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|Chairman of the Council of Ministers |
of the Soviet Union
8 February 1955 – 27 March 1958
|First Deputies||Anastas Mikoyan|
|Preceded by||Georgy Malenkov|
|Succeeded by||Nikita Khrushchev|
|Minister of Defence|
15 March 1953 – 9 February 1955
|Preceded by||Aleksandr Vasilevsky|
|Succeeded by||Georgy Zhukov|
Nikolai Alexandrovich Bulganin
(Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Булга́нин)
11 June 1895
Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Empire
|Died||24 February 1975 (aged 79)|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Resting place||Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow|
|Political party||Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1917–1960)|
|Years of service||1941–1958|
|Rank||Marshal of the Soviet Union (1947–1958)|
|Commands||Soviet Armed Forces|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Nikolai Alexandrovich Bulganin (Russian: Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Булга́нин; 11 June [O.S. 30 May] 1895 – 24 February 1975) was a Soviet politician who served as Minister of Defense (1953–1955) and Premier of the Soviet Union (1955–1958) under Nikita Khrushchev, following service in the Red Army and as defence minister under Joseph Stalin.
Bulganin was born in 1895 in Nizhny Novgorod, the son of an office worker. The family was of Russian ethnicity. He joined the Bolshevik Party in March 1917 and was recruited in 1918 into the Cheka, the Bolshevik regime's political police, where he served until 1922. During the summer of 1918, he worked with Lazar Kaganovich, the local communist leader, in imposing the Red Terror in Nizhny Novgorod. He worked with Kaganovich again in Turkestan in 1920. After the Russian Civil War, he became an industrial manager and worked in the electricity administration until 1927. He was director of the Moscow electricity supply in 1927–1931. In 1931–1937, Bulganin was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Moscow City Soviet, ie 'Mayor' of Moscow' soon after Kaganovich had been put in charge of the Moscow party organisation.
In 1934, the 17th Congress of the Communist Party elected Bulganin a candidate member of the Central Committee. A loyal Stalinist, he was promoted rapidly as other leaders fell victim to Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of 1937–38. In July 1937, he was appointed Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (Prime Minister) of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) after the previous incumbent, Daniil Sulimov had been arrested. He became a full member of the Central Committee later that year and, in September 1938, became Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union and head of the State Bank of the USSR.
World War II
During World War II, Bulganin played a leading role in the government and Red Army, although he was never a front-line commander. His first posting was as chief political commissar on the Western Front, which was commanded by Marshal Timoshenko. He held similar posts until July 1944, when he was appointed the Soviet representative on the Polish Committee of National Liberation. On 18 November 1944, he was given the rank of General, and three days later he replaced Marshal Voroshilov on the State Defence Committee. He was also appointed USSR Deputy Minister for Defence, the Minister being Joseph Stalin.
In March 1946, Bulganin became a candidate member of the 18th Politburo of the Communist Party. Later in March 1947, he succeeded Stalin as Minister for the Armed Forces, and was again Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, under Stalin, from 1947 to 1950. In November 1947, he was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. By February 1948, he became a full member of the 18th Politburo.
Bulganin reached the highest rank in the Red Army without ever having served in the military at any level. His role was to ensure that none of the genuine wartime commanders, particularly Marshal Zhukov, became powerful enough to threaten Stalin. Pavel Sudoplatov, who participated in conferences in the Kremlin with Bulganin wrote contemptuously about how he failed to understand elementary military concepts. He added:
Bulganin was notorious for avoiding decisions. Letters requesting urgent action remained unsigned for months. The entire secretariat of the Council of Ministers was furious with his style of work, especially when Stalin left him in charge while he vacationed in the Caucasus ... Bulganin's appearance was deceiving. Unlike Khrushchev or Beria, Bulganin was always smartly dressed and looked like an old nobleman, with well-groomed grey hair and goatee. Later I learnt he was a heavy drinker and an admirer of ballerinas and singers from the Bolshoi Theatre. He was a man without any political principles, only the obedient servant of any leader.
In March 1949, Bulganin was replaced as Minister for Defence by a genuine soldier, Aleksandr Vasilevsky, after which he was responsible for the arms industry.
Bulganin impressed those who had worked with him in the State Bank, including a famous expert on banking, with his high intelligence, mild manners, and capacity to learn in a very short time the most special and difficult of problems.
After Stalin's death in March 1953, Bulganin moved into sixth place in the Soviet leadership, when he was reappointed to the post of Defense Minister, but with Marshal Zhukov as his deputy. He was an ally of Nikita Khrushchev during his power struggle with Georgy Malenkov, and in February 1955 he succeeded Malenkov as Premier of the Soviet Union. He was generally seen as a supporter of Khrushchev's reforms and destalinisation. He and Khrushchev travelled together to India, Yugoslavia and in April 1956 to Britain, where they were known in the press as "the B and K show" or "Bulge and Crush". In his memoirs, however, Khrushchev recounted that he believed that he "couldn't rely on [Bulganin] fully."
During the Suez Crisis of October–November 1956, Bulganin sent letters to the governments of the United Kingdom, France, and Israel threatening rocket attacks on London, Paris, and Tel Aviv if they did not withdraw their forces from Egypt. In a letter to Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion, Bulganin wrote, "Israel is playing with the fate of peace, with the fate of its own people, in a criminal and irresponsible manner; [...] which will place a question [mark] upon the very existence of Israel as a State." Khrushchev, in his memoirs, admitted the threat was designed simply to divide Western opinion, especially since at the time he did not have enough ICBMs to launch the rockets, and in any case he had no intention of going to war in 1956.
By 1957, however, Bulganin had come to share the doubts held about Khrushchev's policies by the opposition group (which Khrushchev and his supporters labelled the "Anti-Party Group") led by Vyacheslav Molotov. In June, when the dissenters tried to remove Khrushchev from power at a meeting of the Politburo, Bulganin vacillated between the two camps. When the dissenters were defeated and removed from power, Bulganin held on to his position for a while, but in March 1958, at a session of the Supreme Soviet, Khrushchev forced his resignation. Bulganin was appointed Chairman of the Soviet State Bank, a job he had held two decades before, but in August was dispatched to Stavropol as Chairman of the Regional Economic Council, a token position, and on 12 November he was expelled from the Praesidium (Politburo) of the Central Committe. In September he was removed from the Central Committee and deprived of the title of Marshal, and in February 1960 he was retired on a pension.
Honours and awards
|Hero of Socialist Labour (10 June 1955)|
|Orders of Lenin, twice (1931, 1955)|
|Order of the Red Banner (1943)|
|Order of Suvorov, 1st class (1945) and 2nd class (1943)|
|Order of Kutuzov, 1st class, twice (1943, 1944)|
|Order of the Red Star, twice (1935, 1953)|
|Order of the Republic (Tuvan People's Republic, 3 March 1942)|
|Grand Cross of the Virtuti Militari (Poland)|
- Bibliography of the Russian Revolution and Civil War
- Bibliography of Stalinism and the Soviet Union
- Bibliography of the Post Stalinist Soviet Union
- Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941
- Nikolay Aleksandrovich Bulganin (premier of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) -- Encyclopædia Britannica:. Britannica.com. Retrieved on 2014-6-11.
- Николай Александрович Булганин председатель совета министров СССР с 1955 по 1958 годы. Россиа, моя история. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
- Sudoplatov, Pavel (1995). Special Tasks, the Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness - a Soviet Spymaster. London: Warner Books. p. 313. ISBN 0-7515-1240-0.
- COMMENTS ON THE CHANGE IN SOVIET LEADERSHIP (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency. 1955-03-02. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-06-22.
- Powaski, Ronald E. (1997). The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195078500.
- Pratt, Julius William (1965). A History of United States Foreign Policy. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 470. ISBN 978-0-13-392282-0.
- Khrushchev, Nikita (2006). Memoirs of Nikita Khruschev, Volume 2: Reformer (1945–1964). University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 238. ISBN 0271028610.
- "7 Exchange of Letters- Bulganin- Ben-Gurion- 5 and 8 November 1956". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel).
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