Alexei Kosygin was a senior politician in the Soviet Union in the era of Leonid Brezhnev. Kosygin was Prime Minister but despite this title, Kosygin was always of secondary importance to Brezhnev.
Kosygin was born in 1904 in St. Petersburg. After being schooled in the city, Kosygin worked in textile mills in what had become Leningrad in honour of Vladimir Lenin, the man who had led the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. While working in the mills, Kosygin had become politicised and he served on political committees in Leningrad. Between 1938 and 1939 he served the city as mayor. In 1939, Kosygin became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party when he was appointed Commissar for the Textile Industry.
After World War Two, Kosygin made his way up the party. Between 1948 and 1953 he was Minister of Finance and Minister of Light Industry as well as being a member of the Politburo. Kosygin gained a reputation as being a solid and reliable politician. In 1957, he was given responsibility for economic planning and in 1960 was appointed Chairman of the State Economic Planning Commission and First Deputy Prime Minister.
After Khrushchev’s perceived failure during the Cuban Missile Crisis – an event that effectively ended his political career – Kosygin took over Khrushchev’s position as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. This effectively made him the USSR’s Prime Minister.
As Prime Minister, Kosygin wanted to decentralise the control exerted by Moscow in industry and agriculture. He was partially successful in this but came up against the entrenched philosophy of the Communist government in Moscow that all things had to emanate from Moscow. Kosygin also wanted to provide the people of the USSR with more consumer goods. In this he was unsuccessful as the country was spending vast sums of money trying to keep up with the USA in military expenditure. Whereas the USA could just about afford such investment, the USSR could not. This stymied any effort Kosygin made to increase the availability of consumer goods.
Kosygin resigned on October 23rd 1980 as a result of poor health. He died eight weeks later.