Brezhnev: Diary Of A Dullard

BOMBS, SHMOMBS . . . what's for lunch? Such were the thoughts that drove the leader of the Evil Empire at the height of the cold war. A newly published diary underlines the astonishingly pedestrian mind of Leonid Brezhnev, the burly Soviet leader derided by Russians for his senility and corruption. ""Was home at the dacha. Had lunch -- borscht with fresh cabbage. Rested in the yard, finished reading material. Watched hockey game -- USSR-Sweden, 4-2,'' Brezhnev recorded on April 10, 1977, just days after Moscow rejected an important U.S. arms-control proposal. Then came the most exciting part: ""Watched evening news. Had dinner, went to bed.''

Is it more -- or less -- scary to learn what the Soviet leader was really like? While Brezhnev faithfully recorded the monthly changes in his weight (ranging from 179 to 182 pounds), policy matters received only fleeting attention. ""Talked to [Supreme Soviet Chairman Nikolai] Podgorny about soccer and hockey and a little bit about the constitution,'' Brezhnev recorded months before a new Soviet Constitution was passed in 1977.

The combined talents of Woody Allen and Nikolai Gogol probably couldn't have produced a less significant historical document. The diary marks such high points of Brezhnev's final years as a hunting trip on which he ""killed 34 geese,'' a visit to the circus and a game of dominoes with Podgorny. A more typical entry reads, ""I didn't go anywhere. No one called. In the morning I had my hair cut, shaved and washed my hair.'' Says historian Dmitry Volkogonov, who published excerpts from the diary in Top Secret weekly: ""When I read this I was sorry for Brezhnev, but I was sorrier for the great nation he led.''