Georgy Malenkov

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Georgy Malenkov
Гео́ргий Маленко́в
Georgy Malenkov 1964.jpg
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
In office
6 March 1953 – 8 February 1955
First Deputies Vyacheslav Molotov
Nikolai Bulganin
Lavrentiy Beria
Lazar Kaganovich
Preceded by Joseph Stalin
Succeeded by Nikolai Bulganin
Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers
In office
9 February 1955 – 29 June 1957
Premier Nikolai Bulganin
In office
2 August 1946 – 5 March 1953
Premier Joseph Stalin
In office
15 May 1944 – 15 March 1946
Premier Joseph Stalin
Full member of the 18th, 19th, 20th Politburo
In office
18 March 1946 – 27 February 1957
Candidate member of the 18th Politburo
In office
21 February 1941 – 18 March 1946
Member of the 18th, 19th Secretariat
In office
1 July 1946 – 14 March 1953
In office
22 March 1939 – 6 May 1946
Member of the Orgburo
In office
22 March 1939 – 14 October 1952
Personal details
Born Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkov
(1902-01-08)8 January 1902
Orenburg, Russian Empire
Died 14 January 1988(1988-01-14) (aged 86)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s) Valeriya A. Golubtsova
Children 3
Alma mater Moscow Highest Technical School
Profession Engineer, politician
Religion Russian Orthodox
Ethnicity Russian, Macedonian

Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkov (Russian: Гео́ргий Максимилиа́нович Маленко́в; 8 January 1902 [O.S. 26 December 1901] – 14 January 1988) was a Soviet politician and Communist Party leader.

His family connections with Vladimir Lenin speeded his promotion in the party, and in 1925 he was put in charge of the party records. This brought him into close association with Joseph Stalin, and he was heavily involved in the purges of the 1930s. During World War II, he was given sole responsibility for the Soviet missile program. Later he gained favour with Stalin by discrediting Marshal Georgy Zhukov for supposed disloyalty, and supporting Stalin’s campaign to erase all the glories of Leningrad in the public mind, in order to promote Moscow as the cultural capital.

On Stalin’s death in 1953, Malenkov was briefly party leader, but was soon replaced by Nikita Khrushchev, with Malenkov as premier, as the party did not want both functions entrusted to the same person. His two-year term ended in failure. He was expelled from the Politburo in 1957. In 1961 he was expelled from the party and exiled to Kazakhstan.

Early life

Malenkov was born at Orenburg in the Russian Empire. His paternal ancestors were from the area of Ohrid, then in the Ottoman Vilayet of Manastir.[1][2] Some of them served as officers in the Russian Imperial Army. His father was a wealthy farmer in Orenburg province. Young Malenkov occasionally helped his father to do business selling the harvest. His mother was the daughter of a blacksmith and the granddaughter of an Orthodox priest.[3]

Malenkov graduated from Orenburg gymnasium just a few months prior to the Russian revolution of 1917 and joined the Red Army as a volunteer in 1918, fighting alongside the Communists against White Russian forces in the Civil War. He joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1920 and worked as a political commissar on a propaganda train in Turkestan during the Civil War.[3]


In 1920, in Turkestan, Malenkov started living together with Valeria Golubtsova, daughter of Aleksei Golubtsov, former State Councilor of the Russian Empire in Nizhny Novgorod and dean of the Imperial Cadet School. Golubtsova and Malenkov never officially registered their union and remained unregistered partners for the rest of their lives. Valeria Golubtsova joined the Soviet Communist Party in 1920. Her personal views were described as anti-semitic by her co-workers.[4] She had a direct connection to Vladimir Lenin through her mother — one of the "Nevzorov sisters" who were apprentices of Lenin and studied together with him for years, long before the Russian Revolution of 1917. This connection helped both Golubtsova and Malenkov in their communist career. Later Golubtsova was the director of the Moscow Energy Institute, a center for nuclear power research in USSR.[5][6]

Career in the Communist Party

After the Russian civil war, Malenkov quickly built himself a reputation of a tough communist Bolshevik. He was promoted in the Communist party ranks and was appointed Communist secretary at the military-based Moscow Higher Technical School in the 1920s.[3] Russian sources state that, rather than continuing with his studies, Malenkov took a career of a Soviet politician – his university degree was never completed, and his records have been indefinitely classified. Around this time, Malenkov forged a close friendship with Vyacheslav Malyshev, who later became chief of the Soviet nuclear program alongside Kurchatov.

In 1924, Stalin noticed Malenkov and assigned him to Orgburo of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party.[7] In 1925, Malenkov worked in the staff of the Organizational Bureau (Orgburo) of the Central Committee of the CPSU.[3]

Malenkov was in charge of keeping records on the members of the Soviet communist party – two million files were made under his supervision during the next ten years.[7] In this work Malenkov became closely associated with Stalin and was later heavily involved in the treason trials during the purging of the party.[3][7] In 1938 he was one of the key figures in bringing about the downfall of Yezhov, the head of the NKVD. In 1939 Malenkov became the head of the Communist party's Cadres Directorate, which gave him control over personnel matters of party bureaucracy.[3] During the same year he also became a member and a Secretary of the Central Committee and rose from his previous staff position to full member of the Orgburo.[3] In February 1941 Malenkov became a candidate member of the Politburo.[3]

Career during World War II

After the German invasion of June 1941, Malenkov was promoted to the State Defense Committee (GKO), along with NKVD chief Beria, Voroshilov and Molotov with Stalin as the committee's head.[3] This small group held total control over all political and economic life in the country and Malenkov's membership thus made him one of the top five most powerful men in the Soviet Union during World War II. During 1941–1943 Malenkov's primary responsibility in the GKO was supervising military aircraft production as well as supervising the development of nuclear weapons. In 1943 he also became chairman of a committee that oversaw the post-war economic rehabilitation of some liberated areas with the exception of Leningrad.[3]

Building Soviet nuclear missiles and rocket launch sites

Stalin gave Malenkov the most important task – building nuclear missiles in collaboration with Beria. Malenkov was appointed Chief of the Soviet Missile program, his first deputy was Dmitri Ustinov, a 33-year-old rocket scientist who later became one of the most powerful Soviet Defense Ministers. During World War II, Malenkov, Ustinov and Mikhail Khrunichev started the Soviet missile and rocket program that soon absorbed the German missile industry. Malenkov supervised the takeover of German V2 missile industry that was moved from Peenemünde to Moscow for further development that resulted in building Vostok missiles and orbiting Sputnik a few years later. At the same time, Malenkov followed Stalin's orders of building several space centers, such as Kapustin Yar near the Volga river and Khrunichev missile center in Moscow.[7][8]

Attack on Georgy Zhukov

Georgy Zhukov was the most prominent Soviet military commander during World War II, winning several critical battles, such as the Siege of Leningrad, the Battle of Stalingrad, and Battle of Berlin. Stalin and Malenkov grew suspicious of Zhukov, worrying he possessed capitalistic tendencies, because Zhukov established a friendship with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, invited the future American president to Leningrad and Moscow, and endorsed collaboration between the United States and the Soviet Union. At the conclusion of World War II and shortly thereafter, Malenkov sided against several who were considered Soviet war heroes, among them Zhukov, Gordin, Rybakovsky and several other popular generals. Malenkov's accusations against Zhukov were mostly based upon allegations of counter-revolutionary behavior and selfish "Bonapartism." Soon Zhukov was demoted in rank and moved to a lower position in Odessa where his only foes were local Party forces. Zhukov had his first heart attack not long after, and Malenkov's concerns of him had largely faded.[7][8]

After the ruthless attack on Georgy Zhukov, Malenkov gained strength and became closer with Stalin and several other top communists. In 1946 Malenkov was named a candidate member of the Politburo. Although Malenkov was temporarily trailing behind his rivals Andrei Zhdanov and Lavrentiy Beria, he soon came back into Joseph Stalin's favour, especially after Zhdanov's mysterious death in 1948. That same year, Malenkov became a Secretary of the Central Committee.

Attack on Leningrad

At the end of World War II and shortly after, Malenkov implemented Stalin's plan to destroy all political and cultural competition from Leningrad, the former capital of Russia, in order to concentrate all power in Moscow. Leningrad and its leaders earned immense respect and popular support due to winning the heroic Siege of Leningrad. Both Stalin and Malenkov expressed their hatred to anyone born and educated in Leningrad, so they organized and led the attack on the Leningrad elite. Beria and Malenkov together with Abakumov organized massive executions of their rivals in the Leningrad Affair where all leaders of Leningrad and Zhdanov's allies were killed, and thousands more were locked up in Gulag labour camps upon Stalin's approval. Malenkov personally ordered the destruction of the Museum of the Siege of Leningrad and declared the 900-day-long defense of Leningrad "a myth designed by traitors trying to diminish the greatness of comrade Stalin." Simultaneously, Malenkov replaced all communist party and administrative leadership in Leningrad by provincial communists loyal to Stalin. After that, in order to test Malenkov as a potential successor, the aging Stalin increasingly withdrew from the business of the Communist party secretariat, leaving the task of supervising the Soviet Communist party entirely to Malenkov.[9] In October 1952, Stalin even had the office of General Secretary formally abolished (though in effect this did not diminish Stalin's authority).[10]

1952 and 1953 Time magazine covers indicate that Malenkov was generally considered to be Stalin's apprentice and successor.[11]

Premiership and duumvirate

Malenkov's ambitions and crafty politics bore fruit upon Stalin's death on 5 March 1953. Four days later Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lavrentiy Beria and Nikita Khrushchev gave the eulogy at Stalin's funeral.

On 6 March, the day after Stalin died, Malenkov succeeded him as Premier of the Soviet Union. His name was also listed first on the newly named Presidium of the Central Committee (as the Politburo had been called since 1952). Although there had been no title identifying the leader of the party for almost a year, this indicated that Malenkov had succeeded Stalin as party leader as well.[12] On 7 March, Malenkov's name appeared atop the list of secretaries of the Secretariat, confirming that he had succeeded Stalin as the most powerful man in the Soviet Union. However, after only a week, Malenkov was forced to resign from the Secretariat; the new leadership wanted to avoid having one person have nearly the power that Stalin had. For all intents and purposes, Khrushchev replaced him as party leader; Khrushchev's name appeared atop a revised list of secretaries on 14 March, though he was not formally named First Secretary of the CPSU until September 1953. Malenkov remained as premier, in a period of a Malenkov-Khrushchev duumvirate.[13]

Malenkov retained the office of premier for two years. During this time his political activities were mixed with a power struggle within the Kremlin. Although he remained a staunch Stalinist, Malenkov expressed his opposition to research and development of nuclear armament, declaring "a nuclear war could lead to global destruction." Malenkov also opposed promotions of younger generations of politicians which soon led to his decline. He advocated refocusing the economy on the production of consumer goods and pushed away from diversity by subsidizing only a narrow list of goods and bread.

Malenkov among Soviet leadership speaking with Konrad Adenauer in 1955


Malenkov in 1964

Malenkov was forced to resign, in February 1955, after he came under attack for abuse of power and his close connection to Beria (who was executed as a traitor in December 1953). He was held responsible for the slow pace of reforms, particularly when it came to rehabilitating political prisoners.

For two more years, Malenkov remained a regular member of the Presidium. Together with Khrushchev, he flew to the island of Brioni (Yugoslavia) on the night of 1–2 November 1956 to inform Josip Broz Tito of the impending Soviet invasion of Hungary scheduled for 4 November.[14]

However, in 1957, Malenkov organized another attempted coup against Khrushchev. In a dramatic standoff in the Kremlin, Malenkov was turned on by both Khrushchev and Zhukov, who had the support of the Soviet armed forces. Malenkov's attempt failed and he, together with co-conspirators Vyacheslav Molotov and Lazar Kaganovich, who were characterised by Khrushchev at an extraordinary session of the Party Central Committee as the 'Anti-Party Group', were swiftly fired from the Politburo. In 1961, Malenkov was expelled from the Communist Party and exiled to a remote province of the Soviet Union. He became a manager of a hydroelectric plant in Ust'-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan.[15]

After that Malenkov fell into obscurity and suffered from depression due to loss of power and the quality of life in a poor province. However, some researchers say that later Malenkov found this demotion and exile a relief from the pressures of the Kremlin power struggle. Malenkov in his later years converted to Russian Orthodoxy, as did his daughter, who has since spent part of her personal wealth building two churches in rural locations. Orthodox Church publications at the time of Malenkov's death said he had been a reader (the lowest level of Russian Orthodox clergy) and a choir singer in his final years. He died at age 86.[16]

Honours and awards

Foreign assessments

The 1952 Time magazine cover shows Malenkov embraced by Stalin. Time magazine illustrates that Malenkov was Stalin's apprentice and successor. In 1954, a delegation of the British Labour Party (including former Prime Minister Clement Attlee and former Secretary of State for Health Aneurin Bevan) was in Moscow. Sir William Goodenough Hayter, British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, asked for a meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[17] Much to Hayter's surprise, not only did Khrushchev accept the proposal, but he decided to attend in the company of Vyacheslav Molotov, Anastas Mikoyan, Andrey Vyshinsky, Nikolay Shvernik, and Georgy Malenkov.[17] Such was the interest aroused in British political circles by this event that Sir Winston Churchill subsequently invited Sir William Hayter down to Chartwell so as to provide a full account of what had transpired at the meeting.[17] Malenkov seemed "easily the most intelligent and quickest to grasp what was being said" and said "no more than he wanted to say". He was considered an "extremely agreeable neighbour at the table" and was thought to have had a "pleasant, musical voice and spoke well-educated Russian". Malenkov even recommended, quietly, that British diplomatic translator Cecil Parrott should read the novels of Leonid Andreyev, an author whose literature was at that time labeled as decadent in the USSR. Nikita Khrushchev, by contrast, struck Hayter as being "rumbustious, impetuous, loquacious, free-wheeling, and alarmingly ignorant of foreign affairs".[18] Hayter observed that he "spoke in short sentences, in an emphatic voice and with great conviction.....grinning good-naturedly",[18] that he often "stumbled in his choice of words"[18] and "said the wrong thing."[18] Hayter thought that Khrushchev seemed "incapable of grasping Bevan's line of thought,[18] " and that Malenkov had to explain matters to him in "words of one syllable".[18] Given to "interrupting," he (Khrushchev) seemed more eager to talk than to listen and to understand. He was "quick, but not intelligent".[18] Convinced that Malenkov was in charge, nobody in the British delegation felt much inclined to expend effort with Khrushchev. Malenkov "spoke the best Russian of any Soviet leader I have heard", his "speeches were well constructed and logical in their development", and he seemed "a man with a more Western-oriented mind."


  1. Мікалай Аляксандравіч Зяньковіч; Николай Зенькович (2005). Самые секретные родственники. ОЛМА Медиа Групп. pp. 248–249. ISBN 978-5-94850-408-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Jonathan Haslam (2011). Russia's Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall. Yale University Press. pp. 136–. ISBN 978-0-300-15997-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 V.M. Zubok and K. Pleshakov (1996) Inside the Kremlin's cold war: from Stalin to Khrushchev, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674455320, p. 140: "His ancestors were czarist military officers of Macedonian extraction." Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ab2" defined multiple times with different content
  4. Kusnetsova, Raisa. Stranitsy is "Povesti zhizni." Moscow, 1994
  5. Bazhanov, Boris (1980). Stalin's secretary memoirs. Paris, 1980.
  6. Nikolaevsky, Boris, Felshtinsky, Yuri (1995). Malenkov's biography from "Secret pages of history." Moscow.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Volkogonov, Dmitri (1991). Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, New York: Grove Weidenfeld. ISBN 0-7615-0718-3
  8. 8.0 8.1 Amy Knight. (1993). Beria: Stalin's First Lieutenant. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691010935
  9. Zhores A. Medvedev; Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev (2005). The Unknown Stalin: His Life, Death, and Legacy. Overlook Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-58567-644-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Geoffrey Roberts (2006). Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939–1953. Yale University Press. p. 345. ISBN 0-300-11204-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Time magazine 1952, 1953 cover and editorials.
  12. "Vast Riddle; Demoted in the latest Soviet shack-up". The New York Times. 10 March 1953. Retrieved 7 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (fee for article)
  13. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at Encyclopedia Britannica
  14. Johanna Granville (1995) "Soviet Documents on the Hungarian Revolution, 24 October – 4 November 1956", Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC), Spring, pp. 22–23, 29–34.
  15. RUSSIA: The Quick & the Dead. TIME (22 July 1957). Retrieved on 2011-04-22.
  16. Simon Sebag Montefiore (2003) Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar. ISBN 1400076781
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 OBITUARIES Sir William Hayter – People, News. The Independent. 30 March 1999.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 William Taubman, "Khrushchev: The man and his era", Free Press, (Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the "Biography" category.)


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Stalin
Premier of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Nikolai Bulganin