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Leonid Brezhnev

General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (1907-01-01 [ O.S. 1906-12-19 ] – 1982-11-10) was the effective ruler of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, at first in partnership with others. Brezhnev was made deputy head of political administration for the Southern Front, with the rank of Brigade-Commissar. In August 1946, Brezhnev left the Red Army with the rank of Major General. He had spent the entire war as a commissar rather than a military commander. He was later General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, and was twice Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (head of state), from 1960 to 1964 and from 1977 to 1982. He died of a heart attack on November 10, 1982. During his later career, as Brezhnev's health deteriorated.



  • Communists have always viewed the national question through the prism of the class struggle, believing that its solution has to be subordinated to the interests of the Revolution, to the interests of socialism. That is why Communists and all fighters for socialism believe that the main aspect of the national question is unification of the working people, regardless of their national origin, in the common struggle against every type of oppression, and for a new social system which rules out exploitation of the working people.
  • Our Party supports and will continue to support peoples fighting for their freedom. In so doing, the Soviet Union does not look for advantages, does not hunt for concessions, does not seek political domination and is not after military bases. We act as we are bid by our revolutionary conscience, our communist convictions.
  • The substance of socialist democracy lies in efficient socialist organisation of all society for the sake of every individual, and in the socialist discipline of every individual for the sake of all society.
  • In the present epoch, when the international class struggle has grown extremely acute, the danger of Right and ‘Left’ deviations and of nationalism in the communist movement has grown more tangible than ever before. The struggle against Right- and ‘Left’-wing opportunism and nationalism cannot therefore be conducted as a campaign calculated for only some definite span of time. The denunciation of opportunism of all kinds was and remains an immutable law for all Marxist-Leninist Parties.
  • The defeat of Nazi Germany signified the victory of progress over reaction, humanity over barbarism and the victory of socialism over imperialist obscurantism. This victory opened the road for advancing the revolutionary struggle of the working class, a national liberation movement on an unprecedented scale and the destruction of the shameful colonial system.
  • One of our primary tasks is to foster in people a desire to attain lofty social goals, to foster in them ideological conviction and a truly creative attitude to work. This is a very important area of struggle for communism, and the economic as well as the socio-political development of the country will be increasingly dependent on our successes in this area.
  • We want the world socialist system to be a well-knit family of nations, building and defending the new society together, and mutually enriching each other with experience and knowledge, a family, strong and united, which the people of the world would regard as the prototype of the future world community of free nations.
  • Successes in socialist construction largely depend on the correct combination of the general and the nationally specific in social development. Not only are we now theoretically aware but also have been convinced in practice that the way to socialism and its main features are determined by the general regularities, which are inherent in the development of all the socialist countries. We are also aware that the effect of the general regularities is manifested in different forms consistent with concrete historical conditions and national specifics. It is impossible to build socialism without basing oneself on general regularities or taking account of the concrete historical specifics of each country. Nor is it possible without a consideration of both these factors correctly to develop relations between the socialist states.
  • It stands to the Party’s credit that millions upon millions of Soviet men of every nation and nationality have adopted internationalism—once the ideal of a handful of Communists—as their deep conviction and standard of behaviour. This was a true revolution in social thinking, and one which it is hard to overestimate.
  • December 30, 1922, is a truly historic date in the life of our state, an important milestone in the life of all the Soviet peoples, their great festival.
  • Modern production sets rapidly rising demands not only on machines, on technology, but also and primarily on the workers, on those who create these machines and control this technology. For ever larger segments of workers specialised knowledge and a high degree of professional training, man’s general cultural standard, are becoming an obligatory condition of successful work.
  • Today progress is so swift in all fields that the education received by young people is only a foundation that requires the constant acquisition of knowledge.
  • Our militant union with peoples which still have to carry on an armed struggle against the colonialists constitutes an important element of our line in international affairs.
  • Every man must be made to realize that further retreat is impossible. He must realize with his mind and heart that this is a matter of life and death of the Soviet state, of the life and death of the people of our country...the Nazi troops must be stopped now, before it is too late.
    • Statement made in World War II, as a commissar on the southern front, as quoted in Leonid I. Brezhnev : Pages from his Life (1978) by Academy of Sciences of the USSR, p. 49; also in For the Soul of Mankind : The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War (2007) by Melvyn P. Leffler, p. 237
  • The most important thing in my life, its leitmotif, has been the constant and close contacts with working people, with workers and peasants.
    • As quoted in Sputnik : Digest (1967), p. 48
  • When external and internal forces hostile to the development of socialism try to turn the development of a given socialist country in the direction of the restoration of the capitalist system, when a threat arises to the cause of socialism in that country … this is no longer merely a problem for that country's people, but a common problem, the concern of all socialist countries.
    • Speech at the 5th Congress of the Polish United Workers Party (12 November 1968), quoted in The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy (2003) by Matthew J. Ouimet
  • We stand for the dismantling of foreign military bases. We stand for a reduction of armed forces and armaments in areas where military confrontation is especially dangerous, above all in central Europe.
    • As quoted in Voices of Tomorrow : The 24th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1971) by Jessica Smith, p. 30
  • We Communists have got to string along with the capitalists for a while. We need their agriculture and their technology. But we are going to continue massive military programs. . . (soon) we will be in a position to return to a much more aggressive foreign policy designed to gain the upper-hand. . .
    • as quoted in Kissinger: The Secret Side of the Secretary of State (1976) by Gary Allen
  • As you know, I am not a writer but a Party functionary. But like every Communist I consider myself to have been mobilized by Party propaganda and deem it my duty to participate actively in the work of our press.
    • As quoted in Reprints from the Soviet Press (1977), p. 5
  • Soviet people are better off materially and richer spiritually.
    • As quoted in Our Friends Speak : Greetings to the 25th CPSU Congress (1976), p. 268
  • We bow our heads in respect for those Soviet women who displayed exceptional courage in the severe time of war. Never before but during the days of the war the grandeur of spirit and the invincible will of our Soviet women, their selfless dedication, loyalty and affection to their Homeland, their boundless persistence in work and their heroism on the front manifested themselves with such strength.
    • As quoted in V karǐni zdiǐsnenoǐ mriǐ (1979) by IE IU Kastelli, p. 54
  • Modern science and technology have reached a level where there is the grave danger that a weapon even more terrible than nuclear weapons may be developed. The reason and conscience of mankind dictate the need to erect an insuperable barrier barrier to the development of such a weapon.
    • As quoted in Nuclear Disarmament (1979) by Aleksandr Efremovich Efremov
  • Of late, attempts have been made in the USA — at a high level and in a rather cynical form — to play the "Chinese card" against the USSR. This is a shortsighted and dangerous policy.
    • As quoted in Peace, Détente, and Soviet-American Relations : A Collection of Public Statements (1979), p. 222
  • The rout of fascism, in which the Soviet Union played the decisive role, generated a mighty tide of socio-political changes which swept across the globe.
    • As quoted in Selected Speeches and Writings (1980) edited by Mikhail Andreevich Suslov
  • We are entirely for the idea that Europe shall be free from nuclear weapons, from medium-range weapons as well as tactical weapons. That would be a real zero option.
    • As quoted in Nuclear War: The Search for Solutions (1985) by Leonard V. Johnson, Helen Caldicott, Thomas L. Perry and Dianne DeMille
  • It is madness for any country to build its policy with an eye to nuclear war.
    • As quoted in Indefensible Weapons : The Political and Psychological Case Against Nuclearism (1992) by Robert Jay Lifton and Richard A. Falk, p. 224
  • I shall add that only he who has decided to commit suicide can start a nuclear war in the hope of emerging a victor from it. No matter what the attacker might possess, no matter what method of unleashing nuclear war he chooses, he will not attain his aims. Retribution will inevitably ensue.
    • As quoted in Soviet Strategy and the New Military Thinking (1992) by Derek Leebaert and Timothy Dickinson, p. 68
  • Detente is a readiness to resolve differences and conflicts not by force, not by threats and sabre-rattling, but by peaceful means, at the conference table.
    • As quoted in Brezhnev Reconsidered (2002)by Edwin Bacon, Mark Sandle, p. 99
  • God will not forgive us if we fail.
    • As quoted in Understanding the Cold War : A Historian's Personal Reflections (2002) by Adam Bruno Ulam and Paul Hollander, p. 269


  • The trouble with free elections is, you never know who is going to win.
    • This was quoted as an anonymous saying heard in Moscow around the time of the first Russian elections, in Voltaire, Goldberg & Others : A Compendium of the Witty, the Profound and the Absurd (2000), p. 201; it was later attributed to Brezhnev in Brewer's Famous Quotations: 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them (2006) by Nigel Rees, p. 441, but without citations, and it is clearly derived from a statement widely attributed to Vyacheslav Molotov as early as the 1954 Berlin Conference, according to an eyewitness writing in International Affairs Vol. 36 (1960), p. 4 : "The trouble with free elections is that you never know how they are going to to turn out."
  • Our aim is to gain control of the two great treasure houses on which the West depends: The energy treasure house of the Persian Gulf and the minerals treasure house of Central and Southern Africa.
    • Reported as false in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 9-10. Falsely attributed to Brezhnev as having been said in a secret Warsaw Pact meeting in either 1968 or 1973.

Quotes about BrezhnevEdit

  • All ideological differences set apart, I cannot help having a sincere admiration for Mr Brezhnev. He is to all appearances an outstanding diplomat. He abides by the policy of peaceful co-existence as laid down by the Helsinki agreement. And he has succeeded in making his country as powerful as it is today: the first nuclear power in the world, soon to be he first maritime power; as for the land and air forces, their superiority is so great that it bears no comparison.
  • When the Soviet Union came to be run by a valetudinarian mafioso like Brezhnev, the thing itself had fallen into self-contempt.
    • Edward Pearce, "Uncle Joe's Heirs and Disgraces". The Guardian, 11 September 1991
  • When he [Brezhnev] succeeded Khrushchev, he was still a vigorous politician who expected to make the Party and government work more effectively...But his General Secretaryship had turned into a ceremonial reign that had brought communism into its deepest contempt since 1917.
    • Robert Service, History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century. Penguin Books Ltd, 2009.
  • One of the world's most important figures for nearly two decades.
  • He stood by us in our moment of need.

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