Stalin ruled with Kamenev and Zinoviev until April 1925, then ruled alone and became dictator in the 1930s. He fought with the allies during the Second World War but in the immediate aftermath took over eastern Europe to form the Communist Bloc beginning the Cold War. He remained in office until his death in 1953.
Georgy Malenkov 5th March 1953 – 8th September 1953
Took over as leader following the death of Stalin but faced fierce opposition from Nikita Khrushchev and was forced to resign.
Nikita Khrushchev 8th September 1953 – 14th October 1964
Ousted Malenkov to become leader of the Soviet Union. Championed the Soviet space program and also tried to implement reforms. His removal from post was engineered by Leonid Brezhnev.
Leonid Brezhniv 14th October 1964 – 10th November 1982
Replaced Khrushchev after ousting him as leader. His style of government brought stability to the Soviet Union and he tried to improve relations with the west. His invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led to a widespread boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He remained in power until his death.
Yuri Andropov 10th November 1982 – 9th February 1984
A former leader of the KGB, Andropov became leader after the death of Brezhnev. He tried to eliminate corruption and reinstate Party values. He was unable to improve the economy and died after less than 2 years in office.
Konstantin Chernenko 9th February 1984 – 10th March 1985
Took over as leader following the death of Andropov. However, his health was failing and he died 13 months after taking office.
Mikhail Gorbachev 10th March 1985 – 26th December 1991
Became leader after the death of Chernenko. In the aftermath of the Chernobyl Disaster Gorbechev became more receptive to talks with Ronald Reagan to limit nuclear weapons. His policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) paved the way for an end to the Cold War. He survived a coup in August 1991 and remained leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics until its fall in December 1991.