Childhood & Early Life
He was born to Ilya Yakovlevich Brezhnev, a metalworker, and Natalia Denisovna in Kamenskoe (presently Dniprodzerzhynsk, Ukraine). Leonid Brezhnev witnessed a civil war during his childhood days.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, he received a technical education, first in land management and then in metallurgy.
He joined the Communist Party youth organization, the Komsomol in 1923. This organisation used to express its opposition against the idea of possessing private property.
After graduating from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum in 1935, he started working as a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry, in Ukraine. But he left engineering field after a brief period to serve for the government and the party.
At that time, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ordered peasant farmers to sell their surplus grain to the state instead of preserving it for themselves. To follow Stalin’s order, Leonid tortured the peasants to get their co-operation.
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From 1935 to 1936, he served his compulsory military period. Thereafter, he acted as a political commissar in a tank factory. It was in 1936, when he became director of the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum.
In the year 1936, he was transferred to the regional centre of Dnipropetrovsk. He acquired the position of an important party leader during the World War II.
At that time, he also served for the Soviet Red Army that used to work for the implementation of Stalin’s “Russification” policy. Gradually, he achieved the position of major general in this Army.
After leaving the service of Army in 1946, he devoted his time for party works. His election as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Moldavian S.S.R. in 1950 brought him national recognition.
After two years, he visited Moscow to serve for Stalin in the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. After Stalin’s death in 1953, he was removed from the Secretariat.
After his removal, he was appointed at lower post in the Ministry of Defence. After that, he also served in the Central Committee of the Kazakh Republic, another insignificant post.
Due to his success as an administrator, he regained his position in the Secretariat in 1956. With the assistance of Nikita Khruschev, the new head of the Secretariat, he became the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1960.
He became an honorary citizen of Belgrade in 1962. In the following year, despite being loyal to Khrushchev, he played a significant role in a plan to remove Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the state, from power.
It was this year, when he acquired the position of Secretary of the Central Committee. As a result of this, Khrushchev made him Second Secretary in 1956 which was also equal to being the deputy party leader.
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As part of his conspiracy against Khrushchev, Brezhnev, along with Nikolai Podgomy, appealed to the Central Committee and accused him for economic failure and immodest behaviour.
Due to Brezhnev’s political trick, Politburo members voted for the removal of Khrushchev from office. Khrushchev’s removal paved the way for Brezhnev to become the First Secretary of the state.
During 1966, he played a vital role in abolishing the Regional Economic Councils that used to manage the regional economies of the Soviet Union.
In 1968, he developed the Brezhnev doctrine to support the Soviet and their Warsaw pact allies’ invasion of Czechoslovakia. Due to his efforts, the Politburo discontinued Khrushchev’s decentralisation experiments.
After securing his position as a marshal of the Soviet Union in 1976, he forced Podgomy to retire from his post and became the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union in May 1977.
In 1979, he reached an agreement with Jimmy Carter on a new bilateral strategic arms limitation treaty, known as SALT II. The United States chose not to ratify the treaty in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which took place in December 1979.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1928, he got married to Viktoria Brezhneva with whom he had two children namely Galina and Yuri.
In the last decade of his life, he encountered many health issues including heart problems.
He passed away at the age of 79 as a result of a heart attack.
To honour his memory, the Soviet Union organized a state funeral and a five-day period of mourning. Dressed in his Marshal’s uniform, his body was buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Red Square.