Leonid Brezhnev

Soviet Union
1964 – 1982
1982, Heart Attack

Leonid Brezhnev
Леонид Брежнев (Russian)
Леонiд Брежнєв (Ukrainian)
Leonid Brežněv (Bundesarchiv).jpg
Brezhnev in East Berlin in 1967
General Secretary of the Central Committee
of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
(The office was named First Secretary until 1966)
In office
14 October 1964 – 10 November 1982
Preceded by Nikita Khrushchev
Succeeded by Yuri Andropov
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme
Soviet of the Soviet Union
In office
16 June 1977 – 10 November 1982
Preceded by Nikolai Podgorny
Succeeded by Yuri Andropov
In office
7 May 1960 – 15 July 1964
Preceded by Kliment Voroshilov
Succeeded by Anastas Mikoyan
Chairman of the Bureau of the Central
of the Russian SFSR
In office
16 November 1964 – 8 April 1966
Deputy Andrei Kirilenko
Preceded by Nikita Khrushchev
Succeeded by None—post abolished
Full member of the Politburo
In office
22 June 1963 – 10 November 1982
In office
27 February 1956 – 16 June 1960
In office
16 October 1952 – 5 March 1953
Member of the Secretariat
In office
29 June 1957 – 10 November 1982
Candidate member of the Politburo
In office
27 February 1956 – 29 June 1957
In office
16 October 1952 – 5 March 1953
Personal details
Born Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev
(1906-12-19)19 December 1906
Kamenskoye, Yekaterinoslav Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 10 November 1982(1982-11-10) (aged 75)
Zarechye, near Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Citizenship Soviet
Nationality Ukrainian & Russian
Political party Communist Party
Spouse(s) Viktoria Brezhneva
Children Galina Brezhneva
Yuri Brezhnev
Residence Zarechye, near Moscow
Profession Metallurgical engineer, civil servant
Military service
Allegiance Soviet Union
Service/branch Red Army
Soviet Army
Years of service 1941–1982
Rank Marshal of the Soviet Union
Commands Soviet Armed Forces
Battles/wars World War II
Vietnam War
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
War of Attrition
Sino-Soviet border conflict
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union Hero of the Soviet Union Hero of the Soviet Union Hero of the Soviet Union Hero of Socialist Labor medal.png
(Full list of awards and decorations)
This article is part of the series
The life of Leonid Brezhnev

Brezhnev Era
Death and funeral

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (Russian: Леони́д Ильи́ч Бре́жнев, IPA: [lʲɪɐˈnʲid ɪlʲˈjitɕ ˈbrʲeʐnʲɪf] ( ); Ukrainian: Леоні́д Іллі́ч Бре́жнєв, 19 December 1906 (O.S. 6 December) – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (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 in duration. 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. However, his tenure as leader has often been criticized for marking the beginning of an era of economic and social stagnation that eventually led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoe into a Russian worker's family. After graduating from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum, he became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry, in Ukraine. He joined Komsomol in 1923, and in 1929 became an active member of the Communist Party. He was drafted into immediate military service during World War II and left the army in 1946 with the rank of Major General. In 1952 Brezhnev became a member of the Central Committee, and in 1964, Brezhnev succeeded Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary. Alexei Kosygin succeeded Khrushchev in his post as Chairman 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 expenditure, which by the time of Brezhnev's death stood at approximately 15% of the country's GNP, and an aging 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. He presided over the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to stop the Prague Spring, and his last major decision in power was to send the Soviet military to Afghanistan in an attempt to save the fragile regime, which was fighting a war against the mujahideen.

After suffering from various illnesses for several years, Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982 and was quickly succeeded in his post as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov. Brezhnev had fostered a cult of personality, although not nearly to the same degree as Stalin. Mikhail Gorbachev, who would lead the USSR from 1985 to 1991, denounced his legacy and drove the process of liberalisation of the Soviet Union. In spite of this, opinion polls in Russia show Brezhnev to be the most popular Russian leader of the 20th century.