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Ignatiev, the son of a peasant, an engineer, joined the Communist Party in 1926. For most of his career, he was a discreet regional apparatchik, serving as Party Secretary in Buryat ASSR, Bashkir ASSR, Byelorussian SSR and finally Uzbek SSR. He was called to Moscow in 1950. Joseph Stalin wanted Ignatiev to counter the influence of Lavrenti Beria and Viktor Abakumov, the two leading officials of the secret police at the time.
In 1951, he was chosen by Stalin to replace Abakumov as the Minister of the MGB of the USSR. During his tenure as head of the secret police, Ignatiev investigated the Doctors' Plot and helped propagating antisemitism in the Soviet Union, acting on Stalin's direct orders.
He was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1952 until 1961. He also briefly served as a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee (previously named Politburo) in the final months before Stalin's demise.
Immediately after the Soviet leader's death, Ignatiev lost most of his power, as Beria absorbed the MGB into his MVD on 5 March 1953. Ignatiev was sent back to Bashkir ASSR and ended his political career as the Party Secretary in Tatar ASSR, before retiring in 1960.
Unlike Beria and Abakumov, who were executed in 1953, Ignatiev ultimately became Stalin's only head of secret police to enjoy a peaceful death. He died in 1983 and was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, along with many members of the Soviet elite.
References and further reading 
- Gorlitzki, Yoram, Khlevniuk, Oleg, Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Circle, 1945-1953, Oxford, 2004
- Marie, Jean-Jacques, Staline, Paris, 2001
- Sebag Montefiore, Simon, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, London, 2004
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