Georgy Maksimilianovich Malenkov
Born in Kazakhstan on January 13, 1902, Georgy Malenkov quickly rose to high positions in the Communist Party, but fell out of the Party’s grace almost as quickly.
Malenkov graduated from school with honors and became a political commissar for the Red Army in 1919 during the Russian civil war. Malenkov joined the Communist Party in 1920 and became one of Josef Stalin’s confidants, which helped him secure progressively higher promotions within the Party. He, along with Stalin’s other trusted accomplice Lavrenti Beria, executed Stalin’s purges of the 1930’s. Very telling of Malenkov’s increasing prestige in the Party is the fact that when the chief of the secret police, (NKVD) Yezhov Nikolai, fell out of Stalin’s favor in 1938, Malenkov was favored as the chief’s replacement. Beria was ultimately chosen for this position, which was perhaps the catalyst for the rivalry between the two men that was to emerge after World War II.
Shortly after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Stalin created the Stavka, a new institution that gave command to the Soviet armed forces. Stalin also established the State Defense Committee (GKO) which was to oversee the Soviet’s participation in the war. This Committee, an elite “inner Politburo” originally run by five members, made every major decision in regards to the war. Malenkov was one of the original five members, further indication of how far he had risen.
Malenkov was named a candidate for the Politburo in 1941, but never became a full member until 1946. Once he was a member he was named to the positions of second secretary of the Central Committee and deputy prime minister. As mentioned earlier, Malenkov and Beria had become rivals after the War. This rivalry, coupled with the accusations of another prominent Party rival Andrei Zhdanov that Malenkov put Communist ideology second to economics and “personal affairs,” led to Malenkov being relieved of one of his posts later in 1946.
But Malenkov was not to remain out of Stalin’s favor for long. Two years later he became one of Stalin’s aides once again. This might be due to the role that he played (along with Beria, whom had become Malenkov’s ally in serving Stalin once again) in the downfall of Zhdanov, whom Stalin had begun to dislike. Zhadanov had been removed from his position and after his death (from natural causes) in 1948, Malenkov and Beria saw to it that all of Zhdanov’s supporters were either executed or sent to the Gulag, reminiscent of the Great Purges that they helped to carry out in the 1930’s.
When Stalin died in March of 1953, Malenkov succeeded him as premier and first party secretary. This arrangement was only temporary, and a few weeks later Nikita Khrushchev replaced him in these positions. Beria was one of the first people to denounce Stalin and his tyrannical rule but Malenkov did not join in this criticism, and this began his second political descent.
Malenkov retained the role of prime minister, and served in this position for two years. In this capacity he sought to reduce arms build up, decrease the power of the secret police, lessen heavy industry in order to increase consumer goods manufacture and give more rewards to the farmers on collective farms. He was also vocal about his opposition to nuclear armament, as he believed that “a nuclear war could lead to global destruction.”
In February 1955 Malenkov was forced to resign his ministerial post, ostensibly because he was responsible for the government’s agricultural policy not succeeding. In reality, the other Party leaders held different beliefs from Malenkov’s and had been seeking a way to remove him from his position for some time. Malenkov remained a member of the Presidium (the Politburo’s successor), but he was forced out of this position in 1957 because he had participated in a failed attempt to unseat Khrushchev.
Malenkov was not as fortunate as the last time that he fell from power. He was expelled from the Communist Party in 1961 and was exiled within the Soviet Union. Though not officially a member of the Party, Malenkov remained a communist for the remainder of his life.
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