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Vyacheslav Molotov

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Vyacheslav Molotov
Вячеслав Молотов
Vyacheslav Molotov Anefo2.jpg
Vyacheslav Molotov in 1936
Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Soviet Union
In office
19 December 1930 – 6 May 1941
Preceded byAlexei Rykov
Succeeded byJoseph Stalin
First Deputy Chairman of the
Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
In office
16 August 1942 – 29 June 1957
PremierJoseph Stalin
Georgy Malenkov
Nikolai Bulganin
Preceded byNikolai Voznesensky
Succeeded byNikolai Bulganin
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
3 May 1939 – 4 March 1949
PremierJoseph Stalin
Preceded byMaxim Litvinov
Succeeded byAndrey Vyshinsky
In office
5 March 1953 – 1 June 1956
PremierGeorgy Malenkov
Nikolai Bulganin
Preceded byAndrey Vyshinsky
Succeeded byDmitri Shepilov
Additional positions
Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Acting
In office
April 1922 – December 1930
Preceded byposition established
Succeeded byLazar Kaganovich
Responsible Secretary of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik)
In office
March 1921 – April 1922
Preceded byNikolay Krestinsky
Succeeded byJoseph Stalin
(as General Secretary)
Full member of the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th Presidium
In office
1 January 1926 – 29 June 1957
Candidate member of the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th Politburo
In office
16 March 1921 – 1 January 1926
Full member of the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th Secretariat
In office
16 March 1921 – 21 December 1930
Full member of the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th Orgburo
In office
16 March 1921 – 21 December 1930
Personal details
Born
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skryabin

(1890-03-09)9 March 1890
Kukarka, Russian Empire
Died8 November 1986(1986-11-08) (aged 96)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
CitizenshipSoviet
NationalityRussian
Political partyRSDLP (Bolsheviks) (1906–1918)
Russian Communist Party (1918–1961)
Spouse(s)
(m. 1920; died 1970)
Children2
RelativesVyacheslav Nikonov (grandson)
AwardsOrder of the Badge of Honour
Signature

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov[a] (/ˈmɒlətɒf, ˈm-/;[1]Skryabin;[b] (OS 25 February) 9 March 1890 – 8 November 1986) was a Russian politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik, and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s onward. He served as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars from 1930 to 1941 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1939 to 1949 and from 1953 to 1956.

Born in Kukarka, Molotov joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1906, supported Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik faction, and was twice arrested and exiled for revolutionary activities. As an editor of Pravda, Molotov opposed Alexander Kerensky's Provisional Government after the February Revolution of 1917. He later became a member of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee and there helped to plan the October Revolution, which brought the Bolsheviks to power.

After the revolution, Molotov worked in Ukraine before he was recalled to Moscow in 1921, where he became a full member of the Central Committee. A staunch supporter and protégé of Joseph Stalin, Molotov achieved greater prominence following Lenin's death and Stalin's rise to power. Molotov was made a full member of the Politburo in 1926, appointed First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party in 1928, and became the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (Premier of the Soviet Union) in the 1930. In the latest capacity, Molotov oversaw collectivisation of the Soviet Union's agricultural sector and the implementation of the First Five-Year Plan. He played a central role during the Great Purge in the 1930s by signing 373 execution lists, more than any other Soviet official including Stalin. He would later justify his role in the purge by stating that it was excessive at times but that the party needed to be purged of reactionary elements.[2]

Molotov was appointed People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs in May 1939 and in August became the principal Soviet signatory of the German–Soviet non-aggression pact, also known as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. During World War II (called the Great Patriotic War), Molotov was the deputy chairman of the State Defense Committee. He helped to negotiate the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of 1942, a Lend-Lease treaty with the United States the same year, and accompanied Stalin to the 1943 Tehran Conference, the 1945 Yalta Conference and the Potsdam Conference that year after the German defeat. He also represented the Soviet Union that year at the San Francisco Conference, which led to the creation of the United Nations. After the war, he became noted in the West for his diplomatic skills and general hostility.

Molotov retained his place as a leading Soviet diplomat and politician until March 1949, when he fell out of Stalin's favour and lost the foreign affairs ministry leadership to Andrei Vyshinsky. Molotov's relationship with Stalin deteriorated further, and Stalin criticised Molotov in a speech to the 19th Party Congress.

Molotov was reappointed Minister of Foreign Affairs after Stalin's death in 1953 but staunchly opposed Nikita Khrushchev's de-Stalinization policy, which resulted in his eventual dismissal from all positions and expulsion from the party in 1961. Molotov defended Stalin's policies and legacy until his death in 1986 and harshly criticised Stalin's successors, especially Khrushchev.

The Molotov cocktail is named after him.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Molotov's birth house in Sovetsk, Kirov Oblast.

Molotov was born Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skryabin in the village of Kukarka, Yaransk Uyezd, Vyatka Governorate (now Sovetsk, Kirov Oblast), the son of a merchant. Contrary to a commonly-repeated error, he was not related to the composer Alexander Scriabin.[4]

Throughout his teenager years, he was described as "shy" and "quiet" and always assisted his father with his business. He was educated at a secondary school in Kazan, joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1906, and soon gravitated toward the organisation's radical Bolshevik faction, which was led by Vladimir Lenin.[5]

Skryabin took the pseudonym "Molotov", derived from the Russian word molot (sledge hammer) since he believed that the name had an "industrial" and "proletarian" ring to it.[5] He was arrested in 1909 and spent two years in exile in Vologda.

In 1911, he enrolled at St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. Molotov joined the editorial staff of a new underground Bolshevik newspaper, Pravda, and met Joseph Stalin for the first time in association with the project.[6] That first association between the two future Soviet leaders proved to be brief, however, and failed to lead to an immediate close political association.[6]

Molotov in 1917

Molotov worked as a so-called "professional revolutionary" for the next several years, wrote for the party press, and attempted to improve the organisation of the underground party.[6] He moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War.[6] It was in Moscow the following year that Molotov was again arrested for his party activity and was this time deported to Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia.[6] In 1916, he escaped from his Siberian exile and returned to the capital city, which had been renamed Petrograd by the Tsarist regime since it thought that the old name sounded too German.[6]

Molotov became a member of the Bolshevik Party's committee in Petrograd in 1916. When the February Revolution occurred in 1917, he was one of the few Bolsheviks of any standing in the capital. Under his direction Pravda took to the "left" to oppose the Provisional Government formed after the revolution. When Joseph Stalin returned to the capital, he reversed Molotov's line,[7] but when Lenin arrived, he overruled Stalin. However, Molotov became a protégé of and a close adherent to Stalin, an alliance to which he owed his later prominence.[8] Molotov became a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee, which planned the October Revolution and effectively brought the Bolsheviks to power.[9]

Molotov and the OGPU's first chief Felix Dzerzhinsky, 1924

In 1918, Molotov was sent to Ukraine to take part in the Russian Civil War, which had broken out. Since he was not a military man, he took no part in the fighting. In 1920, he became secretary to the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Bolshevik Party and married the Soviet politician Polina Zhemchuzhina.[10] Lenin recalled him to Moscow in 1921, elevated him to full membership of the Central Committee and Orgburo, and put him in charge of the party secretariat. Molotov was voted in as a non-voting member of the Politburo in 1921 and held the office of Responsible Secretary.

Molotov was criticised by Lenin and Leon Trotsky, with Lenin noting his "shameful bureaucratism" and stupid behaviour.[4] On the advice of Molotov and Nikolai Bukharin, the Central Committee decided to reduce Lenin's work hours.[11] In 1922, Stalin became General Secretary of the Bolshevik Party with Molotov as the de facto Second Secretary. As a young follower, Molotov admired Stalin but did not refrain from criticizing him.[12] Under Stalin's patronage, Molotov became a member of the Politburo in 1926.[8]

Molotov speaks at a meeting of peasant women, 1925.

During the power struggles after Lenin's death in 1924, Molotov remained a loyal supporter of Stalin against his various rivals: first Leon Trotsky, later Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev, and finally Nikolai Bukharin. Molotov became a leading figure in the "Stalinist centre" of the party, which also included Kliment Voroshilov and Sergo Ordzhonikidze.[13] Trotsky and his supporters underestimated Molotov, and the same went for many others. Trotsky called him "mediocrity personified," and Molotov himself pedantically corrected comrades referring to him as "Stone Arse" by saying that Lenin had actually dubbed him "Iron Arse."[4]

However, that outward dullness concealed a sharp mind and great administrative talent. He operated mainly behind the scenes and cultivated an image of a colourless bureaucrat. For example, he was the only Bolshevik leader who always wore a suit and tie.[14] In 1928, Molotov replaced Nikolai Uglanov as First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party and held that position until 15 August 1929.[15] In a lengthy address to the Central Committee in 1929, Molotov told the members the Soviet government would initiate a compulsory collectivisation campaign to solve the agrarian backwardness of Soviet agriculture.[16]

Molotov and his wife had two daughters: Sonia, adopted in 1929, and Svetlana, born in 1930.[10]

Soviet Premier[edit]

Molotov as Soviet Premier.

During the Central Committee plenum of 19 December 1930, Molotov succeeded Alexey Rykov as the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, the equivalent of a Western head of government.[17] In that post, Molotov oversaw agricultural collectivisation under Stalin's regime. Molotov also oversaw the implementation of the First Five-Year Plan for rapid industrialisation.[18]

Kliment Voroshilov, Lazar Kaganovich, Alexander Kosarev and Vyacheslav Molotov at the 7th Conference of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol), July 1932.

Sergei Kirov, the head of the Party organisation in Leningrad, was killed in 1934,[19] and some historians argue that Stalin had ordered his death.[20]

After Kirov's murder, the next significant but unpublicised event was Stalin's apparent rift with Molotov.[21] On 19 March 1936 Molotov gave an interview with the editor of Le Temps concerning improved relations with Nazi Germany.[22] Although Litvinov had made similar statements in 1934 and even visited Berlin that year, Germany had not yet reoccupied the Rhineland.[21]

Watson believed that it was Molotov's statement on foreign policy that offended Stalin. Molotov had made it clear that improved relations with Germany could develop only if its policy changed and stated that one of the best ways for Germany to improve relations was to rejoin the League of Nations. However, even that was not sufficient since Germany still had to give proof "of its respect for international obligations in keeping with the real interests of peace in Europe and peace generally."[23] As Litvinov in 1933 and 1934 had done his best to prevent the cordial relations created by Rapallo from declining, some do not think that Litvinov would have disapproved that statement, and if German policy had changed, Litvinov would have been delighted.

However, Conquest, unlike Watson, believed that the reason for Stalin's temporary rift with Molotov was not concerned with foreign policy but stemmed from the fact that Stalin was angry with Molotov for attempting to try to dissuade him from staging the famous trials against Lenin's old colleagues.[24] Molotov in the same interview denied the continued existence of internal enemies except for a few isolated cases. Holroyd-Doveton thought that had been more likely to be what had offended Stalin.[21]

According to Watson, Orlov and Conquest, a rift between Molotov and Stalin occurred since Molotov's name was omitted from the list of those whom the conspirators were planning to kill, but all of the other prominent leaders were included. In May 1936, Molotov went to the Black Sea on an extended holiday under careful NKVD supervision until the end of August, when Stalin apparently changed his mind and ordered Molotov's return.[25]

Kirov's death triggered a second crisis, the Great Purge.[26] In 1938, out of the 28 People's Commissars in Molotov's Government, 20 were executed on the orders of Molotov and Stalin.[27] The purges were carried out by Stalin's successive police chiefs;[28] Nikolai Yezhov was the chief organiser, and Kliment Voroshilov, Lazar Kaganovich, and Molotov were intimately involved in the processes.[29] Stalin frequently required Molotov and other Politburo members to sign the death warrants of prominent purge victims, and Molotov always did so without question.[30]

There is no record of Molotov attempting to moderate the course of the purges or even to save individuals, unlike some of the other Soviet officials. During the Great Purge, he approved 372 documented execution lists, more than any other Soviet official, including Stalin. Molotov was one of the few with whom Stalin openly discussed the purges. Molotov and Stalin signed a public decree in 1938 that disassociated them from the ongoing Great Purge, but in private, even after Stalin's death, Molotov supported the Great Purge and the executions.[31]

Despite the great human cost, the Soviet Union under Molotov's nominal premiership made large strides in the adoption and the widespread implementation of agrarian and industrial technology. Germany secretly purchased munitions that spurred a modern armaments industry in the USSR.[32] Ultimately, that arms industry, along with American and British aid, helped the Soviet Union prevail in the Second World War.[33]

Vyacheslav Molotov (Skryabin), Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (Prime Minister) and Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Communist Party, in 1932. Both signed mass execution lists (album procedure): Molotov signed 373 lists and Stalin signed 362 lists.

The purges of the Red Army leadership, in which Molotov participated, weakened the Soviets' defence capacity and contributed to the military disasters in 1941 and 1942, which were mostly caused by the unreadiness for war.[34] The purges also led to the dismantling of privatised agriculture and its replacement by collectivised agriculture. That left a legacy of chronic agricultural inefficiencies and underproduction, which the Soviet regime never fully rectified.[35]

Molotov was reported to be a vegetarian and teetotaler by the American journalist John Gunther in 1938.[36] However, Milovan Djilas claimed that Molotov "drank more than Stalin"[37] and did not note his vegetarianism although they had attended several banquets.

Minister of Foreign Affairs[edit]

In 1939, Adolf Hitler's invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia, in violation of the 1938 Munich Agreement, made Stalin believe that Britain and France, which had signed the agreement, would not be reliable allies against German expansion. That made him decide instead to seek to conciliate Nazi Germany.[38] In May 1939, Maxim Litvinov, the Jewish Commissar for Foreign Affairs, was dismissed[39] Molotov was appointed to succeed him.[40] Relations between Molotov and Litvinov had been bad. Maurice Hindus in 1954 stated in his book Crisis in the Kremlin:

It is well known in Moscow that Molotov always detested Litvinov. Molotov's detestation for Litvinov was purely of a personal nature. No Moscovite I have ever known, whether a friend of Molotov or of Litvinov, has ever taken exception to this view. Molotov was always resentful of Litvinov's fluency in French, German and English, as he was distrustful of Litvinov's easy manner with foreigners. Never having lived abroad, Molotov always suspected that there was something impure and sinful in Litvinov's broad mindedness and appreciation of Western civilisation.[41]

Litvinov had no respect for Molotov, regarding him as a small-minded intriguer and accomplice in terror. [42]

A list from the Great Purge signed by Molotov, Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, and Zhdanov

Molotov was succeeded in his post as premier by Stalin.[43]

At first, Hitler rebuffed Soviet diplomatic hints that Stalin desired a treaty; but in early August 1939, Hitler allowed Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to begin serious negotiations. A trade agreement was concluded on 18 August, and on 22 August, Ribbentrop flew to Moscow to conclude a formal non-aggression treaty. Although the treaty is known as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, it was Stalin and Hitler, not Molotov and Ribbentrop, who decided the content of the treaty.

The most important part of the agreement was the secret protocol, which provided for the partition of Poland, Finland and the Baltic States between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and for the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia (then part of Romania, now Moldova).[40] The protocol gave Hitler the green light for his invasion of Poland, which began on 1 September.[44]

The pact's terms gave Hitler authorisation to occupy two thirds of Western Poland and the whole of Lithuania. Molotov was given a free hand in relation to Finland. In the Winter War, a combination of fierce Finnish resistance and Soviet mismanagement resulted in Finland losing much of its territory but not its independence.[45] The pact was later amended to allocate Lithuania to the Soviets in exchange for a more favourable border in Poland for Germany. The annexations led to horrific suffering and loss of life in the countries occupied and partitioned by both dictatorships.[46] On 5 March 1940, Lavrentiy Beria gave Molotov, along with Anastas Mikoyan, Kliment Voroshilov and Stalin, a note proposing the execution of 25,700 Polish anti-Soviet officers in what has become known as the Katyn massacre.[43]

In November 1940, Stalin sent Molotov to Berlin to meet Ribbentrop and Hitler. In January 1941, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden visited Turkey in an attempt to get the Turks to enter the war on the Allies' side. The purpose of Eden's visit was anti-German, rather than anti-Soviet, but Molotov assumed otherwise. In a series of conversations with Italian Ambassador Augusto Rosso, Molotov claimed that the Soviets would soon be faced with an Anglo–Turkish invasion of the Crimea. The British historian D.C. Watt argued that on the basis of Molotov's statements to Rosso, it would appear that in early 1941, Stalin and Molotov viewed Britain, rather than Germany, as the principal threat.[47]

Molotov meets with Joachim von Ribbentrop before they sign the German–Soviet Pact.

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact governed Soviet–German relations until June 1941, when Hitler turned east and invaded the Soviet Union.[48] Molotov was responsible for telling the Soviet people of the attack, when he instead of Stalin announced the war. His speech, broadcast by radio on 22 June, characterised the Soviet Union in a role similar to that articulated by Winston Churchill in his early wartime speeches. The State Defence Committee was established soon after Molotov's speech. Stalin was elected chairman, and Molotov was elected deputy chairman.[49]

After the German invasion, Molotov conducted urgent negotiations with the British and then the Americans for wartime alliances. He took a secret flight to Scotland, where he was greeted by Eden. The risky flight in a high-altitude Tupolev TB-7 bomber flew over German-occupied Denmark and the North Sea. From there, he took a train to London to discuss the possibility of opening a second front against Germany.

After signing the Anglo–Soviet Treaty of 1942 on 26 May, Molotov left for Washington. Molotov met US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and agreed on a lend-lease plan. Both the British and the Americans only vaguely promised to open up a second front against Germany. On his flight back to the Soviet Union, his plane was attacked by German fighters and later mistakenly by Soviet fighters.[50]

There is no evidence that Molotov ever persuaded Stalin to pursue a different policy from that on which he had already decided.[51] Volkogonov could not find one case where any of the elite in government openly disagreed with Stalin.[52]

There is some evidence that, although Stalin realised he needed Molotov, Stalin did not like him.[53] Stalin’s one-time bodyguard, Amba stated, "More general dislike for this statesman robot and for his position in the Kremlin could scarcely be wished and it was apparent that Stalin himself joined in this feeling".[54] Amba asked the question:

"What then has made Stalin collaborate so closely with him? There are many more talented people in the Soviet Union and Stalin no doubt had the means to find them. Is he afraid of close collaboration with a more human and sympathetic assistant?"

At a jolly party, Amba recalled an incident whereby Poskryobyshev approached Stalin and whispered in his ear. Stalin replied, "Does it have to be right away?"  Everybody realised at once that the conversation was regarding Molotov. In half an hour, Stalin was informed of Molotov’s arrival. Although the whispered conversation between Molotov and Stalin only lasted five minutes, the merriment of the gathering evaporated as everybody talked in hushed tones. Amba stated, "Then the blanket left. Instantly the gaiety returned". Vareykis said that "a gentle angel has flown past": A Russian expression for when a sudden silence descends. Breaking the tension, Laurentyev quipped in a harsh Georgian accent, "Go, friendly soul". Out of those in attendance, Stalin laughed the loudest at Laurentyev’s joke.[55] Stalin could be rude to Molotov.[56] In 1942, Stalin took Molotov to task for his handling of the negotiations with Allies. He cabled Molotov on 3 June:

"[I am] dissatisfied with the terseness and reticence of all your communications. You convey to us from your talks with Roosevelt and Churchill only what you yourself consider is important, and omit all the rest. Meanwhile, the instance [Stalin] would like to know everything. What you consider important and what you think unimportant. This refers to the draft of the communiqué as well. You have not informed us whose draft it is, whether it has been agreed with the British in full and why, after all, there could not be two communiqués, one concerning the talks in Britain and one concerning the talks in the USA. We are having to guess because of your reticence. We further consider it expedient that both communiqués should mention among other things the creation of a second front in Europe and that full understanding has been reached in this matter. We also consider that it is absolutely necessary both communiqués should mention the supply of war materials to the Soviet Union from Britain and the USA. In all the rest we agree with the contents of the draft communiqué you sent us".[57]

Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference in 1943; Molotov and Anthony Eden stand in the background.

When Beria told Stalin about the Manhattan Project and its importance, Stalin handpicked Molotov to be the man in charge of the Soviet atomic bomb project. However, under Molotov's leadership, the bomb and the project itself developed very slowly, and he was replaced by Beria in 1944 on the advice of Igor Kurchatov.[58] When Roosevelt's successor as U.S. President Harry S. Truman told Stalin that the Americans had created a bomb never seen before, Stalin relayed the conversation to Molotov and told him to speed up development. On Stalin's orders, the Soviet government substantially increased investment in the project.[59][60] In a collaboration with Kliment Voroshilov, Molotov contributed both musically and lyrically to the 1944 version of the Soviet national anthem. Molotov asked the writers to include a line or two about peace. The role of Molotov and Voroshilov in the making of the new Soviet anthem was, in the words of the historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, acting as music judges for Stalin.[61]

Molotov accompanied Stalin to the Teheran Conference in 1943,[62] the Yalta Conference in 1945,[63] and, after the defeat of Germany, the Potsdam Conference.[64] He represented the Soviet Union at the San Francisco Conference, which created the United Nations.[65] Even during the wartime alliance, Molotov was known as a tough negotiator and a determined defender of Soviet interests. Molotov lost his position of First Deputy chairman on 19 March 1946 after the Council of People's Commissars had been reformed as the Council of Ministers.

Stalin, Harry S. Truman, Andrei Gromyko, James F. Byrnes and Molotov meeting at the Potsdam Conference on 18 July 1945

From 1945 to 1947, Molotov took part in all four conferences of foreign ministers of the victorious states in the Second World War. In general, he was distinguished by an unco-operative attitude towards the Western powers. Molotov, at the direction of the Soviet government, condemned the Marshall Plan as imperialistic and claimed it was dividing Europe into two camps, one capitalist and the other communist. In response, the Soviet Union, along with the other Eastern Bloc nations, initiated what is known as the Molotov Plan. The plan created several bilateral relations between the states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and later evolved into the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA).[66]

In the postwar period, Molotov's power began to decline. A clear sign of his precarious position was his inability to prevent the arrest for "treason" in December 1948 of his Jewish wife, Polina Zhemchuzhina, whom Stalin had long distrusted.[67] Molotov never stopped loving his wife, and it is said he ordered his maids to make dinner for two every evening to remind him that, in his own words, "she suffered because of me."[68]

Polina Zhemchuzhina befriended Golda Meir, who arrived in Moscow in November 1948 as the first Israeli envoy to the Soviet Union.[69] According to a close collaborator of Molotov, Vladimir Ivanovich Yerofeyev, Meir met privately with Polina, who had been her schoolmate in St. Petersburg. Polina was immediately arrested and accused of ties with Zionist organisations. She was imprisoned for a year in the Lubyanka and was then exiled for three years in an obscure Russian city. Molotov had no communication with her except for the scant news that he received from Beria, whom he loathed. Polina was freed immediately after the death of Stalin.[70] According to Erofeev, Molotov said of her: "She's not only beautiful and intelligent, the only woman minister in the Soviet Union; she's also a real Bolshevik, a real Soviet person."

Molotov with his wife Polina in 1960

However, Molotov, according to Stalin's daughter, became very subservient to his wife.[71] Molotov was a yes-man to his wife just as he was to Stalin.[72]

In 1949, Molotov was replaced as Foreign Minister by Andrey Vyshinsky but retained his position as First Deputy Premier and membership in the Politburo.[68]

Postwar career[edit]

At the 19th Party Congress in 1952, Molotov was elected to the replacement for the Politburo, the Presidium, but was not listed among the members of the newly-established secret body known as the Bureau of the Presidium, which indicated that he had fallen out of Stalin's favour.[73] At the 19th Congress, Stalin said, "There has been criticism of comrade Molotov and Mikoyan by the Central Committee,"[74] mistakes including the publication of a wartime speech by Winston Churchill favourable to the Soviet Union's wartime efforts.[75] Both Molotov and Mikoyan were falling out of favour rapidly, with Stalin telling Beria, Khrushchev, Malenkov and Nikolai Bulganin that he no longer wanted to see Molotov and Mikoyan around.[citation needed] At his 73rd birthday, Stalin treated both with disgust.[76] In his speech to the 20th Party Congress in 1956, Khrushchev told delegates that Stalin had plans for "finishing off" Molotov and Mikoyan in the aftermath of the 19th Congress.[77]

Molotov with French Foreign Minister Antoine Pinay at the Geneva Summit of 1955

Following Stalin's death, a realignment of the leadership strengthened Molotov's position. Georgy Malenkov, Stalin's successor in the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, reappointed Molotov as Minister of Foreign Affairs on 5 March 1953.[78] Although Molotov was seen as a likely successor to Stalin in the immediate aftermath of his death, he never sought to become leader of the Soviet Union.[79] A Troika was established immediately after Stalin's death, consisting of Malenkov, Beria, and Molotov,[80] but ended when Malenkov and Molotov deceived Beria.[81] Molotov supported the removal and later the execution of Beria on the orders of Khrushchev.[82] The new Party Secretary, Khrushchev, soon emerged as the new leader of the Soviet Union. He presided over a gradual domestic liberalisation and a thaw in foreign policy, as was manifest in a reconciliation with Josip Broz Tito's government in Yugoslavia, which Stalin had expelled from the communist movement. Molotov, an old-guard Stalinist, seemed increasingly out of place in the new environment,[83] but represented the Soviet Union at the Geneva Conference of 1955.[84]

Molotov's position became increasingly tenuous after February 1956, when Khrushchev launched an unexpected denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party. Khrushchev attacked Stalin over the purges of the 1930s and the defeats of the early years of the Second World War, which he blamed on Stalin's overly-trusting attitude towards Hitler and the purges of the Red Army command structure. Molotov was the most senior of Stalin's collaborators still in government and had played a leading role in the purges and so it became evident Khrushchev's examination of the past would probably result in the fall from power of Molotov, who became the leader of an old-guard faction that sought to overthrow Khrushchev.[85]

Molotov (far left) with Khrushchev (second from right) and Premier Nikolai Bulganin (to the left of Khrushchev) in 1955 at a gala reception in Moscow for the visit of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (centre)

In June 1956, Molotov was removed as Foreign Minister;[86] on 29 June 1957, he was expelled from the Presidium (Politburo) after a failed attempt to remove Khrushchev as First Secretary. Although Molotov's faction initially won a vote in the Presidium 7–4 to remove Khrushchev, the latter refused to resign unless a Central Committee plenum decided so.[87] In the plenum, which met from 22 to 29 June, Molotov and his faction were defeated.[85] Eventually he was banished, being made ambassador to the Mongolian People's Republic.[87] Molotov and his associates were denounced as "the Anti-Party Group" but notably were not subject to such unpleasant repercussions that had been customary for denounced officials in the Stalin years. In 1960, he was appointed Soviet representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was seen as a partial rehabilitation.[88] However, after the 22nd Party Congress in 1961 during which Khrushchev carried out his de-Stalinisation campaign, including the removal of Stalin's body from Lenin's Mausoleum, Molotov, along with Lazar Kaganovich, was removed from all positions and expelled from the Communist Party.[73] In 1962, all of Molotov's party documents and files were destroyed by the authorities.[89]

In retirement, Molotov remained unrepentant about his role under Stalin's rule.[90] He suffered a heart attack in January 1962. After the Sino-Soviet split, it was reported that he agreed with the criticisms made by Mao Zedong of the supposed revisionism of Khrushchev's policies.

Later life[edit]

Vyacheslav Molotov on the cover of Time, 20 April 1953

In 1968, United Press International reported that Molotov had completed his memoirs but that they would likely never be published.[91] The first signs of Molotov's rehabilitation were seen during Leonid Brezhnev's rule, when information about him was again allowed to be included in Soviet encyclopedias. His connection, support, and work in the Anti-Party Group were mentioned in encyclopedias published in 1973 and 1974 but eventually disappeared altogether by the mid-to-late-1970s. Later, Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko further rehabilitated Molotov;[92] in 1984, Molotov was even allowed to seek membership in the Communist Party.[93] A collection of interviews with Molotov from 1985 was published in 1994 by Felix Chuev as Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics.

In June 1986, Molotov was hospitalized in Kuntsevo Hospital in Moscow, where he eventually died, during the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev, on 8 November 1986.[94][95] During his life, Molotov had suffered seven heart attacks but survived to the age of 96. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving major participant in the events of 1917. He was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.[90]

Legacy[edit]

Molotov, like Stalin, was pathologically mistrustful of others and so much crucial information disappeared. As Molotov once said, "One should listen to them, but it is necessary to check up on them. The intelligence officer can lead you to a very dangerous position.... There are many provocateurs here, there, and everywhere."[96] Molotov continued to claim in a series of published interviews that there never was a secret territorial deal between Stalin and Hitler during the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.[97] Like Stalin, he never recognised the Cold War as an international event. He saw the Cold War as more or less the everyday conflict between communism and capitalism. He divided the capitalist countries into two groups: the "smart and dangerous imperialists" and the "fools."[98] Before his retirement, Molotov had proposed establishing a socialist confederation with the People's Republic of China. Molotov believed that socialist states were part of a larger, supranational entity.[99] In retirement, Molotov criticised Nikita Khrushchev for being a "right-wing deviationist."[100]

The Molotov cocktail is a term coined by the Finns during the Winter War, as a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons.[3] During the Winter War, the Soviet air force made extensive use of incendiaries and cluster bombs against Finnish civilians, troops and fortifications. When Molotov claimed in radio broadcasts that they were not bombing but rather delivering food to the starving Finns, the Finns started to call the air bombs Molotov bread baskets.[101] Soon they responded by attacking advancing tanks with "Molotov cocktails," which were "a drink to go with the food." According to Montefiore, the Molotov cocktail was one part of Molotov's cult of personality that the vain Premier surely did not appreciate.[102]

Winston Churchill in his wartime memoirs lists many meetings with Molotov. Acknowledging him as a "man of outstanding ability and cold-blooded ruthlessness," Churchill concluded: "In the conduct of foreign affairs, Mazarin, Talleyrand, Metternich, would welcome him to their company, if there be another world to which Bolsheviks allow themselves to go."[103]

Molotov was the only person to have shaken hands with Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler. [104]

At the end of 1989 the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev's government formally denounced the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.[105]

In January 2010, a Ukrainian court accused Molotov and other Soviet officials of organizing a man-made famine in Ukraine in 1932–33. The same Court then ended criminal proceedings against them, as the trial would be posthumous.[106]

Portrayals in media[edit]

Decorations and awards[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Russian: Вячеслав Михайлович Молотов, IPA: [vʲɪtɕɪˈslaf mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪtɕ ˈmolətəf].
  2. ^ Russian: Скрябин.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Molotov". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Chuev, Felix (1991). Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics. ISBN 9781461694915.
  3. ^ a b Montefiore 2005, p. 335.
  4. ^ a b c Montefiore 2005, p. 40.
  5. ^ a b Roberts, Geoffrey (2012). Molotov: Stalin's Cold Warrior. Washington, DC: Potomac Books. p. 5. ISBN 9781612344294
  6. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, Geoffrey (2012). Molotov: Stalin's Cold Warrior. Washington, DC: Potomac Books. p. 6. ISBN 9781612344294
  7. ^ Молотов, Вячеслав Михайлович [Mikhailovich Molotov, Vyacheslav] (in Russian). warheroes.ru. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b Montefiore 2005, p. 36.
  9. ^ Molotov, Vyacheslav; Chuev, Felix; Resis, Albert (1993). Molotov remembers: inside Kremlin politics: conversations with Felix Chuev. I.R. Dee. p. 94. ISBN 1-56663-027-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b Written at Moscow. "Mrs. Molotov Dies in Moscow; Wife of Ex-Premier Was 76". The New York Times. New York City. United Press International. 4 May 1970. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  11. ^ Service 2003, p. 151.
  12. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 40–41.
  13. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 36–37.
  14. ^ Rywkin, Michael (1989). Soviet Society Today. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 159–160. ISBN 9780873324458.
  15. ^ Service 2003, p. 176.
  16. ^ Service 2003, p. 179.
  17. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 63–64.
  18. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 45 and 58.
  19. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 148–149.
  20. ^ Holroyd-Doveton, John (2013). Maxim Litvinov: A Biography. Woodland Publications. pp. 405–408. ISBN 9780957296107.
  21. ^ a b c Holroyd-Doveton, John (2013). Maxim Litvinov: A Biography. Woodland Publications. p. 408. ISBN 9780957296107.
  22. ^ Stati I Rechi 1935-1936. pp. 231–232.
  23. ^ Watson, Derek (1996). Molotov and the Sovnarkon 1930–1941. UK: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 16. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-24848-3. ISBN 978-1-349-24848-3.
  24. ^ Conquest, Robert (1968). The Great Terror. UK: Oxford University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0195055801.
  25. ^ Watson, Derek (1996). Molotov and the Sovnarkon 1930–1941. UK: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 162. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-24848-3. ISBN 978-1-349-24848-3.
  26. ^ Brown 2009, p. 71.
  27. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 244.
  28. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 222.
  29. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 240.
  30. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 237.
  31. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 225,260,289.
  32. ^ Scott Dunn, Walter (1995). The Soviet economy and the Red Army, 1930–1945. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 22. ISBN 0-275-94893-5.
  33. ^ Davies, Robert William; Harrison, Mark; Wheatcroft, S.G. (1994). The Economic transformation of the Soviet Union, 1913–1945. Cambridge University Press. pp. 250–251. ISBN 0-521-45770-X.
  34. ^ Brown 2009, p. 65.
  35. ^ "Stalin's legacy". country-data.com. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  36. ^ Chen, C. Peter. Vyacheslav Molotov. In 1938 American journalist John Gunther wrote: " He [Molotov]is... a man of first-rate intelligence and influence. Molotov is a vegetarian and a teetotaler."
  37. ^ Djilas, Milovan (1962) Conversations with Stalin. Translated by Michael B. Petrovich. Rupert Hart-Davis, Soho Square London 1962, pp. 59.
  38. ^ Brown 2009, pp. 90–91.
  39. ^ Holroyd-Doveton, John (2013). "Ch. 14". Maxim Litvinov: A Biography. Woodland Publication. pp. 351–359. ISBN 9780957296107.
  40. ^ a b Service 2003, p. 256.
  41. ^ Hindus, Maurice Gerschon (1953). Crisis in the Kremlin. Doubleday. p. 48.
  42. ^ Medvedev, Roy (1984). All Stalin's Men. Anchor Press/Doubleday. p. 488. ISBN 0-385-18388-7.
  43. ^ a b Brown 2009, p. 141.
  44. ^ Brown 2009, pp. 90–92.
  45. ^ Service 2003, pp. 256–257.
  46. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 320, 322 and 342.
  47. ^ Cameron Watt, Donald (2004). Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 276–286. ISBN 0-415-14435-3.
  48. ^ Service 2003, pp. 158–160.
  49. ^ Service 2003, pp. 261,262.
  50. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 417–418.
  51. ^ Holroyd-Doveton, John (2013). Maxim Litvinov: A Biography. Woodland Publications. p. 507.
  52. ^ Volkogonov, Dmitri (1996). Stalin: Triumph & Tragedy. Prima Publishing. p. 220.
  53. ^ Holroyd-Doveton, John (2013). Maxim Litvinov: A Biography. Woodland Publications. p. 486.
  54. ^ Achmed, Amba (1952). I Was Stalin's Bodyguard. Muller. p. 133.
  55. ^ Achmed, Amba (1952). I Was Stalin's Bodyguard. Muller. p. 138.
  56. ^ Holroyd-Doveton, John (2013). Maxim Litvinov: A Biography. Woodland Publications. p. 487.
  57. ^ Rzheshevsky, Oleg (1996). War and Diplomacy. Routledge. p. 210.
  58. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 508.
  59. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 510.
  60. ^ Zhukov, Georgi Konstantinovich (1971). The Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. New York: Delacorte Press.
  61. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 468.
  62. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 472.
  63. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 489.
  64. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 507.
  65. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 477.
  66. ^ Roberts, Geoffrey (1999). The Soviet Union in world politics: coexistence, revolution, and cold war, 1945–1991. Routledge. pp. 284–285. ISBN 0-415-14435-3.
  67. ^ Brown 2009, pp. 199–201.
  68. ^ a b Montefiore 2005, p. 604.
  69. ^ Johnson, Paul (1987), A History of the Jews. Associated University Presse. p. 527
  70. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 666.
  71. ^ Holroyd-Doveton, John (2013). Maxim Livinov: A Biography. Woodland Publications. p. 493.
  72. ^ Alliluyeva, Svetlana (1969). Only One Year. p. 384.
  73. ^ a b Brown 2009, p. 231.
  74. ^ "Unpublished speech by Stalin on 16 October 1952". Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  75. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 640.
  76. ^ Montefiore 2005, pp. 645–647.
  77. ^ "Russia: The Survivor". Time. 16 September 1957. Archived from the original on 22 November 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  78. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 662.
  79. ^ Brown 2009, p. 227.
  80. ^ Marlowe, Lynn Elizabeth (2005). GED Social Studies: The Best Study Series for GED. Research and Education Association. p. 140. ISBN 0-7386-0127-6.
  81. ^ Taubman, William (2003). Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 258. ISBN 0-393-32484-2.
  82. ^ Brown 2009, p. 666.
  83. ^ Brown 2009, pp. 236–237.
  84. ^ Bischof, Günter; Dockrill, Saki (2000). Cold War respite: the Geneva Summit of 1955. Louisiana State University Press. pp. 284–285. ISBN 0-8071-2370-6.
  85. ^ a b Montefiore 2005, pp. 666–667.
  86. ^ Brown 2009, p. 245.
  87. ^ a b Brown 2009, p. 252.
  88. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 668.
  89. ^ Goudoever 1986, p. 100.
  90. ^ a b Montefiore 2005, p. 669.
  91. ^ Shapiro, Henry (29 August 1968). "Rare Historic Memoir May Never See Light". The Daily Colonist (Victoria, Canada). United Press International. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  92. ^ "12 July 1984* (Pb)". wordpress.com. 1 July 2016.
  93. ^ Goudoever 1986, p. 108.
  94. ^ Человек, который знал всё. Личное дело наркома Молотова aif.ru. 9 March 2014.
  95. ^ Anderson, Raymond H. (11 November 1986). "VYACHESLAV M. MOLOTOV IS DEAD; CLOSE ASSOCIATE OF STALIN WAS 96". The New York Times.
  96. ^ Zubok & Pleshakov 1996, p. 88.
  97. ^ Molotov, Vyacheslav; Chuev, Felix; Resis, Albert (1993). Molotov remembers: inside Kremlin politics: conversations with Felix Chuev. I.R. Dee. p. 84. ISBN 1-56663-027-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  98. ^ Zubok & Pleshakov 1996, p. 89.
  99. ^ Zubok & Pleshakov 1996, pp. 90–91.
  100. ^ Zubok & Pleshakov 1996, p. 90.
  101. ^ Langdon-Davies, John (June 1940). "The Lessons of Finland". Picture Post.
  102. ^ Montefiore 2005, p. 328.
  103. ^ Churchill, Winston (1948). The Gathering Storm. 1. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 368–369. ISBN 0-395-41055-X.
  104. ^ See Traces of War
  105. ^ Borejsza, Jerzy W.; Ziemer, Klaus; Hułas, Magdalena (2006). Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes in Europe. Berghahn Books. p. 521. ISBN 1-57181-641-0.
  106. ^ Kyiv court accuses Stalin leadership of organizing famine, Kyiv Post (13 January 2010)

Further reading[edit]

  • Brown, Archie (2009). The Rise & Fall of Communism. Bodley Head.
  • Chubaryan, A. O. and Pechatnov, V. O. "'Molotov the Liberal': Stalin’s 1945 Criticism of his Deputy" Cold War History 1#1 (2000) pp. 129–40.
  • Dallin, David. Soviet foreign policy after Stalin (1961) online
  • Roberts, Geoffrey. Molotov: Stalin's Cold Warrior (2011), 254pp. scholarly biography.
  • Watson, Derek. Molotov and Soviet Government: Sovnarkom, 1930–41 (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1996)

Primary sources[edit]

External links[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
Alexey Rykov
Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars
1930–1941
Succeeded by
Joseph Stalin
Preceded by
Maxim Litvinov
Minister of Foreign Affairs
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1953–1956
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Andrey Vyshinsky
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Andrey Vyshinsky
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Dmitri Shepilov
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Vasiliy Pisarev
Soviet Ambassador to Mongolia
1957–1960
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Soviet Representative to International Atomic Energy Agency
1960–1962
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Party political offices
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position created
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