In late December 1979, Leonid Il’ich Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR sat in front of a television camera in a make-shift Moscow studio to record a New Year’s Address to Soviet Youth. At the time, Brezhnev had been de facto head of the world’s “second” superpower for some fifteen years.
Seventy-three-years old, seriously overweight, addicted to alcohol and sleeping pills, and suffering from a host of health problems (including severe arteriosclerosis and the aftereffects of several heart attacks and minor strokes), the Soviet Premier was a (barely) living symbol of the wreckage that had become the “Soviet Experiment.” Despite these daunting challenges, Il’ich persevered. He completed not one but two takes of the ceremonial address albeit amid slurred speech and obvious signs of his compromised physical and mental capacities.
The address was standard late Soviet-era pablum: expressions of dismay over war, hunger, and want; posturing about the Soviet government’s solicitous regard for the well-being of its children; and hopeful assertions of the more joyous future to come.
Only days prior to recording his New Year’s address, the Communist Party chief had authorized the Soviet Red Army and Air Force to invade the neighboring state of Afghanistan. The ensuing military occupation would inaugurate a decades-long tragedy that outlasted not only Brezhnev, but the USSR itself.
To mark the recent calendrical turn I’m pleased to offer up this subtitled video of Brezhnev’s 1979 New Year’s address.
С новым годом! / Happy New Year!