October 17, 2021
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (Russian: Леонид Ильич Брежнев pronunciation, born 6 December / 19 December 1906) (according to other sources 19 December 1906/1 January 1907) in Kamenskoye in the Russian Empire, died 10 November 1982 in Moscow) was a Soviet communist politician. As Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev was in fact the leader of the country and the Communist Party from 1964 to 1982. Under his rule, the Soviet Union increased its global influence, in part after significant military rearmament. His leadership period also marked the beginning of a period of economic and social stagnation. Brezhnev was born into a working-class family in Ukraine. After studying metallurgy at his hometown engineering college, he worked in the metal industry in Ukraine. He joined Komsomol in 1923 and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1929. During World War II, he served in the Red Army, leaving active service as Major General in 1946. Joseph Stalin gradually became aware of his prowess, and he rose through the ranks. until 1952 when he became a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee. After the reorganization that followed Stalin's death in 1953, he became head of political work in the army and navy, before being recalled by Nikita Khrushchev, whom he had known from Ukraine. Brezhnev became a member of the party's Politburo in 1956, and belonged to the new party elite that ousted Khrushchev as secretary general in 1964. As general secretary, Brezhnev used to seek the advice of others before making decisions. Brezhnev delegated many political tasks, concentrating on foreign and defense policy. When the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia to stop the Prague Spring in 1968, he formulated the Brezhnev Doctrine. He based his policy of relaxation on the West Bloc. His last major decision was the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. His attempt to rule without meaningful economic reforms, however, led to stagnation from the mid-1970s. This was largely due to a significant increase in military spending, which at Brezhnev's death accounted for about 15% of GDP, and a strongly aging and passive party leadership. Surveys still show that Brezhnev is the most popular Russian leader of the 20th century. After several years of illness, Brezhnev died in 1982 and was quickly succeeded as general secretary by KGB chief Yuri Andropov. Brezhnev was known for his vanity, but his cult of personality was milder than that of Stalin. Mikhail Gorbachev distanced himself from Brezhnev's legacy and led a process of economic and political liberalization in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.