On 14 October 1964, Leonid Brezhnev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, succeeding Nikita Khrushchev. As well as a sustained period of stability within the party and the country, Brezhnev’s tenure also ushered in what is now referred to as Brezhnev Stagnation; a time of massive socio-economic decline resulting from his acceptance of corruption within government.
On the world stage, Brezhnev presided over widespread military interventionism and a massive arms buildup. In contradiction to these facts, however, Brezhnev also campaigned hard for the adoption of a détente foreign policy in order to relax tensions and increase economic cooperation between the USSR and the United States; the world’s two main superpowers at the time.
While in retrospect Brezhnev’s policy of détente was queered by military and arms proliferation – which ultimately grew to comprise 12.5% of the nation’s GNP – it gave cause for concern for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). As a result, overseas students studying in the USSR, like Phạm Đỗ Đồng, were recalled from their educational courses. Đồng and other Vietnamese students were brought back from their studies in Kiev for fear that Brezhnev’s new policies would dilute their dedication to the communist cause in Vietnam.