Konstantin Chernenko

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Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko[1] (24 September 1911 – 10 March 1985) was a Soviet politician and the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He led the Soviet Union from 13 February 1984 until his death thirteen months later, on 10 March 1985. Chernenko was also Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 11 April 1984 until his death.


Early life

Chernenko was born to a poor family in the village of Bolshaya Tes (now in Novosyolovo Rayon, Krasnoyarsk Krai). His father, Ustin Demidovich (of Ukrainian origin), worked in copper and gold mines while his mother took care of the farm work. Chernenko joined the Komsomol (Communist Youth League) in 1929, and became a full member of the Communist Party in 1931. From 1930 to 1933, he served in the Soviet frontier guards on the Soviet-Chinese border. After completing his military service, he returned to Krasnoyarsk as a propagandist. In 1933 he worked in the Propaganda Department of the Novoselovo District Party Committee. A few years later he was promoted head of the same department in Uyarsk Raykom. Chernenko then steadily rose through the Party ranks, becoming the Director of the Krasnoyarsk House of Party Enlightenment then in 1939, the Deputy Head of the AgitProp Department of Krasnoyarsk Territorial Committee and finally, in 1941 he was appointed Secretary of the Territorial Party Committee for Propaganda. It was in the 1940s that Chernenko established a close-knit relationship with Fyodor Kulakov.[2] In 1945, he acquired a diploma from a party training school in Moscow, and in 1953 he finished a correspondence course for schoolteachers.

The turning point in Chernenko’s career was his assignment in 1948 to head the Communist Party’s propaganda department in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. There, he met and won the confidence of Leonid Brezhnev, the first secretary of Moldova from 1950 to 1952 and future leader of the Soviet Union. Chernenko followed Brezhnev in 1956 to fill a similar propaganda post in the CPSU Central Committee in Moscow. In 1960, after Brezhnev was named chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (titular head of state of the Soviet Union), Chernenko became his chief of staff.

Politburo career

In 1964 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was deposed, and succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev. During Brezhnev's tenure as Party leader, Chernenko's career continued successfully. He was nominated in 1965 as head of the General Department of the Central Committee, and given the mandate to set the Politburo agenda, and prepare drafts of numerous Central Committee decrees and resolutions. He also monitored telephone and wiretapping devices in various offices of the top Party members. Another one of his jobs was to sign hundreds of Party documents daily, a job he did for the next 20 years. Even after he became General Secretary of the Party, he continued to sign papers referring to the General Department (when he could no longer physically sign documents, a facsimile was used instead).

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