Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (; Russian: ??????? ?????? ????????, IPA: [l????n?id ??l?jid? ?br?e?n??f] (listen); Ukrainian: ??????? ?????? ????????, 19 December 1906 (O.S. 6 December) – 10 November 1982) was a Soviet politician. The fifth leader of the Soviet Union, he was General Secretary of the Central Committee of the governing Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) from 1964 until his death in 1982. Ideologically, he was a Marxist-Leninist. He presided over the Soviet Unions greatest involvement in world affairs, including détente with the West. But he also increasingly confronted the Sino-Soviet split, which divided and weakened communist parties across the world. In domestic affairs, he presided over a steady decline in the economy, marked by corruption, inefficiency, and rapidly widening weakness in technological advances, especially computers. Nevertheless he was a force for political stability inside the Kremlin, maintaining his power despite his rapidly declining health after 1975.
Brezhnev was born to a Russian workers family in Kamenskoye in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine). After graduating from the Kamenskoye Metallurgical Technicum, he became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry. After the October Revolution led to the formation of a one-party state led by the Communist Party, Brezhnev joined the partys youth league, Komsomol, in 1923, and then became an active party member by 1929. With the invasion by Germany in 1941, he joined the Army and held increasingly important political posts as the Communist Party closely monitored the generals. After the war he rose steadily in the top ranks of the party, and became a protégé of Joseph Stalin. In 1952 Brezhnev was promoted to the Central Committee and in 1957 to full member of the Politburo. In 1964, he ousted Nikita Khrushchev and took over as First Secretary of the CPSU, the most powerful position in the Kremlin.
As the leader of the Soviet Union, Brezhnevs conservatism and carefulness to reach decisions through consensus within the Politburo resulted in sustained political stability within the party and the country. On the world stage, Brezhnev pushed hard for the adoption of détente to relax tensions and foster economic cooperation between the two Cold War superpowers. Brezhnevs health rapidly deteriorated after 1975 and he increasingly withdrew from international affairs. Détente finally collapsed after Brezhnev ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The widespread response of boycotting the Moscow Olympics of 1980 was a bitter humiliation.
Brezhnevs hostility towards reform and tolerance of corruption ushered in a period of socioeconomic decline known as the Brezhnev Stagnation. His regime presided over widespread military interventionism and a massive arms buildup that ultimately grew to comprise 12.5% of the nations GNP. In terms of technology, especially computers, the Soviet Union fell further and further behind the West. After years of declining health, Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982 and was quickly succeeded as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov. Upon coming to power in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev denounced the Brezhnev regimes pervasive inefficiency and inflexibility before overseeing steps to liberalize the Soviet Union.
Brezhnevs eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in duration. During Brezhnevs rule, the global influence of the Soviet Union grew dramatically, in part because of the expansion of its military during this time. His tenure as leader was also marked by the beginning of an era of economic and social stagnation in the Soviet Union.