Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (/ˈbrɛʒnɛf/; Russian:
Леони́д Ильи́ч Бре́жнев,
IPA: [lʲɪɐˈnʲid ɪˈlʲjidʑ ˈbrʲeʐnʲɪf] (listen);
Ukrainian: Леоні́д Іллі́ч Бре́жнєв, 19 December
1906 (O.S. 6 December 1906) – 10 November 1982) was
a Soviet politician. The fifth leader of the Soviet Union, he was
General Secretary of the
Central Committee of the governing Communist
Party of the
Soviet Union (CPSU) from 1964 until his death in 1982.
Ideologically, he was a Marxist-Leninist. He presided over the Soviet
Union's greatest involvement in world affairs, including détente with
the West. But he also increasingly confronted the Sino-Soviet split,
which divided and weakened communist parties across the world. In
domestic affairs, he presided over a steady decline in morale, marked
by corruption, inefficiency, and rapidly widening weakness in
technological advances, especially computers. Nevertheless he was a
force for political stability inside the Kremlin, maintaining his
power despite his rapidly declining health after 1975.
Brezhnev was born to a Russian worker's family in Kamenskoye in the
Russian Empire (now Ukraine). After graduating from the Kamenskoye
Metallurgical Technicum, he became a metallurgical engineer in the
iron and steel industry. After the
October Revolution led to the
formation of a one-party state led by the Communist Party, Brezhnev
joined the party's youth league, Komsomol, in 1923, and then became an
active party member by 1929. With the invasion by Germany in 1941, he
joined the Army and held increasingly important political posts as the
Communist Party closely monitored the generals. After the war he rose
steadily in the top ranks of the party, and became a protégé of
Joseph Stalin. In 1952 Brezhnev was promoted to the Central Committee
and in 1957 to full member of the Politburo. In 1964, he ousted Nikita
Khrushchev and took over as First Secretary of the CPSU, the most
powerful position in the Kremlin.
As the leader of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev's conservatism and
carefulness to reach decisions through consensus within the Politburo
resulted in sustained political stability within the party and the
country. On the world stage, Brezhnev pushed hard for the adoption of
détente to relax tensions and foster economic cooperation between the
Cold War superpowers. Brezhnev's health rapidly deteriorated after
1975 and he increasingly withdrew from international affairs. Détente
finally collapsed after the
Politburo decided to invade
1979. The widespread response of boycotting the
Moscow Olympics of
1980 was a bitter humiliation.
Brezhnev's hostility towards reform and tolerance of corruption
ushered in a period of socioeconomic decline known as the Brezhnev
Stagnation. His regime presided over widespread military
interventionism and a massive arms buildup that ultimately grew to
comprise 12.5% of the nation's GNP. In terms of technology, especially
Soviet Union fell further and further behind the West.
After years of declining health, Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982 and
was quickly succeeded as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov. Upon
coming to power in 1985,
Mikhail Gorbachev denounced the Brezhnev
regime's pervasive inefficiency and inflexibility before overseeing
steps to liberalize the Soviet Union.
During Brezhnev's rule, the global influence of the
Soviet Union grew
dramatically, in part because of the expansion of its military during
this time. Brezhnev's eighteen-year term as General Secretary was
second only to that of
Joseph Stalin in duration.
1 Early life and career
1.1 Origins (1906–1939)
World War II
World War II (1941–1945)
2 Rise to power
2.1 Promotion to the Central Committee
2.2 Advancement under Khrushchev
2.3 Removal and replacement of
Khrushchev as Soviet leader
3 Leader of the
Soviet Union (1964–1982)
3.1 Consolidation of power
3.2 Domestic policies
18.104.22.168 Economic growth until 1973
22.214.171.124 Agricultural policy
126.96.36.199 Economic stagnation
3.3 Foreign and defense policies
3.3.1 Soviet–U.S. relations
3.3.2 Sino–Soviet relations
3.3.3 Intervention in Afghanistan
3.3.4 Eastern Europe
3.4 Cult of personality
3.5 Health problems
3.6 Last years and death
5 Personality traits and family
6 See also
10 External links
Early life and career
Young Brezhnev with his wife Viktoria
Brezhnev was born on 19 December 1906 in Kamenskoye, Yekaterinoslav
Russian Empire (now Kamianske, Ukraine), to metalworker
Ilya Yakovlevich Brezhnev and his wife, Natalia Denisovna Mazalova.
His parents used to live in Brezhnevo (Kursky District, Kursk Oblast,
Russia) before moving to Kamenskoe. Brezhnev's ethnicity was specified
as Ukrainian in main documents including his
passport, and Russian in some
Like many youths in the years after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he
received a technical education, at first in land management and then
in metallurgy. He graduated from the Kamenskoye Metallurgical
Technicum in 1935 and became a metallurgical engineer in
the iron and steel industries of eastern Ukraine.
Brezhnev joined the Communist Party youth organisation, the Komsomol,
in 1923, and the Party itself in 1929. In 1935 and 1936,
Brezhnev served his compulsory military service, and after taking
courses at a tank school, he served as a political commissar in a tank
factory. Later in 1936, he became director of the Dniprodzerzhynsk
Metallurgical Technicum (technical college) (in 1936 Brezhnev's
hometown Kamenskoye was renamed to Dniprodzerzhynsk). In
1936, he was transferred to the regional center of Dnipropetrovsk, and
in 1939, he became Party Secretary in Dnipropetrovsk, in
charge of the city's important defence industries. As a survivor of
Great Purge of 1937–39, he was able to advance quickly as
the purges created numerous openings in the senior and middle ranks of
the Party and state governments.
World War II
World War II (1941–1945)
Brigade commissar Brezhnev (right) presents a Communist Party
membership card to a soldier on the Eastern Front in 1943.
Nazi Germany invaded the
Soviet Union on 22 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. In October, Brezhnev was
made deputy of political administration for the Southern Front, with
the rank of Brigade-Commissar (Colonel).
Ukraine was occupied by the Germans in 1942, Brezhnev was sent to
Caucasus as deputy head of political administration of the
Transcaucasian Front. 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, as the
Red Army regained the
initiative and advanced westward through Ukraine. The
Front's senior political commissar was Nikita Khrushchev, who had
supported Brezhnev's career since the pre-war years. 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, which entered
Prague in May 1945, after the German surrender.
Rise to power
Promotion to the Central Committee
Brezhnev temporarily left the
Soviet Army with the rank of Major
General in August 1946. He had spent the entire war as a political
commissar rather than a military commander. After working on
reconstruction projects in Ukraine, he again became General 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 of Communist
Moldova in the Moldavian SSR. In 1952, he had a
Stalin after which
Stalin promoted Brezhnev to the
Central Committee as a candidate member of the
Presidium (formerly the Politburo).
Stalin died in March
1953, and in the reorganization that followed, he was demoted to first
deputy head of the political directorate of the Army and Navy.
Advancement under Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the
Soviet Union from 1955 to 1964 and
Brezhnev's main patron.
Stalin as General Secretary,
while Khrushchev's opponent
Georgy Malenkov succeeded
Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Brezhnev sided with Khrushchev
against Malenkov, but only for several years. On 7 May 1955, Brezhnev
was made General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR.
On the surface, his brief was simple: to make the new lands
agriculturally productive. In reality, Brezhnev became involved in the
development of the Soviet missile and nuclear arms programs, including
the Baykonur Cosmodrome. The initially successful Virgin Lands
Campaign soon became unproductive and failed to solve the growing
Soviet food crisis. Brezhnev was recalled to
Moscow in 1956. The
harvest in the years following the
Virgin Lands Campaign
Virgin Lands Campaign was
disappointing, which would have hurt his political career had he
remained in Kazakhstan.
In February 1956, Brezhnev returned to Moscow, and was made candidate
member of the
Politburo assigned in control of the defence industry,
the space program including the Baykonur Cosmodrome, 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 Malenkov's Stalinist old guard in the Party leadership,
the so-called "Anti-Party Group". Following the defeat of the
Stalinists, 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, making him the nominal head of
state, although the real power resided with
Khrushchev as First
Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and Premier.
Removal and replacement of
Khrushchev as Soviet leader
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
became involved in a 1963 plot to remove the leader from power,
possibly playing a leading role. Also in 1963, Brezhnev succeeded Frol
Khrushchev protégé, as Secretary of the Central
Committee, positioning him as Khrushchev's likely
Khrushchev made him Second Secretary, literally
deputy party leader, in 1964.
Brezhnev (center) partaking in a hunting outing with
left) and Finnish President
Urho Kekkonen (second from right) in 1963,
one year before Khrushchev's ousting.
After returning from
Czechoslovakia in October 1964,
Khrushchev, unaware of the plot, went on holiday in
Pitsunda resort on
the Black Sea. Upon his return, his Presidium officers congratulated
him for his work in office.
Anastas Mikoyan visited Khrushchev,
hinting that he should not be too complacent about his present
situation. Vladimir Semichastny, head of the KGB, 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 members. After some false starts,
Mikhail Suslov phoned
Khrushchev on 12 October and
requested that he return to
Moscow to discuss the state of Soviet
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
Khrushchev from the office of First Secretary but retain him as
the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, the majority, headed by
Brezhnev, wanted to remove him from active politics
Nikolai Podgorny appealed to the Central Committee,
Khrushchev for economic failures, and accusing him of
voluntarism and immodest behavior. Influenced by Brezhnev's allies,
Politburo members voted on 14 October to remove
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 on the same day, but at the time was
believed to be a transition leader of sorts, who would only "keep the
shop" until another leader was appointed. Alexei Kosygin
was appointed head of government, and Mikoyan was retained as head of
state. Brezhnev and his companions supported the general
party line taken after Joseph Stalin's death, but felt that
Khrushchev's reforms had removed much of the Soviet Union's stability.
One reason for Khrushchev's ousting was that he continually overruled
other party members, and was, according to the plotters, "in contempt
of the party's collective ideals". Pravda, a newspaper in the Soviet
Union, wrote of new enduring themes such as collective leadership,
scientific planning, consultation with experts, organisational
regularity and the ending of schemes. When
Khrushchev left the public
spotlight, there was no popular commotion, as most Soviet citizens,
including the intelligentsia, anticipated a period of stabilization,
steady development of Soviet society and continuing economic growth in
the years ahead.
Political scientist George W. Breslauer has compared
Brezhnev as leaders. He argues they took different routes to build
legitimate authority, depending on their personalities and the state
of public opinion.
Khrushchev worked to decentralize the government
system, and empower local leadership, which had been wholly
subservient in style and stay. On the other hand, Brezhnev sought to
centralize authority, going so far as to weaken the roles of the other
members of the
Central Committee and the Politburo.
Leader of the
Soviet Union (1964–1982)
Further information: History of the
Soviet Union (1964–1982)
Consolidation of power
Collective leadership in the Soviet Union
Brezhnev after speaking at the
Central Committee plenary
Khrushchev as the party's First Secretary, Brezhnev
became the de jure supreme authority in the Soviet Union. However, he
was initially forced to govern as part of a troika alongside the
country's Premier, Alexei Kosygin, as well as the party's Second
Secretary and later Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet,
Nikolai Podgorny. Due to Khrushchev’s disregard for the rest of the
Politburo upon combining his leadership of the party with that of the
Soviet government, a plenum of the
Central Committee in October 1964
forbade any single individual from holding both the offices of General
Secretary and Premier. This arrangement would persist
until the 1970s when Brezhnev consolidated his grip on power to become
the dominant figure in the Soviet Union.
Former Chairman of the State Committee for State Security (KGB)
Alexander Shelepin disliked the new collective leadership and its
reforms. He made a bid for the supreme leadership in 1965 by calling
for the restoration of "obedience and order". Shelepin failed to
gather support in the Presidium and Brezhnev's position was fairly
secure; he was able to remove Shelepin from office in
Brezhnev meets U.S. President
Gerald Ford at the Vladivostok Summit
in 1974 after securing his position as leader of the USSR.
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. American Henry A. Kissinger, in the 1960s,
mistakenly believed Kosygin to be the dominant leader of Soviet
foreign policy 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.
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 old guard
continued to oppose Kosygin after witnessing the results of reforms
leading up to the
Prague Spring. His opponents then flocked to
Brezhnev, and they helped him in his task of strengthening his
position within the Soviet system.
Brezhnev was adept at 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
from 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 as Premier),
Brezhnev was the dominant driving force of the
Soviet Union from the
mid-1970s to his death in 1982.
Yuri Andropov, the Chairman of the
KGB who presided over the
pervasive crackdown on dissent during Brezhnev's leadership.
Brezhnev's stabilization policy included ending the liberalizing
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 liberalization of Soviet intellectual and cultural policy,
but as soon as he became leader, Brezhnev began to reverse this
process, and developed an increasingly totalitarian and regressive
The trial of the writers
Yuli Daniel and
Andrei Sinyavsky in
1966—the first such public trials since Stalin's day—marked the
reversion to a repressive cultural policy. Under Yuri
Andropov the state security service (in the form of the KGB) regained
some of the powers 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
By the mid-1970s, there were an estimated 1,000  to 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 hospitalized in mental asylums across the Soviet Union. Under
Brezhnev's rule, the
KGB infiltrated most, if not all, anti-government
organisations, which ensured that there was little to no opposition
against him or his power base. However, Brezhnev refrained from the
all-out violence seen under Stalin's rule.
Economic growth until 1973
GNP growth (according tothe CIA)
Annual NMP growth(according toGrigorii Khanin)
Annual NMP growth(according tothe USSR)
Between 1960 and 1970,
Soviet agriculture output increased by 3%
annually. Industry also improved: during the Eighth Five-Year Plan
(1966–1970), the output of factories and mines increased by 138%
compared to 1960. While the
Politburo became aggressively
anti-reformist, Kosygin was able to convince both Brezhnev and the
politburo to leave the reformist communist leader
János Kádár of
People's Republic of Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary alone because of an economic reform
New Economic Mechanism (NEM), which granted limited
permission for the establishment of retail markets. In the
People's Republic of Poland, another approach was taken in 1970 under
the leadership of Edward Gierek; 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
in the form of cheap oil and gas exports. The
Soviet Union did not
accept all kinds of reforms, an example being the
Warsaw Pact invasion
Czechoslovakia in 1968 in response to Alexander Dubček's
reforms. Under Brezhnev, the
Khrushchev's decentralization experiments. By 1966, two years after
taking power, Brezhnev abolished the Regional Economic Councils, which
were organized to manage the regional economies of the Soviet
The Ninth Five-Year Plan 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. The plan still left the bulk of the 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
were expanding 9% slower than industrial capital-goods. The policy
continued despite Brezhnev's commitment to make a rapid shift of
investment to satisfy Soviet consumers and lead to an even higher
standard of living. This did not happen.
During 1928–1973, the
Soviet Union was growing economically at a
pace that would eventually catch up with the United States and Western
Europe. However, objective comparisons are difficult. The USSR was
hampered by the effects of World War II, which had left most of
Western USSR in ruins, however Western aid and Soviet espionage in the
period 1941–1945 (culminating in cash, material and equipment
deliveries for military and industrial purposes) had allowed the
Russians to leapfrog many Western economies in the development of
advanced technologies, particularly in the fields of nuclear
technology, radio communications, agriculture and heavy manufacturing.
In 1973, the process of catching up with the rest of the West came to
an abrupt end, and 1973 was 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 U.S. 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 faster rate than that of the
American economy (albeit by a very small margin). The USSR also kept a
steady pace with the economies of Western Europe. Between 1964 and
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
USSR postage stamp of 1979, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the
Virgin Lands Campaign
Brezhnev's agricultural policy reinforced the conventional methods for
organizing the collective farms. Output quotas continued to be imposed
centrally. Khrushchev's policy of amalgamating farms was
continued by Brezhnev, because he shared Khrushchev's belief 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 of 27% of all state investment – this figure
did not include investments in farm equipment. In 1981 alone, 33
billion U.S. dollars (by contemporary exchange rate) was invested into
Agricultural output in 1980 was 21% higher than the average production
rate between 1966 and 1970.
Cereal crop output increased by 18%. These
improved results were not encouraging. In the
Soviet Union the
criterion for assessing agricultural output was the grain harvest. The
import of cereal, which began under Khrushchev, had in fact become a
normal phenomenon by Soviet standards. When Brezhnev had difficulties
sealing commercial trade agreements with the United States, he went
elsewhere, such as to Argentina. Trade was necessary because the
Soviet Union's domestic production of fodder crops was severely
deficient. Another sector that was hitting the wall was the sugar beet
harvest, which had declined by 2% in the 1970s. Brezhnev's way of
resolving these issues was to increase state investment. Politburo
Gennady Voronov 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 by Andrey Andreyev in the 1940s, and had 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, 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, according to
Robert Service, otherwise "unimaginative" and
"incompetent". Facing mounting problems with agriculture,
Politburo issued a resolution titled, "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 an increase in the maximum size
of privately owned plots within 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 4% of the land. This was seen by some as proof
that de-collectivization was necessary to prevent Soviet agriculture
from collapsing, but leading Soviet politicians shrank from supporting
such drastic measures due to ideological and political
interests. The underlying problems were the growing
shortage of skilled workers, a wrecked rural culture, the payment of
workers in proportion to the quantity rather than the quality of their
work, and too large farm machinery for the small collective farms and
the roadless countryside. In the face of this, Brezhnev's only options
were schemes such as large land reclamation and irrigation projects,
or of course, radical reform.
The Era of Stagnation, a term coined by Mikhail Gorbachev, 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 (thus abandoning the idea of economic isolation)
while ignoring the changes occurring in Western societies; the
increasing harshness of its policies, such as sending Soviet tanks to
Prague Spring in 1968; the intervention in Afghanistan; the
stifling domestic bureaucracy overseen by a cadre of elderly men; the
lack of economic reform; 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, labor
shortages and a decline in productivity and labor discipline. While
Brezhnev, albeit "sporadically", through Alexei Kosygin,
attempted to reform the economy in the late 1960s and 1970s, he
ultimately failed to produce any positive results. One of these
reforms was the economic reform of 1965, initiated by Kosygin, though
its origins are often traced back to the
Khrushchev Era. The reform
was cancelled by the Central Committee, though the Committee admitted
that economic problems did exist.
K1810VM86 microprocessor, a Soviet clone of the
Intel 8086 CPU.
As its technology continued to fall behind the U.S., the Soviet Union
increasingly resorted to pirating Western designs during the Brezhnev
In 1973, the Soviet economy slowed, and began to lag behind that of
the West due to the high level of expenditure on the armed forces and
too little spending on light industry and consumer goods. 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
Mikhail Gorbachev who, when leader, called the economy
under Brezhnev's rule "the lowest stage of socialism".
GNP growth rates began to decrease in the 1970s from the level
it held in the 1950s and 1960s; its growth rates began to lag behind
Western Europe and the United States. The
GNP growth rate was slowing
to 1% to 2% per year, and with Soviet technology falling ever farther
behind that of the West, the
Soviet Union was facing economic
stagnation by the early 1980s. During Brezhnev's last
years in power, the
CIA monitored the Soviet Union's economic growth,
and reported that the Soviet economy peaked in the 1970s, calculating
that it had then reached 57% of the American GNP. The development gap
between the two nations widened, with the United States growing an
average of 1% per year above the growth rate of the Soviet
The last significant reform undertaken by the Kosygin government, and
some believe the pre-perestroika 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", more commonly known as the 1979 reform. The reform, in contrast
to the 1965 reform, sought to increase the central government's
economic involvement by enhancing the duties and responsibilities of
the ministries. With Kosygin's death in 1980, and due to his successor
Nikolai Tikhonov's conservative approach to economics, very little of
the reform was actually carried out.
The Eleventh Five-Year Plan of the
Soviet Union delivered a
disappointing result: a change in growth from 5 to 4%. During the
earlier Tenth Five-Year Plan, they had tried to meet the target of
6.1% growth, but failed. Brezhnev was able to defer economic collapse
by trading with
Western Europe and the Arab World. The
Soviet Union still out-produced the United States in the heavy
industry sector during the Brezhnev era. Another dramatic result of
Brezhnev's rule was that certain
Eastern Bloc countries became more
economically advanced than the Soviet Union.
Brezhnev (seated second from left) attending celebrations for the
holiday of International Women's Day, 1973
Over the eighteen years that Brezhnev ruled the Soviet Union, average
income per head increased by half; three-quarters of this growth came
in the 1960s and early 1970s. During the second half of Brezhnev's
reign, average income per head grew by one-quarter. 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 Brezhnev's reversal of most of
Khrushchev's policies. Consumption per head rose by an
estimated 70% under Brezhnev, but with three-quarters of this growth
happening before 1973 and only one-quarter in the second half of his
rule. Most of the increase in consumer production in the
early Brezhnev era can be attributed to the Kosygin
When the USSR's economic growth stalled in the 1970s, the standard of
living 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. This led to an increase, though a minor
one, in public support. The standard of living in the
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) had fallen behind
that of the
Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic
Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (GSSR) and the Estonian
Soviet Socialist Republic (ESSR) under Brezhnev; this led many
Russians to believe that the policies of the
Soviet Government were
hurting the Russian population. The state usually moved
workers from one job to another, which ultimately became an
ineradicable feature in Soviet industry. Government
industries such as factories, mines and offices were staffed by
undisciplined personnel who put a great effort into not doing their
jobs; this ultimately led, according to Robert Service, to a "work-shy
Soviet Government had no effective
counter-measure; it was extremely difficult, if not impossible to
replace ineffective workers because of the country's lack of
While some areas improved during the Brezhnev era, the majority of
civilian services deteriorated and living conditions for Soviet
citizens fell rapidly. Diseases were on the rise because
of the decaying healthcare system. The living space remained rather
First World standards, with the average Soviet person living
on 13.4 square metres. Thousands of
Moscow inhabitants became
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 for instance.
The state provided recreation facilities and annual holidays for
hard-working citizens. Soviet trade unions rewarded hard-working
members and their families with beach vacations in
Social rigidification became a common feature of Soviet society.
Stalin era in the 1930s and 1940s, a common labourer could
expect promotion to a white-collar job if he studied and obeyed Soviet
authorities. In Brezhnev's
Soviet Union this was not the case. Holders
of attractive positions 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.
Foreign and defense policies
During his eighteen years as Leader of the USSR, Brezhnev's signature
foreign policy innovation was the promotion of détente. While sharing
some similarities with approaches pursued during the
Brezhnev's policy significantly differed from Khrushchev's precedent
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 was based on the
importance of equalizing the military strength of the United States
and the Soviet Union.[according to whom?] Defense spending
under Brezhnev between 1965 and 1970 increased by 40%, and annual
increases continued thereafter. In the year of Brezhnev's death in
1982, 15% of
GNP was spent on the military.
Brezhnev and Ford signing joint communiqué on the SALT treaty in
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 legitimized Soviet
hegemony over Eastern Europe, and the United States defeat
Vietnam and the
Watergate scandal weakened the prestige of the
United States. Brezhnev and Nixon also agreed to pass the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned both countries from
designing systems that would intercept incoming missiles so that
neither the U.S. or the
Soviet Union would be tempted to strike the
other without the fear of retaliation. The Soviet Union
extended its diplomatic and political influence in the Middle East and
During the mid-1970s, it became clear that Henry Kissinger's policy of
détente towards the
Soviet Union was failing.[according to
whom?] The détente had rested on the assumption that a "linkage"
of some type could be found between the two countries, with the U.S.
hoping that the signing of
SALT I and an increase in Soviet–U.S.
trade would stop the aggressive growth of communism in the third
world. This did not happen,[why?] and
Soviet Union started funding the communist guerillas who fought
actively against the U.S. during the
Vietnam War. The U.S. ended the
Vietnam War in a stalemate and lost Cambodia,
Gerald Ford lost the presidential
election to Jimmy Carter, American foreign policies
became more overtly aggressive in vocabulary towards the Soviet Union
and the communist world, attempts were also made to stop funding for
repressive anti-communist governments and organizations the United
States supported. While at first standing for a decrease
in all defense initiatives, the later years of Carter's presidency
would increase spending on the U.S. military.
Richard Nixon and
Leonid Brezhnev talking outside at
Camp David, the official retreat of US Presidents, in 1973
Nikita Khrushchev had initially supported
North Vietnam 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. 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. After
Khrushchev's ousting, Brezhnev resumed aiding the communist resistance
in Vietnam. In February 1965, Kosygin traveled to
Hanoi with a dozen
Soviet air force generals and economic experts. During the Soviet
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson had authorized U.S. bombing raids
North Vietnamese soil in retaliation for a recent attack by the
US First Lady
Pat Nixon with
Leonid Brezhnev at the White House,
Johnson privately suggested to Brezhnev that he would guarantee an end
to South Vietnamese hostility if Brezhnev would guarantee a North
Vietnamese one. Brezhnev was interested in this offer initially, but
after being told by
Andrei Gromyko 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 the 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, and said he was prepared to end U.S. bombing
North Vietnam if Ho ended his infiltration of South Vietnam.
The U.S. bombing raids halted for a few days and Kosygin publicly
announced his support for this offer. The
North Vietnamese government
failed to respond, and because of this, the U.S. continued its raids
in North Vietnam. The Brezhnev leadership concluded from this event
that seeking diplomatic solutions to the ongoing war in
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 by 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 Ho
Chi Minh in 1969, China's strongest link to
Vietnam was gone. In the
Richard Nixon had been elected President of the United
States. While having been known for his anti-communist rhetoric, Nixon
said in 1971 that the U.S. "must have relations with Communist
China". His plan was for a slow withdrawal of U.S. troops
from Vietnam, while still retaining the government of South Vietnam.
The only way he thought this was possible was by improving relations
with both Communist China and the USSR. He later made a visit to
Moscow to negotiate a treaty on arms control and the
Vietnam war, but
Vietnam nothing could be agreed. On his visit to
Moscow, Nixon and Brezhnev signed the SALT I, marking the beginning of
the "détente" era, which would be proclaimed a "new era of peaceful
coexistence" that would replace the hostility that existed during the
Deng Xiaoping and Brezhnev with
Nicolae Ceausescu in Bucharest, 1965
Soviet foreign relations with the People's Republic of China quickly
deteriorated after Nikita Khrushchev'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's Cultural Revolution, which led to the decimation of the
Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China and other ruling offices. The Brezhnev
leadership who promoted the idea of "stabilization", 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 Czechoslovakian
leadership were also deviating from the Soviet model. In the aftermath
of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet leadership
proclaimed the Brezhnev doctrine, which said the USSR had the right to
intervene in any fraternal communist state that did not follow the
Soviet model. This doctrine increased tension not only
with the Eastern Bloc, 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. In
the aftermath of the failed conference, the Soviets concluded, "there
were no leading center of the international communist
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 he refused to accept its
irrevocability; he briefly visited Beijing in 1969 due to the increase
of tension between the USSR and China. By the early 1980s,
both the Chinese and the Soviets were issuing statements calling for a
normalization 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 the
Mongolian People's Republic
Mongolian People's Republic and
to end their support for the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Brezhnev
responded in his March 1982 speech in
Tashkent where he called for the
normalization of relations. Full Sino–Soviet normalization of
relations would prove to take years, until the last Soviet ruler,
Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.
Intervention in Afghanistan
Main article: Soviet–Afghan War
Carter and Brezhnev sign the SALT II treaty, 18 June 1979, in Vienna
After the communist revolution in
Afghanistan in 1978, authoritarian
actions forced upon the populace by the Communist regime led to the
Afghan civil war, with the mujahideen leading the popular backlash
against the regime. The
Soviet Union was worried that they
were losing their influence in Central Asia, so after a
Afghanistan could be taken in a matter of weeks, Brezhnev
and several top party officials agreed to a full
intervention. Contemporary researchers tend to believe
that Brezhnev had been misinformed on the situation in Afghanistan.
His health had decayed, and proponents of direct military intervention
took over the majority group in the
Politburo by cheating and using
falsified evidence. They advocated a relatively moderate scenario,
maintaining a cadre of 1,500 to 2,500-men
Soviet military advisers and
technicians in the country (which had already been there in large
numbers since the 1950s), but they disagreed on sending
regular army units in hundreds of thousands of troops. Some believe
that Brezhnev's signature on the decree was obtained without telling
him the full story, otherwise he would have never approved such a
decision. Soviet ambassador to the U.S.
Anatoly Dobrynin believed that
the real mastermind behind the invasion, who misinformed Brezhnev, was
Mikhail Suslov. Brezhnev's personal physician Mikhail
Kosarev later recalled that Brezhnev, when he was in his right mind,
in fact resisted the full-scale intervention. Deputy
Chairman of the
Vladimir Zhirinovsky stated officially that
despite the military solution being supported by some, hardline
Dmitry Ustinov was the only
Politburo member who
insisted on sending regular army units.
Parts of the
Soviet military establishment were opposed to any sort of
Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, believing that the
Soviet Union should leave Afghan politics alone. President Carter,
following the advice of his National Security Adviser Zbigniew
Brzezinski, denounced the intervention, describing it as the "most
serious danger to peace since 1945". The U.S. stopped all
grain exports to the
Soviet Union and boycotted the 1980 Summer
Olympics held in Moscow. The
Soviet Union responded by boycotting the
1984 Summer Olympics
1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles.
Further information: Soviet reaction to the Polish crisis of
A Soviet T-55 tank catches fire while battling Czech protesters
during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
The first crisis for Brezhnev's regime came in 1968, with the attempt
by the Communist leadership in Czechoslovakia, under Alexander
Dubček, to liberalise the Communist system (Prague
Spring). In July, Brezhnev publicly denounced the
Czechoslovak leadership as "revisionist" and "anti-Soviet" before
ordering the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Dubček's
removal in August. The invasion led to public protests by dissidents
Eastern Bloc countries. Brezhnev's subsequent announcement
Soviet Union had the right to interfere in the internal
affairs of its satellites to "safeguard socialism" became known as the
Brezhnev Doctrine, although it was really a restatement of
existing Soviet policy, as enacted by
Khrushchev 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 on 13
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forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of
some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a
problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern of
all socialist countries.— Brezhnev, Speech to the Fifth
Congress of the
Polish United Workers' Party
Polish United Workers' Party in November 1968
When the situation in
Czechoslovakia was discussed with the Politburo,
Brezhnev was not the one pushing hardest for the use of military
force. 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 the brink. 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
would not be sitting here today, but quite possibly I wouldn't
Brezhnev at a Party congress in
East Berlin in 1967
In 1980 a political crisis emerged in Poland with the emergence of the
Solidarity mass movement. By the end of October, Solidarity had 3
million members, and by December, had 9 million. In a public opinion
poll organised by the Polish government, 89% of the respondents
supported Solidarity. With the Polish leadership split on
what to do, the majority did not want to impose martial law, as
suggested by Wojciech Jaruzelski. The
Soviet Union and the Eastern
Bloc was unsure how to handle the situation, but
Erich Honecker 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 mobilizing for an invasion.
In 1980–81 representatives from the
Eastern Bloc nations met at the
Kremlin to discuss the Polish situation. Brezhnev eventually concluded
on 10 December 1981 that it would be better to leave the domestic
matters of Poland alone, reassuring the Polish delegates that the USSR
would intervene only if asked to. This effectively marked
the end of the Brezhnev Doctrine. With domestic matters escalating out
of control in Poland,
Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed a state of war, the
Polish version of martial law, on 12 December 1981.
Cult of personality
Further information: Awards and decorations received by Leonid
Brezhnev's official portrait, taken in 1977
Roy Medvedev emphasizes the bureaucratic mentality
and personality strengths that enabled Brezhnev to gain power. He was
loyal to his friends, vain in desiring ceremonial power, and refused
to control corruption inside the party. He made the Secretary at an
independent source of support, and especially in foreign affairs
increasingly took all major decisions in his own hands, without
telling his colleagues in the Politburo. Brezhnev
deliberately presented a different persona to different people,
culminating In the systematic glorification of his own
career. The last years of Brezhnev's rule were marked by
a growing personality cult. His love of medals (he received over 100)
was well known, so in December 1966, on his 60th birthday, he was
awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev received the award,
which came with the
Order of Lenin
Order of Lenin and the Gold Star, three more times
in celebration of his birthdays. On his 70th birthday he
was awarded the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union – the
highest military honour in the Soviet Union. After being awarded the
medal, he attended an 18th Army Veterans meeting, dressed in a long
coat and saying; "Attention, the Marshal is coming!" He also conferred
upon himself the rare
Order of Victory
Order of Victory in 1978—the only time the
decoration was ever awarded after World War II. (This medal was
posthumously revoked in 1989 for not meeting the criteria for
Brezhnev's eagerness for undeserved glory was shown by his poorly
written memoirs recalling his military service during World War II,
which treated the minor battles near
Novorossiysk as a decisive
military theatre. Despite the apparent weaknesses of his
book, it was awarded the
Lenin Prize for Literature
Lenin Prize for Literature and was hailed
with critical acclaim by the Soviet press. The book was
followed by two other books, one on the Virgin Lands
Campaign. Brezhnev's vanity made him the target of many
Nikolai Podgorny warned him of this, but
Brezhnev replied, "If they are poking fun at me, it means they like
In keeping with traditional socialist greetings, Brezhnev kissed many
politicians during his career, the most memorable instance being the
Brezhnev's personality cult was growing outrageously at a time when
his health was in rapid decline. His physical condition was
deteriorating; he had been a heavy smoker until the
1970s, had become addicted to sleeping pills, and had
begun drinking to excess. Over the years he had become overweight.
From 1973 until his death, Brezhnev's central nervous system underwent
chronic deterioration and he had several minor strokes as well as
insomnia. In 1975 he suffered his first heart attack.
When receiving the Order of Lenin, Brezhnev walked shakily and fumbled
his words. According to one American intelligence expert, United
States officials knew for several years that Brezhnev had suffered
from severe arteriosclerosis and believed he had suffered from other
unspecified ailments as well. In 1977 American intelligence officials
publicly suggested that Brezhnev had also been suffering from gout,
leukemia and emphysema from decades of heavy smoking, as
well as chronic bronchitis. He was reported to have been
fitted with a pacemaker to control his heart rhythm abnormalities. On
occasion, he was known to have suffered from memory loss, speaking
problems and had difficulties with co-ordination.
According to the Washington Post, "All of this is also reported to be
taking its toll on Brezhnev's mood. He is said to be depressed,
despondent over his own failing health and discouraged by the death of
many of his long-time colleagues. To help, he has turned to regular
counseling and hypnosis by an Assyrian woman, a sort of modern-day
The Ministry of Health kept doctors by Brezhnev's side at all times,
and Brezhnev was brought back from near-death on several occasions. At
this time, most senior officers of the CPSU wanted to keep Brezhnev
alive, even if such men as Mikhail Suslov,
Dmitriy Ustinov and Andrei
Gromyko, among others, were growing increasingly frustrated with his
policies. They did not want to risk a new period of domestic turmoil
that might be caused by his death. Western commentators
started guessing Brezhnev's heirs apparent. The most notable
candidates were Suslov and Andrei Kirilenko, who were both older than
Fyodor Kulakov and Konstantin Chernenko, who were
younger; Kulakov died of natural causes in 1978.
Last years and death
Main article: Death and funeral of Leonid Brezhnev
Photo of an ailing Brezhnev (second from left) on 1 June 1981, a
year before his death
Brezhnev's health worsened in the winter of 1981–82. In the
meantime, the country was governed by Andrei Gromyko, Dmitriy Ustinov,
Mikhail Suslov and
Yuri Andropov while crucial
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. He, with the help of
KGB associates, started circulating rumors 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
Brezhnev rarely appeared in public during 1982. The Soviet government
claimed that Brezhnev was not seriously ill, but admitted that he was
surrounded by doctors. He suffered a severe stroke in May 1982, but
refused to relinquish office. On 7 November
1982, despite his failing health, Brezhnev was present standing on
Lenin's Mausoleum during the annual military parade and demonstration
of workers commemorating the anniversary of the October Revolution.
The event would also mark Brezhnev's final public appearance before
dying three days later after suffering a heart attack. He
was honored with a state funeral, which was followed with a five-day
period of nationwide mourning. He was buried in the
Necropolis in Red Square. National and international
statesmen from around the globe attended his funeral. His wife and
family attended; his daughter
Galina Brezhneva outraged spectators by
not appearing in sombre garb. Brezhnev was dressed for burial in his
Marshal uniform, along with all his medals.
Main article: Legacy of Leonid Brezhnev
Brezhnev commemorative plaque donated to the Haus am Checkpoint
Charlie in Berlin, Germany
Brezhnev presided over the
Soviet Union for longer than any other
person except Joseph Stalin. He is often criticised for the prolonged
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 modernize 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 defense, it can be said that
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. In the West he is most commonly
remembered for starting the economic stagnation that triggered the
dissolution of the Soviet Union. In an opinion poll by
VTsIOM in 2007 the majority of Russians chose to live during the
Brezhnev era rather than any other period of 20th century Soviet
history. In a
Levada Center poll conducted in 2013,
Vladimir Lenin as Russia's favorite leader in the 20th
century with 56% approval. In another poll in 2013,
Brezhnev was voted the best Russian leader of the 20th
Personality traits and family
Caricature of Brezhnev by Edmund S. Valtman
Brezhnev's vanity became a problem during his reign. For instance,
Moscow City Party Secretary Nikolay Yegorychev refused to sing
his praises, he was shunned, forced out of local politics and given
only an obscure ambassadorship.
Brezhnev's main passion was driving foreign cars given to him by
leaders of state from across the world. He usually drove these between
his dacha and the
Kremlin with, according to historian Robert Service,
flagrant disregard for public safety. When visiting the
United States for a summit with Nixon in 1973, he expressed a wish to
drive around Washington in a
Lincoln Continental that Nixon had just
given him; upon being told that the Secret Service would not allow him
to do this, he said "I will take the flag off the car, put on dark
glasses, so they can't see my eyebrows and drive like any American
would" to which
Henry Kissinger replied "I have driven with you and I
don't think you drive like an American!"
Brezhnev lived at 26 Kutuzovsky Prospekt, Moscow. During vacations, he
lived in his Gosdacha in Zavidovo. He was married to Viktoria
Brezhneva (1908–1995). 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, and a son, Yuri. His
Lyubov Brezhneva fled to the United States and published a
highly revealing memoir that shows he worked systematically to bring
privileges to his family in terms of appointments, apartments, private
luxury stores, private medical facilities and immunity from
prosecution. The party leadership had complete control of all the
media, so there was no risk of investigative journalism exposing the
Attempted assassination of Leonid Brezhnev
^ Western specialists believe that the net material product (NMP;
Soviet version of gross national product [GNP]) contained distortions
and could not accurately determine a country's economic growth;
according to some, it greatly exaggerated growth. Because of this,
several specialists created
GNP figures to estimate Soviet growth
rates and to compare Soviet growth rates with the growth rates of
Grigorii Khanin published his growth
rates in the 1980s as a "translation" of NMP to GNP. His growth rates
were (as seen above) much lower than the official figures, and lower
than some Western estimates. His estimates were widely publicized by
conservative think tanks as, for instance,
The Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation of
Washington, D.C.. After the dissolution of the
Soviet Union in 1991,
Khanin's estimates led several agencies to criticize the estimates
made by the
Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Since then the
often been accused over overestimating Soviet growth. In response to
the criticism of CIA's work, a panel led by economist James R. Millar
was established to check out if this was in fact true. The panel
concluded that the
CIA were based on facts, and that
"Methodologically, Khanin's approach was naive, and it has not been
possible for others to reproduce his results." Michael
Department of Commerce
Department of Commerce economist, criticized the CIA
estimates to be too low. He used the same
CIA methodology to estimate
West German and American growth rates. The results were 32% below the
GNP growth for West Germany, and 13 below the official GNP
growth for the United States. In the end, the conclusion is the same,
Soviet Union grew rapidly economically until the mid-1970s, when a
systematic crisis began.
Growth figures for the Soviet economy varies widely (as seen below):
Eighth Five-Year Plan (1966–1970)
Gross national product (GNP): 5.2%  or 5.3% 
Gross national income (GNI): 7.1% 
Capital investments in agriculture: 24% 
Ninth Five-Year Plan (1971–1975)
GNP: 3.7% 
GNI: 5.1% 
Labour productivity: 6% 
Capital investments in agriculture: 27% 
Tenth Five-Year Plan (1976–1980)
GNP: 2.7% 
GNP: 3% 
Labour productivity: 3.2% 
Eleventh Five-Year Plan (1981–1985)
^ "Brezhnev". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
^ Profile of Leonid Brezhnev
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^ "File:Brezhnev LI OrKrZn NagrList 1942.jpg".
^ "File:Brezhnev LI Pasport 1947.jpg".
^ "File:Brezhnev LI OrOtVo NagrList 1943.jpg".
^ a b c d Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 6.
^ a b McCauley 1997, p. 47.
^ ‹See Tfd›(in Ukrainian) Dniprodzerzhinsk and several more cities
got new names. Ukrayinska Pravda. 19 May 2016
^ a b Green & Reeves 1993, p. 192.
^ Murphy 1981, p. 80.
^ Childs 2000, p. 84.
^ a b c McCauley 1997, p. 48.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 7.
^ Hough, Jerry F. (November 1982). "Soviet succession and policy
choices". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. p. 49. Retrieved 11
^ Hough & Fainsod 1979, p. 371.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 615.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 616.
^ Service 2009, p. 376.
^ a b Service 2009, p. 377.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 5.
^ a b c Service 2009, p. 378.
^ McNeal 1975, p. 164.
^ Taubman 2003, p. 16.
^ George W. Breslauer,
Khrushchev and Brezhnev As Leaders (1982).
^ Service 2009, p. 379.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 13.
^ a b Brown 2009, p. 403.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 10.
^ Brown 2009, p. 402.
^ Service 2009, p. 380.
^ a b Service 2009, p. 381.
^ a b Sakwa 1999, p. 339.
^ a b Service 2009, p. 382.
^ Lankov, Andrei (8 March 2012). "Two communist states, two different
worlds". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 40.
^ Kotz & Weir 2007, p. 35.
^ Kotz & Weir 2007, p. 39.
^ Kotz & Weir 2007, p. 40.
^ a b c Kort 2010, p. 322.
^ a b Bergson 1985, p. 192.
^ a b Pallot & Shaw 1981, p. 51.
^ a b Wegren 1998, p. 252.
^ Arnot 1988, p. 67.
^ Arnot 1998, p. 67.
^ Service 2009, p. 385.
^ Service 2009, p. 386.
^ Service 2009, p. 389.
^ Service 2009, p. 407.
^ a b Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 45.
^ Service 2009, p. 397.
^ a b Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 47.
^ Service 2009, p. 400.
^ a b c Service 2009, p. 401.
^ a b c d e Service 2009, p. 402.
^ a b Service 2009, p. 403.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, pp. 1–2.
^ Sakwa 1999, p. 341.
^ Ter-Ghazaryan, Aram (24 September 2014). "Computers in the USSR: A
story of missed opportunities". Russia Beyond the Headlines. Archived
from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
^ a b Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 28.
^ Ulam 2002, p. 249.
^ a b Oliver & Aldcroft 2007, p. 275.
^ ютуба, любитель (17 December 2010). "30 лет
назад умер Алексей Косыгин" [A reformer
before Yegor Gaidar? Kosygin died for 30 years ago]. Newsland (in
Russian). Retrieved 29 December 2010.
^ Oliver & Aldcroft 2007, p. 276.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 48.
^ Анализ динамики показателей уровня
жизни населения (in Russian).
Moscow State University.
Retrieved 5 October 2010.
^ Sakwa 1998, p. 28.
^ Service 2009, p. 423.
^ Service 2009, p. 416.
^ a b Service 2009, p. 417.
^ Service 2009, p. 418.
^ Service 2009, p. 421.
^ Service 2009, p. 422.
^ Service 2009, p. 427.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 90.
^ "The President".
Richard Nixon Presidential Library. Archived from
the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
^ Hiden, Made & Smith 2008, p. 209.
^ a b Foner, Eric (1 February 2012). Give Me Liberty!: An American
History (3 ed.). W. W. Norton & Company. p. 815.
^ Gaddis 2005, p. 178.
^ McCauley 2008, p. 75.
^ a b McCauley 2008, p. 76.
^ a b c d e McCauley 2008, p. 77.
^ Loth 2002, pp. 85–86.
^ a b Loth 2002, p. 86.
^ Loth 2002, pp. 86–87.
^ a b Anderson & Ernst 2007, pp. 50–51.
^ "SALT 1". Department of State. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
^ Whitman, Alden (12 September 1971). "Khrushchev's human dimensions
brought him to power and to his downfall". The New York Times.
Retrieved 5 October 2010. (fee for article, but available free here)
^ a b Kornberg & Faust 2005, p. 103.
^ a b Kornberg & Faust 2005, p. 104.
^ Zubok 2007, pp. 194–195.
^ Kornberg & Faust 2005, p. 105.
^ Kakar 1997, p. 15.
^ Afghanistan: A Modern History, 2005, p. 33.
^ Страницы истории (фрагменты из книги
А.Ф. Добрынина "Особо доверительно") //
Дипломатический вестник. 5(1997):77–78, ISSN
^ "К 75 годам Леонид Ильич совсем
^ Хроника заседания Государственной
Думы 25 декабря 2009 года.
State Duma Official
^ a b Herd & Moroney 2003, p. 5.
^ McCauley 2008, p. XXIV.
^ a b c Brown 2009, p. 398.
^ Brown 2009, p. 399.
^ Paczkowski & Byrne 2008, p. 11.
^ Paczkowski & Byrne 2008, p. 14.
^ Paczkowski & Byrne 2008, p. 21.
^ "Martial Law". BBC Online. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
^ Roy Medvedev, "Brezhnev-A Bureaucrats Profile." Dissent (Spring
^ John Dornberg, Brezhnev: The Masks of Power (1974).
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 8.
^ a b c Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 9.
^ Abdullaev, Nabi (19 December 2006). "Brezhnev Remembered Fondly 100
Years Since Birth". The St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 29.
^ "Kiss of Soviet Leader Brezhnev and East German President Honecker".
Corbis. Retrieved 6 June 2013Soviet leader
Leonid Brezhnev and East
Erich Honecker kiss on the occasion of the 30th
anniversary of the German Democratic Republics.
^ "President Brezhnev Kissing Jimmy Carter".
^ "Dubcek and Brezhnev".
^ "The Deseret News – Google News Archive Search".
^ a b c "When Will Brezhnev Meet His Maker?". Washington Post. 11
April 1982. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
^ Post, Jerrold M. Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World:
The Psychology of Political Behavior (Psychoanalysis & Social
Theory) p. 96
^ Altman, Lawrence K. (13 November 1982). "4 Serious Ailments Plagued
Brezhnev". The New York Times.
^ "Russian leaders: Their illnesses and deaths". 1 November 2012.
Retrieved 22 January 2019.
^ Service 2009, p. 404.
^ Wesson 1978, p. 252.
^ a b c Service 2009, p. 426.
^ "1982: Brezhnev rumors sweep Moscow". BBC Online. 10 November 1982.
Retrieved 15 April 2010.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 2.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 27.
^ Bacon & Sandle 2002, p. 1.
^ "ВЦИОМ: Лучшие лидеры — Брежнев и
Путин" (in Russian). Rosbalt.ru. 25 April 2007. Retrieved 15
^ "Brezhnev Beats Lenin as Russia's Favorite 20th Century Ruler". RIA
Novosti. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
^ "Russians name Brezhnev best 20th-century leader, Gorbachev worst".
RIA Novosti. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2013. Russians name
Brezhnev best 20th-century leader, Gorbachev worst
^ a b Service 2009, p. 384.
^ Horne, Alistair. Kissinger's Year: 1973. pp. 159–60.
^ Chiesa 1991, p. 23.
^ Luba Brezhnev, The World I Left Behind: Pieces of a Past (1995).
Extensive discussion of the corruption of the party leadership is
covered in Konstantin M. simis, USSR: The Corrupt Society (1982)
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Perspectives on the
Vietnam War. University Press of Kentucky.
Arnot, Bob (1988). Controlling Soviet Labour: Experimental Change from
Brezhnev to Gorbachev. M.E. Sharpe. p. 67.
Bacon, Edwin; Sandle, Mark (2002). Brezhnev Reconsidered. Palgrave
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Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-04-335053-9.
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Khrushchev and Brezhnev As Leaders (1982)
Brown, Archie (2009). The Rise & Fall of Communism. Bodley Head.
Byrne, Malcolm; Paczkowski, Andrzej (2008). From Solidarity to Martial
Law: The Polish Crisis of 1980–1981. Central European University
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Childs, David (2000). The Two Red Flags: European Social Democracy and
Soviet communism since 1945. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415171816.
Gaddis, John Lewis (2005). The Cold War: A New History. Penguin Press.
Green, William; Reeves, W. Robert (1993). The Soviet Military
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Herd, Graeme P.; Moroney, Jennifer D. (2003). Security Dynamics in the
former Soviet Bloc. 1. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415297325.
Hiden, John; Made, Vahur; Smith, David J. (2008). The Baltic Question
during the Cold War. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415569347.
Hough, Jerry; Fainsod, Merle (1979). How the
Soviet Union is Governed.
Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674410305.
Kakar, M. Hassan (1997). Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the
Afghan Response, 1979–1982. University of California Press.
Kornberg, Judith; Faust, John (2005). China in World Politics:
Policies, Processes, Prospects. UBC Press. ISBN 978-1588262486.
Kort, Michael (2010). The Soviet Colossus: History and Aftermath. M.E.
Sharpe. ISBN 978-0-7656-2387-4.
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McCauley, Martin (2008). Russia, America and the Cold War,
1949–1991. Pearson Education. ISBN 978-0582279360.
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Khrushchev, Brezhnev. Spectrum. ASIN B001VLGRB8.
Murphy, Paul J. (1980). Brezhnev: Soviet Politician. McFarland &
Company. ISBN 978-0899500027.
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of the Twentieth Century. Edward Elgar Publishing.
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1917–1991. Routledge. ISBN 978-0582784659.
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& Company. ISBN 978-0393051445.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leonid Brezhnev.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Leonid Brezhnev
Wikisource has original works written by or about:Leonid Brezhnev
Annotated Bibliography for
Leonid Brezhnev from the Alsos Digital
Library for Nuclear Issues
Our Course: Peace and Socialism Collection of Brezhnev's 1973 speeches
CCCP TV Videoprograms with L. Brezhnev on Soviet TV portal (in
Brezhnev's rules in 14 points by RIA Novosti
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Succeeded byDimitri Gladki
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Succeeded byYuri Andropov
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