- Birth Place
- Bolshaya Tes, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Siberia
- Date of Birth
- 24 September 1911
- Date of Death
- 10 March 1985
Chernenko was born into the family of a poor Siberian farmer. He joined Communist Youth Organisation in 1926 and became a member of the Communist Party in 1931. His first job was as a Frontier Guard on the Sino-Soviet border.
Throughout the late 1930s and 1940s he was a party bureaucrat in charge of propaganda, literature and other Party duties in Krasnoyarsk.
He did not participate in the Second World War. He sat it out as a party official in charge of Agitprop in Siberia.
His luck changed when he met Leonid Brezhnev in Moldova. Brezhnev took a liking to this Siberian and when he moved to Moscow in 1956 he brought Chernenko with him as chief of staff.
His career in the USSR was that of a bureaucrat within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He was not particularly distinguished in any job he held.
Brezhnev died in 1982 and Chernenko lost the power struggle to take over. Andropov won the nomination to General Secretary. When Andropov died just over a year later Chernenko was elected to replace him despite his doctor’s warning that he was too sick for the job.
He represented a return to hard line policies. Although he supported a greater role for unions, wished to reform education and trim Soviet bureaucracy he was able to enact very little during his time in office. It is said he paid greater attention to public opinion and that he invested in consumer goods, public services and agriculture but there is very little evidence to support this.
In foreign policy he escalated the Cold War and was instrumental in the Soviet Union, and thereby all Soviet block countries, boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics.
Chernenko's poor health deteriorated quickly and he was unable to govern effectively. As his strength ebbed away he left Mikhail Gorbachev to run the country. By the end of 1984 Chernenko could hardly leave the hospital. By March 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev had largely taken charge as the rest of the Politburo awaited Cherenko’s death. He died 10 March 1985 and is buried in the Kremlin.
He was an extremely poor choice for party leader. Seen by most as an attempt by the old guard to hold onto power his ill health meant he was unable even to do that effectively.
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.
« back to all biographies