Birthday: September 24, 1911
Died At Age: 73
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko
Born Country: Russia
Born in: Novosyolovsky District, Krasnoyarsk Krai, in Russia
Famous as: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse/Ex-: Anna Chernenko (m. 1944)
father: Ustin Demidovich
mother: Kharitina Chernenko
children: Albert Chernenko
Died on: March 10, 1985
place of death: Moscow
Ancestry: Ukrainian Russian
awards: USSR State Prize
Order of Lenin
Hero of Socialist Labour
Order of Karl Marx
Order of Klement Gottwald
Order of the Red Banner of Labour
Who was Konstantin Chernenko?
Konstantin Chernenko was a Soviet politician who served as the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1984 until his death in early 1985. Born and raised in a poor household by a miner and a farm worker, he started off as a member of Komsomol in 1929. From 1930 to 1933, Chernenko worked as a guard on the Soviet–Chinese border. The turning point in his career came in 1948 when he was elected the head of the Communist Party’s propaganda department in Moldavia where he served under Leonid Brezhnev. Chernenko later became the head of the General Department of the Central Committee in 1984. His smoking addiction since the age of nine resulted in his ill health and even compelled him to stay away from his official duties several times. Chernenko eventually died in March 1985, having led his nation for just a year. He was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev as the general secretary. He was married twice and had four children, including the late philosopher Albert Chernenko.
Childhood & Early Life
Konstantin Chernenko was born on 24 September 1911, in Novosyolovsky District, Krasnoyarsk Krai, in Russia. His father Ustin Demidovich was a miner while his mother worked on a farm.
From 1943 to 1945, he studied at the Moscow High School of Party Organizers. He later did a correspondence course for school teachers.
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In 1929, Konstantin Chernenko joined the Communist Youth League. Two years later, he became a full-time member of the Communist Party.
After working as a guard on the Soviet–Chinese border from 1930 to 1933, he joined Novosyolovsky District Party Committee as a propagandist. The subsequent years brought numerous transitions to his role; he went from being a department’s head to the Director of the Krasnoyarsk House of Party Enlightenment.
In 1939, Chernenko was made the deputy head of Krasnoyarsk Territorial Committee’s Agitprop Department. Two year later, he joined the Territorial Party Committee as a secretary.
His career reached further heights in 1948 when he was elected as the head of the propaganda department of the Communist Party in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Chernenko served under Leonid Brezhnev in Moldavia. After Brezhnev’s appointment as the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, Chernenko became his chief of staff.
In 1965, he became the chief of the General Department of the Central Committee. He later became a full-time member of the committee.
During Brezhnev's final years, Chernenko headed Soviet delegations abroad. He worked in the commission and helped revise the Soviet Constitution in 1977.
Konstantin Chernenko took office as the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on 13 February 1984. However, he was often unable to fulfill his official duties owing to his ill health. He died in March 1985, shortly over a year after assuming office.
Honors & Achievements
Konstantin Chernenko received several honors during his political career, including the Order of the Red Banner of Labour three times.
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In 1981, he received the Bulgarian Order of Georgi Dimitrov. A year later, he garnered the Lenin Prize as well as the USSR State Prize.
In 1984, he earned the title of Hero of the Socialist Labour.
During his lifetime, Chernenko was also awarded the Order of Karl Marx and the Order of Klement Gottwald.
Family & Personal Life
Konstantin Chernenko’s first marriage was with Faina Vassilyevna Chernenko. Their union resulted in the birth of a son named Albert who went on to become a popular philosopher.
After divorcing Faina, he married Anna Dmitrievna Lyubimova. The couple had two daughters, Yelena and Vera, and a son named Vladimir.
An archival document from 2015 states that Chernenko had a few other wives and children.
Deteriorating Health, Death & Legacy
Konstantin Chernenko started smoking at the young age of nine and later became a heavy smoker.
In 1983, he couldn’t perform his official duties for about three months due to pleurisy, bronchitis, and pneumonia. By the following year’s end, he could hardly leave the Central Clinical Hospital.
His illness became publicly known on 22 February 1985 during a nationally broadcast election rally in Moscow when Viktor Grishin talked about his absence. Two days later, Grishin accompanied Chernenko from his hospital bed to the ballot box to vote.
Emphysema and the resultant lung and heart damage worsened his health considerably in the last weeks of February 1985. On 10 March 1985, he fell into a coma and died at the age of 73.
After his death, his safe was opened and several large bundles of money were found. A hefty amount of money was also found in his desk drawer.