Comrade Brezhnev

I have a lot of jokes about General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. I mean they had a lot of jokes about Brezhnev. People made fun of his love for shiny medals, which he awarded to himself on his birthdays: (Leonid Ilyich is in surgery.” / “Heart again?” / “No, chest expansion surgery: to fit one more Gold Star medal.”) They thought he was semi-illiterate (At the 1980 Olympics, Brezhnev begins his speech. “O!” — applause. “O!” — more applause. “O!” — yet more applause. “O!” — an ovation. “O!!!” — the whole audience stands up and applauds. An aide comes running to the podium and whispers, “Leonid Ilyich, that’s the Olympic rings, you don’t need to read it!”)

Towards the end of his life, he was not quite there anymore in head. More jokes ensued. (He came to address a Party meeting, and began: “Dear Comrade Imperialists.” An advisor walked over to the podium and pointed to the speech for Brezhnev. “Oh…” he muttered, and started again: “Dear Comrades, Imperialists are everywhere.”) He would go down to a meeting on science and would deliver a speech about culture. (“After a speech Brezhnev shouts at his speech writer: ‘I ordered you to write a 15-minute speech, but it took me a whole hour to read!’ ‘Sorry, Leonid Ilyich,’ he answered, ‘there were four copies, and you read them all.'”)

The Master of Kremlin, who loved foreign cars and fine clothes and who was oblivious of economic stagnation, was quite removed from the people too. (“Comrades,” he said, I have a plan to overtake the U.S. in the space race — you will land on the sun!” / “But Comrade Brezhnev,” the scientists protested, “we’ll burn up!” / “Don’t take me for a fool,” he said, “you’ll land at night!”) By the time of the 26th Party Congress, in 1981, his speech had deteriorated to a near-incoherent mumble — even if his audience remained as publicly respectful as ever.

Above, during a visit to the United States in 1973,  Brezhnev gives US actress Jill St. John the eye at a poolside reception in California hosted by President Nixon. Photo by Wally McNarnee.

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0 thoughts on “Comrade Brezhnev

  1. My Father knew Brezhnev well while working with him during the thirties in Ukraine.

    He was always fond of telling us that it could only have happen in the USSR due to its ridiculous communist party system that such a mediocre person could have achieved the position of General Secretary.

    I wonder what he would have said of the USA today if Sarah Palin is now considered by some of that country as a viable presidential candidate.

    1. Yeah, Sarah Palin would look just as good as Jill St. John on this picture, even better shape, even though she is 47 and Jill St. John was a mere 33. The only problem is who to replace Brezhnev on the picture. Ahamdinejad? Nah, he would probably have to look up to the woman’s behind, not down as Brezhnev did.

  2. I’m afraid I would also have a case of the wandering eye where the lovely Ms. St.John is concerned. The only reason to watch “Tony Rome” was her and seeing all the places I could spot in Miami.

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