Konstantin Chernenko – Soviet leader
Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko was a general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1983-1985).
Konstantin Chernenko was born on September 24, 1911, in a village in the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia. As a teenager Chernenko became associated with the Communist Youth League (Komsomol), often an apprenticeship for future party officials. In 1929-1930, he was named to head the propaganda and agitation department of the Novoselovo District Komsomol committee. In 1930 Chernenko began three years’ service with the Red Army on the Chinese border. He became a full member of the party in 1931 and returned after his military service to Krasnoyarsk as a party propagandist.
In 1948 he became the head of the Agitation and Propaganda Department in the new Republic of Moldavia. There he got to know the future party leader Leonid Brezhnev, who became the republic’s first secretary in 1950. After Brezhnev became a Central Committee secretary, he brought Chernenko to Moscow in 1956 to work in the party apparatus.
In 1960 Chernenko was appointed the head of its secretariat. After Brezhnev became General Secretary, Chernenko became the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) General Department in 1965, a Central Committee secretary in 1976, a candidate member of the Politburo in 1977, and a full member of the Politburo in 1978.
In 1979 Chernenko participated in the Vienna arms limitation talks and frequently met with foreign visitors and delegations.
When Brezhnev died in November 1982, Chernenko was passed over, and the party turned to the more experienced Yuri Andropov as its new leader. However, when Andropov died a little over a year later in February 1984, the party chose the seventy-two-year-old Chernenko as its leader.
Chernenko’s diseases were legion, the most serious being emphysema. He could neither breathe nor speak properly. On coming to power, he spent several weeks in the spring of 1984 in the hospital, writing notes and letters for the Politburo’s consideration. That summer he was taken to Kislovodsk, the best spa in Russia for lung problems. But the place was unfriendly to Chernenko: the weather was cold and it did not stop drizzling for 12 days. At the spa, he contracted pneumonia and was immediately brought back to Moscow. Only in late fall was he able to return to his Kremlin office, and then only for a period of two months.
When Chernenko died in March 1985, the torch was passed to Mikhail Gorbachev.
Some actors played Chernenko in the films:
– Series Red Square (2004, actor Yuri Sarantsev).
– The series Brezhnev (2005, actor Athanasius Kochetkov).
– The documentary series The Peculators (2011, actor Yuri Ageikin).
– The series Nesterov’s Loop (2015, actor Alexei Mikhailov).
Encyclopedia of Russian History
Encyclopedia of World Biography