Manage episode 307594848 series 2312958
Now, what do you think of when you hear the name Leonid Brezhnev who ruled the Soviet Union for 18 years from the 1960s to the 1980s?
An old guy waving weakly from the Lenin mausoleum?
Well, think again! We speak with Susanne Schattenberg, the author of a new biography that systematically dismantles the stereotypical and one-dimensional view of Brezhnev as the stagnating Stalinist by drawing on a wealth of archival research and documents not previously studied in English.
The Brezhnev that emerges is a complex one, from his early apolitical years, as an aspiring actor and poetry fan, through his swift and surprising rise through the Party ranks.
We talk about his hitherto misunderstood role in Khrushchev's ousting and appointment as his successor, to his somewhat pro-Western foreign policy aims, deft consolidation and management of power, and ultimate descent into addiction and untimely death.
For Schattenberg, this is the story of a flawed and ineffectual idealist - for the West, this biography makes a convincing case that Brezhnev should be reappraised as one of the most interesting and important political figures of the twentieth century.
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I am delighted to welcome Susanne Schattenberg to our Cold War conversation…
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