Brezhnev, Leonid Ilyich


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Brezhnev, Leonid Ilyich

(lāyōnēd` ĭlyēch` brĕzh`nĕf), 1906–82, Soviet leader. He joined (1931) the Communist party and rose steadily in its hierarchy. In 1952 he became a secretary of the party's central committee. After suffering a slight political setback following Joseph StalinStalin, Joseph Vissarionovich
, 1879–1953, Soviet Communist leader and head of the USSR from the death of V. I. Lenin (1924) until his own death, b. Gori, Georgia.
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's death (1953), Brezhnev filled a number of party posts. In 1957, as protégé of Nikita KhrushchevKhrushchev, Nikita Sergeyevich
, 1894–1971, Soviet Communist leader, premier of the USSR (1958–64), and first secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union (1953–64).
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, he became a member of the presidium (later politburo) of the central committee. He was (1960–64) chairman of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet, or titular head of state. Following Nikita Khrushchev's fall from power in 1964, which Brezhnev helped to engineer, he was named first secretary (later general secretary) of the Communist party.

Although sharing power with Alexei KosyginKosygin, Alexei Nikolayevich
, 1904–80, Soviet political leader. A member of the Communist party from 1927, he joined its central committee in 1939. In the 1940s, as an aide to Joseph Stalin, he became recognized as an expert in economics and industry.
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, Brezhnev emerged as the chief figure in Soviet politics. In 1968, in support of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, he enunciated the "Brezhnev doctrine," asserting that the USSR could intervene in the domestic affairs of any Soviet bloc nation if Communist rule were threatened. While maintaining a tight rein in Eastern Europe, he favored closer relations with the Western powers, and he helped (1972–74) bring about a détente with the United States. In 1977 he assumed the presidency of the USSR, thereby becoming head of state and head of the party. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, cold war tensions returned with an acceleration in the arms race, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the continued intransigence toward political and economic reform within the Soviet bloc, such as the imposition of martial law in Poland. Following his death, he was succeeded by Yuri AndropovAndropov, Yuri Vladimirovich
, 1914–84, Soviet Communist leader (1982–84). As ambassador to Hungary from 1954 to 1957, he played a major role in the suppression of the 1956 anti-Communist uprising there.
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. Under Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich
, 1931–, Soviet political leader. Born in the agricultural region of Stavropol, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State Univ., where in 1953 he married a philosophy student, Raisa Maksimovna Titorenko (1932?–99).
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, Brezhnev's regime was criticized for its corruption and failed economic policies.

Bibliography

See M. McCauley, ed., The Soviet Union under Brezhnev (1983); I. Navazelskis, Leonid Brezhnev (1988).