Brezhnev, Leonid (Ilich)

Brezhnev, Leonid (Ilich)

biographical name

(born Dec. 19, 1906, Kamenskoye, Ukraine, Russian Empire—died Nov. 10, 1982, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.) Soviet leader. He worked as an engineer and director of a technical school in Ukraine and held local posts in the Communist Party, becoming regional party secretary in 1939. In World War II he was a political commissar in the Red Army and rose to major general (1943). In the 1950s he supported Nikita Khrushchev and became a member of the Politburo, though in 1964 he was the leader of a coalition that ousted Khrushchev, and soon he emerged as general secretary of the party (1966–82). He developed the Brezhnev Doctrine, which asserted the right of Soviet intervention in such Warsaw Pact countries as Czechoslovakia (1968). In the 1970s he attempted to normalize relations with the West and to promote détente with the U.S. He was made marshal of the Soviet Union in 1976 and chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1977, becoming the first to hold the leadership of both the party and the state. He greatly expanded the Soviet Union's military-industrial complex, but in so doing he deprived the rest of the Soviet economy. Despite frail health, he retained his hold on power to the end.

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