Konstantin Chernenko

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Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Chernenko coloured.jpg
Full Name: Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko
Origin: Bolshaya Tes, Yeniseysk Governorate, Russian Empire
Occupation: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1984 - 1985)
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1984 - 1985)
Hobby: Spreading Communist propaganda
Goals: Advance the goals of the Soviet Union (partially successful)
Crimes: Propaganda
Oppression
War crimes
Type of Villain: Corrupt Official


Those who try to give us advice on matters of human rights do nothing but provoke an ironic smile among us. We will not permit anyone to interfere in our affairs.
~ Konstantin Chernenko

Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko (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 on 10 March 1985.

Born to a poor family from Siberia, Chernenko joined the Komsomol (the Communist Party's youth league) in 1929 and became a full member of the party in 1931. After holding a series of propaganda posts, in 1948 he became the head of the propaganda department in Moldavia, serving under Leonid Brezhnev. After Brezhnev took over as First Secretary of the CPSU in 1964, Chernenko rose to head the General Department of the Central Committee, responsible for setting the agenda for the Politburo and drafting Central Committee decrees. In 1971 Chernenko became a full member of the Central Committee, and in 1978 he was made a full member of the Politburo.

After the death of Brezhnev and his successor Yuri Andropov, Chernenko was elected General Secretary in February 1984 and made Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in April 1984. Due to his rapidly failing health, he was often unable to fulfill his official duties. He died in March 1985 after leading the country for only 13 months, and was succeeded as General Secretary by Mikhail Gorbachev.

Biography

Born to a Russian peasant family in the Yeniseysk region of Siberia, Chernenko joined 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 Novosyolovsky District Party Committee. A few years later he was promoted to head of the same department in Uyarsk Raykom.

Trained as a party propagandist, he held several administrative posts before becoming head of agitation and propaganda (agitprop) in Moldavia (1948–56), where he was first noticed by Leonid Brezhnev and brought to Moscow to head a similar department for the party’s Central Committee (1956–60).

In 1964, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was deposed, and succeeded by 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 wiretaps and covert listening devices in various offices of the top Party members. Another of his jobs was to sign hundreds of Party documents daily, a job he did for the next 20 years. Chernenko was a full member of the Central Committee from 1971 and of the Politburo from 1977.

An old-line conservative, Chernenko traveled extensively with Brezhnev and was considered his aide, confidant, and, by some observers, his heir apparent. After Brezhnev’s death, however, he was unable to rally a majority of the party factions behind his candidacy to be head of the party and lost out to Yuri Andropov, the former KGB chief, who became general secretary on November 12, 1982. However, Andropov had become mortally ill by the following August, and after his death six months later, Chernenko succeeded him as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 13, 1984. On April 12 he became chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.

In foreign policy, he negotiated a trade pact with China. Despite calls for renewed détente, Chernenko did little to prevent the escalation of the Cold War with the United States. For example, in 1984, the Soviet Union prevented a visit to West Germany by East German leader Erich Honecker. However, in late autumn of 1984, the U.S. and the Soviet Union did agree to resume arms control talks in early 1985. In November 1984 Chernenko met with Britain's Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock.

Like his predecessor, Chernenko began showing signs of deteriorating health shortly after taking office. His frequent absences from official functions because of illness left little doubt that his election had been an interim measure, and upon his death he was succeeded by Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

The impact of Chernenko—or the lack thereof—was evident in the way in which his death was reported in the Soviet press. Soviet newspapers carried stories about Chernenko's death and Gorbachev's selection on the same day. The papers had the same format: page 1 reported the party Central Committee session on 11 March that elected Gorbachev and printed the new leader's biography and a large photograph of him; page 2 announced the demise of Chernenko and printed his obituary.

After the death of a Soviet leader it was customary for his successors to open his safe. When Gorbachev had Chernenko's safe opened, it was found to contain a small folder of personal papers and several large bundles of money; a large amount of money was also found in his desk. It is not known where he had obtained the money or what he intended to use it for.