Konstantin Chernenko, the son of a peasant farmer, was born in Siberia in 1911. He joined the Komsomol (Communist Youth League) in 1929. Two years later he became a member of the Communist Party (CPSU).
During the Second World War Chernenko worked as a party propagandist in Krasnoyarsk. After the war he served under Leonid Brezhnev in Moldavia. Brezhnev successfully brought the new republic under the control of the Communist Party. This impressed Joseph Stalin and in 1952 Brezhnev was invited to join the Politburo. Brezhnev now took Chernenko with him as his personal assistant. Brezhnev was ousted by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956 and this stalled his political career.
In 1971 Chernenko became a member of the Communist Party Central Committee. Seven years later he made it into the Politburo. He worked closely with Leonid Brezhnev, who was now the most important political figure in the Soviet Union. Chernenko was expected to replace Brezhnev when he died in 1982 but he was passed over in favour of Yuri Andropov.
Andropov attempted to introduce a series of reforms but he died in 1984 before he could complete his programme. Chernenko now became the new leader but ill-health forced him into retirement and he was replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Konstantin Chernenko died in 1985.