The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Brezhnev - In Decline

Looking at the sick Leonid Ilyich, the whole country wondered: why did he lose his health so early? And from what, in fact, did he suffer? Once a vigorous and energetic person began to speak slowly, with difficulty, with a stumbling tongue. Shortly after his cult of personality began to take root in the mid-1970s, Brezhnev began to experience periods of ill health.

By the 25th Congress of the CPSU, held from February 24 to March 5, 1976, Brezhnev, in connection with the deterioration of health, wanted to transfer the reins of the government to Grigory Vasilyevich Romanov at that congress, who at that time had the reputation of being an extremely honest, absolutely not corrupt, a tough, clever technocrat prone to social innovations and experiments. The 53-year-old Romanov was always fit, with gray hair on his temples, he was very impressive. And this, and the sharp mind of Romanov was noted by many foreign leaders.

Andropov and Ustinov were extremely undesirable arrival of Romanov. He was younger than Andropov by 9 years, Ustinov by 15, and Brezhnev by 17 years. For Andropov, the General Secretary Romanov meant the rejection of plans, but for Ustinov, who was considered the head of the so-called "narrow circle" of the Politburo, who had previously decided all the most important issues-the loss of a privileged position in the Politburo. Andropov and Ustinov also understood that Romanov would immediately send them to retire. In this regard, they, with the support of Suslov, Gromyko and Chernenko, managed to convince Brezhnev of the need to remain General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee.

Brezhnev's Health - The Western View

Henry Kissinger, President Fords Assistant for National Security Affairs. prepared a memo for the President on 14 November 1974, in advance of the Vladivostok summit. "Brezhnevs health, in fact, appears none too good. He has a number of cardio-vascular problems. He suffers from high blood pressure and is reported to have had two heart attacks in the past and possibly a stroke. While he is still vigorous, he does tire more easily than a year ago. In addition, he has long been plagued by hoarseness, which causes him difficulties during long speeches, and he has serious dental problems.

Brezhnev is a nervous man, partly because of his personal insecurity, partly for physiological reasons traced to his consumption of alcohol and tobacco, his history of heart disease and the pressures of his job. You will find his hands perpetually in motion, twirling his gold watch chain, flicking ashes from his ever-present cigarette, clanging his cigarette holder against an ash tray. "

On 01 February 1980 Jack Anderson reported that a scare rippled through Washington four years ago when secret intelligence reports warned that the ailing Brezhnev might retire. A top-secret dispatch dated 29 November 1975 reported "Brezhnev's long-standing cardiovascular problems and persistent dental troubles have taken a toll... His swings in mood have become more pronounced, perhaps in part because of greater use of stimulants and sedaatives.... Clearly, Brezhnev has periods of elation and and depression, and his intentions may vary as his modd swings."

Anderson reporting that a recently prepared [ie, 1980] CIA summary stated "Brezhnev's major health problems are cardiovascular. he has both the hypertension and arterioscleoris heart disease and many years ago suffered a heart attack. He probably has a pacemaker. Brezhnev has other but minor health problems, e.g. occisional attacsk of bursitis in the righ shoulder and repeated upper respiratory illeness. Breshnev has been diagnosed at timeas depressed and at other times as alert, energetic and animated. He has long been prone to substantial mood swings, a disposition that has probably become more pronounced.

"He sometimes uses stimulants and sedatives in excess of the recommendations of his physicians, and this has probably accentuated his mood swings. There is no indication that his intellectual acuity has been significantly affected by these emotional problems and no sign of a lessening of his judgement or contact with reality.... on several occaisions ... he has been described as unable to concentrate, inattentive and fatigued. In addition to reflecting the depletion of his limited physical reserves or the effects of excessive medication, these could be symptoms of depression."

On September 28 and 29, 1982, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a set of hearings on the topic of Soviet succession. Barry Stevenson, Chief, Current Support Division, CIA Office of Soviet Anaysis, identified Andropov, Chernenko, Kirilenko, and Gorbachev in line of succession. As it turned out, Brezhnev passed from the scene sooner than some might have expected in September. On 10 November 1982, Brezhnev died.

Brezhnev's Health - The Secret Soviet View

When he became the head of state, he seemed the most healthy in the Politburo. He did have a heart attack in 1952 and a serious heart attack in 1957, but his cardiologists successfully treated him and since then he has not complained of heart. Brezhnev's health had already failed since the late 1960s, when the secretary-general barely slept for days because of the Prague Spring. Shortly after his cult of personality began to take root in the mid-1970s, Brezhnev began to experience periods of ill health. Brezhnev's health, in fact, appeared none too good. But Western intelligence had only very limited insight into the diversity of the maladies that affliclated Leonid Ilyich.

Since the spring of 1973, according to the observations of Academician Chazov, "periods of weakness of central nervous system functions accompanied by insomnia began to appear". Then Leonid Ilich began taking sedative and hypnotic drugs - seduksen, eunotin, ativan ... He swallowed these pills and in the afternoon, secretly from the doctor. But potent drugs caused depression and lethargy.

He was a passionate smoker, lit one cigarette from another, and in many ways because of smoking he had health problems that brought him to such a serious condition. There were difficulties with dentures, because the mucous membrane of the mouth of a smoker is inflamed. He often visited the dentist, and his problems here really were related to smoking. Doctors constantly told him that they should quit smoking. His speech became indistinct. It was very painful for him, because he considered himself a good speaker and believed in his ability to impress the public.

Until 1975, he was an avid smoker. Already a general secretary, Brezhnev received a cigarette-case with a timer, which he was terribly proud of. And in fact it was given to him with meaning - that he would smoke less. A cigarette-case opened at a given time, for example, once an hour, but since he had a lot of that time, he got cigarettes from all the staff present at the meetings. In the mid-1970s, he stopped smoking, although it was difficult for him. When he stopped smoking, his addiction to tablets increased, he could not get along without them to relax.

The specific way of life, nervous loads and fear of provoking the wrath of the Kremlin authorities could not but affect the physical condition of the party-Soviet elite. In April 1947, the draft resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) "On the Regime of Labor and Rest of Party and Government Leaders" stated : "Analysis of data on the health status of leading cadres of the party and government showed that a number of people, even a relatively young age, had serious heart, blood vessel and nervous system diseases with significant disability. One of the causes of these diseases is hard work not only during the day, but also at night, and often even on holidays. " The diseases listed here are "golden" diseases, diseases of the elite.

It is known that Brezhnev was ill with typhus in the winter of 1920-1921, was engaged in heavy physical work (he worked as a stoker at a factory in Dneprodzerzhinsk in 1931-1935), was drafted into the army in 1935, that is, was physically fit for military service, war, was wounded and concussed. In 1951, Brezhnev suffered a heart attack, although at that time he was still quite a young man.

He had a number of cardio-vascular problems. He suffered from high blood pressure and was reported to have had two heart attacks and possibly a stroke. While he was still vigorous, he tired easily. In addition, he had long been plagued by hoarseness, which caused him difficulties during long speeches, and he had serious dental problems.

Brezhnev was a nervous man, partly because of his personal insecurity, partly for physiological reasons traced to his consumption of alcohol and tobacco, his history of heart disease and the pressures of his job. His hands were perpetually in motion, twirling his gold watch chain, flicking ashes from his ever-present cigarette, or clanging his cigarette holder against an ash tray.

In 1968, for example, Brezhnev did not sleep for days because of the Prague Spring. Apparently, the frequent use of soothing and hypnotic drugs in this tense time for the secretary general seriously compromised his health. The echo of this crisis was the two-month stay of Brezhnev in the clinical sanatorium "Barvikha".

Even then during the meetings he could notice a violation of diction, which was due to the uncontrolled use of soothing drugs. At the end of 1974, the Soviet leader's companions realized that Leonid Ilich was "coming to an end" as an independent politician, since the work of his apparatus was entirely concentrated in the hands of Konstantin Chernenko, who had a facsimile, as well as the possibility of putting seals under state documents with Brezhnev's signature.

After Brezhnev's first stroke in 1975, Politburo members Mikhail A. Suslov and Andrei P. Kirilenko assumed some of Brezhnev's functions for a time. Then, after another bout of poor health in 1978, Brezhnev delegated more of his responsibilities to Konstantin U. Chernenko, a long-time associate who soon began to be regarded as the heir apparent. His prospects of succeeding Brezhnev, however, were hurt by problems plaguing the general secretary in the early 1980s. Not only had economic failures hurt Brezhnev's prestige, but scandals involving his family and political allies also damaged his stature. Meanwhile, Yuri V. Andropov, chief of the secret police, the Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti -- KGB), apparently also began a campaign to discredit Brezhnev. Andropov took over Suslov's functions after Suslov died in 1982, and he used his position to advance himself as the next CPSU general secretary.

The West did not realize that Leonid Ilyich suffered from insomnia. As is well known, Stalin worked at night, and the whole country, the whole elite were adjusted to it. All sat and waited for a call from the Kremlin. Brezhnev also sat and waited. A night without sleep increased anxiety, fatigue, nervousness. And this night was not one, but practically - each. Ministry of Health of the USSR, the most important of all the Kremlin doctors, academician Eugene Chazov wrote in his book "Health and Power" that for the first time he learned about Brezhnev's regular use of these drugs in August 1968, when Leonid Ilyich, because of an overdose of tablets directly during negotiations with the Czechoslovak delegation, "broke the diction, there was such a weakness that he was forced to lie down on the table."

Then, for about five years, no complications arose from the use of sleeping pills and sedatives Brezhnev did not occur, but in 1973 Leonid Ilyich met a young pretty nurse Nina Korovyakova, who established a special relationship with Brezhnev. Nina Alexandrovna had a lot of power over an aging man. She gave him sleeping pills. And it was with her that he linked his "good" state. That is, Brezhnev's dependence on sedatives and Nina was formed. Chazov in the book "Health and Power" wrote "a clever nurse, using the weakness of Brezhnev, especially the periods of apathy and insomnia, actually pushed the doctor away from watching him", then began to give Leonid Ilyich a sleeping and soothing large doses, and he refused even to talk with doctors on this topic.

A former assistant to L.I.Brezhnev, Victor Andreevich Golikov, recalled the Secretary-General "for the last ten years ... at night drank four or five sleeping pills Nembutal. He has already become a drug addict ... "(" General Brezhnev, Valery Boldin's Conversation with Viktor Golikov "," Zavtra ", No. 48 (471) of November 26, 2002). In his diary there are multiple, camouflaged evidence of the transfer of medicines to the secretary general by the first deputy chairman of the KGB of the USSR, Semyon Tsvigun, as well as Konstantin Chernenko, Yuri Andropov and other closely-knit people, including the treating staff. Brezhnev carefully recorded everything related to sleeping pills and the arrival of a package with pills until the last days of his life: "I spoke with Andropov. Got it", "I spoke with Tsvigun. Four pieces", "I got yellow from Andropov" and so on.

The health of Brezhnev, which was broadcast through TV to the whole country, which in fact discredited the Soviet government, which turned into the power of the old, into the gerontocracy. In fact, he was killed by the life he built, despite the fact that he constantly tried to compensate for all these stresses by hunting. He could leave himself, voluntarily giving up power. This did not happen. As a result, seriously sick and rapidly decrepit Brezhnev was forced to remain the leader until the last.

Brezhnev himself, despite ill health following another stroke in March 1982, would not relinquish his office. Soon after reviewing the traditional Bolshevik Revolution parade on 07 November 1982, Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982. Brezhnev died from a sudden cardiac arrest during sleep. The death of the leader of the USSR took place at the state dacha "Zarechye-6" and shocked the entire Soviet Union, which for several days plunged into mourning.

The first person to learn about Brezhnev's death was Yuri Andropov, who was the second person after Leonid Ilich in the country. He instantly arrived at the place of death of the secretary general and immediately took away Brezhnev's portfolio, in which the politician kept compromising evidence on all members of the Politburo. Only a day later he allowed informing the public about the death of the head of the USSR.

Sergey Grigoryants notes that "Little by little, because November 1982 is approaching and, of course, Andropov is aware of the hopes of Brezhnev, Chernenko, Shcherbitsky and other members of the Politburo, finally, finally get rid of him. Andropov's reputation is such that, except for Chazov, who no one believes, literally all the memoirists attribute the sudden death of Brezhnev three days before the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, where Shcherbytsky was to be the secretary-general, with the poisoning done personally by Andropov. According to one version, he, being the last at the reception at Brezhnev, something poured something into his glass with tea."

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 09-07-2018 12:54:39 ZULU