Brezhnev ‘Died’ in ’76 Stroke, Ruled Six Years in Daze, Historian Says

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Kremlin leader Leonid I. Brezhnev suffered clinical death in January, 1976, but was revived and ruled in a virtual daze for six more years, a Soviet historian said today.

The historian, Roy Medvedev, said Brezhnev was largely kept in power by corrupt officials in his entourage who knew they were safe while he remained as president and Communist Party general secretary.

After Brezhnev’s 1976 stroke, Medvedev said in an article in the weekly Moscow News, “he gradually found it more and more difficult to carry out the most simple protocol functions and could no longer understand what was going on around him.”


Brezhnev, who became party leader in 1964 after the removal of Nikita S. Khrushchev, died in November, 1982. The period of his rule is now officially condemned as one of social and economic stagnation.

His son-in-law, former First Deputy Interior Minister Yury Churbanov, went on trial in Moscow this week accused of involvement in a huge corruption scandal, and other officials who flourished under him have also been dismissed or arrested.

Medvedev, who was expelled from the party under Brezhnev but has now emerged as a leading reformist historian, said, “Many people in his entourage who were influential but totally wallowing in corruption needed Brezhnev to appear from time to time in public as at least a formal head of state. They literally led him around by the hand. . . . “

Medvedev said Brezhnev had managed to put in senior positions many people from the group he gathered around him when he worked in the Ukraine and Moldavia between the 1930s and 1950s.

Although many are now dead or removed, the historian added, “the Brezhnev ‘team’ still exists and that is clearly not the best component of the heritage its late leader left the party.”