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Sunday, 2 June 2013

Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev was born on December 19, 1906 in Kamenskoe (now Dniprodzerzhynsk in Ukraine), to metalworker Ilya Yakovlevich Brezhnev and his wife, Natalia Denisovna.

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.

Young Brezhnev with his wife Viktoria

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

Brezhnev was the General Secretary of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), presiding over the country from October 14, 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in duration.

An assassination attempt was made upon Leonid Brezhnev on January 22, 1969, when a deserter from the Soviet Army, Viktor Ilyin, fired shots at a motorcade carrying the Soviet leader through Moscow. Though Brezhnev was unhurt, the shots killed a driver. Brezhnev's attacker was captured and the incident that was not revealed to the public until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Brezhnev suffered terribly with his teeth because of a slight deformity in his mouth and, despite frequent attempts to correct the problem using Soviet and German specialists, he couldn't get rid of the pain. The Russian communist leader wass unable to ask the Americans for help due to the Cold War but the KGB  covertly arranged for a British professor of dentistry and his colleague to come to Moscow to treat him. The British experts were watched 24 hours of the day by the KGB who feared they might poison him or even plant a bug in his teeth.

Brezhnev had a collection of Western cars, including a Rolls Royce, which he drives at breakneck speed around his estate or the empty Soviet roads. One, a 1973 Lincoln Town Cars, was a gift from President Nixon.

Leonid Brezhnev is the only person in the USSR who was honoured with the Gold Star medal five times.

He is also the only one whose Order of Victory has been revoked. The order was awarded only to Generals and Marshals for successfully conducting combat operations involving one or more army groups and resulting in a ‘successful operation within the framework of one or several fronts resulting in a radical change of the situation in favor of the Red Army’. Brezhnev received the award in 1978, but later it was revoked for not meeting the requirements for the award.

Some say that his peculiar pronunciation was connected with a jaw wound which he received during the war. However, according to other sources, he’s never been wounded.

He liked playing dominoes.

He supported the football club Spartak Moscow and often attended their games.

Brezhnev died at 75 on November 10, 1975, three days after his last appearance in public.

During the funerals of Soviet leaders there was a custom of displaying their decorations on velvet cushions, which were carried in the procession behind the coffin. However, as Brezhnev had more than two hundred of them, several were placed on each cushion.


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