Brezhnev was born in Kamenskoye, Russian Empire (now Kamianske, Ukraine), into a Russian worker's family in 1906. After graduating from the Kamenskoye Metallurgical Technicum, he became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industry, in Ukraine. He joined the Komsomol in 1923 and became an active member of the CPSU by 1929. With the onset of World War II, he was drafted into immediate military service and left the army in 1946 with the rank of major general. In 1952, Brezhnev was promoted to the Central Committee and, in 1957 to full member of the Politburo. In 1964, he succeeded Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
As the leader of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev's conservatism and carefulness to reach decisions by consensus within the Politburo resulted in sustained political stability within the party and the country. However, his hostility towards reform and tolerance of corruption ushered in a period of socioeconomic decline that came to be known as the Brezhnev Stagnation. On the world stage, Brezhnev pushed hard for the adoption of détente to relax tensions and foster economic cooperation between the two Cold War superpowers. Despite such diplomatic gestures, Brezhnev's regime presided over an aggressive foreign policy characterized by widespread military interventionism and a massive arms buildup that ultimately grew to comprise 12.5% of the nation's GNP. Upon successfully sidelining his political rivals, Brezhnev actively fostered a cult of personality among the party membership (albeit not to the same extent as Stalin's totalitarian rule).
After years of declining health, Brezhnev died on 10 November 1982 and was quickly succeeded in his post as General Secretary by Yuri Andropov. Upon coming to power in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev denounced his regime's pervasive inefficiency and inflexibility before overseeing steps to liberalize the Soviet Union.
Brezhnev was born on 19 December 1906 in Kamenskoye, Yekaterinoslav Governorate, Russian Empire (now Kamianske, Ukraine), to metalworker Ilya Yakovlevich Brezhnev and his wife, Natalia Denisovna Mazalova. His parents used to live in Brezhnevo (Kursky District, Kursk Oblast, Russia) before moving to Kamenskoe. Brezhnev's ethnicity was specified as Ukrainian in main documents including his passport, and Russian in some others.
Like many youths in the years after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he received a technical education, at first in land management and then in metallurgy. He graduated from the Kamenskoye Metallurgical Technicum in 1935 and became a metallurgical engineer in the iron and steel industries of eastern Ukraine.