Konstantin Chernenko

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Konstantin Chernenko as seen during Nicolae Ceauşescu's visit to Moscow 60 years after the formation of the USSR

Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko (24 September 191110 March 1985) was a Soviet politician, who served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from February 1984 (after the death of Yuri Andropov) until his death in March 1985. He was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev.


  • 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.
    • Quoted in "Simpson's contemporary quotations" - by James Beasley Simpson - Page 2
  • If Soviet society is to move forward with confidence toward our great goals, each new generation must rise to an ever-higher level of learning and general cultivation, occupational skill and civic activism. One might say that such is the law of societal progress. In the context of the scientific and technological revolution, under a virtual avalanche of information, this law imposes unwontedly high demands on both those who study and those who teach—from rank-and-file classroom teachers to government ministers.
    • Quoted in "Soviet Education" - Page 109 - by International Arts and Sciences Press, M.E. Sharpe, Inc - Education - 1958
  • The Soviet Union has long been proposing to outlaw chemical weapons, to remove them from the arsenals of states. We are prepared for resolution of this problem either on a global basis or piece by piece. As one of the first steps the USSR and the other socialist countries proposed in January 1984 that agreement be reached on ridding Europe of all types of chemical weapons.
    • Quoted in "World Peace and the Developing Countries" - Page 126 - by Joseph Rotblat, Ubiratan D'Ambrosio - 1986
  • As a great socialist power the Soviet Union is fully aware of its responsibility to the peoples for preserving and strengthening peace. We are open to peaceful, mutually beneficial cooperation with states on all continents. We are for the peaceful settlement of all disputable international problems through serious, equal, and constructive talks.
    • Quoted in "The Struggle of the USSR for Peace and Security" - Page 6 - History - 1984
  • All this is forcing the USSR to fortify the nation's defences. The Soviet people want no arms build-up. What they want is arms reduction on both sides. But we are compelled to see to our country's essential security and also to that of our friends and allies. That is exactly what is being done. And we want everybody to remember that no adventure-seekers will ever succeed in catching us unawares, that no potential aggressor has the slightest chance of escaping a devastating retaliatory strike.
    • Quoted in "Problems of Common Security" - Page 60 - by V. S. Shaposhnikov - 1984

About Chernenko

Document about Chernenko seized from the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 by Iranian students
  • A staleness was particularly apparent in the early 1980s, and notably under Chernenko, who died on 10 March 1985. An impression of stagnation, if not decay, became more insistent and was commented on both within and outside the Soviet Union. ‘The patient had died already on the operating table’ by 1985, although few of the top Soviet leaders understood that. Yet, underlying later counterfactuals about whether different outcomes were possible, very few commentators proved willing to predict that the Soviet bloc would soon collapse. There was an awareness in the West of its economic problems, but not of their consequences. The ability to suppress dissent in Poland in 1981 encouraged a sense that force would help deal with problems. However, the combination of Soviet economic difficulties, Soviet political sluggishness, and a much broader and better educated Soviet citizenry, indicated that the country in 1985 was very different to what had been called for and anticipated during the 1917 Revolution. Moreover, the citizenry was aware of this contrast.
  • Sverdlov Hall was already nearly full...The provincial elite were all there. And it was all the usual things: people kissing each other and shouting greetings across the rows of seats, chattering about the snow and the harvest prospects and generally feeling themselves to be masters of their fate. In all the cacophony I didn't hear the name of Andropov mentioned once, not anything said about his death. At twenty minutes to eleven the hall hushed. The waiting began. With each minute the tension rose and the atmosphere felt charged with electricity...The tension reached a climax. All eyes turned towards the door...Who would come through it first? At precisely eleven, Chernenko's head appeared in the doorway. He was followed by Tikhonov, Gromyko, Ustinov, Gorbachev and the rest. The delegates' reaction was silence.
    • Anatoly Chernyayev, who was to become an aide to Gorbachev, has described the appointment of Chernenko at the special plenum of the Central Committee on February 13, 1984.
  • You know, comrades, that Konstantin Ustinovich has been gravely ill for a long time, and has been in the hospital in recent months. On the part of the Fourth Main Department, all necessary measures were taken in order to treat Konstantin Ustinovich. But the illness did not submit to the cure, it started to weaken his systems first slowly, and then faster and faster. It became especially aggravated as a result of pneumonia in both lungs, which Konstantin Ustinovich developed during his vacation in Kislovodsk. There were periods when we succeeded in alleviating the lung and heart insufficiencies, and during those periods Konstantin Ustinovich found enough strength to come to work. Several times he conducted Politburo sessions, and put in work days, although shortened ones. Emphysema of the lungs and the aggravated lung and heart insufficiency had worsened significantly in the last two or three weeks. Another, accompanying illness had developed—chronic hepatitis, i.e. liver failure with its transformation into cirrhosis. The cirrhosis of the liver and the worsening dystrophic changes in the organs and tissues led to the situation where not with standing intensive therapy, which was administered actively on a daily basis, the state of his health gradually deteriorated. On March 10 at 3:00 p.m., Konstantin Ustinovich lost consciousness, and at 19:20 death occurred as a result of heart failure.
    • Yevgeni Chazov, spoken in a special session of the Central Committee one day after Chernenko died.
  • Andropov died the following month, to be succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko, an enfeebled geriatric so zombie-like as to be beyond assessing intelligence reports, alarming or not. Having failed to prevent the NATO missile deployments, Foreign Minister Gromyko soon grudgingly agreed to resume arms control negotiations. Meanwhile Reagan was running for re-election as both a hawk and a dove: in November he trounced his Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale. And when Chernenko died in March, 1985, at the age of seventy-four, it seemed an all-too-literal validation of Reagan's predictions about "last pages" and historical "ash-heaps." Seventy-four himself at the time, the president had another line ready: "How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians, if they keep dying on me?"
  • Re-elected in 1984, [Reagan] sought to assure the Soviet leadership that he wanted peace; he also signalled that he sought a resumption of negotiations. This was not going to be easy. Andropov had been in poor health at his accession to the General Secretaryship, and he died in February 1984. His successor Konstantin Chernenko had been Brezhnev’s personal assistant. Mental agility beyond the routine tasks of administration had never been one of his strong features and he was already badly ill with emphysema. Reagan was trying to parley at a table at which he was the solitary sitter. Yet fortune smiled on the American strategy when, in March 1985, Chernenko died and was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachëv.
    • Robert Service, Comrades!: A History of World Communism (2010)
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