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Anti-Party Group


The Anti-Party Group, so called by Nikita Khrushchev, whom it tried to oust from power in June 1957, was neither opposed to the Communist Party nor really a group. Rather, it consisted of three of Khrushchev's main rivals in the party leadership, Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Lazar Kaganovich, themselves hardly united except in their wish to oust Khrushchev, plus a diverse set of allies who supported them at the last minute: titular head of state Klimenty Voroshilov; chairman of the Council of Ministers Nikolai Bulganin; central economic administrators Mikhail Pervukhin and Maxim Saburov; and Dmitry Shepilov, Khrushchev's protégé whom had he had recently promoted to foreign minister.

When Josef Stalin died in March 1953, Malenkov seemed the heir apparent, but Molotov also appeared to be a contender for supreme power. Khrushchev joined with both of them to bring down secret police chief Lavrenty Beria, who was arrested in June 1953 and executed in December. Khrushchev turned next against Malenkov, who was demoted from prime minister to minister of electrification in February 1955, and then against Molotov, who was soon dropped as foreign minister. However, both Malenkov and Molotov were allowed to remain full members of the Party Presidium, leaving them in position to seek revenge against Khrushchev.

The logic of power in the Kremlin, in which there was no formalized procedure for determining leadership succession, largely accounted for this struggle. So did certain policy differences: Molotov, Kaganovich, and Voroshilov were particularly dismayed by Khrushchev's "secret speech" attacking Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress in February 1956, as well as by the de-Stalinization process he began in domestic and foreign policy. Malenkov had seemed more open to reform during his stint as prime minister, but although his and Khrushchev's skills could have complemented each other, personal animosity drove them apart. Despite choosing Bulganin to replace Malenkov as prime minister, Khrushchev disdained Bulganin. Pervukhin and Saburov felt threatened by Khrushchev's proposed reorganization of economic administration, which jeopardized their jobs. Shepilov probably betrayed his patron because he thought Khrushchev was bound to lose.

Including seven full members of the Presidium, the plotters constituted a majority. When they moved against Khrushchev on June 18, 1957, they counted on the Presidium's practice of appointing its own leader, leaving the Party Central Committee to rubber-stamp the result. Instead, however, Khrushchev insisted that Central Committee itself, in which his supporters dominated, decide the issue. While Khrushchev and his enemies quarreled, the KGB (Committee on State Security) and the military ferried Central Committee members to Moscow for a plenum that took place from June 22 to 28.

Khrushchev's opponents had no chance once the plenum began. Molotov, Malenkov, and Kaganovich were subjected to a barrage of charges about their complicity in Stalin's terror, including details about Stalinist crimes that were not fully publicized until the late 1980s. Following the plenum, Molotov was exiled to Outer Mongolia as Soviet ambassador, Malenkov to northern Kazakhstan to direct a hydroelectric station, Kaganovich to a potash works in Perm Province, and Shepilov to head the Kyrgyz Institute of Economics. So as not to reveal how many had opposed him, Khrushchev delayed his punishment of the rest of the Anti-Party Group: Bulganin remained prime minister until 1958; Voroshilov was not deposed as head of state until 1960. After the Twenty-second Party Congress in October 1961, in which Khrushchev intensified his all-out attack on Stalin and Stalinism, Molotov, Malenkov, and Kaganovich were expelled from the Communist Party.

See also: khrushchev, nikita sergeyevich; malenkov, georgy maximilyanovich; molotov vyacheslav mikhailovich


Linden, Carl A. (1966). Khrushchev and the Soviet Leadership. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Micunovic, Veljko. (1980). Moscow Diary, tr. David Floyd. New York: Doubleday.

Resis, Albert, ed. (1993). Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics: Conversations with Felix Chuev. Chicago: I. R. Dee.

Taubman, William. (2003). Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. New York: Norton.

William Taubman

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