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Leonid Brezhnev (1906-82) was the statesman who seized the leadership of the Soviet Communist Party from Nikita Khrushchev in 1964, and remained the USSR's head of state until his death. While Brezhnev was in office, the Soviet Union gave heavy military support to North Vietnam in the Vietnam War and to Arab nations in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. He sent the Soviet army into Czechoslovakia in 1968 to depose the government of Alexander Dubcek, and into Afghanistan in 1979 to keep its pro-Soviet puppet government in power. Brezhnev persecuted religious and political dissidents in the Soviet Union, but reached various agreements with the USA on reducing the two nations' stocks of nuclear weapons. His belief in the USSR's right to intervene in the internal affairs of Warsaw Pact countries - where there was a perceived threat to the communist bloc as a whole - became known as the 'Brezhnev doctrine'.

Brezhnev is remembered for his craggy face and bushy eyebrows, and his apparent senility towards the end of his presidency.

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