1964-1982 Leader of the Soviet Union
He became the leader of Soviet Union because the Party needed someone more predictable than Khrushchev had been. His reign became known as the Era of Stagnation.
Leonid Ilych Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoye, Ukraine, to a steelworker’s family. His parents Ilya and Natalya had three children. Leonid went to work at age 15 as an agricultural surveyor.
He joined the Communist Party in 1931 and held several posts in the party apparatus, making a steady career in Dnepropetrovsk working under Nikita Khrushchev.
Brezhnev served as a political commissar during World War II. In 1950, he was made the First Secretary in Moldavia.
When Nikita Khrushchev became the leader of Russia, he sent Brezhnev to Kazakhstan to develop new virgin lands. Brezhnev was made a full member of Politburo in 1956.
Rise to power
In October 1964, Brezhnev participated in the conspiracy that deposed Nikita Khrushchev. With the overthrow of Khrushchev the Politburo aimed to establish a joint leadership of Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny to ensure a balance of power. Nevertheless, Leonid Brezhnev soon consolidated his personal power as the General Secretary.
Brezhnev was a great womanizer and partygoer during his youth and a hunter in his later days. Leonid was married to Victoria Brezhneva for 60 years, and they had two children, Galina and Yuri, who were both later linked to serious accusations of corruption. Leonid Brezhnev loved to decorate himself with medals. By the end of his life he had 114 of them, more than any other ruler.
Brezhnev’s deteriorating health was the Soviet Union’s big problem and top secret since the middle of the 1970s. Russia was, in fact, being led by Andropov, Suslov, Gromyko and Ustinov. Brezhnev pleaded with them twice to let him retire, but the Politburo did not want a change in leadership.
Brezhnev’s increasing senility caused problems in public services, and he was surrounded by doctors most of the time. Leonid Brezhnev died of a heart attack at the age of 75 in November 1982.