Konstantin Ustinowitsch Tschernenko

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Konstantin Tschernenko (1973) Chernenko's signature

Konstantin Ustinovich Tschernjenko ( Russian Константин Устинович Черненко ., Scientific transliteration Konstantin Ustinovič Černenko * 11 . Jul / 24. September  1911 greg. In Bolshaya Tes , yeniseysk governorate , Russian Empire , now the Krasnoyarsk region ; † 10. March 1985 in Moscow ) was a Soviet politician and from February 13, 1984 until his death General Secretary of the CPSU and, as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the head of state of the Soviet Union.


Education and advancement

Chernenko came from a working class family in Siberia. The father Ustin Demidovich was a miner, and the mother Kharitina Chernenko worked in agriculture. In 1926 he joined the Komsomol  - the youth organization of the CPSU  - and in 1931 the party. From 1930 to 1933 he served with the OGPU border troops on the Soviet-Chinese border. He then attended party schools and received his diploma in Moscow in 1945. In 1953 he finished a distance learning course for teacher training.

In 1948 he became head of the propaganda department in the Central Committee (ZK) of the Communist Party (KP) of the Moldovan SSR . It was here that he first met Leonid Brezhnev , who was first secretary of the Central Committee of the Moldovan Communist Party from 1950 to 1952. From now on he was promoted by Brezhnev and his most loyal follower in his shadow. In 1956 he followed Brezhnev to Moscow and performed similar tasks in the field of propaganda in the Central Committee of the CPSU . When Brezhnev became the first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee in October 1964 , he took on the role of head of the personal staff of the Brezhnev party office.

At the center of power

Party leader of the CPSU
Michail Sergejewitsch Gorbatschow Konstantin Ustinowitsch Tschernenko Juri Wladimirowitsch Andropow Leonid Iljitsch Breschnew Nikita Sergejewitsch Chruschtschow Josef Stalin Lenin

In 1965 - at the age of 54 - Chernenko became head of the General Department of the Central Committee. From 1971 he was a member of the Central Committee, from 1976 to 1984 Secretary of the Central Committee .

In 1977 he became a candidate and in 1978 a full member of the Politburo , the highest political body in the USSR. In 1984, now at the age of 72, he became General Secretary of the CPSU and, as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, head of state of the Soviet Union; by that time he was already suffering from emphysema and was seriously ill. The reason for his growing political influence must be seen in his years of absolutely loyal cooperation with Brezhnev as his confidant. He dominated the apparatus of the CPSU and he organized all management tasks during Brezhnev's illness.

Despite his close relationship with Brezhnev, it was not Chernenko but his rival Yuri Andropov who became Central Committee secretary and thus de facto deputy general secretary after the death of party chief ideologist Mikhail Suslov in January 1982 ("second"). After Brezhnev's death on November 10, 1982, Andropov was chosen as Brezhnev's successor instead of Chernenko. Chernenko had to announce this decision of the Politburo to the Central Committee of the CPSU on November 12, 1982. The Central Committee confirmed the Politburo decision. Andropov became the new general secretary. Chernenko received Andropov's previous post as "second" Central Committee secretary. Although Andropov's protégé and favorite for the successor was not Chernenko, but Mikhail Gorbachev, Andropov was unable to oust Chernenko from the position of “second” Central Committee secretary during his reign. After Andropov's death in February 1984, Prime Minister Nikolai Tikhonov proposed Chernenko as the new Secretary General. Chernenko was then confirmed by the Central Committee as Andropov's successor. Andropov's protégé Gorbachev took over Chernenko's function as secretary of the Central Committee and was in turn his successor after Chernenko's death.

Chernenko's reign came at a time when the relationship between East and West had reached a new low after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and NATO's double decision . The tensions also manifested themselves in the mutual boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles . Chernenko appeared helpless against US President Ronald Reagan , who was re-elected by a clear majority in November 1984 and who was pursuing a tough anti-communist course. However, during his reign it was decided to resume negotiations with the USA on arms control in Geneva. However, the negotiations only began after Chernenko's death. Government contacts with the USA were therefore resumed. Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko therefore traveled to the USA for a meeting with him before Reagan's re-election in 1984 and agreed to resume the Geneva disarmament negotiations with his US colleague George Shultz in January 1985. Gorbachev biographer Christian Schmidt-Häuer writes that Chernenko and Gorbachev had the Rapprochement with the US supported. In the same week - September 1984 - in which the Politburo decided to send Gromyko to the USA, the critic of this policy, Chief of Staff Nikolai Ogarkov , was removed from his post. There is much to suggest that the Politburo decided at that meeting in September 1984 - that is, during Chernenko's reign - to resume dialogue with the United States and to remove Ogarkov. Ogarkov's only ally in this body, Politburo member Grigory Romanov , Central Committee Secretary for Defense and proponent of a “hard” foreign policy, was on a trip abroad during that meeting.

While Chernenko "swayed" between dogmatists and reformers of the CPSU in domestic policy and - with the exception of the dismissal of Ogarkov - no changes were made to the top Soviet leadership (only the death of Defense Minister Dmitry Ustinov in December 1984 led to the appointment of a new Defense Minister (who, unlike his predecessor, did not become a member of the Politburo), from September 1984 Chernenko began a cautious revision of the confrontational Soviet foreign policy that had led to the NATO rearmament decision, and tensions were reduced. They had tightened considerably after the implementation of the NATO double resolution in November 1983 - still under Andropov. Like his successor Gorbachev, Chernenko apparently advocated rapprochement with the United States and the overcoming of mutual tensions, also for reasons of economic policy (he refused to cut social programs in favor of the defense budget). He wanted to return to the détente policy of the 1970s. However, this policy was only vigorously implemented under Gorbachev.

Like his predecessor Andropov, Chernenko was secretary general only for a short time. Chernenko had already started smoking as a teenager and was always known as a heavy smoker. In old age, emphysema developed . An autopsy was performed after his death and it was discovered that he also suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and chronic hepatitis . He died after just thirteen months in office. Mikhail Gorbachev was his successor .


Chernenko received the Order of Heroes of Socialist Labor three times, the Order of Lenin four times and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor three times . Like his predecessors, he was buried on the Kremlin wall . The city of Sharypovo bore his name from 1985 to 1988.


  • Selected speeches and essays 1981 - 1984. Dietz-Verlag, Berlin 1985; DNB 850553695 .
  • People and party are one. Selected speeches and essays. Edition Rötzer, Eisenstadt 1984, ISBN 3-85374-139-8 .
  • with MS Gorbachev: To the level of the requirements of developed socialism. Towards the 27th Party Congress. Verlag Marxistische Blätter, Frankfurt am Main 1985, ISBN 3-88012-715-8 .


  • Lothar Kölm (ed.): Kremlin chiefs - political-biographical sketches from Lenin to Gorbachev. Dietz, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-320-01697-0 .
  • Dmitri Volkogonov : The Seven Leaders . Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt 2001, ISBN 3-7973-0774-8 .
  • Christian Schmidt-Häuer: Michail Gorbatschow . New edition, Piper-Verlag, Munich 1986, ISBN 978-3-492-00767-2 .
  • Dev Murarka: Mikhail Gorbachev - The limit of power . A biography. Lübbe, Mönchengladbach 1991, ISBN 978-3-404-61111-9 .
  • Archie Brown: The Gorbachev Factor: Changing a World Power. Insel-Verlag Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-458-17016-2 .

Web links

Commons : Konstantin Ustinowitsch Tschernenko  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. World attention turns to Chernenko's health
  2. Autopsy disc loose serveral diseases
  3. A red star rises in the east . In: Der Spiegel 12/1985 of March 18, 1985, pp. 142–156
  4. The grave of Konstantin Chernenko. In: knerger.de. Klaus Nerger, accessed on March 10, 2019 .
predecessor Office successor
Yuri Andropov General Secretary of the CPSU
Mikhail Gorbachev
predecessor Office successor
Yuri Andropov Head of State of the Soviet Union
Andrei Gromyko