MOSCOW -- Former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was pronounced clinically dead in 1976 but was revived by doctors and ruled feebly for six more years, a Soviet newspaper said.
The weekly Moscow News carried an article in Wednesday's edition by historian Roy Medvedev that said Brezhnev, who finally died in November 1982 after 18 years in power, found it difficult to understand what was going on around him in the years following a suspected stroke that nearly killed him and badly impaired his brain.
The article confirmed Western beliefs that Brezhnev was no more than 'a living corpse' in his final years during which he was plagued by heart, lung and throat problems.
The story also contained a bitter attack on the corruption of the Brezhnev years now unofficially termed by the Kremlin 'the period of stagnation'.
It was also one of the most frank accounts ever published inside the Soviet Union about how ill Brezhnev actually was during his reign over oen of the most powerful countries in the world.
Moscow News said the feeble Brezhnev did manage to attend a summit meeting with President Jimmy Carter despite an obvious speech handicap and a failing memory.
This week's Moscow News which was published Wednesday in its Russian language edition said following his escape from death Brezhnev was followed at all times of the day and night by special medical teams.
It said Brezhnev, born in 1906, had serious health problems as early as 1969, only five years after he took office at the age of 58. It said he was never very intelligent and his speech writers had to avoid 'long words' because he could not pronounce them.
'His first health problems appeared around 1969-1970. At the begining of 1976 Brezhnev was pronounced clinically dead by doctors. However they managed to return him to life. But for three months he could not work. His speech and his thought process became disturbed.
'Every place he lived was equipped with special medical equipment. Since then a special group of doctors always accompanied him,' Moscow News said.
'He stopped understanding what was going on around him. Little by little it was impossible for him to do simple tasks. He just stopped understanding what was going on,' the story said.
'It goes without saying that his sick condition was reflected in his ability to rule the country,' it said.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman commenting on the story said Thursday he personally thought it appeared to be a fair account of the Brezhnev years.
Moscow News also gave the first full account of Brezhnev's death, only three days after he had braved bad weather to stand atop Lenin's tomb during the Revolution Day parade.