Year
1960
Month Day
May 07

Leonid Brezhnev becomes president of the USSR

Leonid Brezhnev, one of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s most trusted proteges, is selected as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet—the Soviet equivalent to the presidency. This was another important step in Brezhnev’s rise to power in Russia, a rise that he later capped by taking control of the Soviet Union in 1964.

Brezhnev had been a trusted associate of Khrushchev since the 1940s. As Khrushchev rose through the ranks, so did his protege. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Khrushchev rapidly consolidated his power and succeeded in becoming First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This position had always been the real seat of power in the Soviet Union—the first secretary was able to control the vast Communist Party apparatus throughout the Soviet Union. The position of president (or, more formally, the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet) was largely symbolic. The president often greeted foreign visitors and handled more mundane government matters, but policymaking always rested with the first secretary. 

In May 1960, Khrushchev named Brezhnev to the position of president. While the post meant little in the way of real power, it did allow Brezhnev to come into contact with numerous foreign dignitaries and visitors and to travel the world as a representative of the Soviet government. He made the most of these opportunities and was soon viewed as an efficient and effective official in his own right, not simply a puppet of Khrushchev.

In 1964, Khrushchev was removed from power and Brezhnev was named new first secretary. Brezhnev held that post for 18 years until his death in 1982. His era was marked by a certain blandness of rule, a much-needed stability in Soviet ruling circles, a sometimes harsh repression of the Soviet people, and a hard-line attitude toward relations with the United States.

READ MORE: Soviet Union: Stalin, Cold War & Collapse 

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First Japanese immigrant arrives in the U.S.

Called the U.S.'s first ambassador to Japan, a 14-year-old fisherman by the name of Manjiro is considered America's first Japanese immigrant, arriving in the country on May 7, 1843, by way of a whaling ship. According to the National Endowment of the Humanities, the boy and his ...read more

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 debuts

On May 7, 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven’s ninth and final symphony debuts at Vienna’s Theater am Kärntnertor. Having lost his hearing years earlier, the celebrated composer nonetheless “conducts” the first performance of his Ninth Symphony, now widely considered to be one of the ...read more

"Satisfaction" comes to Keith Richards in his sleep

In the early morning hours of May 7, 1965, a bleary-eyed Keith Richards awoke, grabbed a tape recorder and laid down one of the greatest pop hooks of all time: The opening riff of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” He then promptly fell back to sleep. “When I woke up in the ...read more

Ottawa Chief Pontiac’s Rebellion against the British begins

Pontiac’s Rebellion begins when a confederacy of Native warriors under Ottawa chief Pontiac attacks the British force at Detroit. After failing to take the fort in their initial assault, Pontiac’s forces, made up of Ottawas and reinforced by Wyandots, Ojibwas and Potawatamis, ...read more

French defeated at Dien Bien Phu

In northwest Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh forces decisively defeat the French at Dien Bien Phu, a French stronghold besieged by the Vietnamese communists for 57 days. The Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu signaled the end of French colonial influence in Indochina and cleared ...read more

Edvard Munch’s "The Scream" recovered after theft

On May 7, 1994, Norway’s most famous painting, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, is recovered almost three months after it was stolen from a museum in Oslo. The fragile painting was recovered undamaged at a hotel in Asgardstrand, about 40 miles south of Oslo, police said. The iconic ...read more

German submarine sinks Lusitania

On the afternoon of May 7, 1915, the British ocean liner Lusitania is torpedoed without warning by a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland. Within 20 minutes, the vessel sank into the Celtic Sea. Of 1,959 passengers and crew, 1,198 people were drowned, including 128 ...read more

Gary Cooper born

On May 7, 1901, Gary Cooper, who will become famous for his performances in such movies as High Noon and The Pride of the Yankees, is born in Helena, Montana. Cooper grew up on the ranch owned by his wealthy father, a Montana Supreme Court Justice. He was educated largely in ...read more

Mount Pelée begins to erupt, burying Caribbean city

On May 7, 1902, Martinique’s Mount Pelée begins the deadliest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The following day, the city of Saint Pierre, which some called the Paris of the Caribbean, was virtually wiped off the map. Mount Pelée, the name meaning bald in French, was a ...read more

Serial killer H.H. Holmes is hanged in Philadelphia

Dr. H. H. Holmes, one of America’s first well-known serial killers, is hanged to death in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Born Herman Mudgett in New Hampshire, Holmes began torturing animals as a child. Still, he was a smart boy who later graduated from the University of Michigan ...read more

Daimler-Benz announces purchase of Chrysler Corp.

On May 7, 1998, the German automobile company Daimler-Benz–maker of the world-famous luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz–announces a $36 billion merger with the United States-based Chrysler Corporation. The purchase of Chrysler, America’s third-largest car company, by the ...read more

Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies at Reims

On May 7, 1945, the German High Command, in the person of General Alfred Jodl, signs the unconditional surrender of all German forces, East and West, at Reims, in northeastern France. At first, General Jodl hoped to limit the terms of German surrender to only those forces still ...read more