Viktor Abakumov

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Viktor Abakumov
Allegiance Soviet Union Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
Rank Colonel general

Born 24 April 1908 (1908-04-24)
Died 19 December 1954 (1954-12-20) (aged 46)
Cause of
Firing squad

Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov (Russian: Виктор Семёнович Абакумов; 24 April 1908 – 19 December 1954) was a high level Soviet security official, from 1943 to 1946 the head of SMERSH in the USSR People's Commissariat of Defense, and from 1946 to 1951 Minister of State Security or MGB (ex-NKGB). Abakumov was a notoriously brutal official who was known to torture prisoners personally.

Early life and career[edit]

Abakumov was born in 1908 in Moscow[1] into a family of Russian ethnicity[2] - his father was an unskilled labourer and his mother a nurse.[3] As a teenager, Abakumov joined the Red Army in spring 1922 and served with the 2 Special Task Moscow Brigade in the Russian Civil War until demobilization in December 1923.[3] He then joined the Communist Youth League, became a candidate member of the Communist Party in 1930, and worked in the People's Commissariat of Supplies until 1932, while also being responsible for the Military Section of the Communist Youth League in the Moscow area (raion).[4] In early 1932, recommended by the Party to join the security services (OGPU), he was assigned to the Economic Department and possibly to the Investigation Department. In 1933 he was dismissed from the Economic Department and assigned as an overseer to the GULAG. This was a clear demotion; Abakumov was a compulsive womanizer, and his superior, M.P. Shreider (ru), regarded Abakumov as unfit to be a Chekist.[4]

Rise through NKVD ranks[edit]

In 1934 after the reorganization of the security apparatus (the OGPU was joined to the NKVD as a GUGB), Abakumov started his work in a 1st Section of Economics Department (EKO) by the Main Directorate of State Security of NKVD. Then on 1 August 1934 he was transferred to the Chief Directorate of Camps and Labour Colonies (GULAG), where he served to 1937, mainly as operative officer in 3rd Section of Security Department of GULAG of the NKVD. In April 1937 Abakumov was moved to the 4th Department (OO) of GUGB of the NKVD where he served until March 1938.

After the next reorganization of NKVD structure in March 1938, he became assistant to the chief of the 4th Department in the 1st Directorate of the NKVD, and then from 29 September to 1 November 1938 he fulfilled duties of assistant to Pyotr Fedotov, the head of the 2nd Department (Secret Political Dep – or. SPO) of GUGB of the NKVD. Next, until the end of 1938, he worked in SPO GUGB NKVD as a head of one of the Sections. Abakumov had survived the Great Purge by participating in it. He executed each order without scruples, probably saving him from facing an execution squad himself. Near the end of December 1938 Abakumov was moved from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don, where soon he became the head of UNKVD of Rostov Oblast (the head of the local NKVD Office).

World War II activities[edit]

Abakumov returned to Moscow HQ on 12 February 1941 as a Senior Major of State Security and, after the reorganization and creation of the new NKGB, he became one of the deputies of Lavrentiy Beria who was the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs (head of the NKVD). On 19 July 1941 he became the head of Special Department (OO) of the NKVD which was responsible for Counterintelligence and internal security in the RKKA (Red Army). In this position after the attack of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union and the defeats experienced by the Red Army, on Stalin's order he led the purges of RKKA commanders accused of betrayal and cowardice. In 1943 for some time (from 19 April to 20 May 1943), Abakumov was one of Stalin’s deputies, when he held the post of People's Commissar of Defence of the USSR.
In April 1943 when Chief Counterintelligence Directorate of the People's Commissariat of Defence of the USSR (or GUKR NKO USSR) better known as SMERSH was created, Abakumov was put in charge of it, in the rank of Commissar (2nd rank) of State Security, and held the title of vice-Commissar of Defense.

Head of MGB[edit]

In 1946, Stalin appointed Abakumov Minister for State Security (MGB). Although the ministry was under the general supervision of Beria, Stalin hoped to curb the latter's power. In this capacity he was in charge of the 1949 purge known as the "Leningrad Affair," in which the Politburo members Nikolai Voznesensky and Aleksei Kuznetsov were executed.

Arrest and execution[edit]

At the end of 1951 an MGB employee, Mikhail Ryumin, bypassed Abakumov and went directly to Stalin to report his creation, the Doctors' Plot. Abakumov was accused of inaction and was arrested and imprisoned.[5] With Stalin's death in March 1953, the Doctor's Plot unravelled. Ryumin was arrested, tried, and executed in July 1954. Abakumov, however, was not released; he was eventually tried for his role in the Leningrad Affair and executed by order of Khruschchev for treason[6] on 19 December 1954.[5]


  1. ^ Michael Parrish, The lesser terror:Soviet state security, 1939-1953, 1996
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Parrish, 1996,
  4. ^ a b Parrish, 1996
  5. ^ a b Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The GULAG Archipelago. Harper & Row (1973). pp. 157–9. 
  6. ^ "Washing blood off Stalin's butcher". The Guardian. 1999-10-17. Retrieved 2015-07-17.