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Alexei Nikolaevich Kosygin

(1904—1980) Soviet statesman, Premier of the USSR 1964–80


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(b. St Petersburg, 8 (21) Feb. 1904; d. Moscow, 18 Dec. 1980)

Russian; Politbureau member 1948–53, 1957–80, chair of Council of Ministers 1964–80 After serving in the Red Army in the Civil War Kosygin was trained as a textile worker in Leningrad. Benefiting from the rapid promotion associated with the Purges he soon became a textile factory manager and in 1938 chair of the Leningrad City Soviet. In 1939 he was made People's Commissar for the Textile Industry. He played an important part in the organization of Leningrad's war economy during the blockade. In 1946 he became a Deputy Chair of the Council of Ministers and was briefly Minister of Finance in 1948. He narrowly escaped being purged along with the other Leningrad Zhdanovites, but survived to be promoted to the Politbureau in 1948 and made Minister of Light Industry in 1949.

After Stalin's death he was demoted, having an uneasy relationship with Khrushchev, and only in 1957 regained membership of the Politbureau and became deputy chair of the Council of Ministers.

When Brezhnev replaced Khrushchev as party leader Kosygin was made chair of the Council of Ministers, a post he held for sixteen years till he resigned from ill-health in 1980. Initially he wielded considerable authority, especially in economic matters. In 1965 he introduced an economic reform package designed to promote greater efficiency. Profit was to be a key performance indicator; plan targets were to be expressed in terms of goods actually sold; managers were given greater leeway in using profits; bonuses would raise motivation. But the price system was not reformed and enterprise autonomy proved illusory, so the profit motive could not function. The reforms were in difficulties even before the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968 made conservatives fear the link between market-orientated reform and political liberalization. Kosygin's influence rapidly declined in the early 1970s after the failure of his reforms.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Politics.


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