The General Secretaries of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were Joseph Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev. Nikita Khrushchev worked as First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee. The founder of the Communist Party, Vladimir Lenin, did not hold official leading posts in the party structure.
From a simple secretary to the leader of the country
The General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee is the highest position in the hierarchy of the Communist Party and by and large a synonym for the leader of the Soviet Union. In the history of the party, there were four more posts of the head of its central apparatus: Technical Secretary (1917-1918), Chairman of the Secretariat (1918-1919), Executive Secretary (1919-1922) and First Secretary (1953-1966).
The persons who filled the first two positions were mainly engaged in paper secretarial work. The position of Executive Secretary was introduced in 1919 for administrative activities. The post of general secretary, established in 1922, was also created purely for administrative and cadre internal party work. However, the first general secretary, Joseph Stalin, using the principles of democratic centralism, managed to turn not only into the leader of the party, but the entire Soviet Union.
At the 17th Party Congress, Stalin was not formally re-elected to the post of General Secretary. However, his influence was already enough to maintain leadership in the party and the country as a whole. After Stalin's death in 1953, Georgy Malenkov was considered the most influential member of the Secretariat. After being appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Nikita Khrushchev, who was soon elected First Secretary of the Central Committee, left the Secretariat and took the leading positions in the party.
Not limitless rulers
In 1964, opposition within the Politburo and Central Committee removed Nikita Khrushchev from the post of First Secretary, electing Leonid Brezhnev to replace him. Since 1966, the position of party leader was again renamed General Secretary. In Brezhnev's times, the power of the General Secretary was not unlimited, since members of the Politburo could limit his powers. The country was led collectively.
According to the same principle as the late Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko ruled the country. Both were elected to the top party post when their health deteriorated, and served as secretary general for a short time. Until 1990, when the communist party's monopoly on power was eliminated, Mikhail Gorbachev was in charge of the state as General Secretary of the CPSU. Especially for him, in order to maintain leadership in the country, the post of President of the Soviet Union was established in the same year.
After the failed August 1991 coup, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as Secretary General. He was replaced by Deputy Vladimir Ivashko, who worked as Acting General Secretary for only five calendar days, until then Russian President Boris Yeltsin suspended the activities of the CPSU.