As a protégée of Leonid Brezhnev he progressed steadily to the top of the Soviet hierarchy. The only problem for him was that he did not stay so long at the very top because he died.
Konstantin Chernenko was born in 1911 and grew up heavily influenced by Soviet propaganda. He joined the Soviet security apparatus as a member of the border forces. Chernenko saw active service during the Second World War. Whilst carrying out his military service he met Leonid Brezhnev who regarded him as a loyal follower.
Once Brezhnev had become the most powerful politician in the Soviet Union in the mid 1960s then Chernenko soon gained promotion into the Politburo. Many Western experts and Soviet observers assumed that he would become the General Secretary after Brezhnev died due to their close relationship. At least that would have given a little longer in the hotseat.
However in 1982 it was Yuri Andropov that was appointed as General Secretary as he was regarded as been a more dynamic candidate for that position. It was not a particular popular decision as Andropov had plans to crack down on corruption and was hoping to make the system more effective.
He seemed intent on renewing the nuclear arms race.
Chernenko did get the top job when Andropov expired due to cancer in 1984. Yet by that stage he was seriously ill himself. His tenure as Soviet General Secretary was too brief for him to achieve anything apart from delaying Gorbachev's rise to holding office in the Kremlin. He did not slow down the excessise arms expenditure or withdrawal from the disastrous war in Afghanistan.
To a very large degree Chernenko was a prime example of why the USSR was in desperate need of reform to prolong its existence. His successor Mikhail Gorbachev set out to do so after assuming the General Secretaryship. Yet by that stage the whole system was on the verge of collapse.
Crystal D (1998) The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Lenman B (2004) The Chambers Dictionary of World History, Chambers, Edinburgh
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