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Often referred to as the restalinisation of the Soviet Union, a coup against Khrushchev in 1964 brought Leonid Brezhnev to power. Brezhnev quickly ended the thaw by exiling a number of the USSR’s most famous writers including Brodsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Brezhnev also indicted other writers and viciously silenced critics of the Kremlin, including Andrei Sakharov, the nuclear scientist who had become a vocal supporter of the country’s nascent human rights movement.

Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev

Shortly afterwards the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 brought an end to Dubcek’s Prague Spring,
thus preventing any reform to the communist system coming from any of the Soviet Union’s European satellite states.
Economic decline, mass corruption and general malaise set in by the early 1970s. It was clear that the socialist system was not working, communism had not been attained and that people were hungry for change. It was equally clear that this change was not to come for a while, however, as the
average Politburo member’s age was over 70 (the youngest was a 56-year-old unknown named Mikhail Gorbachev) and reform was not on the agenda.

During this time in Leningrad the city’s now legendary underground emerged. While the intelligentsia had always had networks of dissent even under Stalin, by the 1970s a mass movement – rock and roll – had been created. Beginning with the wide private circulation of Beatles tapes in the 1960s, by the early ’70s Leningrad had a local rock scene that soon began to worry the Kremlin due to its enormous popularity.

Today, many of the groups formed in Leningrad during the 1970s continue to make music and remain popular throughout the country.
Following Brezhnev’s death in 1982 (many joked that it wasn’t noticed until 1984) there were two General Secretaries in quick succession – Yuri Andropov (1982-84) and Konstantin Chernenko (1984-85). Both were already old by the time they took office and both died in power, neither making any real stab at change. This led to the appointment of a largely unknown reformer named Mikhail Gorbachev.

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