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Brezhnev’s Widow, Viktoria, Dies at 87

July 6, 1995

MOSCOW (AP) _ Viktoria Brezhnev, the rarely seen widow of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, has died at the Kremlin hospital. She was 87.

Mrs. Brezhnev was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago and died Wednesday, a hospital spokeswoman said today. She had suffered from diabetes and recently from gangrene, the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Little is known about the former Viktoria Denisova, who was born in Kursk and married Leonid Brezhnev in 1928.

Although her husband led the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982, she shunned the limelight and was rarely mentioned in the Soviet press.

Such was the practice for the wives of top Kremlin officials until Raisa Gorbachev emerged from the shadows when her husband, Mikhail, became general secretary of the Communist Party in 1985.

When her husband traveled, Mrs. Brezhnev usually stayed home, and was said to prefer cooking to Kremlin intrigue. She was known for her borscht and other simple dishes, according to the book, ``The Kremlin Wives.″

``Viktoria was not interested in politics at all. As for choosing good lamb or pork, that was another thing,″ her daughter-in-law, Lyudmila Brezhnev, was quoted as saying in the book.

Even the book’s author, Larisa Vasilieva, expressed frustration about one of her main subjects.

``She was so simple and ordinary that it seems I haven’t understood anything about her,″ Vasilieva wrote.

As the wife of a Kremlin leader, Mrs. Brezhnev had access to privileges and luxuries her fellow countrymen could only dream of. But she lived to see her husband vilified in the press, with his reign dismissed as the ``era of stagnation.″

In the late 1980s, Gorbachev stripped Brezhnev’s family of most of their privileges.

Mrs. Brezhnev died in the Government Medical Center, also known as the Kremlin hospital, which still is reserved mainly for Russia’s political elite.

According to ``The Kremlin Wives,″ Mrs. Brezhnev worked as a nurse in the late 1920s before giving birth to her children, Galina and Yuri.

In a 1977 dispatch, the Soviet news agency Tass distributed a rare portrait and brief article about her.

``Once upon a time Viktoria Brezhnev was asked what New Year’s wish she had for her children and grandchildren,″ Tass said. ``She answered simply: `The same as for all children of the earth _ happiness and joy and clear blue skies.″

In recent years, Mrs. Brezhnev’s health deteriorated.

``It was hard for Viktoria Petrovna to move recently, as she had become half-blind because of her diabetes,″ said Yuri Churbanov, Mrs. Brezhnev’s former son-in-law.

``Leonid Ilyich and Viktoria Petrovna were remarkable people,″ he told the weekly Sovershenno Secretno (Top Secret). ``Their marriage lasted nearly 60 years. It’s a hard job to be the wife of a general secretary. But one could only envy Leonid Ilyich. ... She is very intelligent, despite the fact that she didn’t have a higher education.″

Mrs. Brezhnev was survived by her two children. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known. Leonid Brezhnev is buried along the Kremlin wall.

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