Mikhail Kalinin

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Mikhail Kalinin
Михаил Калинин
Kalinin in 1920
Head of State of the Soviet Union
In office
17 January 1938 – 19 March 1946
PremierVyacheslav Molotov
Joseph Stalin
DeputyNikolai Shvernik
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byNikolai Shvernik
Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union
In office
PremierVladimir Lenin

Alexei Rykov

Vyacheslav Molotov
Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets
In office
30 March 1919 – 15 July 1938
Preceded byMikhail Vladimirsky (acting) Yakov Sverdlov
Succeeded byPosition Abolished
Aleksei Badayev as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR
Full member of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th Politburo
In office
1 January 1926 – 3 June 1946
Member of the Orgburo
In office
16 March 1921 – 2 June 1924
Candidate member of the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th Politburo
In office
25 March 1919 – 1 January 1926
Personal details
Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin

(1875-11-19)19 November 1875
Verkhnyaya Troitsa, Tver Governorate, Russian Empire
Died3 June 1946(1946-06-03) (aged 70)
Resting placeKremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow
Political party
SpouseEkaterina Ivanovna Lorberg-Kalinina
OccupationCivil servant

Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin (Russian: Михаи́л Ива́нович Кали́нин, IPA: [kɐˈlʲinʲɪn]; 19 November [O.S. 7 November] 1875 – 3 June 1946)[1][2][3] was a Soviet politician and Russian Old Bolshevik revolutionary. He served as head of state of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and later of the Soviet Union from 1919 to 1946. From 1926, he was a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Born to a peasant family, Kalinin worked as a metal worker in Saint Petersburg and took part in the 1905 Russian Revolution as an early member of the Bolsheviks. During and after the October Revolution, he served as mayor of Petrograd (St. Petersburg). After the revolution, Kalinin became the head of the new Soviet state, as well as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Politburo.

Kalinin remained the titular head of state of the Soviet Union after the rise of Joseph Stalin, with whom he enjoyed a privileged relationship, but held little real power or influence. He retired in 1946 and died in the same year. The former East Prussian city of Königsberg, annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945, was renamed Kaliningrad after him a year later. The city of Tver was also known as Kalinin until 1990 when its historic name was restored, one year before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Early life[edit]

Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin was born on 19 November 1875 to a peasant family of ethnic Russian origin in the village of Verkhnyaya Troitsa (Верхняя Троица), Tver Governorate, Russia.[4] He was the elder brother of Fedor Kalinin.

Kalinin worked with his father on the land until the age of 13. When he was 10, he was taught to read and write by an army veteran. At 11, he entered a primary school run by a local landowning family. [5] When he finished school, the family took him to Saint Petersburg to work as a footman. At 16, he was sent as an apprentice in a cartridge factory, and at 18, he was employed as a lathe operator in the Putilov factory.[5]

Kalinin joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1898, while still working at the Putilov works. The following year, he was arrested, imprisoned for 10 months, then exiled to the Caucasus,[5] and found work as a craftsman at the Tbilisi railway depot, where he met Sergei Alliluyev, the father of Joseph Stalin's second wife.[6]

In 1906, he married the ethnic Estonian Ekaterina Lorberg (Russian: Екатерина Ивановна Лорберг (Yekaterina Ivanovna Lorberg, 1882–1960).[7] She changed her last name to Kalinina after the marriage.

Early political career[edit]

Kalinin pictured in his hometown in 1922

Kalinin joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1898, the year of its foundation.[8] He came to know Stalin through the Alliluyev family.

During the Russian Revolution of 1905, Kalinin worked for the RSDLP and on the staff of the Central Union of Metal Workers.[8] He later became active on behalf of the RSDLP in Tiflis, Georgia (now Tbilisi); Reval, Estonia (now Tallinn); and Moscow.[6] In April 1906 he served as a delegate at the 4th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

Kalinin was an early and devoted adherent of the Bolshevik faction of the RSDLP, headed by Vladimir Lenin. He was a delegate to the 1912 Bolshevik Party Conference held in Prague, where he was elected an alternate member of the governing Central Committee and sent to work inside Russia.[6] He did not become a full member because he was suspected of being an Okhrana agent (the real agent was Roman Malinovsky, a full member).

Kalinin was arrested for his subversive activities in 1916 during World War I and then freed during the February Revolution of 1917.[8]

Russian Revolutions[edit]

Kalinin joined the Petrograd Bolshevik committee and assisted in the organization of the party daily newspaper Pravda, now legalized by the new regime.[6]

In April 1917, Kalinin, like many other Bolsheviks, advocated conditional support for the Provisional Government in cooperation with the Menshevik faction of the RSDLP, a position at odds with that of Lenin.[8] He continued to oppose an armed uprising to overthrow the government of Alexander Kerensky throughout that summer.[8]

In the elections held for the Petrograd City Duma in autumn 1917, Kalinin was chosen as mayor of the city, which he administered during and after the Bolshevik Revolution of 7 November.[8]

In 1919, Kalinin was elected a member of the governing Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party as well as a candidate member of the Politburo.[8] He was promoted to full membership on the Politburo in January 1926, a position which he retained until his death in 1946.[6]

When Yakov Sverdlov died in March 1919 from influenza,[9][10][11] Kalinin replaced him as President of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, the titular head of state of Soviet Russia. The name of this position was changed to Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR in 1922 and to Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1938.[8] Kalinin continued to hold the post without interruption until his retirement at the end of World War II.

In 1920, Kalinin attended the Second World Congress of the Communist International in Moscow as part of the Russian delegation. He was seated on the presidium rostrum and took an active part in the debates.[6]

Soviet Union[edit]

Bubnov, Voroshilov, Trotsky, Kalinin and Frunze, October Revolution military parade, 1924

Kalinin was a factional ally of Stalin during the bitter struggle for power after the death of Lenin in 1924.[8] He delivered a report on Lenin and the Comintern to the Fifth World Congress in 1924.[6]

Kalinin was one of the comparatively few members of Stalin's inner circle springing from peasant origins. The lowly social origins were widely publicised in the official press, which habitually referred to Kalinin as the "All-Union Elder" (Всесоюзный староста), a term harking back to the village community, in conjunction with his role as titular head of state.[12] In practical terms, by the 1930s, Kalinin's role as a decision-maker in the Soviet government was nominal.[13]

Although he was a member of the Politburo, the de facto executive branch of the Soviet Union, and nominally held the second-highest state post in the USSR, Kalinin held little power or influence. His role was mostly limited to receiving diplomatic letters from abroad. Recalling him, future Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev said, "I don't know what practical work Kalinin carried out under Lenin. But under Stalin he was the nominal signatory of all decrees, while in reality he rarely took part in government business."[14]

On 5 March 1940, six members of the Politburo—Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, Anastas Mikoyan, and Mikhail Kalinin—signed an order to execute 25,700 Polish "nationalists and counterrevolutionaries" (Polish intelligentsia, priests, and military officers) kept at camps and prisons in occupied western Ukraine and Belarus,[15] as part of the Katyn massacre.

Kalinin was unable to protect his wife, Ekaterina Kalinina, who was critical of Stalin's policies and was arrested on 25 October 1938 on charges of being a "Trotskyist". At the time of her arrest Ekaterina and her husband Mikhail Kalinin were not living together.[16] Although her husband was the chair of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1938–46), she was tortured in Lefortovo Prison and on 22 April 1939, she was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment in a labour camp. She was released shortly before her husband's death in 1946.[17]

Death and legacy[edit]

Kalinin's tomb in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis

Kalinin retired in 1946 and died of cancer on 3 June that year in Moscow.[18] He was honoured with a state funeral and was buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, in one of the twelve individual tombs located between the Lenin Mausoleum and the Kremlin Wall.[19][20]

Three large cities (Tver,[21] Korolyov[22] and Königsberg[23]) were renamed after Kalinin. Tver's historic name was restored in 1990, and Korolyov's in 1996 in honour of a famous Soviet/Russian rocket scientist Sergey Korolev.

Kalinin Square and Kalinin Street which were named after Kalinin are located in Minsk, Belarus. Kalinin Street in Tallinn, Estonia was renamed Kopli Street following Estonian independence. Prospekt Kalinina in Dnipro, Ukraine was renamed Prospekt Serhiy Nigoyan in January 2015 as part of decommunization in Ukraine.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Agentstvo pechati "Novosti" (1975). Socialism: Theory and Practice. Novosti Press Agency. p. 73. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  2. ^ Calendar: Thirty Years of the Soviet State, 1917–1947. Foreign Languages Publishing House. 1947. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  3. ^ Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov, Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party: A Study in the Technology of Power. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959; p. 1.
  4. ^ "Биография: Калинин Михаил Иванович - Praviteli.org". www.praviteli.org. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Georges Haupt, and Jean-Jaques Marie (1974). Makers of the Russian Revolution. London: George Allen & Unwin. pp. 134-36 (This volume contains a translation of a short authorised biography of Kalinin published in a Soviet encyclopaedia c1927). ISBN 0 04 947021 3.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Branko Lazitch and Milorad M. Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986; pp. 204–205.
  7. ^ Ernest A. Rappaport (1975). Anti-Judaism: a psychohistory. Perspective Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0960338207.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jackson, George; Devlin, Robert (eds.), Dictionary of the Russian Revolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989; pp. 295–296.
  9. ^ *Kotkin, Stephen (2014). Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928. Penguin. ISBN 978-1594203794.
  10. ^ Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich (2006). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-02861-0.
  11. ^ Waksberg, Arkadi (21 January 2011). "From Hell to Heaven and forth" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  12. ^ Torchinov, V. A.; Leontiuk, A. M. Vokrug Stalina: Istoriko-biograficheskii spravochnik. ("Stalin's Circle: A Historico-Biographical Handbook") St. Petersburg: Philology Department of St. Petersburg State University, 2000; pp. 240–241.
  13. ^ Torchinov and Leontiuk refer to Kalinin in the 1930s as a "decorative figure." See Vokrug Stalina, p. 241.
  14. ^ Khrushchev, Sergei (Ed.). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Statesman: 1953–1964. Pennsylvania State University Press. 2007. p. 488.
  15. ^ Brown, Archie (2009). The Rise and Fall of Communism. Ecco/HarperCollins. pp. 140. ISBN 978-0-06-113879-9.
  16. ^ Graeme Gill (2018). Collective Leadership in Soviet Politics. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 115. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-76962-2. ISBN 978-3-319-76961-5.
  17. ^ Vadim J. Bristein (2001). The Perversion of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0813339078.
  18. ^ Brent, Jonathan and Naumov, Vladimir P. in Stalin's Last Crime, John Murray (Publishers), London, 2003, page 231
  19. ^ "Funeral Of Russia's President Kalinin". British Pathe. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  20. ^ Colton, Timothy J. (1995). Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis. Harvard University Press. p. 352. ISBN 978-0-674-58749-6.
  21. ^ "Довоенные годы". www.tver.ru. 18 January 2017. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017.
  22. ^ "Korolyov | city, Moscow oblast, Russia | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  23. ^ "Kaliningrad | History, Map, & Points of Interest | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  24. ^ (in Ukrainian) Dnipro municipality for the second time decided to rename Kalinin avenue to Sergey Nigoyan, (23 February 2018)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets
Succeeded by
Alexei Badaev
as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Presidium
Preceded by
Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR
Along with others

Succeeded by
as Chair of the Supreme Soviet Presidium
Preceded by
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
Succeeded by