Gordon Smith

Abstract

For the last decade of the Brezhnev regime, Western observers predicted a generational transfer of power to occur in the USSR.1 The Brezhnev generation demonstrated remarkable continuity and stability, resulting in long tenure in office and the aging of those not only in top leadership posts, but throughout the Party and state apparatuses. After Brezhnev's death in November 1982 many observers expected the generational shift to occur at last; however, the short-lived regimes of Iurii Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko precluded extensive personnel changes. With the succession of Mikhail Gorbachev to the post of General Secretary, the long-awaited generational change has at last occurred, perhaps more rapidly than many predicted. The personnel changes that have taken place to date in the Gorbachev reign, especially those within the USSR Council of Ministers, offer a unique opportunity to assess the process of leadership consolidation in the USSR and also provide some insights into Gorbachev's economic reform strategy.