Nikolai Podgorny : biography
Nikolai Viktorovich Podgorny ( ) (5 February (18 February) 1903 – 12 January 1983) was a Soviet Ukrainian statesman during the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, or leader of the Ukrainian SSR, from 1957 to 1963 and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1965 to 1977. He was replaced as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1977 by General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. That same year he lost his seat in the Political Bureau (Politburo) and was forced to resign from active politics.
Podgorny was born in the city of Karlovka in 1903 to a Ukrainian working-class family. He graduated in from a local worker's school in 1926, and in 1931 from the Kiev Technological Institute of Food Industry. He became a member of the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) in 1930. Like his friend and ally Andrei Kirilenko, Podgorny climbed up the Soviet hierarchy through the industrial ladder (delivering the production goals set by the bureaucrats in charge of the centrally planned economy). By 1953 he had become Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine. After Anastas Mikoyan's resignation, Podgorny was voted into office as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. After Premier Alexei Kosygin's fall from favour Podgorny became the second most powerful figure in the Soviet Union until his removal as head of state in 1977.
Ukraine and national politics (1942–1963)
Podgorny became the Director of the Moscow Technological Institute of Food Industry in 1942, during the Great Patriotic War (World War II). After the liberation of Ukraine from the hands of Nazi Germany, Podgorny reestablished Soviet control over Ukraine on the orders of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Ukrainian SSR) and the Soviet Government. In the post-war years Podgorny regained his old office of Deputy People's Commissar for Food Industry of the Ukrainian SSR, but was later appointed in 1946 as a Permanent Representative to the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR. In April 1950 he was made First Secretary of the Kharkiv Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). In 1953 Podgorny was elevated to Second Secretary of the Central Committee (CC) of the CPU. From 1957 to 1963 he was First Secretary of the CC of the CPU. In this role, Podgorny worked on reorganising and modernising the Ukrainian economy, which had been destroyed during the war years. He worked to increase the rate of industrial and agricultural production and to improve people's welfare. He paid particular attention to improving party organisation and educating new cadres.
In 1960 Podgorny became a member of the Politburo (Political Bureau) and by 1963 had risen to prominence within the Soviet hierarchy as a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). As a protégé and close companion of Nikita Khrushchev, he travelled with him to United Nations headquarters in 1960. He acted as a Soviet emissary to Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Canada, and Yugoslavia. Podgorny's beliefs were strongly influenced by Khrushchev, and under Leonid Brezhnev's rule, Podgorny was one of the most liberal members within the Soviet leadership, even more liberal than Premier Alexei Kosygin.
Podgorny briefly fell out of Khruschev's favor in 1961 when he blamed bad corn yields in the Ukrainian SSR on "bad weather". Khrushchev claimed the crops had been "stolen" and "pilfered". However, in 1962, Podgorny reported to Khrushchev that agricultural output had again increased: Under Podgorny's leadership, the Ukrainian SSR had doubled Ukraine's supply of grain to the state from the previous year. Because of his handling of agriculture, First World commentators saw Podgorny as one of Khrushchev's many potential heirs. According to historian Ilya Zemtsov, the author of Chernenko: The Last Bolshevik: The Soviet Union on the Eve of Perestroika, Brezhnev began starting a conspiracy against Khrushchev when he found out that he had chosen Podgorny, and not himself, as his potential successor. The coup took Podgorny evidently by surprised, seeing that he left Moscow on 10 October, two days before the coup was initiated.
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