stood at the helm of the Russian and Soviet state in the twentieth
century. Some of them governed the country for many years, even
decades, others stayed in office for a few months. Men as different
in their outlook, personality, and political style as Nicholas II,
Alexander Kerensky, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Nikita
Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko,
Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin have shaped Russia’s destiny.
the only one to be popularly elected. The rest came to power as a
result of a revolution, or a coup, or party decisions and
conspiracies. All of them occupied office against the will of their
predecessor and usually tried to undo his work, promising to lead
the Russian people to a new and better order).
Kerensky, for example, spurned the policies of Nicholas II, whereas
the Communist Lenin scrapped all of Kerensky’s plans. Stalin
extolled Lenin in words while firmly rejecting Lenin’s compromise
policies of the early 1920s in practice. Khrushchev saw the struggle
against Stalin’s “personality cult” as one of his main objectives,
whereas Brezhnev proclaimed war on Khrushchev’s “voluntarism.”
Andropov did not want Chernenko to succeed him, and Chernenko was
against Gorbachev as his heir.
a great effort to overcome the legacy of the “era of stagnation”
but soon found himself embroiled in a fierce personal and
political rivalry with Yeltsin.