Leningradskaya Pravda from 12th November 1982.
This is the issue in which the official declaration of Brezhnev’s death is published. It follows the standard format for such occasions. The headline article is called ‘Address’. To the right of the masthead is the declaration:
‘The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the entire Soviet people has suffered a grievous loss. The life has ended of the true continuer of the great work of Lenin, the fiery patriot, prominent revolutionary and warrior for peace, for communism, the most important political and state functionary, Leonid Ilich Brezhnev.’
The official death notice, posted under the portrait, gives the time of death as 08:30 on the 10th November. The death was announced on the 11th November more than a day later. The newspapers were able to publish it only on the 12th, two days after it happened. This bears witness to the total control over information exerted by the Soviet government. Whatever the real reason for delaying the announcement, this paper reports that Yuri Andropov was named as president of the funeral committee. He was appointed General Secretary in the next few days.
The name directly after Andropov in the funeral committee list is one M. S. Gorbachev, who would come to power in 1986 and then preside over the funeral of the USSR itself.
The rest of the paper contains articles with titles such as ‘The planet mourns’ and ‘Deep sorrow of Leningraders’.
Brezhnev lasted 18 years at the very top of the USSR. An entire generation grew up during his years of office and Soviet society should have moved forward.
Brezhnev and his supporters in the Politburo engineered the removal of Khrushchev as General Secretary in 1964. Khrushchev was considered too unpredictable, and haphazard in his approach to government.
Throughout his premiership, Brezhnev was always shadowed by the éminence grise of Soviet politics and protégé of Stalin – Mikhail Suslov. It is thought that much of the re-establishment of ‘hardline’ Soviet politics happened with Brezhnev merely fronting for Suslov, who was the main force in the adoption of neo-Stalinist policies and practices. These measures included increased powers for the KGB, the detention of political dissidents (often in psychiatric hospitals), foreign military interventions such as Prague in 1968 and Afghanistan (1979), significant increased investment for the armed forces and a new personality cult for the General Secretary.
In 1969 Brezhnev survived one of the most bizarre assassination attempts ever, when his would-be assailant shot 14 times at a car containing not Brezhnev but four cosmanauts. The driver of the car was killed, the assassin was run over by a motorcycle, and Brezhnev was fine.