Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev[lower-alpha 1] (19 December 1906 – 10 November 1982)[2] was a Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union as General Secretary of the governing Communist Party (1964–1982) and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1960–1964, 1977–1982). His 18-year term as general secretary was second only to Joseph Stalin's in duration. While Brezhnev's rule was characterised by political stability and significant foreign policy successes, it was also marked by corruption, inefficiency, economic stagnation, and rapidly growing technological gaps with the West.

Leonid Brezhnev
Леонид Брежнев
Brezhnev in 1972
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
14 October 1964  10 November 1982
Preceded byNikita Khrushchev
Succeeded byYuri Andropov
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
In office
16 June 1977  10 November 1982
Preceded byNikolai Podgorny
Succeeded byVasily Kuznetsov (acting)
Yuri Andropov
In office
7 May 1960  15 July 1964
Preceded byKliment Voroshilov
Succeeded byAnastas Mikoyan
Additional positions
Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
21 June 1963  14 October 1964
Preceded byFrol Kozlov
Succeeded byNikolai Podgorny
First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan
In office
8 May 1955  6 March 1956
Preceded byPanteleimon Ponomarenko
Succeeded byIvan Yakovlev
First Secretary of the Communist Party of Moldova
In office
3 November 1950  16 April 1952
Preceded byNicolae Coval
Succeeded byDimitri Gladki
Personal details
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev

(1906-12-19)19 December 1906
Kamenskoye, Russian Empire
(now Ukraine)
Died10 November 1982(1982-11-10) (aged 75)
Zarechye, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Cause of deathHeart attack
Resting placeKremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow
Political partyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union (1929–1982)
(m. 1928)
ChildrenGalina Brezhneva
Yuri Brezhnev
ResidenceZarechye, near Moscow
ProfessionMetallurgical engineer, civil servant
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union (four times)
Hero of Socialist Labour
(Full list of awards and decorations)
Military service
AllegianceSoviet Union
Branch/serviceRed Army
Soviet Army
Years of service1941–1982
RankMarshal of the Soviet Union
CommandsSoviet Armed Forces
Battles/warsWorld War II, Korean War, Sino-Soviet War, Vietnam War, Soviet-Afghan War
Central institution membership

Other political offices held
  • 1964–1982: Chairman, Defense Council
  • 1964–1966: Chairman, Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian SFSR
  • Jan.–Mar. 1958: Deputy chairman, Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian SFSR
  • 1947–1950: First Secretary, Dnipropetrovsk Regional Committee
  • 1946–1947: First Secretary, Zaporizhzhia Regional Committee
  • 1940–1941: Head, Defense Industry Department of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Committee
  • 1938–1939: Head, Trade Department of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Committee
  • 1937–1938: Deputy chairman, Dnipropetrovsk City Council
  • 1936–1937: Director, Dnipropetrovsk Regional Committee

Military offices held
  • 1953–1954: Deputy Head, Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Navy
  • 1953: Head, Political Department of the Ministry of the Navy
  • 1945–1946: Head, Political Directorate of the Carpathian Military District
  • May–Jul. 1945: Head, Political Directorate of the Fourth Ukrainian Front
  • 1944–1945: Deputy Head, Political Directorate of the Fourth Ukrainian Front
  • 1943–1944: Head, Political Department of the 18th Army of the North Caucasian Front
  • 1942–1943: Deputy Head, Political Department of the Black Sea Group of the Transcaucasian Front
  • 1941–1942: Deputy Head, Political Department of the Southern Front
Leader of the Soviet Union

Leonid Brezhnev was born to a Russian working-class family in Kamenskoye (now Kamianske, Ukraine) within the Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire. After the results of the October Revolution were finalized with the creation of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev joined the Communist party's youth league in 1923 before becoming an official party member in 1929. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, he joined the Red Army as a commissar and rose rapidly through the ranks to become a major general during World War II. Following the war's end, Brezhnev was promoted to the party's Central Committee in 1952 and rose to become a full member of the Politburo by 1957. In 1964, he amassed enough power to replace Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the CPSU, the most powerful position in the country.

During his tenure, Brezhnev's conservative, pragmatic approach to governance significantly stabilized the Soviet Union and its ruling party. Whereas Khrushchev often enacted policies without consulting the rest of the Politburo, Brezhnev was careful to minimize dissent among the Party leadership by reaching decisions through consensus. Additionally, while pushing for détente between the two Cold War superpowers, he achieved Soviet nuclear parity with the United States and stabilized his country's hegemony over Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the massive arms buildup and widespread military interventionism under Brezhnev's leadership significantly expanded the Soviet Union's global influence (particularly in the Middle East and Africa).

Conversely, Brezhnev's disregard for political reform ushered in an era of societal decline known as the Brezhnev Stagnation. In addition to pervasive corruption and falling economic growth, this period was characterized by an increasing technological gap between the Soviet Union and the United States. Upon coming to power in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev denounced Brezhnev's government for its inefficiency and inflexibility before implementing policies to liberalise the Soviet Union.

After 1975, Brezhnev's health rapidly deteriorated and he increasingly withdrew from international affairs, while keeping his hold on power. He died on 10 November 1982 and was succeeded as general secretary by Yuri Andropov.