was a Soviet politician and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 12 November 1982 until his death fifteen months later.-Early life:...

. Brezhnev had fostered a cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

, although not on the same level seen under Stalin. Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

, who would lead the USSR from 1985 to 1991, denounced his legacy and drove the process of liberalisation of the Soviet Union.

Early years


Brezhnev was born on 19 December 1906 in Kamenskoe (now Dniprodzerzhynsk
Dniprodzerzhynsk
Dniprodzerzhynsk is an industrial city in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast of Ukraine, and a port on the Dnieper River.-History:The first written evidence of settlement in the territory of Dniprodzerzhynsk appeared in 1750. At that time the villages of Romankovo and Kamianske, which make the modern city,...

 in Ukraine), to metalworker Ilya Yakovlevich Brezhnev and his wife, Natalia Denisovna. At different times during his life, Brezhnev specified his ethnic origin alternately as either Ukrainian or Russian, opting for the latter as he rose within the Communist Party. Like many youths in the years after the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

, he received a technical education
Vocational education
Vocational education or vocational education and training is an education that prepares trainees for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic, and totally related to a specific trade, occupation, or vocation...

, at first in land management
Land management
Land management is the process of managing the use and development of land resources. Land resources are used for a variety of purposes which may include organic agriculture, reforestation, water resource management and eco-tourism projects.-See also:*Sustainable land management*Acreage...

 where he started as a land surveyor and then in metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

. He graduated from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum
Technicum
Technicum was a Soviet institute of vocational education. A mass-education facility of "special middle education" category 1 step higher than PTU, but aimed to train low-level industrial managers or specializing in occupations that require skills more advanced than purely manual...

 in 1935 and became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industries of eastern Ukraine. He joined the Communist Party
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 youth organisation, the Komsomol
Komsomol
The Communist Union of Youth , usually known as Komsomol , was the youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Komsomol in its earliest form was established in urban centers in 1918. During the early years, it was a Russian organization, known as the Russian Communist Union of...

, in 1923 and the Party itself in 1929.

In the years 1935 through 1936, Brezhnev was drafted for compulsory military service, and after taking courses at a tank school, he served as a political commissar
Political commissar
The political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education and organisation, and loyalty to the government of the military...

 in a tank factory. Later in 1936, he became director of the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum (technical college). In 1936, he was transferred to the regional center of Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk or Dnepropetrovsk formerly Yekaterinoslav is Ukraine's third largest city with one million inhabitants. It is located southeast of Ukraine's capital Kiev on the Dnieper River, in the south-central region of the country...

 and, in 1939, he became Party Secretary in Dnipropetrovsk, in charge of the city's important defence industries. As one who survived Stalin's Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 of 1937–39, he could gain rapid promotions since the purges opened up many positions in the senior and middle ranks of the Party and state.

Military service and early career



Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invaded the Soviet Union
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 in June 1941. Brezhnev was, like most middle-ranking Party officials, immediately drafted. He worked to evacuate Dnipropetrovsk's industries to the east of the Soviet Union before the city fell to the Germans on 26 August and then was assigned as a political commissar
Political commissar
The political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education and organisation, and loyalty to the government of the military...

. In October, Brezhnev was made deputy of political administration for the Southern Front
Soviet Southern Front
The Southern Front was a Front - a roughly Army group sized formation - of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. The Southern Front directed military operations during the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina in 1940, and then was formed twice after the June 1941 German...

, with the rank of Brigade-Commissar.
When Ukraine was occupied by the Germans in 1942, Brezhnev was sent to the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 as deputy head of political administration of the Transcaucasian Front
Transcaucasian Front
Transcaucasian Front or Transcaucasus Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. This sense of the term is not identical with the more general usage of military front which indicates a geographic area in wartime, although a Soviet Front may operate within designated...

. In April 1943, he became head of the Political Department of the 18th Army. Later that year, the 18th Army became part of the 1st Ukrainian Front
1st Ukrainian Front
The 1st Ukrainian Front was a front—a force the size of a Western Army group—of the Soviet Union's Red Army during the Second World War.-Wartime:...

, as the Red Army regained the initiative and advanced westwards through Ukraine. The Front's senior political commissar was Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

, who became an important patron of Brezhnev's career. Brezhnev had met Khrushchev in 1931, shortly after joining the party, and before long, as he continued his rise through the ranks, he became Khrushchev's protégé. At the end of the war in Europe, Brezhnev was chief political commissar of the 4th Ukrainian Front
4th Ukrainian Front
The 4th Ukrainian Front was a front of the Red Army during World War II...

 which entered Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 after the German surrender.

Brezhnev left the Soviet Army with the rank of Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 in August 1946. He had spent the entire war as a commissar rather than a military commander. After working on reconstruction projects in Ukraine, he again became First Secretary in Dnipropetrovsk. In 1950, he became a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union's highest legislative body. Later that year he was appointed Party First Secretary in Moldavia
Moldavian SSR
The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic , commonly abbreviated to Moldavian SSR or MSSR, was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union...

. In 1952, he became a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee
Central Committee
Central Committee was the common designation of a standing administrative body of communist parties, analogous to a board of directors, whether ruling or non-ruling in the twentieth century and of the surviving, mostly Trotskyist, states in the early twenty first. In such party organizations the...

 and was introduced as a candidate member into the Presidium (formerly the Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

).

Stalin died in March 1953, and in the reorganisation that followed, the Presidium was abolished and a smaller Politburo reconstituted. Although Brezhnev was not made a Politburo member, he was appointed head of the Political Directorate of the Army and the Navy with rank of Lieutenant-General, a very senior position. This was probably due to the new power of his patron Khrushchev, who had succeeded Stalin as Party General Secretary. On 7 May 1955, Brezhnev was made Party First Secretary of the Communist Party
Communist Party of Kazakhstan
The Communist Party of Kazakhstan is a political party in Kazakhstan. -Origin:The Communist Party of Kazakhstan was founded 1936 when Kazakhstan was granted a Union Republic status within the Soviet Union...

 of the Kazakh SSR
Kazakh SSR
The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Kazakh SSR for short, was one of republics that made up the Soviet Union.At in area, it was the second largest constituent republic in the USSR, after the Russian SFSR. Its capital was Alma-Ata . Today it is the independent state of...

. His brief was simple: to make the new lands agriculturally productive; with this directive, he started the initially successful Virgin Lands Campaign
Virgin Lands Campaign
The Virgin Lands Campaign was an initiative by Nikita Khrushchev to open up vast tracts of unseeded steppe in the northern Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and the Altay region of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, started in 1954....

. Brezhnev was lucky that he was re-called in 1956; the harvest in the following years proved to be disappointing and would have hurt his political career if he had stayed.

In February 1956, Brezhnev returned to Moscow, promoted to candidate member of the Politburo and assigned control of the defence industry, the space program
Soviet space program
The Soviet space program is the rocketry and space exploration programs conducted by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the 1930s until its dissolution in 1991...

, heavy industry, and capital construction. He was now a senior member of Khrushchev's entourage, and in June 1957, he backed Khrushchev in his struggle with the Stalinist old guard in the Party leadership, the so-called "Anti-Party Group
Anti-Party Group
The Anti-Party Group was a group within the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that unsuccessfully attempted to depose Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the Party in May 1957. The group, named by that epithet by Khrushchev, was led by former Premiers Georgy Malenkov and...

". Following the defeat of the old guard, Brezhnev became a full member of the Politburo. Brezhnev became Second Secretary of the Central Committee in 1959, and in May 1960 was promoted to the post of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was a Soviet governmental institution – a permanent body of the Supreme Soviets . This body was of the all-Union level , as well as in all Soviet republics and autonomous republics...

,, making him nominal head of state although the real power resided with Khrushchev as Party Secretary. In 1962, Brezhnev became an honorary citizen of Belgrade
Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

.

Removal of Khrushchev



Until about 1962, Khrushchev's position as Party leader was secure; but as the leader aged, he grew more erratic and his performance undermined the confidence of his fellow leaders. The Soviet Union's mounting economic problems also increased the pressure on Khrushchev's leadership. Outwardly, Brezhnev remained loyal to Khrushchev, but he became involved in a 1963 plot to remove the leader from power, possibly playing a leading role. In 1963 also, Brezhnev succeeded Frol Kozlov
Frol Kozlov
Frol Romanovich Kozlov was a Soviet politician, Hero of Socialist Labor .He was elected a candidate member of the Presidium on 14 February 1957 and served as a full member from 29 June 1957 until he was relieved of his duties on 16 November 1964, following the ousting of his...

, another Khrushchev protégé, as Secretary of the Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

, positioning him as Khrushchev's likely successor. Khrushchev made him Second Secretary, literally deputy party leader, in 1964.

After returning from Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 and Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, sensing nothing afoot, Khrushchev went on holiday in Pitsunda
Pitsunda
Pitsunda is a resort town in Gagra district of Abkhazia.The town was founded by the Greeks in the 5th century BC as a trade colony Pityus or Pitiunt. Excavations guided by Andria Apakidze unearthed remains of three 4th-century churches and a bath with superb mosaic floors...

, near the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 in October 1964. Upon his return, his Presidium officers congratulated him for his work in office. Anastas Mikoyan
Anastas Mikoyan
Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan was an Armenian Old Bolshevik and Soviet statesman during the rules of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev....

 visited Khrushchev, hinting that he should not be too complacent about his present situation. Vladimir Semichastny
Vladimir Semichastny
Vladimir Yefimovich Semichastny was the head of the KGB from November 1961 to April 1967....

, head of the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

, was a crucial part of the conspiracy, as it was his duty to inform Khrushchev if anyone was plotting against his leadership. Nikolay Ignatov, who had been sacked by Khrushchev, discreetly requested the opinion of several Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

 members. After some false starts, fellow conspirator Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1965, and as unofficial Chief Ideologue of the Party until his death in 1982. Suslov was responsible for party democracy and the separation of power...

 phoned Khrushchev on 12 October and requested that he return to Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 to discuss the state of Soviet agriculture. Eventually Khrushchev understood what was happening, and said to Mikoyan, "If it's me who is the question, I will not make a fight of it". While a minority headed by Mikoyan wanted to remove Khrushchev from the office of First Secretary but retain him as the Chairman
Premier of the Soviet Union
The office of Premier of the Soviet Union was synonymous with head of government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics . Twelve individuals have been premier...

 of the Council of Ministers, the majority headed by Brezhnev wanted to remove him from active politics.

Brezhnev and Nikolai Podgorny
Nikolai Podgorny
Nikolai Viktorovich Podgorny was a Soviet Ukrainian statesman during the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, or leader of the Ukrainian SSR, from 1957 to 1963 and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1965 to 1977...

 appealed to the Central Committee, blaming Khrushchev for economic failures, and accusing him of voluntarism and immodest behavior. Influenced by the Brezhnev allies, Politburo members voted to remove Khrushchev from office. In addition, some members of the Central Committee wanted him to undergo punishment of some kind. But Brezhnev, who had already been assured the office of the General Secretary, saw little reason to punish his old mentor further. Brezhnev was appointed First Secretary, but at the time was believed to be a transition leader of sorts, who would only "keep the shop" until another leader came in. Alexei Kosygin was appointed head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

, and Mikoyan was reatained as head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. Brezhnev and his companions supported the general party line taken after Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's death, but felt the Khrushchev reforms had removed much of the Soviet Union's stability. One reason for Khrushchev's ousting was that he continuously overruled other party members, and was, according to the plotters, in contempt of the party's collective ideals. Pravda
Pravda
Pravda was a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union and an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991....

, a newspaper in the Soviet Union, wrote of new enduring themes such as collective leadership
Collective leadership
Collective leadership or Collectivity of leadership , was considered an ideal form of governance in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics...

, scientific planning, consultation with experts, organisational regularity and the ending of schemes. When Khrushchev left the public spot light, there was no popular commotion because most Soviet citizens, including the intelligentsia
Intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

, anticipated a period of stabilisation
Economic stability
Economic stability refers to an absence of excessive fluctuations in the macroeconomy. An economy with fairly constant output growth and low and stable inflation would be considered economically stable. An economy with frequent large recessions, a pronounced business cycle, very high or variable...

, steady development of Soviet society and continuing economic growth in the years to come.

Consolidation of power



Early policy reforms were seen as predictable. In 1964, a plenum of the Central Committee forbade any single individual to hold the two most powerful posts of the country (the office of the General Secretary
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the title given to the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. With some exceptions, the office was synonymous with leader of the Soviet Union...

 and the Premier
Premier of the Soviet Union
The office of Premier of the Soviet Union was synonymous with head of government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics . Twelve individuals have been premier...

). Former Chairman of the State Committee for State Security
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 (KGB) Alexander Shelepin
Alexander Shelepin
Alexander Nikolayevich Shelepin was a Soviet state security officer and party statesman. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its Politburo and was the head of the KGB from 25 December 1958 to 13 November 1961.Shelepin was born in Voronezh...

 disliked the new collective leadership
Collective leadership
Collective leadership or Collectivity of leadership , was considered an ideal form of governance in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics...

 and its reforms. He made a bid for the supreme leadership in 1965 by calling for restoration of "obedience and order". Shelepin failed to gather support in the Presidium and Brezhnev's position was fairly secure; however, he was not able to remove Shelepin from office until 1967.

Khrushchev was removed mainly because of his disregard of many high-ranking organisations within the CPSU and the Soviet government. Throughout the Brezhnev era, the Soviet Union was controlled by a collective leadership (officially coined "Collectivity of leadership"), at least through the late 1960s and 1970s. The consensus within the party was that the collective leadership prevailed over the supreme leadership of one individual. T.H. Rigby argued that by the end of the 1960s, a stable oligarchic system had emerged in the Soviet Union, with most power vested around Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny. While the assessment was true at the time, it coincided with Brezhnev's strengthening of power by means of an apparent clash with Central Committee Secretariat Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1965, and as unofficial Chief Ideologue of the Party until his death in 1982. Suslov was responsible for party democracy and the separation of power...

. American Henry A. Kissinger, in the 1960s, mistakenly believed Kosygin to be the dominant leader of Soviet foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...

 in the Politburo. During this period, Brezhnev was gathering enough support to strengthen his position within Soviet politics. In the meantime, Kosygin was in charge of economic administration in his role as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. However Kosygin's position was weakened when he proposed an economic reform in 1965, which was widely referred to as the "Kosygin reform" within the Communist Party. The reform led to a backlash, and party Conservatives continued to oppose Kosygin after witnessing the results of reforms leading up to the Prague Spring. His opponents then flocked to Brezhnev, and they happily helped him in his task of strengthening his position within the Soviet system.

Brezhnev was adept at the politics within the Soviet power structure. He was a team player and never acted rashly or hastily; unlike Khrushchev, he did not make decisions without substantial consultation with his colleagues, and was always willing to hear their opinions. During the early 1970s, Brezhnev consolidated his domestic position. In 1977, he forced the retirement of Podgorny and became once again Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, making this position equivalent to that of an executive president. While Kosygin remained Premier until shortly before his death in 1980 (replaced by Nikolai Tikhonov
Nikolai Tikhonov
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tikhonov was a Soviet Russian-Ukrainian statesman during the Cold War. He served as Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1980 to 1985, and as a First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, literally First Vice Premier, from 1976 to 1980...

 as Premier), Brezhnev was the dominant driving force of the Soviet Union from the mid-1970s to his death in 1982.

Repression


Brezhnev's stabilisation policy included ending the liberalising reforms of Khrushchev, and clamping down on cultural freedom. During the Khrushchev years Brezhnev had supported the leader's denunciations of Stalin's arbitrary rule, the rehabilitation of many of the victims of Stalin's purges, and the cautious liberalisation of Soviet intellectual and cultural policy. But as soon as he became leader, Brezhnev began to reverse this process, and developed an increasingly conservative and regressive attitude.

The trial of the writers Yuli Daniel
Yuli Daniel
Yuli Markovich Daniel was a Soviet dissident writer, poet, translator and political prisoner.He frequently wrote under the pseudonyms Nikolay Arzhak and Yu. Petrov .-Early life and World War II:...

 and Andrei Sinyavsky
Andrei Sinyavsky
Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky was a Russian writer, dissident, political prisoner, emigrant, Professor of Sorbonne University, magazine founder and publisher...

 in 1966—the first such public trials since Stalin's day—marked the reversion to a repressive cultural policy. Under Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was a Soviet politician and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 12 November 1982 until his death fifteen months later.-Early life:...

 the state security service (the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

) regained much of the power it had enjoyed under Stalin, although there was no return to the purges of the 1930s and 1940s, and Stalin's legacy remained largely discredited among the Soviet intelligentsia
Intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

. On 22 January 1969, a Soviet Army deserter, Viktor Ilyin
Viktor Ilyin
An assassination attempt was made upon Leonid Brezhnev on 22 January 1969, when a deserter from the Soviet Army, Viktor Ilyin, fired shots at a motorcade carrying the Soviet leader through Moscow. Though Brezhnev was unhurt, the shots killed a driver and lightly injured several celebrated...

, tried to assassinate Brezhnev and was diagnosed with mental illness and placed in solitary confinement in a psychiatric hospital. By the mid-1970s, there were an estimated 10,000 political and religious prisoners across the Soviet Union, living in grievous conditions and suffering from malnutrition; many of these prisoners were considered by the Soviet state to be mentally unfit and were hospitalised in mental asylums across the Soviet Union. The KGB infiltrated most if not all anti-government organisations under Brezhnev's rule, which ensured that there was little to no opposition against him or his power base. Brezhnev did however refrain from the all-out violence seen under the rule of Stalin.
Economic growth until 1973
Period GNP
(according to
the CIA)
GNP
(according to
Grigorii Khanin)
GNP
(according to
the USSR)
1960–1965 4.8 4.4 6.5
1965–1970 4.9 4.1 7.7
1970–1975 3.0 3.2 5.7
1975–1980 1.9 1.0 4.2
1980–1985 1.8 0.6 3.5

Between 1960 and 1970, Soviet agriculture output increased by 3% annually. Industry also improved; during the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1968–1970), the output of factories and mines increased by 138%, compared to 1960. While the Politburo became aggressively anti-reformist
Reformism
Reformism is the belief that gradual democratic changes in a society can ultimately change a society's fundamental economic relations and political structures...

, Kosygin was able to convince both Brezhnev and the politburo to leave the reformist communist leader János Kádár
János Kádár
János Kádár was a Hungarian communist leader and the General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, presiding over the country from 1956 until his forced retirement in 1988. His thirty-two year term as General Secretary makes Kádár the longest ruler of the People's Republic of Hungary...

 of the People's Republic of Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary
The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

 alone because of an economic reform entitled New Economic Mechanism
New Economic Mechanism
The New Economic Mechanism was a major economic reform launched in the People's Republic of Hungary in 1968.- Reform :The period from 1956–1968 was one of reform in Eastern Europe...

 (NEM), which granted limited permission for the establishment of retail markets. In the People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

, another approach was taken in 1970 under the leadership of Edward Gierek
Edward Gierek
Edward Gierek was a Polish communist politician.He was born in Porąbka, outside of Sosnowiec. He lost his father to a mining accident in a pit at the age of four. His mother married again and emigrated to northern France, where he was raised. He joined the French Communist Party in 1931 and was...

; he believed that the government needed Western loans to facilitate the rapid growth of heavy industry. The Soviet leadership gave its approval for this, as the Soviet Union could not afford to maintain its massive subsidy for the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 in the form of cheap oil and gas exports. However, the Soviet Union did not accept all kinds of reforms, an example being the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 invasion
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

 of Czechoslovakia in 1968 in response to Alexander Dubček
Alexander Dubcek
Alexander Dubček , also known as Dikita, was a Slovak politician and briefly leader of Czechoslovakia , famous for his attempt to reform the communist regime during the Prague Spring...

's reforms. Under Brezhnev, the Politburo abandoned Khrushchev's decentralisation
Décentralisation
Décentralisation is a french word for both a policy concept in French politics from 1968-1990, and a term employed to describe the results of observations of the evolution of spatial economic and institutional organization of France....

 experiments. By 1966, two years after taking power, Brezhnev abolished the Regional Economic Councils
Sovnarkhoz
Sovnarkhoz, , usually translated as Regional Economic Council, was an organization of the Soviet Union to manage a separate economic region....

 which were organised to manage the regional economies of the Soviet Union.

The Ninth Five-Year Plan
Ninth Five-Year Plan (Soviet Union)
The Ninth Five-Year Plan of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a set of economic goals designed to strengthen the country's economy between 1971 and 1975...

 delivered a change: for the first time industrial consumer products out-produced industrial capital goods. Consumer goods such as watches, furniture and radios were produced in abundance. However, the Plan still left the bulk of state's investment in industrial capital-goods production. This outcome was not seen as a positive sign for the future of the Soviet state by the majority of top party functionaries within the government; by 1975 consumer goods expanded 9% slower than industrial capital-goods. The policy continued despite Brezhnev's committement to make a rapid shift of investment which would satisfy Soviet consumers and lead to an even higher standard of living. This did not happen.

From 1928–1973, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 was growing economically at a pace that would eventually catch up with the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

. This was true despite the advantage the United States had—the USSR was hampered by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's bold policy of collectivisation and the effects of the Second World War which had left most of Western USSR in ruins. In 1973, the process of catching up with the rest of the West came to an abrupt end, with this year being seen by some scholars as the start of the Era of Stagnation. The beginning of the stagnation coincided with a financial crisis in Western Europe and the US. By the early 1970s, the Soviet Union had the world's second largest industrial capacity and produced more steel, oil, pig-iron, cement and tractors than any other country. Before 1973, the Soviet economy was expanding at a rate faster, by a small margin, than that of the United States. The USSR also kept a steady pace with the economies of Western Europe. Between 1964–1973, the Soviet economy stood at roughly half the output per head of Western Europe and a little more than one third that of the US.
Agricultural policy


Brezhnev's agricultural policy reinforced the conventional methods for organising the collective farms
Collective farming
Collective farming and communal farming are types of agricultural production in which the holdings of several farmers are run as a joint enterprise...

. The central imposition of quotas of output was maintained. Khrushchev's policy of amalgamating farms was continued by Brezhnev, because he shared the same belief as Khrushchev that bigger kolkhozes would increase productivity. Brezhnev pushed for an increase in state investments in farming, which mounted to an all-time high in the 1970s to 27% of all state investement – this figure did not include investments in farm equipment. In 1981 alone, 33,000 million American dollars (by contemporary exchange rate) was invested into agriculture.

Agricultural output in 1980 was much higher than the average production rate between 1966–1970; 21% higher than the average. Cereal crop output increased by 18%. However, these improved results are not encouraging. In the Soviet Union the criterion for assessing agricultural output was the grain harvest. The import of cereal
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

, which begun under Khrushchev, had in fact become a normal phenomenon
Phenomenon
A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

 by Soviet standards. When Brezhnev had difficulties sealing commercial trade agreements with the United States, he went elsewhere, such as to Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

. Trade was necessary because the Soviet Union's domestic production of fodder crops was severely deficient. Another sector which was meeting the wall was the sugar beet
Sugar beet
Sugar beet, a cultivated plant of Beta vulgaris, is a plant whose tuber contains a high concentration of sucrose. It is grown commercially for sugar production. Sugar beets and other B...

 harvest which had declined by 2% in the 1970s. Brezhnev's way of resolving these issues was to increase state investment. Politburo member Gennady Voronov
Gennady Voronov
Gennady Ivanovich Voronov was a Soviet-Russian statesman who was from 1962 to 1971 the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Russian SFSR, literally meaning Premier or Prime Minister....

 advocated for the division of each farm's work-force into what he called "links". These "links" would be entrusted with specific functions, such as to run a farm's dairy unit. His argument was that the larger the work force, the less responsible they felt. This program had been proposed to Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 by Andrey Andreyev in the 1940s, and been opposed by Khrushchev before and after Stalin's death. Voronov was also unsuccessful; Brezhnev turned him down, and in 1973 he was removed from the Politburo.

Experimentation with "links" was not disallowed on a local basis, with Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

, the then First Secretary of the Stavropol Regional Committee, experimenting with links in his region. In the meantime, the Soviet government's involvement in agriculture was otherwise "unimaginative" and "incompetent". Facing mounting problems with agriculture, the Politburo issued a resolution entitled; "On the Further Development of Specialisation and Concentration of Agricultural Production on the Basis of Inter-Farm Co-operation and Agro-Industrial Integration". The resolution ordered kolkhozes close to each other to collaborate in their efforts to increase production. In the meantime, the state's subsidies to the food-and-agriculture sector did not prevent bankrupt farms from operating: rises in the price of produce were offset by rises in the cost of oil and other resources. By 1977, oil cost 84% more than it did in the late 1960s. The cost of other resources had also climbed by the late 1970s.

Brezhnev's answer to these problems was to issue two decrees, one in 1977 and one in 1981, which called for the expansion of all plots owned by the Soviet Union to half a hectare. These measures removed important obstacles for the expansion of agricultural output, but did not solve the problem. Under Brezhnev, private plots yielded 30% of the national agricultural production when they only cultivated four percent of Soviet agriculture. This was seen by some as proof that de-collectivisation was necessary to prevent Soviet agriculture from collapsing. On the other hand, leading Soviet politicians withheld from such drastic measures due to individual ideological and political interests. The underlying problems were the growing shortage of skilled labourers, a wrecked rural culture, the payment of workers in proportion to the quantity and not the quality of their work performance, too large farm machinery for the small collective farms and the roadless countryside. In the face of this, Brezhnev could only propose schemes such as large reclamation and irrigation projects, or of course, radical reform.
Economic stagnation

The Era of Stagnation, a term coined by Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

, was seen as the result of a compilation of factors, including the ongoing "arms race" between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States; the decision of the Soviet Union to participate in international trade
International trade
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

 (thus abandoning idea of economic isolation) while ignoring the changes occurring in Western societies; increasing harshness such as Soviet tanks rolling in to crush the Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

 in 1968; the intervention in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

; the stifling bureaucracy overseen by a cadre of increasingly elderly men running the country; the political corruption, supply bottlenecks, and other unaddressed structural problems with the economy under Brezhnev's rule. Social stagnation domestically was stimulated by the growing demands of unskilled workers, labour shortages and a decline in productivity and labour discipline. While Brezhnev, albeit "sporadically", attempted to reform the economy
Economy of the Soviet Union
The economy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was based on a system of state ownership of the means of production, collective farming, industrial manufacturing and centralized administrative planning...

 in the late 1960s and 1970s, he ultimately failed to produce any positive results. One of these reforms was the reorganisation of the Council of Ministries
Ministries of the Soviet Union
-Ministries:- Other agencies under the Cabinet of Ministers :-See also:* Council of People's Commissars, head of government from 1917-1946* Council of Ministers, head of government from 1946-1991* Cabinet of Ministers, head of government in 1991...

; this led to low unemployment at the price of low productivity and technological stagnation. The economic reform of 1965
1965 Soviet economic reform
The 1965 Soviet economic reform, widely referred to simply as the Kosygin reform or Liberman reform, was a reform of economic management and planning, carried out between 1965 and 1971...

 was initiated by Alexei Kosygin, but its origin dates back to Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

. The Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

 was not willing to go through with the reform, while at the same time it admitted to economic problems.

In 1973, the Soviet economy slowed down and started to lag behind that of the West because of enormous expenditure on the armed forces and too little spending on light industry
Light industry
Light industry is usually less capital intensive than heavy industry, and is more consumer-oriented than business-oriented...

 and consumer goods
Consumer goods in the Soviet Union
The industry of the Soviet Union was usually divided into two major categories. Group A was "heavy industry," which included all goods that serve as an input required for the production of some other, final good...

. Soviet agriculture could not feed the urban population, let alone provide for the rising standard of living which the government promised as the fruits of "mature socialism", and on which industrial productivity depended. One of the most prominent critics of Brezhnev's economical policies was Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 who, when leader, called the economy under Brezhnev's rule "the lowest stage of socialism".

With the GNP
GNP
Gross National Product is the market value of all products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the residents of a country...

 growth of the Soviet economy drastically decreasing from the level it held in the 1950s and 1960s, the country began to lag behind Western Europe and the United States. The GNP's growth was slowing down to 1 to 2% each year, and with the technology falling farther and farther behind that of the West, the Soviet Union was facing economic stagnation by the early 1980s. During Brezhnev's last years of reign, the CIA monitored the Soviet Union's economic growth, and reported that the Soviet economy peaked in the 1970s, calculating that it had reached 57% of the American GNP. However, the development gap between the two nations widened, with the United States growing an average of one percent over the Soviet Union.

The last significant reform undertaken by the Kosygin government
Kosygin's Fifth Government
The former government of Alexei Kosygin was dissolved following the Soviet legislative election of 1979. Kosygin was once again elected Premier by the Politburo and the Central Committee following the election...

, and some believe the pre-perestroika
Perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

era, was a joint decision of the Central Committee and the Council of Ministers named "Improving planning and reinforcing the effects of the economic mechanism on raising the effectiveness in production and improving the quality of work", or more commonly known as the 1979 reform
1979 Soviet economic reform
The 1979 Soviet economic reform, or "Improving planning and reinforcing the effects of the economic mechanism on raising the effectiveness in production and improving the quality of work", was an economic reform initiated by Alexei Kosygin, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers...

. The reform, in contrast to the 1965 reform, wanted to increase the central government's economic involvement by enhancing the duties and responsibilities of the ministries. Due to Kosygin's death in 1980, and due to his successor Nikolai Tikhonov
Nikolai Tikhonov
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tikhonov was a Soviet Russian-Ukrainian statesman during the Cold War. He served as Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1980 to 1985, and as a First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, literally First Vice Premier, from 1976 to 1980...

's conservative approach to economics, very little of the reform was actually carried out.

The Eleventh Five-Year Plan
Eleventh Five-Year Plan (Soviet Union)
The Eleventh Five-Year Plan, or the 11th Five-Year Plan, of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a set of goals designed to strengthen the country's economy between 1981 and 1985...

 of the Soviet Union delivered a disappointing result: a change in growth from 4 to 5%. During the earlier Tenth Five-Year Plan
Tenth Five-Year Plan (Soviet Union)
The Tenth Five-Year Plan, or the 10th Five-Year Plan of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a set of goals designed to strengthen the country's economy between 1976 and 1980. The plan was presented by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers Alexei Kosygin at the 25th Congress of the...

, they had tried to meet the target of 6.1% of growth but failed. Brezhnev was able to defer the economic collapse by trading with Western Europe and the Arab World
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

. However, the Soviet Union out-produced the United States in heavy industry during the Brezhnev era. One more galling result of Brezhnev's rule was that some of the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 economies were more advanced than the Soviet Union.

Soviet society



Early changes

Before 1973, the GDP per head in US dollars increased. Over the eighteen years Brezhnev ruled the Soviet Union, average income per head increased by half; however three-quarters of this growth came in the 1960s and early 1970s. There was one-quarter average income per head growth during the second half of Brezhnev's reign. In the first half of the Brezhnev period, income per head increased by 3.5% per annum; slightly less growth than what it had been the previous years. This can be explained by the reversion of most of Khrushchev's policies when Brezhnev came to power. The consumption per head rose by an estimate of 70% under Brezhnev, but with three-quarters of this growth happening before 1973 and only one-quarter in the second half of his reign. Most of the increase in consumer production in the early Brezhnev era can be attributed to the Kosygin reform.
The period of 'stagnation'


When the USSR's economic growth stalled in the 1970s, the standard of living
Standard of living
Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods , or measures of health such as...

 and housing quality improved significantly. Instead of paying more attention to the economy, the Soviet leadership under Brezhnev tried to improve the living standard in the Soviet Union by extending social benefits, which led to an increase, though minor, in public support. The standard of living in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

 (RSFSR) had fallen behind that of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (GSSR) and the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic
Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic , often abbreviated as Estonian SSR or ESSR, was a republic of the Soviet Union, administered by and subordinated to the Government of the Soviet Union...

 (ESSR) under Brezhnev; this led many Russians to believe that the policies of the Soviet Government were hurting the Russian population. With the mounting economic problems, skilled workers were usually paid more than had been intended in the first place, while unskilled labourers were indulged in punctuality, conscientiousness and sobriety. The state usually moved workers from one job to another which ultimately became an ineradicable feature in Soviet industry; the Soviet Government had no effective counter-measure because of the country's lack of unemployment
Unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

. Government industries such as factories, mines and offices were staffed by indisciplined personnel who put a great effort into not doing their jobs; this ultimately led to a "work-shy workforce" among Soviet workers and administrators.

While some areas improved during the Brezhnev era, the majority of civilian services deteriorated, with the physical environment for the common Soviet citizen falling apart rapidly. Diseases were on the rise because of the decaying healthcare system. The living space remained rather small by First World
First World
The concept of the First World first originated during the Cold War, where it was used to describe countries that were aligned with the United States. These countries were democratic and capitalistic. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the term "First World" took on a...

 standards, with the common Soviet person living on 13.4 square metres. At the same time thousands of Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 inhabitants were homeless, most of them living in shacks, doorways and parked trams. Nutrition ceased to improve in the late 1970s, while rationing of staple food products returned to Sverdlovsk
Yekaterinburg
Yekaterinburg is a major city in the central part of Russia, the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Situated on the eastern side of the Ural mountain range, it is the main industrial and cultural center of the Urals Federal District with a population of 1,350,136 , making it Russia's...

 for instance. The state provided daily recreation and annual holidays for hard-working citizens. Soviet trade unions
Trade unions in the Soviet Union
Trade unions in the Soviet Union trace their history back to Russian Revolution of 1905. Many trade unions were shut down or restricted on the eve of World War I and during the War, but they revived after the February Revolution and their leaders were democratically elected during 1917.Anarchists...

 rewarded hard-working members and their families with beach vacations in Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 and Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

.

Social "rigidification" became a common feature in Soviet society. During the Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 era in the 1930s and 1940s, a common labourer could expect promotion to a white-collar job if they studied and obeyed Soviet authorities. In Brezhnev's Soviet Union this was not the case. Holders of attractive offices clung to them as long as possible; mere incompetence was not seen as a good reason to dismiss anyone. In this way, too, the Soviet society Brezhnev passed on had become "static".

Soviet–US relations


During his eighteen years as Leader of the USSR, Brezhnev's only major foreign policy innovation was the inclusion of détente
Détente
Détente is the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation. The term is often used in reference to the general easing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s, a thawing at a period roughly in the middle of the Cold War...

. However, it did not differ much from the Khrushchev Thaw
Khrushchev Thaw
The Khrushchev Thaw refers to the period from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, when repression and censorship in the Soviet Union were partially reversed and millions of Soviet political prisoners were released from Gulag labor camps, due to Nikita Khrushchev's policies of de-Stalinization and...

, a domestic and foreign policy started by Nikita Khrushchev. Historian Robert Service
Robert Service (historian)
Robert John Service is a British historian, academic, and author who has written extensively on the history of Soviet Russia, particularly the era from the October Revolution to Stalin's death...

 sees détente simply as a continuation of Khrushchev's foreign policy. Despite an increasing tension in East–West relations under Khrushchev, relations had generally improved, as evidenced by the Partial Test Ban Treaty
Partial Test Ban Treaty
The treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, often abbreviated as the Partial Test Ban Treaty , Limited Test Ban Treaty , or Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a treaty prohibiting all test detonations of nuclear weapons...

, Helsinki Accords
Helsinki Accords
thumb|300px|[[Erich Honecker]] and [[Helmut Schmidt]] in Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki 1975....

 and the installation of the telephone line between the White House and the Kremlin. Brezhnev's détente policy differed from that of Khrushchev in two ways. The first was that it was more comprehensive and wide-ranging in its aims, and included signing agreements on arms control, crisis prevention, East–West trade, European security, and human rights. The second part of the policy built on the importance of equalising the military strength of the United States and the Soviet Union. Defence spending under Brezhnev between 1965 and 1970 increased by 40%, and annual increases continued thereafter. Fifteen percent of GNP was spent on the military by the time of Brezhnev's death in 1982.

By the mid-1970s, it had become clear that Kissinger's policy of détente towards the Soviet Union had failed. The détente had rested on the assumption that a "linkage" of some type could be found between the two countries, with the US hoping that the signing of SALT I and an increase in Soviet–US trade would stop the aggressive growth of communism in the third world. This did not happen and the Soviet Union started funding the communist guerillas who fought actively against the US during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. The US lost the Vietnam War and at the same time lost many countries to communism in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. After Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

 lost the presidential election to Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

, American foreign policies became more hostile towards the Soviet Union and the communist world, while at the same time aiming to stop funding for some repressive anti-communist governments the United States supported. While at first standing for a decrease in all defence initiatives, the later years of Carter's presidency would increase spending on the US military.

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union reached the peak of its political and strategic power in relation to the United States. The first SALT Treaty effectively established parity in nuclear weapons between the two superpowers, the Helsinki Treaty legitimised Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe, and the United States defeat in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal
Watergate scandal
The Watergate scandal was a political scandal during the 1970s in the United States resulting from the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and the Nixon administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement...

 weakened the prestige of the United States. The Soviet Union extended its diplomatic and political influence in the Middle East and Africa.
The Vietnam War

Nikita Khrushchev had initially supported North Vietnam
North Vietnam
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

 out of "fraternal solidarity", but as the war escalated he had urged the North Vietnamese leadership to give up the quest of liberating South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

. He continued by rejecting an offer of assistance made by the North Vietnamese government, and instead told them to enter negotiations in the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

. Brezhnev, after Khrushchev's ousting, started once again to aid the communist resistance in Vietnam. In February 1965, Kosygin travelled to Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

 with a dozen Soviet air force generals and economic experts. During the Soviet visit, President Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 had allowed US bombing raids
Operation Flaming Dart
Operation Flaming Dart was a U.S. and Vietnam Air Force military operation, conducted in two parts, during the Vietnam War. During the bombing raid Premier Alexei Kosygin headed a Soviet delegation to North Vietnam....

 on North Vietnamese soil in retaliation of a recent attack
Viet Cong attack on Pleiku airbase
The attack on Camp Holloway occurred during the early hours of 7 February 1965, in the early stages of the Vietnam War. Camp Holloway was a helicopter facility constructed by the United States Army in 1962, to support the operations of Free World Military Forces in the Central Highlands of...

 by the Viet Cong.

Johnson privately suggested to Brezhnev that he would guarantee an end South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

ese hostility if Brezhnev would guarantee a North Vietnamese one. Brezhnev was interested in this offer initially; however, after being told by Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet . Gromyko was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until he retired in 1987. In the West he was given the...

 that the North Vietnamese government was not interested in a diplomatic solution to the war, Brezhnev rejected the offer. The Johnson administration responded to this rejection by expanding American presence in Vietnam, but later invited the USSR to negotiate a treaty concerning arms control. The USSR simply did not respond, initially because Brezhnev and Kosygin were fighting over which of them had the right to represent the USSR abroad, but later because of the escalation of the "dirty war" in Vietnam. In early 1967, Johnson offered to make a deal with Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh
Hồ Chí Minh , born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and also known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc, was a Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader who was prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam...

, and said he was prepared to end bombing raids in North Vietnam if he ended his infiltration of South Vietnam. The US bombing raids halted for a few days. In the meantime, Kosygin publicly announced his support for this offer. The North Vietnamese government failed to respond however, and because of this, the US continued its raids in North Vietnam. The Brezhnev leadership concluded from this event that diplomatic solutions to the ongoing war in Vietnam were hopeless. Later in 1968, Johnson invited Kosygin to the United States to discuss ongoing problems in Vietnam and the arms race. The summit was marked with a friendly atmosphere, but there were no concrete breakthroughs by either side.

In the aftermath of the Sino–Soviet border conflict, the Chinese continued to aid the North Vietnamese regime, but with the death of Minh in 1969, China's strongest link to Vietnam had died. In the meantime, Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 had been elected President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

. While having been known for his anti-communist rhetoric, Nixon said in 1971 that the US "must have relations with Communist China". His plan was for a slow withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, and still retain the capitalist dictatorship of South Vietnam. The only way he thought possible was to improve relations with both Communist China and the USSR. He later made a visit to Moscow to negotiate a treaty on arms control
Arms control
Arms control is an umbrella term for restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation, and usage of weapons, especially weapons of mass destruction...

 and the Vietnam war
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, but on Vietnam nothing could be agreed. On his visit to Moscow, Nixon and Brezhnev signed the SALT I, marking the beginning of the "détente" era.

Sino–Soviet relations


Soviet foreign relations
Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

 with the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 quickly deteriorated after Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

's attempts to reach a rapprochement with more liberal Eastern European states such as Yugoslavia and the west. When Brezhnev consolidated his power base in the 1960s, China was descending into crisis because of Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

's Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 which led to the decimination of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 and other ruling offices. Soviet reaction to the seemingly turned anarchy
Anarchy
Anarchy , has more than one colloquial definition. In the United States, the term "anarchy" typically is meant to refer to a society which lacks publicly recognized government or violently enforced political authority...

 state of the country, exacerbated the Soviet reaction. The Brezhnev leadership who promoted the idea of "stabilisation
Economic stability
Economic stability refers to an absence of excessive fluctuations in the macroeconomy. An economy with fairly constant output growth and low and stable inflation would be considered economically stable. An economy with frequent large recessions, a pronounced business cycle, very high or variable...

", could not comprehend why Mao would start such a "self-destructive" drive to finish the socialist revolution, according to himself. At the same time, Brezhnev had problems of his own, the Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

n leadership were also deviating from the Soviet model. In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet leadership proclaimed the Brezhnev doctrine
Brezhnev Doctrine
The Brezhnev Doctrine was a Soviet Union foreign policy, first and most clearly outlined by S. Kovalev in a September 26, 1968 Pravda article, entitled “Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries.” Leonid Brezhnev reiterated it in a speech at the Fifth Congress of the...

, which said the USSR had the right to intervene in any fraternal communist state which did not follow the Soviet model. This doctrine increased tension not only with the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

, but also the Asian communist states. By 1969 relations with other communist countries had deteriorated to a level where Brezhnev was not even able to gather five of the fourteen ruling communist parties to attend an international conference in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. In the aftermath of the failed conference, the Soviets concluded that there "there were no leading center of the international communist movement".

Later in 1969, Chinese forces started the Sino–Soviet border conflict. The Sino–Soviet split had chagrined Premier Alexei Kosygin a great deal, and for a while refused to accept its irrevocability; he briefly visited Beijing in 1969 due to the increase of tension
Suspense
Suspense is a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety about the outcome of certain actions, most often referring to an audience's perceptions in a dramatic work. Suspense is not exclusive to fiction, though. Suspense may operate in any situation where there is a lead-up to a big event or dramatic...

 between the USSR and China. By the early 1980s, both the Chinese and the Soviets were issuing statements calling for a normalisation of relations between the two states. The conditions given to the Soviets by the Chinese were the reduction of Soviet military presence in the Sino–Soviet border and the withdrawal of Soviets troops in Afghanistan and Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 and to support for the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Brezhnev responded in his March 1982 speech in Tashkent
Tashkent
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and of the Tashkent Province. The officially registered population of the city in 2008 was about 2.2 million. Unofficial sources estimate the actual population may be as much as 4.45 million.-Early Islamic History:...

 where he called for the normalisation of relations. Full Sino–Soviet normalisations of relations would prove to take years, until the last Soviet ruler, Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 came to power.

Intervention in Afghanistan




After the communist revolution
Saur Revolution
The Saur Revolution is the name given to the Communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan takeover of political power from the government of Afghanistan on 28 April 1978. The word 'Saur', i.e...

 in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 in 1978, the Afghan civil war started because of authoritarian actions forced upon the populace by the Communist regime; the popular backlash against the regime was led by the mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

. With a KGB report claiming that Afghanistan could be taken in a matter of weeks, Brezhnev and several top party officers agreed to a full intervention in Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

 in the worry that the Soviet Union was losing their influence in Central Asia
Soviet Central Asia
Soviet Central Asia refers to the section of Central Asia formerly controlled by the Soviet Union, as well as the time period of Soviet administration . In terms of area, it is nearly synonymous with Russian Turkestan, the name for the region during the Russian Empire...

. Parts of the Soviet military establishment were opposed to any sort of active Soviet military presence in the country, believing that the Soviet Union should leave Afghan politics
Politics of Afghanistan
The politics of Afghanistan consists of the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly, with a president serving as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the military. The nation is currently led by the Karzai administration under President Hamid Karzai who is backed by two vice...

 alone. President Carter, following the advice of his National Security Advisor
National Security Advisor (United States)
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor , serves as the chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues...

 Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski is a Polish American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981....

, denounced the intervention describing it as the "most serious danger to peace since 1945". The US stopped all grain export to the Soviet Union and boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics
1980 Summer Olympics
The 1980 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event celebrated in Moscow in the Soviet Union. In addition, the yachting events were held in Tallinn, and some of the preliminary matches and the quarter-finals of the football tournament...

 held in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. The Soviet Union responded by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics
1984 Summer Olympics
The 1984 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Los Angeles, California, United States in 1984...

 held in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

.

Eastern Europe


The first crisis for Brezhnev's regime came in 1968, with the attempt by the Communist leadership in Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, under Alexander Dubček
Alexander Dubcek
Alexander Dubček , also known as Dikita, was a Slovak politician and briefly leader of Czechoslovakia , famous for his attempt to reform the communist regime during the Prague Spring...

, to liberalise the Communist system (Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

). In July, Brezhnev publicly criticised the Czechoslovak leadership as "revisionist" and "anti-Soviet", and in August he orchestrated the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Dubček's removal. The invasion led to public protests by dissident
Dissident
A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. When dissidents unite for a common cause they often effect a dissident movement....

s in various Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 countries. Brezhnev's assertion that the Soviet Union had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of its satellites to "safeguard socialism" became known as the Brezhnev Doctrine
Brezhnev Doctrine
The Brezhnev Doctrine was a Soviet Union foreign policy, first and most clearly outlined by S. Kovalev in a September 26, 1968 Pravda article, entitled “Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries.” Leonid Brezhnev reiterated it in a speech at the Fifth Congress of the...

, although it was really a restatement of existing Soviet policy, as Khrushchev had shown in Hungary in 1956. In the aftermath of the invasion, Brezhnev reiterated it in a speech at the Fifth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party
Polish United Workers' Party
The Polish United Workers' Party was the Communist party which governed the People's Republic of Poland from 1948 to 1989. Ideologically it was based on the theories of Marxism-Leninism.- The Party's Program and Goals :...

 on 13 November 1968:
Brezhnev was not the one pushing hardest for the use of military force when discussing the situation in Czechoslovakia with the Politburo. Brezhnev was aware of the dire situation he was in, and if he had abstained or voted against Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia he may have been faced with growing turmoil — domestically and in the Eastern Bloc. Archival evidence suggests that Brezhnev was one of the few who was looking for a temporary compromise with the reform-friendly Czechoslovak government when their relationship was at its brinking point. Significant voices in the Soviet leadership demanded the re-installation of a so-called 'revolutionary government'. After the military intervention in 1968, Brezhnev met with Czechoslovak reformer Bohumil Simon, then a member of the Politburo of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, and said; "If I had not voted for Soviet armed assistance to Czechoslovakia you would not be sitting here today, but quite possibly I wouldn't either".

In the early 1980s a political crisis
Soviet reaction to the Polish crisis of 1980–1981
The Polish crisis of 1980–1981, associated with the emergence of the Solidarity mass movement in Poland, challenged the Soviet control over the satellite countries of the Eastern Bloc....

 emerged in Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 with the emergence of the Solidarity mass movement. By the end of October Solidarity had 3 million members, and by December 9 million. In a public opinion poll done by the Polish government, 89% of the respondents supported Solidarity. With the Polish leadership split on what to do, the majority of did not want to impose martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, as suggested by Wojciech Jaruzelski
Wojciech Jaruzelski
Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski is a retired Polish military officer and Communist politician. He was the last Communist leader of Poland from 1981 to 1989, Prime Minister from 1981 to 1985 and the country's head of state from 1985 to 1990. He was also the last commander-in-chief of the Polish People's...

. The Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 was unsure how to handle the situation, but Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker was a German communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1971 until 1989, serving as Head of State as well from Willi Stoph's relinquishment of that post in 1976....

 of East Germany pressed for military action. In a formal letter to Brezhnev Honecker proposed a joint military measure to control the escalating problems in Poland. A CIA report suggested the Soviet military were mobilising for an invasion.

In 1980 representatives from the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 nations met at the Kremlin
Kremlin
A kremlin , same root as in kremen is a major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. This word is often used to refer to the best-known one, the Moscow Kremlin, or metonymically to the government that is based there...

 to discuss the Polish situation. Brezhnev eventually concluded that it would be better to leave the domestic matters of Poland alone for the time being, re-assuring the Polish delegates that the USSR would intervene only if asked to. With domestic matters escalating out of control in Poland, Wojciech Jaruzelski
Wojciech Jaruzelski
Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski is a retired Polish military officer and Communist politician. He was the last Communist leader of Poland from 1981 to 1989, Prime Minister from 1981 to 1985 and the country's head of state from 1985 to 1990. He was also the last commander-in-chief of the Polish People's...

 imposed state of war
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, the Polish version of martial law, on 12 December 1981.

Personality cult



The last years of Brezhnev's rule were marked by a growing personality cult. He was well known for his love of medals (he received over 100), so in December 1966, for his 60th birthday, he was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union
Hero of the Soviet Union
The title Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.-Overview:...

. Brezhnev received the award, which came with the Order of Lenin
Order of Lenin
The Order of Lenin , named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union...

 and the Gold Star
Gold Star
The Gold Star medal is a special insignia that identifies recipients of the title "Hero" in the Soviet Union and its communist allies, and several post-Soviet states.-Soviet origin:...

, three more times in celebration of his birthdays. On his 70th birthday he was awarded the Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union was the de facto highest military rank of the Soviet Union. ....

 – the highest military honour in the Soviet Union. After being awarded the medal, he attended the 18th Army Veterans dressed in a long coat and saying; "Attention, Marshal's coming!". He also conferred upon himself the rare Order of Victory
Order of Victory
The Order of Victory was the highest military decoration in the Soviet Union, and one of the rarest orders in the world. The order was awarded only to Generals and Marshals for successfully conducting combat operations involving one or more army groups and resulting in a "successful operation...

 in 1978 — the only time the decoration was ever awarded outside of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. (This medal was posthumously revoked in 1989 for not meeting the criteria for citation).

Brezhnev's weakness for undeserved medals was proven with his poorly written memoir about his military service during World War II. Despite the apparent weaknesses of his memoirs, they were awarded the Lenin Prize for Literature and were met with critical acclaim by the Soviet press
Printed media in the Soviet Union
Printed media in the Soviet Union, i.e., newspapers, magazines and journals, were under strict control of the Communist Party and the Soviet state.-Early Soviet Union:...

. The book was however followed by two other books
Brezhnev's trilogy
The Brezhnev's trilogy was a series of three memoirs published under name of Leonid Brezhnev:* The Small Land * Rebirth * Virgin Lands...

, one on the Virgin Lands Campaign
Virgin Lands Campaign
The Virgin Lands Campaign was an initiative by Nikita Khrushchev to open up vast tracts of unseeded steppe in the northern Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and the Altay region of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, started in 1954....

. Brezhnev's vanity made him the victim of many political jokes
Russian political jokes
Russian political jokes are a part of Russian humour and can be naturally grouped into the major time periods: Imperial Russia, Soviet Union and finally post-Soviet Russia...

. Nikolai Podgorny
Nikolai Podgorny
Nikolai Viktorovich Podgorny was a Soviet Ukrainian statesman during the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, or leader of the Ukrainian SSR, from 1957 to 1963 and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1965 to 1977...

 warned him of this fact, but Brezhnev replied, "If they are poking fun at me, it means they like me". It is now believed by Western historians and political analysts that the books were written by some of his "court writers". The memoirs treated the little known and minor Battle of Novorossiysk
Novorossiysk
Novorossiysk is a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. It is the country's main port on the Black Sea and the leading Russian port for importing grain. It is one of the few cities honored with the title of the Hero City. Population: -History:...

 as the decisive military theatre of World War II.

Brezhnev's personality cult was growing outrageously fast at a time when his health was in decline. His physical condition was deteriorating; he had become addicted to sleeping pills
Hypnotic
Hypnotic drugs are a class of psychoactives whose primary function is to induce sleep and to be used in the treatment of insomnia and in surgical anesthesia...

 and began drinking an excessive amount of alcohol
Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

, smoked heavily and had over the years become overweight
Obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

. From 1973 until his death Brezhnev's central nervous system
Central nervous system
The central nervous system is the part of the nervous system that integrates the information that it receives from, and coordinates the activity of, all parts of the bodies of bilaterian animals—that is, all multicellular animals except sponges and radially symmetric animals such as jellyfish...

 underwent chronic deterioration and he had several minor stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

s. When receiving the Order of Lenin
Order of Lenin
The Order of Lenin , named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union...

, Brezhnev walked shakily and fumbled his words. Yevgeniy Chazov
Yevgeniy Chazov
Yevgeniy Ivanovich Chazov is a prominent physician of the Soviet Union and Russia, specializing in cardiology, Chief of the Fourth Directorate of the Ministry of Health of the USSR, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, a recipient of numerous...

, the Chief of the Fourth Directorate of the Ministry of Health
Ministry of Health (Soviet Union)
The Ministry of Health of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , formed on 15 March 1946, was one of the most important government offices in the Soviet Union. It was formerly known as the People's Commissariat for Health...

, had to keep doctors by Brezhnev's side at all times, and Brezhnev was brought back from limbo on several occasions. At this time, most senior officers of the CPSU wanted to keep him alive, even if such men as Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1965, and as unofficial Chief Ideologue of the Party until his death in 1982. Suslov was responsible for party democracy and the separation of power...

, Dmitriy Ustinov
Dmitriy Ustinov
Dmitriy Feodorovich Ustinov was Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union from 1976 until his death.-Early life:Dimitry Feodorovich Ustinov was born in a working-class family in Samara. During the civil war, when hunger became intolerable, his sick father went to Samarkand, leaving Dimitry as head...

 and Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet . Gromyko was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until he retired in 1987. In the West he was given the...

, among others, were growing increasingly frustrated with Brezhnev's policies. However they did not want to risk a new period of domestic turmoil caused by his death. It was about this time First World
First World
The concept of the First World first originated during the Cold War, where it was used to describe countries that were aligned with the United States. These countries were democratic and capitalistic. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the term "First World" took on a...

 commentators started guessing Brezhnev's heirs apparent. The most notable candidates were Suslov and Andrei Kirilenko
Andrei Kirilenko (politician)
Andrei Pavlovich Kirilenko was a Soviet statesman from the start to the end of the Cold War. In 1906, Kirilenko was born in Alexeyevka, Belgorod Oblast, Russian Empire, to a Russian working class family. He graduated in the 1920s from a local vocational school, and again in the mid-to-late 1930s...

, who were both older than Brezhnev, and Fyodor Kulakov
Fyodor Kulakov
Fyodor Davydovich Kulakov was a Soviet-Russian statesman during the Cold War....

 and Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko was a Soviet politician and the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He led the Soviet Union from 13 February 1984 until his death thirteen months later, on 10 March 1985...

, who were younger; Kulakov died of natural causes in 1978.

Last years and death


Brezhnev's health worsened in the winter of 1981–82. In the meantime, the country was governed by Gromyko, Ustinov, Suslov and Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was a Soviet politician and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 12 November 1982 until his death fifteen months later.-Early life:...

 and crucial Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 decisions were made in his absence. While the Politburo was pondering the question of who would succeed, all signs indicated that the ailing leader was dying. The choice of the successor would have been influenced by Suslov, but he died at the age of 79 in January 1982. Andropov took Suslov's seat in the Central Committee Secretariat; by May it became obvious that Andropov would try to make a bid for the office of the General Secretary
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the title given to the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. With some exceptions, the office was synonymous with leader of the Soviet Union...

. He, with the help of fellow KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 associates, started circulating rumours that political corruption had become worse during Brezhnev's tenure as leader in an attempt to create an environment hostile to Brezhnev in the Politburo. Andropov's actions showed that he was not afraid of Brezhnev's wrath.

Brezhnev rarely appeared in public during the spring, summer and the autumn of 1982. The official explanation by the Soviet government was that Brezhnev was not seriously ill, while at the same time doctors were surrounding him. He suffered a severe stroke in May 1982, but refused to relinquish office. Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982 after suffering a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

. He was honoured with a state funeral which was followed with a five-day period of nationwide mourning. He was buried in the Kremlin
Kremlin
A kremlin , same root as in kremen is a major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. This word is often used to refer to the best-known one, the Moscow Kremlin, or metonymically to the government that is based there...

 in Red Square
Red Square
Red Square is a city square in Moscow, Russia. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod...

. National and international statesmen from around the globe attended his funeral. His wife and family attended; his daughter Galina Brezhneva
Galina Brezhneva
Galina Leonidovna Brezhneva was the daughter of Soviet politician and longtime General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Viktoria Brezhneva.-Life and death:...

 outraged spectators by not showing up in sombre garb. Brezhnev on the other hand was dressed for burial in his Marshal's uniform along with all his medals.

Legacy




Brezhnev presided over the Soviet Union for longer than any other person except Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

. He is often criticised for the prolonged era of economic stagnation, the Era of Stagnation, in which fundamental economic problems were ignored and the Soviet political system was allowed to decline. During Mikhail Gorbachev's tenure as leader there was an increase in criticism of the Brezhnev years, such as claims that Brezhnev followed "a fierce neo-Stalinist line". The Gorbachevian discourse blamed Brezhnev for failing to modernise the country and to change with the times, although in a later statement Gorbachev made assurances that Brezhnev was not as bad as he was made out to be, saying, "Brezhnev was nothing like the cartoon figure that is made of him now". The intervention in Afghanistan, which was one of the major decisions of his career, also significantly undermined both the international standing and the internal strength of the Soviet Union. In Brezhnev's defence, it can be said that the Soviet Union reached unprecedented and never-repeated levels of power, prestige, and internal calm under his rule.

Brezhnev has fared well in opinion polls when compared to his successors and predecessors in Russia. However in the West he is most commonly remembered for starting the economic stagnation which triggered the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

. In an opinion poll by VTsIOM in 2007 the majority of Russians wanted to live during the Brezhnev's era rather than any other period of Soviet-Russian history during the 20th century.

Personality traits and family



Brezhnev's vanity became a problem during his reign. For instance, when Moscow City Party Secretary N. G. Yegorychev refused to sing his praises, he was shunned, forced out of local politics and earned only an obscure ambassadorship. His main passion was driving foreign cars given him by leaders of state from across the world. He usually drove these between his dacha
Dacha
Dacha is a Russian word for seasonal or year-round second homes often located in the exurbs of Soviet and post-Soviet cities. Cottages or shacks serving as family's main or only home are not considered dachas, although many purpose-built dachas are recently being converted for year-round residence...

 and the Kremlin with flagrant disregard for public safety.

Brezhnev was well known for his passion for awards and decorations. He was Hero of Socialist Labour, four times Hero of the Soviet Union
Hero of the Soviet Union
The title Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.-Overview:...

, three times Hero of Czechoslovakia, three times Hero of Republic of Bulgaria, etc. Having spent the Great Patriotic War as a political commissar and having never been a military commander, he, nevertheless, was promoted to the highest military rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union was the de facto highest military rank of the Soviet Union. ....

. Brezhnev's vanity undermined the authority of Soviet power and contributed to the general corruption of the regime. It was made fun of in numerous anecdotes.

Brezhnev lived at 26 Kutuzovsky Prospekt
Kutuzovsky Prospekt
Kutuzovsky Prospekt is a major radial avenue in Moscow, Russia, named after Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, leader of Russian field army during the French invasion of Russia...

, Moscow. During vacations, he lived in his Gosdacha in Zavidovo
Zavidovo
Zavidovo is a village in Konakovsky District of Tver Oblast, Russia. It is used as an official residence place for the President of Russia, and was also used by the Soviet leaders. The residence is situated in the Zavidovo nature reserve. According to UNESCO, Zavidovo is one of the most...

. He was married to Viktoria Petrovna (1912–1995). During her final four years she lived virtually alone, abandoned by everybody. She had suffered for a long time from diabetes and was nearly blind in her last years. He had a daughter, Galina
Galina Brezhneva
Galina Leonidovna Brezhneva was the daughter of Soviet politician and longtime General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Viktoria Brezhneva.-Life and death:...

, and a son, Yuri
Yuri Brezhnev
Yuri Leonidovich Brezhnev is the son of Soviet politician and longtime General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Viktoria Brezhneva.-Life and career:By Konstantin Chernenko's death Yuri had become a chronic alcoholic...

. Galina in her later life became an alcoholic who together with a circus director started a gold-bullion fraud gang in the later years of the Soviet Union.

Honours and awards



Soviet Union
  • Hero of the Soviet Union
    Hero of the Soviet Union
    The title Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.-Overview:...

    , four times
  • Hero of Socialist Labour
  • Order of Lenin
    Order of Lenin
    The Order of Lenin , named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union...

    , eight times
  • Order of the October Revolution
    Order of the October Revolution
    The Order of the October Revolution was instituted on October 31, 1967, in time for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was awarded to individuals or groups for services furthering communism or the state, or in enhancing the defenses of the Soviet Union, military and civil...

    , twice
  • Order of the Red Banner
    Order of the Red Banner
    The Soviet government of Russia established the Order of the Red Banner , a military decoration, on September 16, 1918 during the Russian Civil War...

    , twice
  • Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky
    Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky (Soviet Union)
    The Order of Bohdan Khmelnitsky was a Soviet award named after Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Hetman of the Ukrainian Cossack Hetmanate The award was first established on October 10, 1943, by the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the USSR during World War II....

    , 2nd class
  • Order of the Patriotic War
    Order of the Patriotic War
    The Order of the Patriotic War is a Soviet military decoration that was awarded to all soldiers in the Soviet armed forces, security troops, and to partisans for heroic deeds during the German-Soviet War, known by the former-Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic War.- History :The Order was...

    , 1st class
  • Order of the Red Star
    Order of the Red Star
    Established on 6 April 1930, the Order of the Red Star was an order of the Soviet Union, given to Red Army and Soviet Navy personnel for "exceptional service in the cause of the defense of the Soviet Union in both war and peace". It was established by Resolution of the Presidium of the CEC of the...

  • Medal for Combat Service
    Medal for Combat Service
    The USSR Medal for Combat Service was a Soviet military medal awarded for "combat action resulting in a military success", "courageous defense of the state borders", or "successful military and political training and preparation".It was created on October 17, 1938 by the decision of the Presidium...

  • Medal "In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin"
  • Medal for the Defence of Odessa
    Medal for the Defence of Odessa
    125px|thumb|right|Medal for the Defense of OdessaThe Medal for the Defense of Odessa was established on December 22, 1942. It was awarded to all servicemen of the Soviet Army, Navy, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and civil citizens who took part in the defense of Odessa during its siege by the...

  • Medal for the Defence of the Caucasus
  • Medal For the Victory Over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945
  • 20 years of victory
  • 30 years of victory
  • Medal "For Liberation of Warsaw"
  • Medal "For the capture of Vienna"
  • Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945 Medal
    Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945 Medal
    The Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945 Medal was a civilian award awarded in the USSR. It was established by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 6 June 1945. Its image was designed by the artists IK Andrianov and EM Romanov. There were approximately...

  • Medal "For Strengthening Combat Commonwealth"
  • Medal "For restoration of the steel industry of the South"
  • Medal "For development of virgin lands"
  • Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
  • Medal "50 Years of the USSR Armed Forces"
  • Medal "60 Years of the USSR Armed Forces"
  • 250th Anniversary of Leningrad Medal
    250th Anniversary of Leningrad Medal
    The 250th Anniversary of Leningrad Medal was a medal of the Soviet Union, established by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 16 May 1957 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the city of Leningrad...

  • Medal "In memory of the 1500th anniversary of Kiev"
  • Lenin Prize
    Lenin Prize
    The Lenin Prize was one of the most prestigious awards of the USSR, presented to individuals for accomplishments relating to science, literature, arts, architecture, and technology. It was created on June 23, 1925 and was awarded until 1934. During the period from 1935 to 1956, the Lenin Prize was...

     (1979)
  • Lenin Peace Prize
    Lenin Peace Prize
    The International Lenin Peace Prize was the Soviet Union's equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize, named in honor of Vladimir Lenin. It was awarded by a panel appointed by the Soviet government, to notable individuals whom the panel indicated had "strengthened peace among peoples"...

     (1973)


Foreign
  • Hero of the German Democratic Republic, three times
  • Hero of the Republic of Cuba
    Hero of the Republic of Cuba
    The title Hero of the Republic of Cuba is a distinction in Cuba, awarded for heroic feats in service to the Cuban state and society. It has been received by only a few individuals, including Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, Juan Almeida Bosque, Leonid Brezhnev and the Cuban Five....

  • Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
    Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
    The title of the Hero of the Czechoslovak Republic was established 1955. The name of the title was changed to Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1960...

    , three times
  • Hero of the People's Republic of Bulgaria, three times
  • Hero of the Mongolian People's Republic
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland)
  • Cross of Grunwald
    Cross of Grunwald
    Order Krzyża Grunwaldu 1943-1960, Krzyż Grunwaldu 1960-1992 was a military decoration created in November 1943 by the High Command of Gwardia Ludowa, a World War II Polish resistance movement in Poland organised by the Polish Workers Party...

    , 2nd class (Poland)
  • Medal "For the Odra, Nissa, Baltic" (Poland)
  • Medal of Victory and Freedom 1945 (Poland)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Sun (Peru)
  • Commander of the Order of the Star of the Socialist Republic of Romania
    Order of the Star of Romania
    The Order of the Star of Romania is Romania's highest civil order. It is awarded by the President of Romania...

  • Order of Klement Gottwald
    Order of Klement Gottwald
    The Order of Klement Gottwald was established by the Czechoslovak government in February 1953. The original name of the Order was "Order of building of socialist homeland"...

    , four times (Czechoslovakia)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion
    Order of the White Lion
    The Order of the White Lion is the highest order of the Czech Republic. It continues a Czechoslovak order of the same name created in 1922 as an award for foreigners....

     (Czechoslovakia)
  • Order of the Banner, with diamonds, twice (Hungary)
  • Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose of Finland
  • Order of the Yugoslav Star
    Order of the Yugoslav Star
    Order of the Yugoslav Star was the highest National order of merit awarded in Yugoslavia. It was divided into four classes. The highest class, the Yugoslav Great Star was the highest state decoration awarded in Yugoslavia...

  • Order of Freedom
    Order of Freedom
    Order of Freedom was the highest military decoration awarded in Yugoslavia, and the second highest Yugoslav state decoration after the Yugoslav Great Star. It was awarded to the commanders of large military units for skillful leadership and for the outstanding courage of the troops...

     (Yugoslavia)
  • Czechoslovak War Cross
  • Order of Karl Marx
    Order of Karl Marx
    The Order of Karl Marx was the most important order in the German Democratic Republic . Award of the order also included a prize of 20,000 East German marks....

    , three times (German Democratic Republic)
  • Order of Georgi Dimitrov, three times (Bulgaria)
  • Order "The victory of socialism"
  • Order of Sukhbaatar, four times (Mongolia)
  • Order of the Sun of Freedom (Afghanistan)
  • Order of Ho Chi Minh

Offices held


External links