Special Report

Every Russian (and Soviet) Head of State Since Peter the Great

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Leonid Brezhnev
> Title: Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
> In office: 1960-1964 / 1977-1982

A protege of Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev was first named president in 1960. The position wielded little political power, but gave Brezhnev the opportunity to meet with foreign officials. After Khrushchev was removed from office in 1964, Brezhnev took power, becoming the first person to lead both the Communist party and the state. In an effort to ease tensions with the U.S, Brezhnev established the policy of “detente.” Yet his regime was marked by brutal repression – he invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 – and living standards at home stagnated as he favored building up the country’s military complex to the detriment of the rest of the economy.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Anastas Mikoyan
> Title: Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
> In office: 1964-1965

An ally of Nikita Khrushchev, Anastas Mikoyan rose to the rank of first deputy premier of the Soviet Union. When Khrushchev was deposed, Mikoyan held the largely ceremonial title of chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1964 to 1965. Although he continued as a member of the Central Committee,after his death, he was buried in a cemetery in Moscow, not in the Kremlin wall reserved for high-ranking Soviet leaders.

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Nikolai Podgorny
> Title: Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
> In office: 1965-1977

Ukrainian-born Nikolai Podgorny lost a power struggle with Leonid Brezhnev, then first secretary of the Communist Party, and was pushed into the less influential post of chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1965 to 1977. Because he opposed Brezhnev’s move to be named both party secretary and Presidium chairmanship, Podgorny was removed from the Politburo and relieved of his duties as chairman, with Brezhnev taking that position. He lived in retirement in Moscow following his ouster.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Vasili Kuznetsov
> Title: Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
> In office: 1982-1983 / 1984 / 1985

Before assuming the chairmanship of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, Vasili Kuznetsov served as ambassador to China for two years beginning in 1953. From 1955 to 1977, he was the first deputy minister of foreign affairs. After Leonid Brezhnev died in 1982, he ascended to the post of acting president of the Soviet Union until Yuri Andropov assumed that position in 1983.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Yuri Andropov
> Title: Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
> In office: 1983-1984

As head of the Soviet Union’s KGB from 1967 to 1982, Yuri Andropov instituted a policy of suppression against the regime’s critics. A mere two days after Leonid Brezhnev’s death, he became president. Due to ill health, Andropov was rarely seen in public and didn’t accomplish anything of note during his time in office. He died after serving for 15 months.

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