Molotov ( , Vjańćeslav Michajlovińć Molotov; ‚Äď 8
November, 1986) was a Soviet politician and diplomat,
a leading figure in the Soviet government from the
1920s, when he rose to power as a prot√©g√© of Joseph
Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from Presidium
(Politburo) of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev.
He was a major
perpetrator of the Great Terror
principal Soviet signatory of the Nazi
-Soviet non-aggression pact
of 1939 (also known
as the Molotov-Ribbentrop
) as well as post-war negotiations. The Molotov cocktail was named after him by the
Finnish military during the Winter
Origins and early life
was born Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skriabin
(–í—Ź—á–Ķ—Ā–Ľ–į–≤ –ú–ł—Ö–į–Ļ–Ľ–ĺ–≤–ł—á –°–ļ—Ä—ŹŐĀ–Ī–ł–Ĺ) in the village of Kukarka (now Sovetsk in Kirov Oblast), the son of a shop clerk.
Contrary to a
commonly repeated error, he was not related to the composer
. He was educated at a
secondary school in Kazan, and joined
the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic
Labour Party in 1906.
For his political work he took the
the Russian molot
). He was arrested in 1909 and spent two years
in exile in Vologda.
In 1911 he
enrolled at the St
and also joined the editorial staff of Pravda, the underground Bolshevik newspaper, of
which Joseph Stalin was editor.
Molotov was again arrested and deported to Irkutsk, but in 1915
he escaped and returned to the capital.
Molotov became a member of Bolshevik Party's committee in Petrograd.
When the February Revolution
broke out in
February 1917, he was one of the few Bolsheviks of any standing in
the capital. Under his direction Pravda
took a turn "left" in opposing the
Provisional Government which was formed after the revolution.
Consequently, when Stalin returned to the capital, he reversed
Molotov's line. However, when the party leader, Vladimir Lenin
, arrived, he overruled Stalin.
Despite this, Molotov became a prot√©g√© and close adherent of
Stalin, an alliance to which he owed not only his later prominence,
but almost certainly his life as well; Molotov was one of only four
of the leading Old Bolsheviks
survive the Great Purges. The other three were Kalinin
(d. 1946), Alexandra Kollontai
(d. 1952) and Stalin
(d.1953) himself. Molotov became a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee
planned the October Revolution
(effectively bringing the Bolsheviks to power).
Molotov was sent to Ukraine to take part
in civil war then breaking
Since he was not a military man, Molotov took no part
in the fighting. In 1920, he became secretary to the Central
Committee of the Ukrainian Bolshevik Party. Lenin recalled him to
Moscow in 1921, elevating him to full membership in the Central Committee
, and putting him in charge of the party
secretariat. In 1922, Stalin became General Secretary of the
Bolshevik Party with Molotov as the de facto "second" secretary.
Under Stalin's patronage, Molotov became a member of the Politburo
During the power struggles which followed Lenin's death in 1924,
Molotov remained a loyal supporter of Stalin against his various
rivals: first Leon Trotsky
and Grigory Zinoviev
and finally Nikolai Bukharin
. He became a leading
figure in the "Stalinist centre" of the party, which also included
, Lazar Kaganovich
, Sergo Ordzhonikidze
and Sergei Kirov
. Trotsky and his supporters
underestimated Molotov as many others did. Trotsky called him
"mediocrity personified", whilst Molotov himself pedantically
corrected comrades referring to him as 'Stone-Arse' by saying that
Lenin had actually dubbed him 'Iron Arse'. However, this outward
dullness concealed a sharp mind and great administrative talent. He
operated mainly behind the scenes and cultivated an image as a
colourless bureaucrat - for example, he was the only Bolshevik
leader who always wore a suit and tie (Lenin's attire routine
changed in the later years).
A list from the Great Purge signed by
Molotov, Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich and Zhdanov
When Bukharin's ally, Alexei Rykov
removed as Chairman of the Council of People's
(the equivalent of a prime
) in December 1930, Molotov succeeded him. In this
post, he oversaw the Stalin regime's collectivisation of
. Molotov carried out Stalin's line of using a
combination of force and propaganda to crush peasant resistance to
collectivisation, including the deportation of millions of
(peasants with property) to
. An enormous number of the
deportees died from exposure and overwork. He signed the
"Law of Spikelets"
personally led the Extraordinary Commission for Grain Delivery in
Ukraine, which seized a reported 4.2 million tonnes of grain from
the peasants, during a widespread famine
(known in Ukraine as Holodomor
Contemporary historians estimate that between seven and eleven
million people died, either of starvation or in labour camps, in
the move to collectivise farms. Molotov also oversaw the
implementation of the first Five-Year
for rapid industrialisation.
was assassinated by an
oppositionist sympathizer in 1934. This is now believed by some
historians (notably Edvard
in his book 'Stalin') to have been ordered by Stalin,
triggering a second crisis, the Great
. This purge acquired momentum through 1935 and 1936 and
culminated in 1937-38 in the Moscow
, in which most of the pre-Stalin Bolshevik leaders were
convicted on usually fabricated charges of treason
millions of other Russians were deported to labour camps . Although
the purges were carried out by Stalin's successive police chiefs,
, Nikolai Yezhov
and Lavrenty Beria
, Molotov was intimately
involved in the processes. Stalin frequently required him and other
Politburo members to sign the death warrants of prominent purge
victims, and Molotov always did so without question. There is no
record of Molotov attempting to moderate the course of the purges
or even to save individuals, as some other Soviet leaders did.
During the Great Terror
, he personally
approved 372 documented execution lists, more than anybody other,
including Stalin himself.
Despite the great human cost, the Soviet Union under Molotov's
nominal prime ministership made great strides in the adoption and
widespread implementation of agrarian and industrial technology
(See command economy
). The rise of
in Nazi Germany
gave the development of a modern
armaments industry great urgency and Molotov and the commissar of
industry, Lazar Kaganovich
primarily responsible for guiding this success. Ultimately, it was
this arms industry which enabled the Soviet Union to prevail in
World War II
. However, the purges of
the Red Army
leadership, in which Molotov
participated, weakened the Soviet Union's defence capacity. This
somewhat contributed to the military disasters of 1941 and 1942,
which were mostly caused by unreadiness for war. It also led to the
dismantling of the peasant class and its replacement by
collectivised agriculture left a legacy of chronic agricultural
under-production which the Soviet regime never fully
Following the purges, Molotov was generally regarded as Stalin's
deputy and as his long-term successor, although Molotov was careful
not to encourage any such suggestion. The American journalist John Gunther wrote in 1938: "Molotov has a
fine forehead, and looks and acts like a French professor of
medicine - orderly, precise, pedantic. He is... a
man of first-rate intelligence and influence. Molotov is a
vegetarian and a teetotaller. Stalin gives him much of
the dirty work to do"
Molotov signs the German-Soviet non-aggression pact; behind him are
Ribbentrop and Stalin.
following the Munich Agreement and
Hitler's subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Stalin believed that Britain and France
would not be reliable allies against German expansion so instead
sought to conciliate Germany.
Mission to Nazi Germany in November 1940
In May 1939, Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov
(who, in addition to being
, was also viewed as pro-Western) was
dismissed, and Molotov was appointed to succeed him. Molotov
remained at the head of the Sovnarkom until May 1941, when Stalin
took over as the official head of the Soviet government.
At first, Hitler rebuffed Soviet diplomatic hints that Stalin
desired a treaty, but in early August, he authorised Foreign
Minister Joachim von
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
, Molotov and Ribbentrop acted only as agents for their
masters, Stalin and Hitler. 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).
This protocol gave Hitler the green light
for his invasion of Poland, which began on 1 September.
terms of the Pact, Stalin was, in effect, given authorisation to
occupy and annex Estonia, Latvia and Bessarabia, as well as the part of Poland east of the Curzon Line (an area in which Ukrainians and Belorussians comprised the majority of the population).
also given a free hand in relation to Finland.
the Soviet-Finnish War
ensued, a combination of fierce Finnish resistance and Soviet
mismanagement resulted in Finland losing parts of its territory,
but not its independence. During this conflict, the Finns coined
the term Molotov cocktail
homemade incendiary device to be used against tanks. Germany was
authorised to occupy the western two-thirds of Poland (much of
which was annexed to Germany), as well as Lithuania, but the Pact was later amended to allocate
Lithuania to the Soviet sphere in exchange for a more favourable
border in Poland.
All these annexations led to massive
suffering and loss of life in the countries which were occupied and
partitioned by the two dictatorships.
November 1940 Stalin sent Molotov to Berlin to meet von
Ribbentrop and Hitler (see German‚ÄďSoviet
Axis talks#Molotov travels to Berlin).
World War II
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact governed Soviet-German relations until June
1941 when Hitler, having occupied France and
neutralised Britain, turned east and attacked the Soviet Union.
Molotov was also responsible for telling
the Soviet people of the attack, when he announced the war, instead
of Joseph Stalin. His speech
, broadcast by radio on June 22
, played in Russia a role similar to Winston Churchill
's wartime speeches to
the invasion, Molotov conducted urgent negotiations with Britain
and, later, the United
States for wartime alliances. Via Pe-8 bomber he travelled over the frontline
to London and Washington in May 1942.
The flight over territories
occupied by Germany, scanned by AAA's and Luftwaffe
, was so difficult and dangerous, that
Molotov's pilot, Endel Puusepp
made Hero of the Soviet
for completing it. Upon arrival Molotov signed the
Anglo-Soviet Treaty of
and also secured Franklin D. Roosevelt
and Winston Churchill
's agreement to create a
accompanied Stalin to the Teheran
Conference in 1943, the Yalta Conference in 1945 and the Potsdam Conference, which followed the
defeat of Germany. He represented the Soviet Union at the San
Francisco Conference, which created the United Nations.
Even during the period
of wartime alliance, Molotov was known as a tough negotiator and
determined defender of Soviet interests. In this he was carrying
out Stalin's wishes.
From 1945 to 1947 Molotov took part in all four conferences of
of the victorious
states in the Second World War
general, he was distinguished by an uncooperative attitude towards
the Western powers.
in his wartime
memoirs lists many meetings with Molotov. Acknowledging him as a
"man of outstanding ability and cold-blooded
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."
In the postwar period, Molotov's position began to decline. In
1949, he was replaced as Foreign Minister by Andrey Vyshinsky
, although retaining his
position as Deputy Prime Minister and membership of the Politburo.
Following the death of Andrei
, who had come to be seen as Stalin's most likely
successor, Stalin and Beria began to plan a new purge, which would
have removed most of the older party leaders such as Molotov from
their positions. New leaders, such as Georgii Malenkov
and Nikita Khrushchev
, enjoyed Stalin's
A clear sign of Molotov's precarious position was his inability to
prevent the arrest of his Jewish wife, Polina Zhemchuzhina
, in December 1948
. Stalin had long
distrusted her. The couple were reunited by Beria
upon the death of Stalin. At the 19th
in 1952, Molotov was elected to the new,
of the Communist Party
but was excluded from the smaller standing committee of the
Presidium (although this was not made public). It seems likely that
Stalin's death in March 1953 saved Molotov from being purged as
part of a "clean out"
of the Soviet leadership.
Following Stalin's death, a realignment of the leadership was
sought, in the course of which Molotov's position was strengthened.
Beria was purged and executed, and Molotov regained the Foreign
Ministry under Malenkov as Prime Minister. However, the new Party
Secretary, Khrushchev, soon emerged as the real power in the
regime. He presided over a gradual domestic liberalisation and a
in foreign policy, shown by the reconciliation with
's government in Yugoslavia
(which Stalin had expelled from the
communist movement). Molotov, an old-guard Stalinist, seemed
increasingly out of place in this new environment, but he
represented the Soviet Union with his usual tenacity at the
Geneva Conference of 1955
which discussed European security, German reunification and
The events which led to Molotov's downfall began in February 1956
when Khrushchev launched an unexpected denunciation of Stalin at
the 20th Congress
Communist Party. Khrushchev attacked Stalin both over the purges of
the 1930s and the defeats of the early years of World War II, which
he blamed on Stalin's over-trusting attitude to Hitler and the
purges of the Red Army. Since Molotov was most senior of Stalin's
collaborators still alive and had played a leading role in the
purges, it became obvious that Khrushchev's examination into the
past would probably result in Molotov's fall from power.
Consequently, he became the leader of the "old guard"
resisting Khrushchev, although whether he actually plotted to
overthrow Khrushchev, as was later alleged , is not clear.
In June 1956, Molotov was removed as Foreign Minister, and in June
1957 was expelled from the Presidium (Politburo) following 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. In the plenum, which lasted from 22 to 29 June,
Molotov and his faction were defeated. Eventually he was
banished as ambassador to Mongolia. In 1960, he was appointed Soviet
representative to the International Atomic Energy
Agency, which was seen as a partial rehabilitation.
after the 22nd
Party Congress in 1961, during which Khrushchev carried his
de-Stalinisation campaign to remove
Stalin's body from Lenin's Mausoleum, Molotov was removed from all positions and
expelled from the Communist Party.
In March 1962, it was
announced that Molotov had retired from public life.
In retirement, Molotov remained totally unrepentant about his role
during Stalin's period of rule. After the Sino-Soviet split
, it was reported that he
agreed with the criticisms made by Mao
of the supposed "revisionism"
policies. According to Roy Medvedev
Stalin's daughter, Svetlana
recalled Molotov and his wife telling her: "Your father was a
genius. There's no revolutionary spirit around nowadays,
just opportunism everywhere. China's our only hope!
Only they have kept alive the revolutionary spirit"
1976, he said:
- "The fact that atomic war may break out, isn't that class
struggle? There is no alternative to class struggle.
This is a very serious question. The be-all and
end-all is not peaceful coexistence. After all, we have
been holding on for some time, and under Stalin we held on to the
point where the imperialists felt able to demand point-blank:
either surrender such and such positions, or it means war.
So far the imperialists haven't renounced that".
Molotov was partly rehabilitated during the Leonid Brezhnev
years and was allowed to
rejoin the Communist Party in 1984 under Konstantin Chernenko
. He died at the age of
96 in Moscow in November
1986, only five years before the dissolution of the Soviet
At the time of his death he was the last surviving
major participant in the events of 1917. He was buried at the
collection of interviews with Molotov, "Molotov Remembers:
Inside Kremlin Politics"
, was published posthumously by Felix
Chuev. In 2005 Molotov's grandson and namesake, Russian political
scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov
(born in 1956), wrote an early biography of him.
At the end of 1989, two years before the final collapse of the
Soviet Union, the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union
and Mikhail Gorbachev
formally denounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, acknowledging that
the annexation of the Baltic States and the partition of Poland had
was one of the few, if not the only person to have shaken hands
with Soviet Premiers Vladimir Lenin
and Joseph Stalin, Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong,
Adolf Hitler, British Prime Minister Winston
Churchill and U.S.
Presidents Franklin D.
and Harry S. Truman
, as well as British Prime Minister Anthony Eden
, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
and Marshal Tito
- Montefiore, The Court of the Red Tsar, pp. 39, 62n.
- Kerhsaw, Ian (quoted in) Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions
That Changed the World, 1940-1941, New York: The Penguin
Press, 2007 page 243.
- Simon Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.
N.Y.: Knopf, 2004.
- The Gathering Storm, pp. 368-369.
- Chuev, Felix (ed), Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin
Politics (1993). Dee Ivan Inc. ISBN 1-56663-027-4
- Raymond H. Anderson, "Vyacheslav M. Molotov Is Dead; Close
Associate of Stalin Was 96", The New York Times, 11
- The Associated Press, "200 Attend Molotov Funeral in Private
Rites at Cemetery," The New York Times, 13 November
- Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov, Inside the
Kremlin's Cold War, 1996, Harvard University Press, Cambridge,
Mass. ISBN 0-674-45532-0
- Montefiore, Simon Sebag, Stalin: The Court of the Red
Tsar (2003). ISBN 1-84212-726-8