Leonid Brezhnev

Brezhnev, Leonid Ilyich

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (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 Stalin's death (1953), Brezhnev filled a number of party posts. In 1957, as protégé of Nikita Khrushchev, 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 Kosygin, 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 Andropov. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, Brezhnev's regime was criticized for its corruption and failed economic policies.

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

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Soviet Politics from Brezhnev to Gorbachev
Donald R. Kelley.
Praeger, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Brezhnev Legacy"
The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy
Matthew J. Ouimet.
University of North Carolina Press, 2003
Endurance and Endeavour: Russian History, 1812-1992
J. N. Westwood.
Oxford University Press, 1993 (4th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 17 "The Brezhnev Regime"
The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States
Ronald Grigor Suny.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "The Paradoxes of Brezhnev's Long Reign"
The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War
Raymond L. Garthoff.
Brookings Institution, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "The Response of the Brezhnev Regime, 1981-82"
The Soviet Union: 1917-1991
Martin McCauley.
Longman, 1993 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Seven "The Brezhnev Era: 'The Borders of the Socialist Commonwealth Are Inviolable'"
Inside the Kremlin during the Yom Kippur War
Victor Israelyan.
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Leonid Brezhnev in multiple chapters
Soviet Foreign Policy
Robbin F. Laird.
Academy of Political Science, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Brezhnev" begins on p. 24
Soviet Leadership in Transition
Jerry F. Hough.
Brookings Institution, 1980
Librarian’s tip: "The Brezhnev Generation" begins on p. 40
Gorbachev, Reform, and the Brezhnev Doctrine: Soviet Policy toward Eastern Europe, 1985-1990
Glenn R. Chafetz.
Praeger Publishers, 1993
The Soviet Union after Brezhnev
Martin McCauley.
Holmes & Meier, 1983
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