Molotov in 1945
|Preceded by||Alexei Rykov|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Stalin|
August 16, 1942 – June 29, 1957
|Preceded by||Nikolai Voznesensky|
|Succeeded by||Nikolai Bulganin|
Minister of Foreign Affairs
May 3, 1939 – March 4, 1949
|Preceded by||Maxim Litvinov|
|Succeeded by||Andrey Vyshinsky|
March 5, 1953 – June 1, 1956
|Preceded by||Andrey Vyshinsky|
|Succeeded by||Dmitri Shepilov|
|Born||March 9 1890|
Kukarka, Russian Empire (now Sovetsk, Russia)
|Died||November 8 1986 (aged 96)|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Political party||RSDLP (Bolsheviks) (1906–1918) |
(m. 1920; died 1970)
Vyacheslav Mikhaylovich Molotov Russian: Вячеслав Михайлович Молотов, Russian pronunciation: [vʲɪtɕɪˈslaf mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪtɕ ˈmolətəf] (né Skryabin; Russian: Скрябин) (March 9 [O. S. February 25] 1890 – November 8, 1986) was a Soviet 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.
During the 1930s, he ranked second in the Soviet leadership, after Joseph Stalin, whom he supported loyally for over 30 years, and whose reputation he continued to defend after Stalin's death. He was deeply implicated in the worst atrocities of the Stalin years – the forced collectivization of agriculture in the early 1930s, and the Great Purges, during which he signed 373 lists of people condemned to execution.
As People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs in August 1939, Molotov became the principal Soviet signatory of the German–Soviet non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler's foreign minister, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. He retained his place as a leading Soviet diplomat and politician until March 1949, when he fell out of Stalin's favor and lost the foreign affairs ministry leadership to Andrei Vyshinsky. Molotov's relationship with Stalin deteriorated further, and Stalin criticized 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 criticized Stalin's successors, especially Khrushchev.
Early life and career
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.
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, where he became friends with fellow revolutionary Aleksandr Arosev. Molotov joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) in 1906, and soon gravitated toward the organization's radical Bolshevik faction, which was led by Vladimir Lenin.
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. 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. That first association between the two future Soviet leaders proved to be brief, however, and failed to lead to an immediate close political association.
Molotov worked as a so-called "professional revolutionary" for the next several years, wrote for the party press, and attempted to improve the organization of the underground party. He moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. 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. 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.
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, 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. Molotov became a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee, which planned the October Revolution and effectively brought the Bolsheviks to power.
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 summer 1919, he was sent on a tour by steamboat of the Volga and Kama rivers, with Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya to spread Bolshevik propaganda. On his return, he was appointed chairman of the Nizhny Novgorod provincial executive, where the local party passed a vote of censure against him, for his alleged fondness for intrigue. He was transferred to Donetsk, and in November 1920, he became secretary to the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Bolshevik Party, marrying Soviet politician Polina Zhemchuzhina. Molotov and his wife had two daughters: Sonia, adopted in 1929, and Svetlana, born in 1930.
Lenin recalled Molotov 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, holding the office of Responsible Secretary. Alexander Barmine, a minor communist official, visited Molotov in his office near the Kremlin while he was running the secretariat, and remembered him as having "a large and placid face, the face of an ordinary, uninspired, but rather soft and kindly bureaucrat, attentive and unassuming."
Molotov was criticized by Lenin and Leon Trotsky, with Lenin noting his "shameful bureaucratism" and stupid behavior. On the advice of Molotov and Nikolai Bukharin, the Central Committee decided to reduce Lenin's work hours. 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. Under Stalin's patronage, Molotov became a full member of the Politburo in January 1926.
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. In January 1926, he led a special commission sent to Leningrad (St Petersburg) to end Zinoviev's control over the party machine in the province. In 1928, Molotov replaced Nikolai Uglanov as First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party and held that position until 15 August 1929.
Trotsky and his supporters underestimated Molotov, as did 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." However, that outward dullness concealed a sharp mind and great administrative talent. He operated mainly behind the scenes and cultivated an image of a colorless bureaucrat.
Molotov was reported to be a vegetarian and teetotaler.  However, Milovan Djilas claimed that Molotov "drank more than Stalin" and did not note his vegetarianism although they had attended several banquets.
Addressing a Moscow communist party conference on February 23, 1929, Molotov emphasized the need to undertake "the most rapid possible growth of industry" both for economic reasons and because, he claimed, the Soviet Union was in permanent, imminent danger of attack. The argument over how fast to expand industry was behind the rift between Stalin and the right, led by Bukharin and Rykov, who feared that too rapid a pace would cause economic dislocation. With their defeat, Molotov emerged as the second most powerful figure in the Soviet Union. During the Central Committee plenum of December 19, 1930, Molotov succeeded Alexey Rykov as the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, the equivalent of a Western head of government.
In that post, Molotov oversaw the implementation of the First Five-Year Plan for rapid industrialization. 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. Ultimately, that arms industry, along with American and British aid, helped the Soviet Union prevail in the Second World War.
Role in collectivization
Molotov also oversaw agricultural collectivization under Stalin's regime. He was the main speaker at the Central Committee plenum in November 10-17, 1929 at which the decision was made to introduce collective farming in place of the thousands of small farms owned by peasants. Molotov insisted that it must begin the following year, and warned officials to "treat the kulak as the most cunning and still undefeated enemy." In the four years that followed, millions of 'kulaks' (land-owning peasants) were forcibly moved onto special settlements to be used as slave labor. In 1931 alone almost two million were deported. In that year, Molotov told the Congress of Soviets "We have never refuted the fact that healthy prisoners capable of normal labor are used for road building and other public works. This is good for society; it is also good for the peasants themselves." The famine caused by the disruption of agricultural output and the emphasis on exporting grain to pay for industrialization, and the harsh conditions of forced labor killed an estimated 11 million people.
Despite the famine, in September 1931, Molotov sent a secret telegram to communist leaders in the North Caucasus telling them the collection of grain for export was going "disgustingly slowly." In December, he travelled to Kharkiv, then the capital of Ukraine, and, ignoring warnings from local communist leaders about a grain shortage, told them that their failure to meet their target for grain collection was down to their incompetence. He returned to Kharkiv in July 1932, with Lazar Kaganovich, to tell the local communists that there would be no "concessions or vacillations" in the drive to meet targets for exporting grain. This was the first of several actions that led a Kyiv Court of Appeal in 2010 to find Molotov, and Kaganovich, guilty of genocide against the Ukrainian people. On July 25, the same two men followed up the meeting with a secret telegram ordering the Ukrainian leadership to intensify grain collection.
Temporary rift with Stalin
In December 1934 Sergei Kirov, the head of the Party organization in Leningrad, was assassinated. Between the assassination and the start of the Great Purges, there was a significant but unpublicized event rift between Stalin and Molotov. In 1936, Trotsky, in exile, noted that when lists of party leaders appeared in Soviet press reports, Molotov's name sometimes appeared as low as fourth in the list "and he was often deprived of his initials." When he was photographed receiving a delegation, he was never alone, but always flanked by his deputies, Janis Rudzutaks and Vlas Chubar. "In Soviet ritual all these are signs of paramount importance," Trotsky noted.Interestingly, the published transcript of the first [Moscow Show Trial in August 1936, the defendants - who had been forced to confess to crimes they had not committed - said that they had conspired to kill Stalin and seven other leading Bolsheviks, but not Molotov. According to Alexander Orlov, an NKVD officer who defected to the west, Stalin personally crossed Molotov's name out of the original script.
Two explanations have been put forward for Molotov's temporary eclipse. On March 19, 1936 Molotov gave an interview with the editor of Le Temps concerning improved relations with Nazi Germany. Although Litvinov had made similar statements in 1934 and even visited Berlin that year, Germany had not then reoccupied the Rhineland. Derek 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." Robert Conquest and others believe that Molotov "dragged his feet" over Stalin's plans to purge the party and put Old Bolsheviks like Zinoviev and Kamenev on trial.
Role in the Great Purge
After his return to favor, in August, Molotov uncritically supported Stalin throughout the purge, during which, in 1938 alone, 20 out of 28 People's Commissars in Molotov's Government were executed.  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. After his deputy, Rudzutak had been arrested, Molotov visited him in prison, and recalled years later that... "Rudzutak said he had been badly beaten and tortured. Nevertheless he held firm. Indeed, he seemed to have been cruelly tortured" ...but he did not intervene.
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. When Stalin received a note denouncing the deputy chairman of Gosplan, G.I.Lomov, he passed it to Molotov, who wrote on it: "For immediate arrest of that bastard Lomov."
Before the Bolshevik revolution, Molotov had been a "very close friend" of a Socialist Revolutionary, Alexander Arosev, who shared his exile in Vologda. In 1937, fearing arrest, Arosev tried three times to ring Molotov, who refused to speak to him. He was arrested and shot. In the 1950s, Molotov gave Arosev's daughter his signed copies of her father's books, but later wished he had kept them. "It appears that it was not so much the loss of his 'very close friend' but the loss of part of his own book collection ... that Molotov continued to regret."
Late in life, Molotov described his role in purges of the 1930s, arguing that despite the overbreadth of the purges, they were necessary to avoid Soviet defeat in World War II:
Socialism demands immense effort. And that includes sacrifices. Mistakes were made in the process. But we could have suffered greater losses in the war — perhaps even defeat — if the leadership had flinched and had allowed internal disagreements, like cracks in a rock. Had leadership broken down in the 1930s we would have been in a most critical situation, many times more critical than actually turned out. I bear responsibility for this policy of repression and consider it correct. Admittedly, I have always said grave mistakes and excesses were committed, but the policy on the whole was correct.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
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. In May 1939, Maxim Litvinov, the Jewish Commissar for Foreign Affairs, was dismissed; Molotov was appointed to succeed him. 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 civilization.
For his part, Litvinov had no respect for Molotov, regarding him as a small-minded intriguer and accomplice in terror.
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 August 18, and on August 22 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). The protocol gave Hitler the green light for his invasion of Poland, which began on September 1.
The pact's terms gave Hitler authorization 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. The pact was later amended to allocate Lithuania to the Soviets in exchange for a more favorable border in Poland for Germany. The annexations led to horrific suffering and loss of life in the countries occupied and partitioned by both dictatorships. On March 5, 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.
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.
Hitler invades Russia
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact governed Soviet–German relations until June 1941, when Hitler turned east and invaded the Soviet Union. 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 June 22, characterized the Soviet Union in a role similar to that articulated by Winston Churchill in his early wartime speeches. The State Defense Committee was established soon after Molotov's speech. Stalin was elected chairman and Molotov was elected deputy chairman.
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 U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and agreed on a lend-lease plan. Both the British and the Americans only vaguely promised to open 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.
There is no evidence that Molotov ever persuaded Stalin to pursue a different policy from that on which he had already decided. Volkogonov could not find one case where any of the elite in government openly disagreed with Stalin.
There is some evidence that, although Stalin realized he needed Molotov, Stalin did not like him. Stalin's one-time bodyguard, Amba, claimed: "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." 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 party, Amba recalled an incident when Poskryobyshev approached Stalin and whispered in his ear. Stalin replied, "Does it have to be right away?" Everybody realized 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 related, "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." Of those in attendance, Stalin laughed the loudest at Laurentyev's joke.
Stalin was sometimes rude to Molotov. In 1942, Stalin took Molotov to task for his handling of the negotiations with the Allies. He cabled Molotov on June 3:
[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.
Russian "Manhattan Project"
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. 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.
Molotov accompanied Stalin to the Teheran Conference in 1943, the Yalta Conference in 1945, and, after the defeat of Germany, the Potsdam Conference. He represented the Soviet Union at the San Francisco Conference, which created the United Nations. 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 March 19, 1946 after the Council of People's Commissars had been reformed as the Council of Ministers.
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 uncooperative 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).
Decline in Power
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. Molotov initially protested the persecution against her by abstaining from the vote to condemn her, but later recanted, stating: "I acknowledge my heavy sense of remorse for not having prevented Zhemchuzhina, a person very dear to me, from making her mistakes and from forming ties with anti-Soviet Jewish nationalists [...]" and divorced Zhemchuzhina.
Polina Zhemchuzhina befriended Golda Meir, who arrived in Moscow in November 1948 as the first Israeli envoy to the Soviet Union. There are unsubstantiated claims that, fluent in Yiddish, Zhemchuzhina served as a translator for a diplomatic meeting between Meir and her husband, the Soviet foreign minister. However, this claim is not supported by Meir's memoir My Life. Presentation of her ambassadorial credentials was done in Hebrew, not in Yiddish. According to Meir's own account of the reception given by Molotov on November 7, "Mrs. Zhemchuzhina has spent significant time during this reception not only talking to Golda Meir herself but also in conversation with Mrs. Meir's daughter Sarah and her friend Yael Namir about their life as kibbutzniks. They have discussed the complete collectivization of property and related issues. At the end Mrs. Zhemchuzhina gave Golda Meir's daughter Sarah a hug and said: 'Be well. If everything goes well with you, it will go well for all Jews everywhere.' "
Zhemchuzhina was imprisoned for a year in the Lubyanka and was then exiled for three years in an obscure Russian city. She was sentenced to hard labor, spending five years in exile in Kazakhstan. Molotov had no communication with her except for the scant news that he received from Beria, whom he loathed. Zhemchuzhina was freed immediately after the death of Stalin.
Dismissed as Foreign Minister
In 1949, Molotov was replaced as Foreign Minister by Andrey Vyshinsky but retained his position as First Deputy Premier and membership in the Politburo. As he had been appointed Foreign Minister by Stalin to replace his Jewish predecessor, Maxim Litvinov, to facilitate negotiations with Nazi Germany, Molotov was also dismissed from the same position at least in part because his wife was also of Jewish origin.
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." 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." According to Stalin's daughter, Molotov became very subservient to his wife. Molotov was a yes-man to his wife just as he was to Stalin.
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 favor. At the 19th Congress, Stalin said, "There has been criticism of comrade Molotov and Mikoyan by the Central Committee," mistakes including the publication of a wartime speech by Winston Churchill favorable to the Soviet Union's wartime efforts. Both Molotov and Mikoyan were falling out of favor rapidly, with Stalin telling Beria, Khrushchev, Malenkov and Nikolai Bulganin that he no longer wanted to see Molotov and Mikoyan around. At his 73rd birthday, Stalin treated both with disgust. 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.
After Stalin's Death
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 March 5, 1953. 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. A Troika was established immediately after Stalin's death, consisting of Malenkov, Beria, and Molotov, but ended when Malenkov and Molotov deceived Beria. Molotov supported the removal and later the execution of Beria on the orders of Khrushchev. The new Party Secretary, Khrushchev, soon emerged as the new leader of the Soviet Union. He presided over a gradual domestic liberalization and a thaw in foreign policy, including 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, but represented the Soviet Union at the Geneva Conference of 1955.
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 who had played a leading role in the purges. It became evident that Khrushchev's examination of the past would probably result in Molotov's fall from power. He had become the leader of an old-guard faction that sought to overthrow Khrushchev.
In June 1956, Molotov was removed as Foreign Minister; on June 29, 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 ratified the decision. In the plenum, which met from June 22 to 29, Molotov and his faction were defeated. Eventually he was banished from Moscow, and made ambassador to the Mongolian People's Republic. Molotov and his associates were denounced as "the Anti-Party Group" but notably were not subject to the type of repercussions that had been customary during the Stalin years. In 1960, he was appointed Soviet representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was seen as a partial rehabilitation. However, after the 22nd Party Congress in 1961, during which Khrushchev carried out his de-Stalinization 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. In 1962, all of Molotov's party documents and files were destroyed by the authorities.
In retirement, Molotov remained unrepentant about his role under Stalin's rule. 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.
In 1968, United Press International reported that Molotov had completed his memoirs but that they would likely never be published. 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 encyclopaedias. His connection, support and work in the Anti-Party Group were mentioned in encyclopaedias published in 1973 and 1974, but eventually disappeared altogether by the mid-to-late-1970s. Later, Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko further rehabilitated Molotov. In 1984, Molotov was even allowed to seek membership in the Communist Party. A collection of interviews with Molotov from the period 1969 to 1986 was published in 1993 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 November 8, 1986. 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.
Molotov was the ultimate survivor in the period of Stalinism, which saw so many of his colleagues banished, or tried and executed for treason in trumped-up charges during the Great Purges. He 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. Like Stalin, he was pathologically mistrustful of others. 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." 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. Finally, 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.
Like Stalin, he never recognized 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." 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. In retirement, Molotov criticized Nikita Khrushchev as a "right-wing deviationist."
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." The former US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said: "I have seen in action all the great international statesmen of this century. I have never seen such personal diplomatic skill at so high a degree of perfection as Molotov's."
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.
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.
The Molotov Cocktail
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. 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. Soon they responded by attacking advancing tanks with "Molotov cocktails," which were "a drink to go with the food." The improvised incendiary weapon known as the Molotov cocktail is named after him. According to Montefiore, the Molotov cocktail was one part of Molotov's cult of personality that the vain Premier surely did not appreciate.
Decorations and awards
- Hero of Socialist Labor (1943)
- Order of Lenin (1940, 1943, 1945, 1950)
- Order of the Badge of Honor
- Medal "For the Defense of Moscow" (1944)
- Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" (1945)
- Medal "For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" (1945)
- Medal "In Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow" (1947)
- Medal "Veteran of Labor" (1974)
- Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin" (1969)
- Jubilee Medal "Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" (1985)
- Order of the Red Banner (Mongolia)|Order of the Red Banner (Mongolian People's Republic)
- Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2005, ISBN 1400076781), 40.
- Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 2017, ISBN 978-1400888177), 28–29.
- Geoffrey Roberts, Molotov: Stalin's Cold Warrior (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2012, ISBN 978-1612344294), 5-6.
- Vyacheslav Molotov and Felix Chuev, Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin politics: conversations with Felix Chuev (Chicago, IL: I.R. Dee, 1993, ISBN 1566630274), 94.
- "Mrs. Molotov Dies in Moscow; Wife of Ex-Premier Was 76," The New York Times May 4, 1970. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
- Alexander Barmine, One Who Survived (New York, NY: G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1945), 128.
- Robert Service, History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century (New York, NY: Penguin Books Ltd., 2003, ISBN 0141037970), 151, 176.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 36, 40-41.
- Michael Rywkin, Soviet Society Today (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1989, ISBN 978-0873324458), 159–160.
- C. Peter Chen, "Vyacheslav Molotov," World War II Database. Retrieved December 19, 2022. 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."
- Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin trans. Michael B. Petrovich, (London, UK: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1962), 59.
- E. H. Carr and R. W. Davies, Foundations of a Planned Economy, Volume 1 (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1974, ISBN 978-0140217681), 352.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 45, 58, 63-64.
- Walter Scott Dunn, The Soviet economy and the Red Army, 1930–1945 (Boston, MA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 0275948935), 22.
- Robert William Davies, Mark Harrison, and S. G. Wheatcroft, The Economic transformation of the Soviet Union, 1913–1945 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994, ISBN 052145770X), 250–251.
- Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (London, UK: Arrow, 1988, ISBN 0099569604), 112, 306.
- Rachel Polonsky, Molotov's Magic Lantern, Uncovering Russia's Secret History (London, UK: Faber and Faber, 2011, ISBN 978-0571237814), 290.
- Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine (London, UK: Penguin Books, 2018, ISBN 978-0141978284), 168.
- "Resolution of the court, Kyiv Court of Appeal, 2-A Solomyanska Street, Kyiv. Ruling in the name of Ukraine," Holodomor Museum, October 16, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Leon Trotsky,"In the Columns of Pravda," New Militant, II (19) (May 16, 1936),: 3. in Leon Trotsky Internet Archive. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre (Moscow, RU: People's Commissariat of Justice of the USSR, 1936), 38.
- Alexander Orlov, A Secret History of Stalin's Crimes (New York, NY: Random House, 1953), 162.
- Derek Watson, Molotov and the Sovnarkon 1930–1941 (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996, ISBN 978-1349248483), 162.
- John Holroyd-Doveton, Maxim Litvinov: A Biography (Woodland Park, CO: Woodland Publications, 2013, ISBN 978-0957296107), 408.
- Watson, 16.
- Robert Conquest, The Great Terror (New York, NY: Macmillian Company, 1968, ISBN 978-1299284012), 151.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 244.
- Molotov and Chuev, 272–74.
- Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge, The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1973, ISBN 978-0394719283), 345–46.
- Polonsky, 87.
- Molotov and Chuev, 256.
- Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism (London, UK: Bodley Head, 2009, ISBN 9780224078795), 90–92.
- Holroyd-Doveton, 351–359.
- Maurice Gerschon Hindus, Crisis in the Kremlin (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1953), 48. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Roy Medvedev, All Stalin's Men (New york, NY: Anchor Press, 1984, ISBN 0385183887), 488.
- Service, 256–257.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 320, 322 and 342.
- Brown, 141.
- Donald Cameron Watt, Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy (New York, NY: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004, ISBN 0415144353), 276–286.
- Service, 158-160, 261-262.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 417–418.
- Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph & Tragedy (Shreveport, LA: Prima Publishing, 1996, ISBN 978-0761507185), 220.
- Amba Achmed, I Was Stalin's Bodyguard (Zurich, CH: Lars Müller Publishers, 1952), 133, 138.
- Holroyd-Doveton, 486-487.
- Oleg Rzheshevsky, War and Diplomacy: The Making of the Grand Alliance : Documents from Stalin's Archives (Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge, 1996, ISBN 978-3718657902), 210.
- Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov, The Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov (New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 1971, ISBN 978-0224619240).
- Geoffrey Roberts, The Soviet Union in world politics: coexistence, revolution, and cold war, 1945–1991 (Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge, 1999, ISBN 0415144353), 284–285.
- Brown, 199–201.
- Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2010, ISBN 978-0465002399), 345.
- Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (New York, N. Y.: Harper & Row, 1987, ISBN 978-0060156985), 527.
- Golda Meir, My Life (New York, NY: Dell Publishing, 1976, ISBN 0440156564), 242–243.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 604, 666.
- Holroyd-Doveton, 493.
- Svetlana Alliluyeva, Only One Year: A Memoir (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1969, ISBN 978-0060101022), 384.
- "Unpublished speech by Stalin on 16 October 1952,". Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 640, 645–647.
- "Russia: The Survivor," Time September 16, 1957. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 662.
- William Taubman, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003, ISBN 0393324842), 258. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Brown, 227, 236–237, 666.
- Günter Bischof and Saki Dockrill, Cold War respite: the Geneva Summit of 1955 (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2000, ISBN 0807123706), 284–285.
- Brown, 231, 245, 252.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 666-669.
- Henry Shapiro,"Rare Historic Memoir May Never See Light," The Daily Colonist (Victoria, Canada), United Press International, August 29, 1968. Retrieved December 29, 2022.
- "12 July 1984* (Pb)," Bukhovsky Archive, July 1, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- A.P. van Goudoever, The Limits of Destalinization in the Soviet Union: Political Rehabilitations in the Soviet Union since Stalin (Oxfordshire, uK: Taylor & Francis, 1986, ISBN 0709926294), 100, 108.
- Andrey Sidorchuk, Человек, который знал всё. Личное дело наркома Молотова, Argument and Fact, March 9, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- V. Zubok and C. Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0674455320), 88-91.
- Molotov and Chuev, 84.
- Jerzy W. Borejsza, Klaus Ziemer, and Magdalena Hulas, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes in Europe (New York, NY: Berghahn Books, 2006, ISBN 1571816410), 521.
- Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1948, ISBN 039541055X), 368–369. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Raymond H. Anderson, "VYACHESLAV M. MOLOTOV IS DEAD; CLOSE ASSOCIATE OF STALIN WAS 96," The New York Times, November 11, 1986. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- Sebag-Montefiore, 468, 507-510.
- John Langdon-Davis, "The Lessons of Finland," Picture Post, June 1940.
- Montefiore, 328, 335.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
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All links retrieved May 3, 2023.
- The Meaning of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact Molotov speech to the Supreme Soviet on August 31, 1939
- Reaction to German Invasion of June 22, 1941
|Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars
|Succeeded by: Joseph Stalin|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs
|Succeeded by: Andrey Vyshinsky|
|Succeeded by: Dmitri Shepilov|
|Soviet Ambassador to Mongolia
|Succeeded by: Alexei Khvorostukhin|
|Soviet Representative to International Atomic Energy Agency
|Succeeded by: Panteleimon Ponomarenko|
|Party Political Offices|
(chairman of revkom)
|Secretary of the Communist Party of Donetsk Governorate
|Succeeded by: Taras Kharchenko|
Stanislav Kosior (temporary)
|First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine
|Succeeded by: Feliks Kon (acting)|
|Secretary of the Communist Party of Moscow Governorate
|Succeeded by: Karl Bauman|
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