Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Kosygin, Alexei Nikolayevich (1904–1980)

Title: Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin
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Soviet premier. Born in St. Petersburg on 21 February 1904, Alexei Kosygin served in the Red Army during 1919–1921. He graduated from the Leningrad Cooperative Technicum in 1924 and from the Leningrad Textile Institute in 1935, after having joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1927. After directing a textile mill and becoming active in the Leningrad party apparatus, Kosygin began a rapid ascent in the CPSU, facilitated by the removal of many members during the Great Purges of the 1930s.

In 1939, Kosygin was named to head the Soviet textile industry and became a full member of the CPSU Central Committee. In 1940 he assumed the post of deputy chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (Council of Ministers after 1946), a post he held until 1953. He became a candidate member of the Politburo in 1946 and a full member in 1948. His ties to Andrei Zhdanov, who was purged in 1948, resulted in his demotion to candidate status in the Politburo (now Presidium) in 1952.

Following Premier Josef Stalin's death in 1953, Kosygin's fortunes fluctuated wildly as Stalin's successors struggled for power. Expelled from the Presidium, he was removed from and then regained numerous posts because of his opposition to Georgy Malenkov, who lost the premiership in 1955 but remained a powerful figure in the Presidium. Malenkov's failed attempt to remove First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev in July 1957 cost him his seats in the Presidium and Central Committee. In the aftermath, Kosygin was returned to candidacy status in the Presidium and was restored as deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers. In 1960 he was elected a full member of the Presidium.

Kosygin's disagreements with Khrushchev over economic policies led him to join the faction that ousted Khrushchev from power in October 1964. In the resulting reapportionment of power, Kosygin became chairman of the Council of Ministers (premier) in the new government. As premier, his most significant achievements were in domestic economic affairs. He sponsored the so-called Kosygin Reforms in 1965, which provided individual enterprises with increased autonomy from party control. They also further centralized control of the economy through the elimination of regional economic councils. Although never fully implemented, the reforms did improve the efficiency of economic planning.

Initially viewed as equal to First Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in the collective leadership, Kosygin's power was in decline by 1968. The Prague Spring crisis lessened Politburo interest in economic reform, and Brezhnev soon assumed control over foreign affairs. By the early 1970s, Kosygin was in a subordinate position to Brezhnev. Declining health led to Kosygin's retirement in October 1980. He died in Moscow on 18 December 1980.

Steven W. Guerrier


Further Reading
Gelman, Harry. The Brezhnev Politburo and the Decline of Détente. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984.; Taubman, William C., Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. New York: Norton, 2003.
 

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