Leonid Brezhnev: Kremlin's total - Brezhnev in his office discussing 00:29

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (Russian: About this sound Леони́д Ильи́ч Бре́жнев​ (help·info), December 19, 1906 – November 10, 1982) was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen year term as General Secretary was one of the lengthiest, second only to that of Joseph Stalin. 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. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to support the fragile Marxist government located there, a move condemned by the West. His tenure as leader has often been criticized for marking the beginning of a period of economic stagnation, overlooking serious economic problems which eventually led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoe into a Ukrainian workers 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, joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, playing an active role in the party's affairs. In 1936, he was drafted into compulsory military service and later became a political commissar in a tank factory. In 1939, he was promoted Party Secretary of Dnipropetrovsk, an important military industrial complex. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, he was drafted into immediate military service. During his service, he met Nikita Khrushchev whom he later succeeded as General Secretary. He left the army in 1946 with the rank of Major General and was subsequently promoted to First Secretary of the Communist Party in Dnipropetrovsk. In 1950, he became deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, the highest legislative body in the country, and in 1952 became a member of the Central Committee. Brezhnev was appointed to the Presidium (formerly the Politburo) soon after. He became a Khrushchev protégé in government, but eventually orchestrated his overthrow and replaced him as General Secretary in 1964. As a leader, Brezhnev was a team player, and 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. His rule was marked by what later became known as the Brezhnev stagnation. A significant increase in military expenditures which by the time of Brezhnev's death stood at approximately 15 percent of the country's GNP, and an increasingly elderly and ineffective leadership set the stage for a dwindling GNP compared to Western nations. It was during this time that the full extent of government corruption became known, but Brezhnev refused to launch any major corruption investigations, claiming that no one lived just on their wages. On November 10, 1982, an ill Brezhnev died, and was quickly succeeded in his post as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov. While at the helm of the USSR, Brezhnev pushed for détente between the Eastern and Western countries. Brezhnev engaged in increased international trade with non-communist countries, most notably the United States. However, his view on tackling the reformist movement was not flexible, and in 1968 the USSR along with members states of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. In the invasion's aftermath, the Soviet Union strengthened its hold on Eastern Europe and became tougher in its diplomatic relations abroad, particularly with Third World countries. His last major decision in power was to send Soviet military to Afghanistan in an attempt to save the fragile regime which fought a war against religious extremists. Brezhnev fostered a cult of personality, although not on the same level seen under Stalin. After his death the subsequent leader of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, denounced his legacy and drove the process of liberalization of the Soviet Union.

Recorded: 1970s Event time: 1970s Location: Soviet Union Number of clips: 14