AQA A2 History - The USSR - Detailed Revision Notes on Brezhnev

Here is part 3 of my detailed revision notes on the USSR, this time on Brezhnev. Includes info on the Vietnam war, dissidents, the brezhnev doctrine, the invasion of afghanistan, etc. I hope it's useful.

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Triumph and Collapse: Russia and the USSR, 1941 ­ 1991
Key dates, key people, key statistics
Part 3: The Brezhnev Era 1968 1982
When Khrushchev was removed, the Central Committee elected Leonid Brezhnev as
Secretary of the Party, Aleksei Kosygin as Prime Minister and Nikolay Podgorny as
Chairman of the Presidium (the theoretical head of state). These three had
progressed to the top by being apparactchiks (full time officials working in the state
In an attempt to ensure this `collective' leadership, it was agreed that no one person
could be head of the party and head of the government at the same time.
Born in the Ukraine in 1906 to an iron foundry worker.
Worked closely with Khrushchev but often `sat on the fence', appearing to be
hard working and safe.
He was appointed first secretary in October 1964.
Born in St Petersburg in 1904 and, like Brezhnev, was involved in the
evacuation of Soviet industry to the east during the Great Patriotic War.
Although he supposedly shared leadership with Brezhnev, he gradually lost
ground and by 1972 Brezhnev was clearly in charge of the USSR.
Brezhnev's Russia ­ what it is remembered for:
Continued scientific achievement and the emergence of the USSR as a major
world nuclear power
The reversal of most of Khrushchev's policies, the decline of the Soviet
economy, a step back towards Stalinism in art and literature, the erosion of
social standards and rampant corruption.
He aimed to bring stability, believing that the staff and officials (the cadres) in state
organisations should be permanent appointments and consequently appointed his
own supporters to leading positions.
There were few reshuffles at the top and whilst his belief in cadres brought stability, it
prevented the promotion of younger men of ability. At one stage all but one members
of the Politburo were aged over 60.
Typical Brezhnev men were Yuri Andropov, head of the KGB, Marshal Grechko, the
defence minister and Andrei Gromyko, the foreign minister.
Brezhnev's period in office has been described as:
"A cult without personality"
"Years of stagnation"
"The Big Sleep" (B. Moynihan)
"An ideology without a target"
He was able to rule the USSR for 18 years without any real opposition.
DeStalinisation slowed down there was less mention of his crimes and an 1966
Brezhnev took the former Stalinist title of General Secretary of the Party (rather than
First Secretary), while the Presidium reverted to its previous name of the Politburo.

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In 1969 there was talk of celebrating the 90th anniversary of Stalin's birth, but
this was dropped due to opposition from East European states.
The powers of the secret police, the KGB, were restored, although they didn't
revert to the terror tactics of the Stalin years.
No longer were prisoners dragged off to be shot, they were merely put under
surveillance and if necessary interrogated. Prison camps remained, but
physical violence was rare and inmates were more aware of their legal rights.…read more

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The authorities daren't get rid of Sakharov, as he was an eminent scientist
with an international reputation ­ they didn't want to put Soviet relations with
American scientists at risk.
The Helsinki Final Treaty in 1975 gave the Human Rights Committee a new
stick with which to beat the government.…read more

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Through the 1980s the USSR continued to import grain from the USA and
Argentina ­ 40 million tons of grain each year.
Khrushchev's maize campaign came to an end.
Brezhnev supported the right to private plots in collective farms, peasants
were allowed to enlarge them to half a hectare ­ in 1980 they made up 4% of
the USSR's cultivated land, but produced 30% of its food.
Despite the progress made, the government was very conscious that
agriculture was still its greatest problem.…read more

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In 1974 collective farmers were given internal passports for free travel around
the USSR and became entitled to State pensions and minimum wages.
Savings in the USSR rose considerably ­ the State savings bank held 18.7
billion roubles in 1965 and this had risen to 221 billion roubles in 1985. This
could be attributed to the idea that some goods were of such poor quality and
difficult to find that consumers preferred to save their money.…read more

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The Russians then started supplying the Vietcong (a guerrilla army
dedicated to uniting the country under Communist control) with large
quantities of weapons and military advisers
o The war ended in 1973 with a Communist victory and the withdrawal of
US troops.
The crisis in Czechoslovakia:
o In January 1968, the reformer Dubcek, who objected to the
overcentralised Soviet control of the economy, was chosen as Party
leader in Czechoslovakia.…read more

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In 1977 Party membership was around 16 million and 17.4 million by 1981.…read more



Your resources are fantastic! they've really helped me, thankyou for sharing with everyone!

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