Leonid Brezhnev as statesman and performer

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor, IRES Library
  • Website
  • Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)
  • Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
  • Phone: 018 471 1630
  • Föreläsning

In this seminar Professor Susanne Schattenberg will give a different perspective of Leonid Brezhnev's biography and role as a Soviet leader.

Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982) has always been considered a “falcon”, a Stalinist, and a grey, bloated apparatchik – the man who invaded Prague in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. My research shows that none of this is true: Neither Brezhnev nor his parents supported the Bolsheviks; their modest decent life was destroyed by the Revolution in 1917, the ensuing civil war and famine. Quite the contrary to his official biographies there was nothing heroic or revolutionary about his early life: three times he had to escape hunger, violence and the housing shortage between 1920 and 1930. Though he was trained first as a land surveyor and then as an engineer, he dreamed of becoming an actor. When he came to power in 1964, he used his acting talent to present himself as a Western-style politician to signal that he was different: not an ideologue, not a hardliner, nor a threat. Six very successful years (1969-1974) were followed by his total retreat from the diplomatic scene resulting in a new “ice age” in the Cold War. Until now Western analysts thought that Brezhnev suffered from several strokes or heart attacks in his last years. Actually, he was addicted to sleeping pills and tranquilizers, which caused his inability to act, speak clearly and lead his country.

Susanne Schattenberg is Professor for Contemporary East European History and Culture at the University of Bremen and Director of the Research Centre for East European Studies. She teaches Russian and Soviet History at Bremen University. Professor Schattenberg studied in Hamburg, Leningrad and Konstanz and holds an MA in history and Slavic Studies from Konstanz University. In 1999 she defended her doctoral thesis on “Stalin’s engineers” at European University Frankfurt (Oder). The book was published in German (2002) and Russian with ROSSPEN (2011). From 2002 to 2006 she worked at Humboldt University Berlin where she submitted her second book for “Habilitation” on the gift-giving culture of Russian bureaucrats in the 19th century. The book was published in German in 2008. The same year she was appointed in Bremen. Her research interests include Stalinism from below, Russian bureaucrats in the 19th century, the cultural history of Russian and Soviet diplomacy, and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Her biography of Brezhnev was published in German in 2017 and in Russian with ROSSPEN in 2018. It will hopefully appear in English with Bloomsbury in 2020.

Leonid Brezhnev as statesman and performer