Political Developments, 1953-85

Political Developments, 1953-85

Khrushchev’s Thaw

  • Leadership Succession: Following Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the key figure.
  • Secret Speech: In 1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s dictatorial rule and the cult of personality in a private session of the party congress, marking a significant shift.
  • Destalinisation: Khrushchev introduced moderate political reforms aimed at removing Stalin’s influence, including reducing the powers of the secret police.

Brezhnev’s Doctrine

  • Transition of Power: Khrushchev was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev in 1964.
  • Brezhnev Doctrine: Justified Soviet intervention in any socialist country seen to be threatened by forces unfriendly to socialism (announced after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968).
  • Re-Stalinisation: Brezhnev reversed Khrushchev’s reforms and reintroduced more repressive measures, leading to a decrease in political freedoms.
  • Corruption and Nepotism: There was a rise in corruption and nepotism under Brezhnev, contributing to growing economic problems and cynicism among the population.

Andropov and Chernenko

  • Andropov’s Leadership: Brezhnev was succeeded by Yuri Andropov in 1982, who aimed to improve work discipline and combat corruption but his time in power was short due to ill health.
  • Chernenko’s Rule: Konstantin Chernenko took over after Andropov’s death in 1984, continuing Andropov’s policies but his rule was also short-lived due to ill health.

Domestic Policies and Control

  • Increased Censorship: There was a clampdown on dissent and an increased level of censorship under Brezhnev.
  • Dissidents and Control: Dissidents were frequently arrested, exiled, or institutionalised, including notable figures like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov.
  • Increased Military Spending: Brezhnev increased military spending, which put a strain on the Soviet economy.