In the U.S.S.R. the death of the leader of the party and state is a political event of extraordinary significance, usually marking the end of an era. Protracted tenure in office permits Soviet leaders to conclude a fair number of enterprises. At the same time, however, many problems accumulate that an aging leadership is no longer able to resolve. And while the speeches at funerals stress continuity, most of the population’s first thought will be of the changes in the society and government ushered in by a change of rulers.
Although the condition of a Soviet leader’s health is a carefully kept state secret, Brezhnev’s progressive infirmity was obvious to anyone who heard his speeches or saw him on television. It ...
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