|Date of Birth||20 February 1904, St. Petersburg, Russian Empire [now Russia]|
|Date of Death||18 December 1980, Moscow, RSFSR, USSR [now Russia]|
|Birth Name||Aleksey Nikolayevich Kosygin|
|Height||5' 10½" (1.79 m)|
Mini Bio (1)
Aleksei Kosygin was the youngest Mayor of Leningrad and the longest serving Prime Minister of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1980. He was one of the most lasting high ranking Russian officials whose government career spanned over 40 years from the rule of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, to Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev. Unlike many Soviet politicians, Kosygin was an intellectual truly caring for the wellbeing of working people.
He was born Aleksei Nikolaevich Kosygin on February 20, 1904, in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was baptized at the St. Sampsonievsky Cathedral in St. Petersburg. His mother died when Kosygin was a child. His father, Nikolai Kosygin, was a skilled technician at Lessner plant whose income afforded a middle-class lifestyle and better education for his children in the capital of Tsar's Russia, St. Petersburg. However, after the communist revolution of 1917, young Kosygin chose the side of Red proletariat in the Russian Civil war. In 1919 he joined the Labor Army led by Trotsky, then joined the Soviet communist party in 1921, and obtained recommendations to St. Petersburg (Leningrad) School of Commerce, from which he graduated in 1924.
In 1924 Kosygin founded a small British-Russian joint-venture specializing in digging and selling Siberian gold. His business was successful until 1927, when he returned to St. Petersburg (then named Leningrad) for family reasons. From 1930 to 1935 he studied at Leningrad Institute of Textile Industry graduating as Engineer. At that time Kosygin impressed his colleagues by his ability to memorize large volumes of data and by his accuracy in mathematical calculations which he did without using any computing device. Kosygin's intellectual power was highly appreciated and he soon was appointed Chair of Leningrad City Department of Industry, then, at age 34, was made Mayor of Leningrad in 1938, becoming the youngest ever mayor of this big city. His ability to find solutions in impossible situations became known to Joseph Stalin, so in January of 1939 Kosygin was taken to Moscow and appointed Vice-Chairman of the Soviet Govermnent of USSR. But his extraordinary abilities soon brought him back to where he was born, because native his city, St. Petersburg-Leningrad became the first target of Hitler's attack in the Eastern Front of WWII.
In the Summer of 1941, the Nazi Wermacht and the Finnish Army encircled Leningrad (St. Petersburg), the city of 3,5 million, the fourth largest city in Europe and the main industrial center of Russia which produced 11% of national economy. All roads south of Leningrad were severed by the Nazis, and all roads north of Leningrad were cut by the Finnish Army by September 1941. Defenders and civilians of besieged Leningrad were doomed, because there was no food and energy, all rats, pets and birds were eaten, unprecedented starvation led to cannibalism... German and Finnish Armies made the encirclement of Leningrad impenetrable from all directions, so civilian population was dying at the rate of four to six thousand people daily.
Kosygin designed and managed the «Road of Life» to besieged Leningrad over the ice on Lake Ladoga, including several roads for trucks and several underwater pipelines and power-lines. During the end of 1941 and all of 1942, Kosygin organized evacuation of civilians from Leningrad and brought food and supplies to the city from the mainland. He was the mastermind behind evacuating over half-a-million industrial workers with major industries that were crucial for the war against Hitler's military power. The construction and operation of the «Road of Life» was done under heavy artillery bombardments and air-strikes by Luftwaffe, but Kosygin completed the «Road of Life» which supplied the Leningrad civilians and defenders with food, ammunition and fuel. The «Road of Life» worked through the end of the deadly siege that lasted nine hundred days. Under Kosygin's management, over one-and-a-half million civilian population were evacuated from Leningrad during the siege. By the end of the siege the three-million city had only half-a-million civilians left, while the rest were evacuated, or dead.
By his outstanding feat during the Siege of Leningrad, Kosygin helped save millions of lives of civilians from Leningrad and suburbs, mainly women and children, and also helped save major industries which were successfully evacuated under his management. The 900-day-long resistance during the Siege of Leningrad was crucial for all sides of the war, especially for lifting the spirits of those fighting on many fronts against Hitler. The failure to take Leningrad was the first and largest setback for the Nazis: Leningrad resistance forced Hitler to drop his original war plan, causing the next failure to take Moscow, which altogether compromised the Nazi military power and eventually stopped Hitler from winning WWII. Kosygin was awarded the Order of Red Star and was promoted to Premier of the Russian Federation at age 38, becoming the youngest ever Russian PM. He served as Russian PM from 1943 to 1946.
After WWII, aged and paranoid Stalin resumed executions of potential political competitors: he first ordered extermination of the entire leadership of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), including the highly popular Leningrad Mayor Kuznetsov who worked with Kosygin during the heroic siege, and was a relative of Kosygin's wife. As a result of massive genocide of intellectuals in Russia, Stalin ended up with the Soviet government full of submissive and mediocre politicians whose business and economic skills were outdated and useless in the emerging global economy. Kosygin was the brightest mind. So Stalin, instead of execution, sent Kosygin on a lengthy trip to Siberia and Far East, traditional places for political exile. Several months later, Kosygin returned from Siberia more quiet and obedient than ever, and continued his work in the Soviet government under Stalin, serving as minister of finance and then as minister for light industry until Stalin's death in 1953.
Kosygin was briefly demoted during the power struggle between Nikita Khrushchev and Malenkov, but soon Khrushchev brought Kosygin back, because he needed a bright intellectual in his peasant and proletarian government. On February 23, 1956, Khrushchev denounced Joseph Stalin for his brutal purges and massive executions of innocent people. Khrushchev gave the speech behind closed doors at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party. His speech was the "new order" message to the ruling Soviet elite. Not everyone liked it, regardless of its many historic benefits. But cautious Kosygin took the side of Khrushchev. In 1957 Khrushchev with backing from Leonid Brezhnev and Marshal Georgi Zhukov defeated the Stalinist conservatives Vyacheslav Molotov, Georgi Malenkov, and Lazar Kaganovich. Then Khrushchev exiled the powerful Marshal Georgi Zhukov and became the undisputed ruler of the Soviet Union. Kosygin did not like that, but remained quiet and kept his positions. Khrushchev's speech was designed to liberate people from Stalin's brutal regime based on manipulative methods of control by fear. The speech was addressed to the Soviet leadership as well as to the people of Russia and other republics, however, the Soviet leadership decided to keep the speech secret from the people. At the same time Khrushchev's speech was available in the rest of the world. After reading the Khrushchev's speech, Moshe Dayan said that Soviet Union may disappear in 30 years, and he was off only by 5 years. Although Khrushchev was unable to see that far, he made efforts to liberate intellectuals and to clear innocent victims of Stalin's regime. In the late 1950's Khrushchev initiated the "Thaw" during the Cold War.
Kosygin again showed his wits as an early supporter of Khrushchev who was impressed with Kosygin's obvious intelligence and cool head under great pressure. Under Khrushchev, Kosygin attempted to introduce an economic reform, but his effort was frozen with the onset of "Cold war" when Khrushchev pushed the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Next year a severe agricultural crisis caused 'freezing' of the Soviet economy. Khrushchev's mistakes caused serious food shortages and the bloody popular uprising in Novocherkassk, in 1962. At the same time, Khrushchev showed uncivilized and undiplomatic behavior at the UN conference by insulting other delegates verbally and by banging on the table with his fists and with his shoe. He made risky political moves and later lost control during the Cuban missile crisis, when the world came to the brink of a nuclear war. Leonid Brezhnev made a deal with Kosygin and dismissed Khrushchev on October 14, 1964, after Khrushchev's vacation at the Communist Party owned Black Sea resort.
Now Kosygin and Leonid Brezhnev divided up the two posts that Khrushchev had held simultaneously. Kosygin became Premier, which put him in control of the day-to-day management of the Soviet government, while Brezhnev became Communist Party Secretary, a more authoritative and much more visible post. Kosygin's administrative abilities served him very well, and he earned a reputation abroad as being not as rigid as Brezhnev and others in the Soviet government. However, the Cold War with the United States was always causing enormous expenditures towards military buildup, particularly working towards the overthrow of pro-American governments overseas and attempting to expand Soviet influence across the world, even as conditions within the country deteriorated.
Kosygin's efforts to liberalize the Soviet economy were again blocked by Brezhnev. As a result, entrepreneurial people went underground creating a parallel black market. Official economy existed on cheap slave labor and subsidies from oil and gas export. The Soviet Military-Industrial Complex was somewhat efficient due to higher wages and ruthless control by the KGB and Soviet Army. Decay was still creeping into those bastions of communism. The arms race became unaffordable by the mid 1960s. 90% of the Soviet economy was directly or indirectly working for the arms race. Stockpiling of costly weapons undermined living standards that led to a fall in the birth rate, a shortage of slave labor, and an economic degradation. The country was pushed into a dead end.
Kosygin was alone and surrounded by hard-liners, while Brezhnev played the script of Stalin pushing the Soviet Union on a collision course with the world, and eventually to self-destruction. Control by fear and intimidation was back again. People were living hopeless lives having no choice. Workers of collective farms lived without identification documents up until 1970s. Undocumented citizens at collective farms were disposable. Migrants were used as industrial slaves, for symbolic pay. Wages were set by the state and did not depend on productivity or quality. The economy was governed by the state 5-year plan. This mostly ignored the world and domestic market signals; and lacked the incentives for innovation and efficiency leaving people unmotivated. Teachers were forced to indoctrinate children of all ages from kindergartens through schools and universities. Total control and manipulation was demonstrated twice a year at annual May Day parades and Great Revolution parades on November 7. Military parades were accompanied by marching masses of industrial workers and managers, doctors and scientists, as well as teachers and students from all schools and universities. Exemplary obedient people were rewarded with better food and perks. Taming millions to obedience by fear and hunger led to a massive degradation of human rights, poor spirituality, lack of initiative and creativity, and decay of public health and vitality. The country of almost three hundred million people was stuck in stagnation, inefficiency, and apathy. Brighter students were taken into the military-industrial system, brainwashed and locked there for life with no choices. Opponents were locked in the "Gulag" prison camps, mostly in Siberia. There, millions were working various hard labor jobs in grand-scale economic projects; like the Baikal-Amur railroad (BAM).
Kosygin saw that since the Communist Revolution of 1917, people had been continually stripped of their land and property. Under Khrushchev and Brezhnev the destruction of independent farming was finalized. By the 1960s poverty and anxiety pushed masses to migrate to cities. Mass-construction of cheap panel buildings was lagging behind. Millions of families shared poor housing, hostels, and dorms in cities. Villages were deserted. Collective farms decayed. Agricultural output fell below the levels of the Tsar's age. Thousands of churches were destroyed across the Soviet Union. Spiritual life was dominated by ugly communist propaganda. People were blinded by fear and pushed to wrong values. Meaningful human virtues were replaced with fake ideals of ruthless communism. Intrusive propaganda idolized members of the Soviet Politburo, their portraits were decorating every school and factory along with countless portraits and statues of V.I. Lenin. Political manipulations and brainwashing of population led to devaluation of human life itself. Immoral behavior became a massive problem. In 1966 Brezhnev was asked not to rehabilitate Joseph Stalin, in a letter signed by 25 distinguished intellectuals, including Andrei Sakharov and other Soviet luminaries.
Neo-Stalinist course was enforced by the Soviet leaders who were raised under Stalin and did not learn anything better than to abuse the enslaved people. Blinded leaders only tried to slow the movement to a dead end. Restrictions on travel and studies abroad blocked the people of Russia from learning of the achievements of other nations of the world. As a result, information technology and computers made in USSR by Soviet Military Industries were outdated, incompatible and obsolete. Total control by the KGB led to stagnation and inefficiency, causing the "brain drain" in science and culture when the brightest people defected and fled the Soviet gloom. In the 1970s the flow of Jewish emigration was initiated by reuniting families. The KGB caused financial and political obstacles to every emigrating person; but people were leaving at any cost.
Brezhnev's regime was aggressive inside and outside, it crushed the Prague Spring of 1968, fought the Chinese Army over a border dispute in 1969, sent Soviet Tanks and Air Force to Egypt and Syria against Israel in the 1970s, as well as in North Vietnam against the Americans. Aggressive Soviet foreign policy polarized the world. Military parades in Moscow and major Soviet centers were held twice every year demonstrating dangerous nuclear weapons and missiles to the world. Soviet communists were spending billions of dollars to support pro-Soviet revolutionary regimes and spreading the Soviet political and military presence in Third World countries. National resources were wasted on controversial foreign operations at the expense of growing domestic problems, poverty and frustration of the people of Russia.
Kosygin warned about potential disaster if the Soviet Union becomes involved in another war. In the late 60s, amidst the military conflict with China, Kosygin asked Brezhnev to step forward and make a peace deal with the Chinese leader, Mao. But Brezhnev interrupted Kosygin in front of all members of the Soviet leadership, and ended the discussion by saying it in Kosygin's face - "You shall do this yourself!" Kosygin went to China and carried extremely difficult negotiations with Chairman Mao, where the Chinese leader requested an impossible condition that "The USSR shall restore the full glory of Stalin!" However, Kosygin remained determined and persistent; he repeatedly met with the Chinese leadership, used all his diplomatic skills and eventually managed to settle the military conflict with China.
Kosygin was the first person awarded the newly established Order of Friendship, but Brezhnev became extremely envious and said that he wanted to have the same decoration as Kosygin's. Brezhnev was so pushy in his demand that Kosygin was deprived of his honestly earned award number one. In a strange and intricate manner, the Soviet leadership took the award number one away from Kosygin, and handed it over to Brezhnev. The award documents were also forged so that Brezhnev was registered as the recipient number one. Later, Kosygin was issued a replacement document, saying that he is the recipient number two.
In spite of the growing rift between him and Brezhnev, Kosygin again attempted to introduce an economic reform to shift the Soviet economy from heavy military production to consumer goods, thus offering a way to better living standards and human values. But he was up against the Soviet leadership dominated by Brezhnev and other WWII veterans whose poor knowledge of economy was detrimental.
However, Kosygin was persistent and determined in his country-wide management as Premier, and some of his efforts gave lasting and profitable results. His next major accomplishments during the 60s and 70s were construction of the Trans-Siberian Oil pipeline from Russia to Europe and creation of the major Russian-Italian joint venture that revolutionized the outdated Soviet automotive industry. Millions of Fiat cars, called "Lada" in Russia, brought mobility and updated lifestyle to millions of families in the Soviet Union. Kosygin's another remarkable achievement was permission for all people to use small lots of low quality lands for their private agricultural activities, known as "sadovodstvo" and "dacha" which helped millions of families survive amidst severe food shortages in the Soviet Union.
Kosygin focused his efforts on improving living standards for all people in the USSR, but Brezhnev stubbornly guarded special privileges for communists, treating non-communists as slaves. The rift between Kosygin and Brezhnev became apparent when Kosygin called for economic freedom similar to what people in Czechoslovakia and Hungary also tried to implement. Brezhnev, who crashed all hopes in Czechoslovakia by sending tanks to Prague in 1968, of which Kosygin initially opposed, then crashed upon Kosygin, so Kosygin's economic reform was aborted. In the height of the "Cold War" Kosygin was pushed aside by the hardliners in aged Soviet leadership dominated by Brezhnev and other WWII veterans.
Kosygin was the most serious opponent of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in December 1979. He warned the Soviet leadership against another war while the world needed peace. But Kosygin's position was not taken seriously by the top Soviet communists. Brezhnev stopped listening to Kosygin's advice and sided with hard-liners Andropov, Suslov, and Ustinov, so the Soviet Union became involved in another lengthy and costly war. As a result of the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, the national economy was pushed into the most severe crisis. At the same time, the 1980 Moscow Olympics were boycotted by many nations. Kosygin was not hiding his frustration with the Brezhnev's leadership: he suffered from two heart attacks during the year 1980, and resigned from all government positions.
Aleksei Kosygin died on December 18, 1980, just a day before Brezhnev's 74th birthday, so Brezhnev chose to underplay Kosygin's burial in such a sloppy and negligent manner, which was later described by Brezhnev's assistants as "monstrous."
A street in St. Petersburg and a street in Moscow are named after Aleksei Kosygin.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov
|Klavdiya||(? - 1967) (her death)|