The Rise and Fall of Mikhail Gorbachev

The Rise and Fall of Mikhail Gorbachev
Alain Nogues / Sygma / Corbis

In the years following Gorbachev's ascension to the Politburo, three Soviet leaders — Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko — died in short succession. Their passing represented a kind of generational shift, as Gorbachev was chosen to assume the General Secretary's position upon the death of Chernenko, making him the first of the younger politicians to hold the top post and, at 54, the youngest ever to hold the job. In the photo above, Gorbachev walks behind the pallbearers carrying Chernenko's body across Red Square during the leader's funeral on March 13, 1985.

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