列昂尼德·伊里奇·勃列日涅夫前苏列昂尼德·伊里奇·勃列日涅夫联政治家，曾任苏联共产党中央第一书记，苏联最高苏维埃主席团主席和军队最高领导人。他在 任期间，苏联的军事力量大大增强，核武器的数量超过美国，成为军事上的超级大国，但是苏联国内的福利也有很大的发展。对外方面他注重外交，推行“有限主权 论”，声称当华沙条约成员国的社会主义政权受到威胁时，苏联可以进行武力干涉，此为臭名昭著的勃列日涅夫主义。他1968年派军队侵略捷克斯洛伐克。 1976年5月，他成为苏联元帅。1977年至1982年他去世前，任苏联最高苏维埃主席。1979年，由于阿富汗新政府取消了亲苏联的政策，他发动了阿 富汗战争，成为导致苏联衰落和最终解体的重要因素之一
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|Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev |
Леонид Ильич Брежнев
|In office |
14 October 1964 – 10 November 1982
|President||Nikolai Podgorny |
|Prime Minister||Alexei Kosygin |
|Preceded by||Nikita Khrushchev|
|Succeeded by||Yuri Andropov|
|In office |
7 May 1960 – 15 July 1964
|Preceded by||Kliment Voroshilov|
|Succeeded by||Anastas Mikoyan|
|In office |
16 June 1977 – 10 November 1982
|Preceded by||Nikolai Podgorny|
|Succeeded by||Vasily Kuznetsov (acting)|
|Born||19 December 1906(1906-12-19) |
Kamenskoe, Yekaterinoslav Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||10 November 1982 (aged 75) |
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Political party||Communist Party of the Soviet Union|
|Profession||Metallurgical Engineer, Civil servant|
|Years of service||1941–1946|
|Commands||Soviet Armed Forces|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Marshal of the Soviet Union |
Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoe into a Ukrainian workers family. After graduating from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum he became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry in Ukraine. He joined Komsomol in 1923 and, in 1929, joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, playing an active role in the party's affairs. In 1936, he was drafted into compulsory military service and later became a political commissar in a tank factory. In 1939, he was promoted Party Secretary of Dnipropetrovsk, an important military industrial complex. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, he was drafted into immediate military service. During his service, he met Nikita Khrushchev whom he would later succeed as General Secretary. He left the army in 1946 with the rank of Major General and was subsequently promoted to First Secretary of the Communist Party in Dnipropetrovsk.
In 1950, he became deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, the highest legislative body in the country, and in 1952 became a member of the Central Committee. Brezhnev was appointed to the Presidium (formerly the Politburo) soon after. He became a Khrushchev protégé in government, but eventually orchestrated his overthrow and replaced him as General Secretary in 1964.
As a leader, Brezhnev was a team player, and took care to consult his colleagues before acting, but his attempt to govern without meaningful economic reforms led to a national decline by the mid-1970s. His rule marked by what later became known as the Brezhnev stagnation. A significant increase in military expenditures which by the time of Brezhnev's death stood at approximately 15 percent of the country's GNP, and an increasingly elderly and ineffective leadership set the stage for a dwindling GNP compared to Western nations. It was during this time that the full extent of government corruption became known, but Brezhnev refused to launch any major corruption investigations, claiming that no one lived just on their wages. On November 10, 1982, an ill Brezhnev died, and was quickly succeeded in his post as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov.
While at the helm of the USSR, Brezhnev pushed for détente between the Eastern and Western countries. Brezhnev engaged in increased international trade with non-communist countries, most notably the United States. However, his view on tackling the reformist movement was not flexible, and in 1968 the USSR along with members states of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. In the invasion's aftermath, the Soviet Union strengthened its hold on Eastern Europe and became tougher in its diplomatic relations abroad, particularly with Third World countries. His last major decision in power was to send Soviet military to Afghanistan in an attempt to save the fragile regime which fought a war against religious extremists.
Brezhnev fostered a cult of personality, although not on the same level seen under Stalin. After his death the next leader of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, denounced his legacy and drove the process of liberalization of the Soviet Union.
 Early life and career
 Early yearsBrezhnev was born on December 19, 1906, in Kamenskoe (now Dniprodzerzhynsk in Ukraine), to metalworker Ilya Yakovlevich Brezhnev and his wife, Natalia Denisovna. At different times during his life, Brezhnev specified his ethnic origin alternately as either Ukrainian or Russian, opting for the latter as he rose within the Communist Party. Like many youths in the years after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he received a technical education, at first in land management where he started as a land surveyor and then in metallurgy. He graduated from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum in 1935 and became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industries of eastern Ukraine. He joined the Communist Party youth organization, the Komsomol in 1923 and the Party itself in 1929.
In the years 1935 through 1936, Brezhnev was drafted for compulsory military service, and after taking courses at a tank school, he served as a political commissar in a tank factory. Later in 1936, he became director of the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum (technical college). In 1936, he was transferred to the regional center of Dnipropetrovsk and, in 1939, he became Party Secretary in Dnipropetrovsk, in charge of the city's important defense industries. As one who survived Stalin's Great Purge of 1937–39, he could gain rapid promotions since the purges opened up many positions in the senior and middle ranks of the Party and state.
 Military service and early careerNazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, and like most middle-ranking Party officials, Brezhnev was immediately drafted. He worked to evacuate Dnipropetrovsk's industries to the east of the Soviet Union before the city fell to the Germans on 26 August and then was assigned as a political commissar. In October, Brezhnev was made deputy of political administration for the Southern Front, with the rank of Brigade-Commissar. When Ukraine was occupied by the Germans in 1942, Brezhnev was sent to the Caucasus as deputy head of political administration of the Transcaucasian Front. In April 1943, he became head of the Political Department of the 18th Army. Later that year, the 18th Army became part of the 1st Ukrainian Front, as the Red Army regained the initiative and advanced westwards through Ukraine. The Front's senior political commissar was Nikita Khrushchev, who became an important patron of Brezhnev's career. Brezhnev had met Khrushchev in 1931, shortly after joining the party, and before long he became Khrushchev's protégé as he continued his rise through the ranks. At the end of the war in Europe, Brezhnev was chief political commissar of the 4th Ukrainian Front which entered Prague after the German surrender.
Major General in August 1946. He had spent the entire war as a commissar rather than a military commander. After working on reconstruction projects in Ukraine he again became First Secretary in Dnipropetrovsk. In 1950, he became a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union's highest legislative body. Later that year he was appointed Party First Secretary in Moldavia. In 1952, he became a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee and was introduced as a candidate member into the Presidium (formerly the Politburo).
Stalin died in March 1953, and in the reorganization that followed the Presidium was abolished and a smaller Politburo reconstituted. Although Brezhnev was not made a Politburo member, he was appointed head of the Political Directorate of the Army and the Navy with rank of Lieutenant-General, a very senior position. This was probably due to the new power of his patron Khrushchev, who had succeeded Stalin as Party General Secretary. On 7 May 1955, he was made Party First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR. His brief was simple; to make the new lands agriculturally productive; with this directive, he started the initially successful Virgin Lands Campaign. Brezhnev was lucky that he was re-called in 1956; the harvest in the following years proved to be disappointing and would have hurt his political career if he'd stayed.
In February 1956, Brezhnev returned to Moscow, promoted to candidate member of the Politburo and assigned control of the defense industry, the space program, heavy industry, and capital construction. He was now a senior member of Khrushchev's entourage, and in June 1957, he backed Khrushchev in his struggle with the Stalinist old guard in the Party leadership, the so-called "Anti-Party Group". Following the defeat of the old guard, Brezhnev became a full member of the Politburo. Brezhnev became Second Secretary of the Central Committee in 1959, and in May 1960 was promoted to the post of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, making him nominal head of state although the real power resided with Khrushchev as Party Secretary. In 1962, Brezhnev became an honorary citizen of Belgrade.
 Removal of Khrushchev but he became involved in a 1963 plot to remove the leader from power, possibly playing a leading role. In 1963 also, Brezhnev succeeded Frol Kozlov, another Khrushchev protege, as Secretary of the Central Committee, positioning him as Khrushchev's likely successor. Khrushchev made him deputy party leader in 1964.
After returning from Scandinavia and Czechoslovakia, sensing nothing afoot, Khrushchev went on holiday in Pitsunda, near the Black Sea in October 1964. Upon his return, his Presidium officers congratulated him for his work in office. Anastas Mikoyan visited Khrushchev, hinting that he should not be too complacent about his present situation. Vladimir Semichastny, head of the KGB, was a crucial part of the conspiracy, as it was his duty to inform Khrushchev if anyone was plotting against his leadership. Nikolay Ignatov, who had been sacked by Khrushchev, discreetly requested the opinion of several Central Committee members. After some false starts, fellow conspirator Mikhail Suslov phoned Khrushchev on October 12 and requested that he return to Moscow to discuss the state of Soviet agriculture. Eventually Khrushchev understood what was happening, and said to Mikoyan, "If it's me who is the question, I won't make a fight of it". While a minority headed by Mikoyan wanted to remove Khrushchev from the office of First Secretary but retain him as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, the majority headed by Brezhnev wanted to remove him from active politics.
Brezhnev and Nikolay Podgorny appealed to the Central Committee, blaming Khrushchev for economic failures, and accusing him of voluntarism and immodest behavior. Influenced by the Brezhnev allies, Politburo members voted to remove Khrushchev from office. In addition, some members of the Central Committee wanted him to undergo punishment of some kind. But Brezhnev, who had already been assured the office of the General Secretary, saw little reason to punish his old mentor further. Brezhnev was appointed Party First Secretary; Alexey Kosygin was appointed head of government, and Mikoyan became head of state. Brezhnev and his companions supported the general party line taken after Joseph Stalin's death, but felt the Khrushchev reforms had removed much of the Soviet Union's stability. One of the main reasons for Khrushchev's ouster was that he continuously overruled other party members. Pravda, a newspaper in the Soviet Union, wrote of new enduring themes such as collective leadership, scientific planning, consultation with experts, organizational regularity and the ending of schemes. When Khrushchev left the public spot light, there was no popular commotion because most Soviet citizens, including the intelligentsia, anticipated a period of stabilization, steady development of Soviet society and continuing economic growth in the years to come.
 Leader (1964–82)
 Consolidation of powerEarly policy reforms were seen as predictable. In 1964, the plenum of the Central Committee forbade any single individual to hold the two most powerful posts of the country (the office of the General Secretary and the Premier). Former Head of the KGB Alexander Shelepin disliked the new collective leadership reform started under Brezhnev. He made a bid for the supreme leadership in 1965 by calling for restoration of "obedience and order". Shelepin failed to gather support in the Presidium and Brezhnev's position was fairly secure; however, he was not able to remove Shelepin from office until 1967.
Khrushchev was removed mainly because of his disregard for collective leadership. Throughout the Brezhnev era, the Soviet Union was controlled by a collective leadership, at least through the late 1960s and 1970s. The consensus within the party was that the collective leadership prevailed over the supreme leadership of one individual. T.H. Rigby argued that by the end of the 1960s, a stable oligarchic system had emerged in the Soviet Union, with most power vested around Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny. While the assessment was true at the time, it coincided with Brezhnev's strengthening of power by means of an apparent clash with Central Committee Secretariat Mikhail Suslov. American Henry A. Kissinger, in the 1960s, mistakenly believed Kosygin to be the dominant leader of Soviet foreign policy in the Politburo. During this period, Brezhnev was gathering enough support to strengthen his position within Soviet politics. In the meantime, Kosygin was in charge of economic administration in his role as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. However Kosygin's position was weakened when he proposed an economic reform in 1965, which was widely referred to as the "Kosygin reform" within the Communist Party. The reform led to a backlash, with Kosygin losing supporters because of the increasingly anti-reformist stance of many top officials because of the Prague Spring in 1968. His opponents then flocked to Brezhnev, and they happily helped him in his task of strengthening his position within the Soviet system.
Brezhnev was adept at the politics within the Soviet power structure. He was a team player and never acted rashly or hastily; unlike Khrushchev, he did not make decisions without substantial consultation with his colleagues, and was always willing to hear their opinions. During the early 1970s, Brezhnev consolidated his domestic position. In 1977, he forced the retirement of Podgorny and became once again Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, making this position equivalent to that of an executive president. While Kosygin remained Premier until shortly before his death in 1980, Brezhnev was the dominant driving force of the Soviet Union from the mid-1970s to his death in 1982.
 RepressionBrezhnev 's stabilization policy included ending the liberalizing reforms of Khrushchev, and clamping down on cultural freedom. During the Khrushchev years Brezhnev had supported the leader's denunciations of Stalin's arbitrary rule, the rehabilitation of many of the victims of Stalin's purges, and the cautious liberalization of Soviet intellectual and cultural policy. But as soon as he became leader, Brezhnev began to reverse this process, and developed an increasingly conservative and regressive attitude.
The trial of the writers Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky in 1966—the first such trials since Stalin's day—marked the reversion to a repressive cultural policy. Under Yuri Andropov the state security service (the KGB) regained much of the power it had enjoyed under Stalin, although there was no return to the purges of the 1930s and 1940s, and Stalin's legacy remained largely discredited among the Soviet intelligentsia. On 22 January 1969, a Soviet Army officer, Viktor Ilyin, tried to assassinate Brezhnev and was diagnosed with mental illness and placed in solitary confinement in a psychiatric hospital. By the mid-1970s, there were an estimated 10,000 political and religious prisoners across the Soviet Union, living in grievous conditions and suffering from malnutrition; many of these prisoners were considered by the Soviet state to be mentally unfit and were hospitalized in mental asylums across the Soviet Union. The KGB infiltrated most if not all anti-government organizations under Brezhnev's rule, which ensured that there was little to no opposition against him or his power base. Brezhnev did however refrain from the all-out violence seen under the rule of Stalin.
 Domestic policies
 Economic growth until 1973
The Ninth Five-Years Plan delivered a change: for the first time industrial consumer products out-produced industrial capital goods. Consumer goods such as watches, furniture and radios were produced in abundance. However, the Plan still left the bulk of state's investment in industrial capital-goods production. This outcome was not seen as a positive sign for the future of the Soviet state by the majority of top party functionaries within the government; by 1975 consumer goods expanded 9 percent slower than industrial capital-goods. The policy continued despite Brezhnev's reaffirmation of his commitment for the rapid shift of investment which would satisfy Soviet consumers and lead to a higher standard of living. This did not happen.
From 1928-1973, the Soviet Union was growing economically at a phase that would eventually catch up with the United States and Western Europe. This was true despite the advantage the United States had—the USSR was hampered by Joseph Stalin's bold policy of collectivization and the effects of the Second World War which had left most of Western USSR in ruins. In 1973, the process of catching up with the rest of the West came to an abrupt end, with this year being seen by some scholars as the start of the Brezhnev stagnation. The beginning of the stagnation coincided with a financial crisis in Western Europe and the US. By the early 1970s, the Soviet Union had the world's second largest industrial capacity and produced more steel, oil, pig-iron, cement and tractors than any other country. Before 1973, the Soviet economy was expanding at a rate faster, by a small margin, than that of the United States. The USSR also kept a steady pace with the economies of Western Europe. Between 1964-1973, the Soviet economy stood at roughly half the output per head of Western Europe and a little more than one third that of the US.
 Agricultural policyThe agricultural policy of Brezhnev reinforced the conventional methods for organizing the collective farms. The central imposition of quotas of output was maintained. Khrushchev's policy of amalgamating farms was prolonged by Brezhnev, because he shared the same belief as Khrushchev that bigger kolkhozes would increase productivity. Brezhnev pushed for an increase in state investments in farming, which mounted to an all-time high in the 1970s to 27 percent of all state investement – this figure did not include investments in farm equipment. In 1981 alone, 33,000 million American dollars (by contemporary exchange rate) was invested into agriculture.
Gross agricultural output by 1980 was 21 percent higher than the average production rate between 1966–1970. Cereal crop output increased by 18 percent. However, improved results were not encouraging. The usual criterion for assessing agriculture output in the Soviet Union was the grain harvest. In fact, cereal importation had become a regular phenomenon. When Brezhnev had difficulties sealing commercial trade agreements with the United States, he went elsewhere, such as to Argentina. Trade was necessary because the Soviet Union's domestic production of fodder crops was severely deficient. Another sector which met with mounting problems was the sugar beet harvest which declined by 2 percent in the 1970s. Brezhnev's way of resolving this was to increase state investment. Politburo member G.I. Voronov had advocated for several years the division of each farm's work-force into what he called "links". These "links" would be entrusted with specific functions, such as to run a farm's dairy unit. His argument was that the larger the work force, the less responsible they felt. This proposal however had already been turned down by Joseph Stalin in the 1940s, and been opposed by Khrushchev before and after Stalin's death. Voronov was also unsuccessful; Brezhnev turned him down, and in 1973 he was removed from the Politburo.
Experimentation with "links" was not disallowed on a local basis, with the young Stavropol Region Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev experimenting with links in his area. In the meantime, central management of agriculture was otherwise "unimaginative" and "incompetent". Facing mounting agricultural problems, the Politburo issued a resolution entitled; "On the Further Development of Specialization and Concentration of Agricultural Production on the Basis of Inter-Farm Co-operation and Agro-Industrial Integration". The resolution called for several kolkhozes in a given district to combine their objectives in production. In the meantime, the state's food-and-agriculture subsidy did not prevent many farms from operating at a loss: rises in the price of produce were offset by rises in the cost of oil and other resources. By 1977, oil cost 84 percent more than it did in the late 1960s. The cost of other resources had also climbed by the late 1970s.
Brezhnev's answer to these problems was to issue two decrees, one in 1977 and one in 1981, which called for the expansion of all plots owned by the Soviet Union to half a hectare. These measures removed a large obstacles for the expansion of Soviet agricultural output. Under Brezhnev, private plots yielded 30 percent of the national agricultural production when they only cultivated four percent of agriculture in the Soviet Union. This was seen by some as proof that de-collectivization was necessary if Soviet agriculture was ever going to expand. On the other hand, leading politicians in the Soviet Union withheld from such drastic measures mainly because of ideological and political interests. The underlying problems were the growing shortage of skilled labourers, a wrecked rural culture, the payment of workers in proportion to the quantity and not the quality of their work performance, farm machinery too large for the small collective farms and the road-less countryside. In the face of this, Brezhnev could only propose schemes such as large reclamation and irrigation projects.
 Economic stagnationThe Brezhnev stagnation, a term coined by Mikhail Gorbachev, was seen as the result of a compilation of factors, including the ongoing "arms race" between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, the decision of the Soviet Union to participate in international trade (thus abandoning idea of economic isolation) while ignoring the changes occurring in Western societies, increasing harshness such as Soviet tanks rolling in to crush the Prague Spring in 1968, the invasion of Afganistan, the stifling bureaucracy overseen by a cadre of increasingly elderly men running the country, the political corruption, supply bottlenecks, and other unaddressed structural problems with the economy under Brezhnev's rule. Social stagnation domestically was stimulated by the growing demands of unskilled workers, labour shortages and a decline in productivity and labour discipline. While Brezhnev, albeit "sporadically", attempted to reform the economy in the late 1960s and 1970s, he ultimately failed to produce any positive results. One of these reforms was the reorganization of the Council of Ministries; this led to low unemployment at the price of low productivity and technological stagnation. The economic reform of 1965 was initiated by Aleksei Kosygin, but its origin dates back to Nikita Khrushchev. The Central Committee was not willing to go through with the reform, while at the same time it admitted to economic problems.
light industry and consumer goods. Soviet agriculture could not feed the urban population, let alone provide for the rising standard of living which the government promised as the fruits of "mature socialism", and on which industrial productivity depended. One of the most prominent critics of Brezhnev's economical policies was Mikhail Gorbachev who, when leader, called the economy under Brezhnev's rule "the lowest stage of socialism".
With the GNP growth of the Soviet economy drastically decreasing from the level it held in the 1950s and 1960s, the country began to lag behind Western Europe and the United States. The GNP was slowing down to 1 to 2 percent each year, and with the technology falling farther and farther behind that of the West, the Soviet Union was facing economic stagnation by the early 1980s. During Brezhnev's last years of reign, the CIA monitored the Soviet Union's economic growth, and reported that the Soviet economy peaked in the 1970s, calculating that it had reached 57 percent of the American GNP. However, the development gap between the two nations widened, with the United States growing an average of one percent over the Soviet Union.
The Eleventh Five-Year Plan of the Soviet Union delivered a disappointing result: a change in growth from 4 to 5 percent. During the earlier Tenth Five-Year Plan, they had tried to meet the target of 6.1 percent of growth but failed. Brezhnev was able to defer the economic collapse by trading with Western Europe and the Arab World. However, the Soviet Union out-produced the United States in heavy industry during the Brezhnev era. One more galling result of Brezhnev's rule was that some of the Eastern Bloc economies were more advanced than the Soviet Union.
 Soviet society
 Early changesBefore 1973, the GDP per head in US dollars increased. Over the eighteen years Brezhnev ruled the Soviet Union, average income per head increased by half; however three-quarters of this growth came in the 1960s and early 1970s. There was one-quarter average income per head growth during the second half of Brezhnev's reign. In the first half of the Brezhnev period, income per head increased by 3.5 percent per annum; slightly less growth than what it had been the previous years. This can be explained by the reversion of most of Khrushchev's policies when Brezhnev came to power. The consumption per head rose by an estimate of 70% under Brezhnev, but with three-quarters of this growth happening before 1973 and only one-quarter in the second half of his reign.
 Social stagnationAt a time when the Soviet economy was in a downward spiral, the standard of living and housing quality improved significantly. Instead of improving the economy, Brezhnev tried to improve the standard of living in the Soviet Union by extending social benefits, which led to minor increases in public support. The living standard in Soviet Russia had fallen behind that of Soviet Georgia and Estonia under Brezhnev; this led many Russians to believe that Soviet government policies had injured the Russian population. With the mounting economic problems, skilled workers still had to be paid more than had been intended, with unskilled labourers having to be indulged regarding punctuality, conscientiousness and sobriety. The state usually moved workers from one job to another which ultimately became an ineradicable feature in Soviet industry; the absence of unemployment in the Soviet Union led to the state having no serious counter-measures. Government industries such as factories, mines and offices were staffed by salaried and waged personnel who put a great effort in not doing their jobs; this ultimately led to a "work-shy workforce" among Soviet workers and administrators.
During the Brezhnev Era there were material improvements for the Soviet citizen, while the Politburo of the CPSU was given no credit for this. The material improvements in the 1970s, the cheap provision of consumer goods, food, shelter, clothing, sanitation, health care and transport was taken for granted by the Soviet citizen. The common Soviet citizen associated Brezhnev's rule more for its limitation than its actual progress; this led to Brezhnev's earning neither affection nor respect. With most Soviet citizens trying to make the best of a bad situation, rates of alcoholism, mental illness, divorce and suicide rose inexorably. While investments in consumer goods fell below projections, the expansion in output led to an increase in livings conditions for the ordinary Soviet civilian. Refrigerators, owned by only 32 percent of the population in the early 1970s, had grown considerably to a total of 86 percent by the late 1980s, and the ownership of colour televisions increased from 51 percent in the early 1970s to 74 percent in the 1980s. The material improvements of blue-collar workers had risen disproportionately; they had higher wages than any professional work group in the Soviet Union. For example, the wage of a secondary school teacher in the Soviet Union was only 150 rubles while a bus driver's wage was 230.
While some areas improved during the Brezhnev era, the majority of civilian services deteriorated, with the physical environment for the common Soviet citizen falling apart rapidly. Diseases were on the rise because of the decaying healthcare system. The living space remained rather small by western standards, with the common Soviet living on 13.4 square metres. At the same time thousands of Moscow inhabitants were homeless, most of them living in shacks, doorways and parked trams. Nutrition ceased to improve in the late 1970s, while rationing of staple food products returned to such cities as Sverdlovsk.
The state provided several institutions for daily recreation and annual holidays. Soviet trade unions rewarded hard-working members and their families with beach vacations in Crimea and Georgia. Workers who fulfilled the monthly production quota set by the Soviet government were honoured by placing their respective names on the Roll of Honour; the state in the meantime continued to award badges for all manner of public services, with be-medalled war veterans being allowed to go to the head of the queues in shops. Members of the USSR Academy of Sciences had their own special badge and were each provided with a chauffeur-driven car. The hierarchy of honour and privilege in Soviet society paralleled the hierarchy of job occupations. There was a large enough minority of citizens during the Brezhnev era who benefited from these perks. These perks did however not stop the degeneration of Soviet society. Urbanization had led to unemployment in the Soviet agriculture sector, with most of the able workforce leaving villages for the local towns.
Another mounting problem in Brezhnev's Soviet Union was the reduction of the well-educated Soviet labour force. During the Stalin era in the 1930s and 1940s, a common labourer could expect promotion to a white-collar job if they studied and obeyed Soviet authorities. In Brezhnev's Soviet this was not the case. Holders of attractive offices clung to them as long as possible and mere incompetence was never seen as a good reason to dismiss anyone. Social "rigidification" became a common feature in Soviet society, in many ways the Soviet society Brezhnev handed to his successor had become "static".
 Foreign and defense policies
 The United States and the third worldDuring his eighteen years as Leader of the USSR, Brezhnev's only major foreign policy innovation was the inclusion of détente. However, it did not differ much from the Khrushchev Thaw, a domestic and foreign policy started by Nikita Khrushchev. Historian Robert Service sees détente simply as a continuation of Khrushchnev's foreign policy. Despite an increasing tension in East-West relations under Khrushchnev, relations had generally improved, as evidenced by the Partial Test Ban Treaty, Helsinki Accords and the installation of the telephone line between the White House and the Kremlin. Brezhnev's détente policy differed from that of Khrushchnev in two ways. The first was that it was more comprehensive and wide-ranging in its aims, and included signing agreements on arms control, crisis prevention, East-West trade, European security, and human rights. The second part of the policy built on the importance of equalizing the military strength of the United States and the Soviet Union. Defence spending under Brezhnev between 1965–1970 increased by 40 percent, and annual increases continued thereafter. Fifteen percent of GNP was spent on the military by the time of Brezhnev's death in 1982.
Sino-Soviet split of the early 1960s. In 1969, Soviet and Chinese troops fought a series of clashes along their border on the Ussuri River. The thawing of Sino-American relations beginning in 1971, however, marked a new phase in international relations. To prevent the formation of an anti-Soviet U.S.-China alliance, Brezhnev opened a new round of negotiations with the U.S. In May 1972, President Richard Nixon visited Moscow, and the two leaders signed the SALT I, marking the beginning of the "détente" era.
SALT I and a increase in Soviet-US trade would stop the aggressive growth of communism in the third world. This did not happen and the Soviet Union started funding the communist guerillas who fought actively against the US during the Vietnam War. The US lost the Vietnam War and at the same time lost many countries to communism in Asia. After Gerald Ford lost the presidential election to Jimmy Carter, American foreign policies became more hostile towards the Soviet Union and the communist world; while at the same time aiming to stop funding for some repressive anti-communist governments the United States supported. While at first standing for a decrease in all defence initiatives, the later years of Carter's presidency would increase spending on the US military.
In the 1970s, the Soviet Union reached the peak of its political and strategic power in relation to the United States. The first SALT Treaty effectively established parity in nuclear weapons between the two superpowers, the Helsinki Treaty legitimized Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe, and the United States defeat in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal weakened the prestige of the United States. The Soviet Union extended its diplomatic and political influence in the Middle East and Africa.
communist revolution in Afghanistan in 1978, the Afghan civil war started mainly because of authoritarian actions forced upon the populace. With a KGB report claiming that Afghanistan could be taken in a matter of weeks, Brezhnev and several top party officers agreed to full intervention in Afghanistan in the worry that the Soviet Union was losing their influence in Central Asia. Parts of the Soviet military were against full engagement in the country, claiming that the Soviet Union should leave Afghan politics alone. President Carter, following the advice of his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, denounced the invasion describing it as the "most serious danger to peace since 1945". The US stopped all grain export to the Soviet Union and persuaded US athletes not to enter the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow. The Soviet Union responded by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles.
 Eastern EuropeThe first crisis of Brezhnev's regime came in 1968, with the attempt by the Communist leadership in Czechoslovakia, under Alexander Dubček, to liberalize the Communist system (Prague Spring). In July, Brezhnev publicly criticized the Czech leadership as "revisionist" and "anti-Soviet", and in August he orchestrated the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Dubček's removal. The invasion led to public protests by dissidents in various Eastern Bloc countries. Brezhnev's assertion that the Soviet Union had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of its satellites to "safeguard socialism" became known as the Brezhnev Doctrine, although it was really a restatement of existing Soviet policy, as Khrushchev had shown in Hungary in 1956. In the aftermath of the invasion, Brezhnev reiterated it in a speech at the Fifth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party on November 13, 1968:
 Brezhnev was aware of the dire situation he was in, and if he had abstained or voted against Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia he may have been faced with growing turmoil — domestically and in the Eastern Bloc. Archival evidence suggests that Brezhnev was one of the few who was looking for a temporary compromise with the reform-friendly Czechoslovak government when their relationship was at its brinking point. Significant voices in the Soviet leadership demanded the re-installation of a so-called 'revolutionary government'. After the military intervention in 1968, Brezhnev met with Czechoslovak reformer Bohumil Simon, then a member of the Politburo of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, and said; "If I had not voted for Soviet armed assistance to Czechoslovakia you would not be sitting here today, but quite possibly i wouldn't either".When forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern of all socialist countries.—Brezhnev, Speech to the Fifth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party in November, 1968
In the early 1980s a political crisis emerged in Poland with the emergence of the Solidarity mass movement. By the end of October Solidary had 3 million members, and by December 9 million. In a public opinion poll done by the Polish government, 89% of the respondents supported Solidarity. With the Polish leadership split on what to do, the majority of did not want to impose martial law, as suggested by Wojciech Jaruzelski. The Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was unsure how to handle the situation, but Erich Honecker of East Germany pressed for military action. In a formal letter to Brezhnev Honecker proposed a joint military measure to control the escalating problems in Poland. A CIA report suggested the Soviet military were mobilizing for an invasion.
In 1980 representatives from the Eastern Bloc nations met at the Kremlin to discusse the Polish situation. Brezhnev eventually concluded that it would be better to leave the domestic matters of Poland alone for the time being, re-assuring the Polish delegates that the USSR would intervene only if asked to. With domestic matters escalating out of control in Poland, Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed state of war, the Polish version of martial law, on 12 December 1981.
 Last years and deathThe last years of Brezhnev's rule were marked by a growing personality cult. He was well known for his love of medals (he received over 200), so in December 1966, for his 60th birthday, he was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev received the award, which came with the order of Lenin and the Gold Star, three more times in celebration of his birthdays. On his 70th birthday he was awarded the Marshal of the Soviet Union – the highest military honour in the Soviet Union. After being awarded the medal, he attended the 18th Army Veterans dressed in a long coat and saying; "Attention, Marshal's coming!". His weakness for undeserved medals was proven with his badly written memoir about his military service during World War II. Despite the apparent weaknesses of his memoirs, they were awarded the Lenin Prize for Literature and were met with critical acclaim by the Soviet press. The book was however followed by two other books, one on the Virgin Lands Campaign. Brezhnev's vanity made him the victim of many political jokes. Nikolai Podgorny warned him of this fact, but Brezhnev replied, "If they are poking fun at me, it means they like me". It is now believed by Western historians and political analysts that the books were written by some of his "court writers". The memoirs treated the little known and minor Battle of Novorossisk as the decisive military theatre of World War II.
Brezhnev's personality cult was growing outrageously fast at a time when his health was in decline. His physical condition was deteriorating; he had become addicted to sleeping pills and as many other Soviets, began drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, smoked heavily and had over the years become overweight. From 1973 until his death Brezhnev's central nervous system underwent chronic deterioration and he had several strokes. When receiving the Order of Lenin, Brezhnev walked shakily and fumbled his words. The Minister of Health Yevgeniy Chazov had to keep doctors by Brezhnev's side at all times, with Brezhnev being brought back from limbo on several occasions. At this time, most senior officers of the CPSU wanted to keep him alive, even if such men as Mikhail Suslov, Dmitriy Ustinov and Andrei Gromyko among others were growing increasingly frustrated with Brezhnev's policies. However they did not want to risk a new period of domestic turmoil caused by his death.
Brezhnev's health worsened in the winter of 1981–82. In the meantime, the country was governed by Gromyko, Ustinov, Suslov and Yuri Andropov and crucial politburo decisions were made in his absence. While the politburo was pondering the question of who would succeed, all signs indicated that the ailing leader was dying. The choice of the successor would have been influenced by Suslov, but he died at the age of 79 in January 1982. Andropov took Suslov's seat in the Central Committee Secretariat; by May it became obvious that Andropov would try to make a bid for the office of the General Secretary. He, with the help of fellow KGB associates, started circulating rumours that political corruption had become worse during Brezhnev's tenure as leader in an attempt to create an environment hostile to Brezhnev in the Politburo. Andropov's actions showed that he was not afraid of Brezhnev's wrath.
Through spring, summer, autumn 1982 Brezhnev rarely appeared in public. The official explanation by the CPSU was that Brezhnev was not seriously ill, while at the same time doctors were surrounding him. When he was close to death, Brezhnev's mental condition deteriorated to the point where he could not remember the names of several leading Politburo members. He was unable to write properly during his dying days; when asked by Andropov to write a letter of resignation in 1982, he was unable to do so. On November 10, 1982, Brezhnev suffered a final attack and died. He was honoured with a state funeral which was followed with a five-day period of nationwide mourning. He was buried in the Kremlin in Red Square. National and international statesmen from around the globe attended his funeral. His wife and family attended, with his daughter Galina outraging spectators by not showing up in a sombre garb. Brezhnev on the other hand was dressed for burial in his Marshal's uniform along with all his medals.
 LegacyJoseph Stalin. He is often criticized for the prolonged era of economic stagnation, the Brezhnev Stagnation, in which fundamental economic problems were ignored and the Soviet political system was allowed to decline. During Mikhail Gorbachev's tenure as leader there was an increase in criticism of the Brezhnev years, such as claims that Brezhnev followed "a fierce neo-Stalinist line". The Gorbachevian discourse blamed Brezhnev for failing to modernize the country and to change with the times, although in a later statement Gorbachev made assurances that Brezhnev was not as bad as he was made out to be, saying, "Brezhnev was nothing like the cartoon figure that is made of him now". The intervention in Afghanistan, which was one of the major decisions of his career, also significantly undermined both the international standing and the internal strength of the Soviet Union. In Brezhnev's defense, it can be said that the Soviet Union reached unprecedented and never-repeated levels of power, prestige, and internal calm under his rule.
Brezhnev has fared well in opinion polls when compared to his successors and predecessors in Russia. However in the West he is most commonly remembered for starting the economic stagnation which triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union. A 2000 poll by VTsIOM asked various Russians the question: "was a given period more positive or more negative for the country?" The poll showed that 36 percent of the Russian people viewed Brezhnev's tenure as more positive then negative. His predecessor, Nikita Khrushchev trailed close behind him earning 33 percent. A poll by the Public Opinion Fund in September 1999 similarly chose the Brezhnev period as the time in the twentieth century when "ordinary people lived best" having a clear majority of 51 to 10. In similar themed poll done in 1994, Brezhnev only earned 36 to 16. According a 2006 Public Opinion Fund poll, a surprisingly 61 percent of the Russian people viewed the Brezhnev era as good for the country. A opinion measurement done by the VTsIOM in 2007 showed that most of the Russian people would have liked to live during Brezhnev's era rather than any other period of Russian history during the 20th century. Researchers have noted a surge in Brezhnev's popularity, along with other communist rulers, during and in the aftermath of the Russian financial crisis of 1998 which is well remembered by many Russians for plunging many into poverty. When comparing these two periods, Brezhnev's Russia is best remembered for stability in prices and income by Russians and not the economic stagnation for which he is remembered of in the west. Andrei Brezhnev, the son of Brezhnev's son Yuri, accused the Communist Party of the Russian Federation of deviating from communist ideology and launched the unsuccessful All-Russian Communist Movement in the late 1990s.
 Personality traits and familyBrezhnev's vanity became a problem during his reign. For instance, when Moscow City Party Secretary N. G. Yegorychev refused to sing his praises, he was shunned, forced out of local politics and earned only an obscure ambassadorship. Brezhnev had no problem with political corruption claiming that "Nobody lives just on their wages". His main passion was driving foreign cars given him by leaders of state from across the world. He usually drove these between his dacha and the Kremlin with flagrant disregard for public safety.
Brezhnev lived at 26 Kutuzovsky Prospekt, Moscow. During vacations, he lived in his Gosdacha in Zavidovo. He was married to Viktoria Petrovna (1912–1995). During her final four years she lived virtually alone, abandoned by everybody. She had suffered for a long time from diabetes and was nearly blind in her last years. He had a daughter, Galina Brezhneva, and a son, Yuri. Galina in her later life became an alcoholic who together with a circus director started a gold-bullion fraud gang in the later years of the Soviet Union.
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