The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the county’s most important institution and the only political party allowed to operate openly. Its ranks swelled to their largest ever numbers during Leonid Brezhnev’s 18 years in power to almost 9% of the population.
In Brezhnev’s first years as General Secretary he oversaw the continuation of the recruitment drive started by Khrushchev. By 1967 when the present lot was painted however, the party was going through a rigorous ’restructuring’ process after the previous enthusiasm resulted in a failure to properly screen applicants and necessitating a number of expulsions. The party periodically organised ‘party card exchanges’ where old membership cards were exchanged for new ones, allowing the authorities to verify their records and vet members, essentially purging itself of its more undesirable elements.