Ilyin takes the shot
22nd January 1969. Viktor Ilyin, a member of the Soviet military pinches a police uniform and a pair of pistols and stands on the route to be taken by Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev is riding with two cars full of cosmonauts. In OTL Ilyin fires a number of shots at the second car, which Brezhnev wasn't even in. Uncharacteristically, Brezhnev had opted to sit in the front car. The second car also contained a cosmonaut who bore some resemblance to Brezhnev (the name escapes me right now). Somewhere in between these factors Ilyin stuffed things up. When captured he stated he wanted to wake up the nation, and made several references to the invasion of Czechoslovakia the year prior (which the Soviets were still sorting out in January 1969).
So, what if Viktor Ilyin didn't miss? Say Brezhnev was sitting in the second car as usual? Or at the last moment Ilyin realises his potential mistake and fires at the now closer target?
The first attractive feature of this scenario is that Brezhnevís successor is actually pretty obvious if you understand how things work with Soviet leadership. There are only two real candidates, and frankly one of them stinks. But letís look at who is in the Politburo in 1969:
Andrei Kirilenko: Brezhnevís shadow, from memory they first started working together in Moldavia, and Kirilenko was with Brezhnev ever since.
Gennady Voronov: Chairman of RSFSR Council of Ministers?
Dmitri Polyansky: Deputy Chair on the Council of Ministers, Brezhnevís agriculture expert.
Alexey Kosygin: Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Architected of a series of liberal economic reforms that were rolled out in 1965.
Kiril Mazurov: Deputy Chair on the Council of Ministers, political base in Belorussia, military/political background.
Arvids Pelshe: Chairs the Party Control Committee, Latvian political base. Is alleged to have tried to rename Riga to ďGagarinĒ.
Mikhail Suslov: Member of the Secretariat, with responsibility for ideology. Noted as highly orthodox, and a possible hardliner.
Nikolai Podgorny: Chairman of the Presidium (effectively head of state). Ukranian political base.
Alexandr Shelepin: Former head of Komsomol and the KGB. Former member of the Secretariat. On the other hand still an opponent of Brezhnevís and head of the Trade Unions Council. Alleged neo-Stalinist.
Petro Shelest: Another member with a background in Ukraine, and also an opponent of Brezhnev (particular WRT agriculture).
Volodymyr Shcherbitsky: Would go on to become First Secretary of Ukraine... if Brezhnev werenít dead...
Dinmukhamed Kunayev: First Secretary of Kazakhstan. Brezhnevís buddy since the Virgin Lands was rolled out.
Pyotr Masherov: First Secretary of Belorussia.
Sharof Rashidov: First Secretary of Uzbekistan. Would go on to gain fame as corrupt.
Viktor Grishin: Moscow Party boss.
Dmitri Ustinov: Sits on the Secretariat, dealing with matters relating to defence.
Yuri Andropov: Head of the KGB.
Pyotr Demichev: Secretariat member, in charge of cultural matters?
So how do we come up with two candidates to replace Brezhnev from this list? Letís narrow down the criteria. The leader has to be a full member of the Politburo, and the traditional seat of power is the General Secretary... which means a candidate must also be part of the Secretariat. Given a crisis at this time, a more unorthodox leader would seem unlikely.
So that leaves Mikhail Suslov and Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko, as foreshadowed, stinks as a candidate. He has little background as an independent leader, and owed his position entirely to Brezhnev. To put things in perspective, Kirilenko was ultimately usurped in Brezhnevís favour by an even bigger Ďnobodyí who could run the party administrative organs, Konstantin Chernenko.
So that leaves Mikhail Suslov. The biggest problem with Suslov is simply that he apparently never wanted to be in charge. Suslov probably could have been running the show, but preferred to be slightly apart, acting as an arbiter or judge of sorts. But, in this scenario he has no choice. Some dissident just shot dead the General Secretary, Kirilenko is the only other real candidate and he lacks the presence and possibly the backbone.
I guess that ends part one. Would love to hear peopleís opinions or any additional information people might have. In part two Iíll be looking at Suslovís likely leadership style and decisions and who his allies will be.