For the first time in Soviet history, the leadership succession has meant more than the arrival of a new leader and the possibility of the implementation of new policies. The Gorbachev succession marks the appearance of a new political generation which differs from the old guard in style, knowledge and historical vision. Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko began their ascent to power during the time of Stalin. By 1953 they were mature and experienced career Party men. Their Stalinist past was the most essential qualification for further promotion. Gorbachev, on the other hand, represents a younger post-war political generation, a generation which started its professional Party or state career during the more liberal Khrushchev era.
Political systems of the Soviet type are usually considered 'leader dominated regimes'. This is a valid description of the Soviet political system under Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev. But Khrushchev's fall in 1964, and the emergence of Brezhnev, who delegated a significant part of his decision-making power to the bureaucratic apparatus, significantly eroded the personal power of the leader. In most other countries of the Soviet bloc, however, the Stalinist structure of leadership with its inevitable 'cult of personality' remains practically intact or has changed into an even more extreme form of personal, family or military dictatorship, as in North Korea, Cuba, Romania and Poland. The erosion of personal leadership in the Soviet Union has been closely linked with the character of the leader rather than with structural change. Insofar as there has been structural change within the system, it has become even more conservative in the process.
Brezhnev was interested in accumulating the superficial symbols of power in the form of awards, titles, honours and even material . . .