Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (; Russian: Леони́д Ильи́ч Бре́жнев, IPA: [lʲɪɐˈnʲid ɪˈlʲjitɕ ˈbrʲɛʐnʲɪf] ( listen); Ukrainian: Леоні́д Іллі́ч Бре́жнєв, 19 December 1906 (O.S. 6 December) – 10 November 1982) was a Soviet Ukrainian politician who led the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982 as the General Secretary of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), presiding over the country until his death and funeral in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in duration. During Brezhnev's rule, the global influence of the Soviet Union grew dramatically, in part because of the expansion of the Soviet military during this time. His tenure as leader was marked by the beginning of an era of economic and social stagnation in the Soviet Union.
Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoye, Russian Empire (now Kamianske, Ukraine), into a Russian worker's family in 1906. After graduating from the Dniprodzerzhynsk Metallurgical Technicum, he became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry, in Ukraine. He joined the Komsomol in 1923 and became an active member of the CPSU by 1929. With the onset of World War II, he was drafted into immediate military service and left the army in 1946 with the rank of major general. In 1952, Brezhnev was promoted to the Central Committee and, in 1957 to full member of the Politburo. In 1964, he succeeded Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
As the leader of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev's conservatism and carefulness to reach decisions by consensus with the rest of the Politburo resulted in sustained political stability within the country. However, his hostility towards reform and active cultivation of cronyism ushered in a period of pervasive corruption and socioeconomic decline that came to be known as the Brezhnev Stagnation. On the world stage, Brezhnev pushed hard for the adoption of détente, a commitment by both two superpowers towards the relaxation of Cold War tensions and economic cooperation. Despite such diplomatic gestures, Brezhnev's regime presided over a hawkish foreign policy characterized by widespread military interventionism and an arms buildup that ultimately comprised 12.5% of the nation's GNP. Ultimately, in December 1981, he opted not to have the Soviet military suppress unrest in Poland thereby marking the end of the interventionist Brezhnev Doctrine.
After years of declining health, Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982 and was quickly succeeded in his post as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov. Andropov only held the office of General Secretary for less than two years until his 1984 death. Brezhnev had fostered a cult of personality, although not nearly to the same degree as Stalin. Mikhail Gorbachev, who would lead the USSR from 1985 to 1991, denounced his legacy and drove the process of liberalisation of the Soviet Union.
He is also known as Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev and Brezhnev.