Learn more about Brezhnev stagnation
Brezhnev stagnation (Russian: застой, translitrated zastoy), also known as Brezhnevian Stagnation, the Stagnation Period, or the Era of Stagnation, (Эпоха застоя, Период застоя) refers to a period of slowdown in the history of the Soviet Union that started during Leonid Brezhnev's time as chairman of the Communist Party. The beginning of this stagnation may be tentatively marked by the mid-1970s.
Ironically, Brezhnev himself declared his time as the period of the Developed Socialism, proclaimed constructed in the 1977 Soviet Constitution: The developed Socialist society (развитое социалистическое общество) is a natural, logical stage on the road to Communism.
Stagnation was observed both in the economy and in the social life of the country.
In the economy, a sharp reduction of economic growth was observed, both by Soviet and Western statistics. The Soviet Union's foreign trade and imports, once a small part of the economy, was now of great importance, which made detente a top priority.
In social life, on the one hand, this period was characterised by domestic peace, social stability and stable (although mostly moderate) incomes for the population of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, Soviet society became static. Post-Stalinist reforms initiated under Nikita Khrushchev were discontinued.
It was also the time in which social ills like crime and soaring alcohol and drug abuse began to take shape, and also the time in which dissidents within the country began to surface, symbolised by men like Shcharansky and Sakharov.
There was an ironic joke that panegyrists overlooked the fact that Brezhnev's expression "развитое общество" ("razvitoye obshchestvo" "developed society") enriched the Russian language. Until Brezhnev there were two versions of the adjective "развитое" in use: the one with the stress on the first syllable is a derivation of the verb "to develop" and the one with the stress on the second syllable is a derivation of the verb "to unweave". Brezhnev pronounced (and everyone else followed him) "razvitOye (obshchestvo)", with the stress on the third syllable, leaving room for mocking guesses what the word might mean. (Compare with "nucular" of American presidents.)
An oversized and inefficient bureaucratic apparatus headed by a club of geriatric Party leaders became the symbol of the stagnation period, and the target of political jokes. One popular joke went like this:
|Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are all travelling together in a railway carriage. Unexpectedly the train stops. Lenin suggests: 'Perhaps, we should call a subbotnik, so that workers and peasants fix the problem.' Stalin puts his head out of the window and shouts, 'If the driver does not start moving, the driver will be executed!' But the train doesn't start moving. Khrushchev then shouts, 'Let's take the rails behind the train and use them to construct the tracks in the front.' But it still doesn't move. Brezhnev then says, 'Comrades, Comrades, let's draw the curtains, turn on the gramophone and pretend we're moving!'|