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Leonid Brezhnev

1

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was a Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982 as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, presiding over the country until his death and funeral in 1982.

The Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, often referred to as the Secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee, was responsible for the central administration of the party as opposed to drafting government policy which was usually handled by the Politburo.

Central Committee was the common designation of a standing administrative body of communist parties, analogous to a board of directors, whether ruling or non-ruling in the 20th century and of the surviving states in the early 21st century.

A statesman or stateswoman is usually a politician, diplomat or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career at the national or international level.

2

His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in duration.

3

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.

The Soviet Armed Forces, also called the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Armed Forces of the Soviet Union refers to the armed forces of the Russian SFSR, and Soviet Union from their beginnings in the aftermath of the Russian Civil War to its dissolution in December 1991.

4

His tenure as leader was marked by the beginning of an era of economic and social stagnation in the Soviet Union.

5

Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoye, Russian Empire, into a Russian worker's family in 1906.

Russia, also officially known as the Russian Empire, was a state that existed from 1721 until it was overthrown by the short-lived liberal February Revolution in 1917.

6

After graduating from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum, he became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry, in Ukraine.

Ukraine is a sovereign state in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland and Slovakia to the west, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively.

Metallurgy is a domain of materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys.

The global steel industry has been going through major changes since 1970.

7

He joined the Komsomol in 1923 and became an active member of the CPSU by 1929.

The All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, usually known as Komsomol, was a political youth organization in the Soviet Union.

8

With the onset of World War II, he was drafted into immediate military service and left the army in 1946 with the rank of major general.

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although related conflicts began earlier.

Major general is a military rank used in many countries.

9

In 1952, Brezhnev was promoted to the Central Committee and, in 1957 to full member of the Politburo.

A politburo or political bureau is the executive committee for a number of political parties.

10

In 1964 he succeeded Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was a Soviet statesman who led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964.

11

As the leader of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev's conservatism and carefulness to reach decisions by consensus with the rest of the Politburo resulted in sustained political stability within the country.

12

However, his hostility towards reform and active cultivation of cronyism ushered in a period of pervasive corruption and socioeconomic decline that came to be known as the Brezhnev Stagnation.

Cronyism is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations.

13

Such internal problems were further compounded by an enormous arms buildup that eventually grew to comprise 12.5% of the nation's GNP.

Gross national product is the market value of all the products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the citizens of a country.

14

On the world stage, Brezhnev pushed hard for the adoption of détente, a commitment by both two superpowers towards the relaxation of Cold War tensions and economic cooperation.

The Cold War was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc and powers in the Eastern Bloc.

Détente is the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation.

15

Despite such diplomatic gestures, Brezhnev's regime presided over an aggressive foreign policy characterized by the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, massive military support for Communist forces in Vietnam, and the 1979 armed intervention in Afghanistan.

Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located within South Asia and Central Asia.

16

Ultimately, in December 1981, he opted not to have the Soviet military suppress unrest in Poland thereby marking the end of the interventionist Brezhnev Doctrine.

The Brezhnev Doctrine was a Soviet foreign policy, first and most clearly outlined by Sergei Kovalev in a September 26, 1968 Pravda article entitled Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries.

17

After years of declining health, Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982 and was quickly succeeded in his post as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov.

18

Andropov only held the office of General Secretary for less than two years until his 1984 death.

19

Brezhnev had fostered a cult of personality, although not nearly to the same degree as Stalin.

A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods to create an idealized, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.

20

Mikhail Gorbachev, who would lead the USSR from 1985 to 1991, denounced his legacy and drove the process of liberalisation of the Soviet Union.

Liberalization of the economy means to free it from direct or physical controls imposed by the government.

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