Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Podgorny, Nikolai Viktorovich (1903–1983)

Soviet political leader and head of state. Born in Karlovka, Ukraine, on 18 February 1903, Nikolai Podgorny worked in a factory beginning at age fifteen. A Komsomol (Young Communist League) activist in the early 1920s, he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1927 and graduated from the Kiev Technological Institute for the Food Industry in 1931. He was an administrator in sugar plants during the 1930s. During the 1940s, he held a succession of senior posts in the administration of the food industry in the Ukraine and at the national level.

Beginning in 1950, Podgorny's career shifted to the party apparatus in the Ukraine, where he rose rapidly during the next several years. In 1956 he was elected to the CPSU Central Committee and served as first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party during 1957–1963. He became a candidate member of the CPSU Presidium in 1958 and a full member in 1960. In 1963, he was appointed a secretary of the Central Committee. Accounts differ as to his role in the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev in October 1964, but Podgorny quickly lent his support to new First Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, becoming part of the collective leadership along with Premier Alexei Kosygin.

On 9 December 1965, Podgorny became chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, thus becoming the ceremonial head of state, but his influence in the government soon declined as Brezhnev sought to consolidate his power. In April 1966, Podgorny was removed from the Central Committee secretariat. Although he was still politically prominent, his influence was nonetheless waning. In 1977 Brezhnev engineered Podgorny's removal from the Politburo and then from the chairmanship of the Supreme Soviet. Brezhnev assumed the chairmanship himself while remaining first secretary, thus gaining diplomatic status as head of state while also maintaining the real power that came as leader of the CPSU. Podgorny lived in quiet retirement until his death in Moscow on 11 January 1983.

Steven W. Guerrier


Further Reading
Gelman, Harry. The Brezhnev Politburo and the Decline of Détente. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984.; Lowenhardt, John, James R. Ozinga, and Eric van Ree. The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Politburo. New York: St. Martin's, 1972.
 

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