Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (December 19, 1906 – November 10, 1982) led the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He served as the fourth First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, from 1960 to 1964 and 1977 to 1982.
Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoe (now Dniprodzerzhynsk, Ukraine) in 1906. He was employed as a metalworker in his youth; he joined Komsomol in 1922 and the Communist Party in 1931. From 1935–36 he was drafted into the army for obligatory service. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and he—like many other middle-ranked party officials—was immediately drafted. In 1946, Brezhnev left the army with the rank of Major General. When he returned to national politics, he became a deputy member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.
After Khrushchev's party colleagues removed him from power in 1964, he was replaced by Brezhnev as General Secretary of the Communist Party. Brezhnev reversed many of Khrushchev's reforms when he took office. Under Brezhnev's leadership, the Soviet Union reached its political and strategic peak in relations to the United States and Western Europe. Brezhnev's last years as leader were marked by a growing personality cult, which had not been seen since the reign of Joseph Stalin. Brezhnev used major parts of the economic budget of the Soviet Union on the military.
He presided over the Soviet Union when the country was stagnating, a period commonly known as the Brezhnev Stagnation, a period when economic problems were overlooked and corruption ignored. Another decision he is well-known for was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which undermined his international stance both at home and abroad. Brezhnev died in 1982 and was followed by Yuri Andropov.