Leningrad Affair

views updated


The "Leningrad Affair" refers to a purge between 1949 and 1951 of the city's political elite and of nationally prominent communists who had come from Leningrad. More than two hundred Leningraders, including many family members of those directly accused, were convicted on fabricated political charges, and twenty-three were executed. Over two thousand city officials were fired from their jobs. Hundreds from many other cities were jailed during this purge.

The "Leningrad Affair" derived largely from a power struggle between Soviet leader Josef Stalin's two leading potential successors: Andrei Zhdanov, Leningrad's party chief during the city's lengthy wartime siege, and Georgy Malenkov, supported by the head of the political police, Lavrenti Beria. Zhdanov's sudden death of apparent natural causes in the late summer of 1948 left his protégés from Leningrad vulnerable. In early 1949 Malenkov charged that the Leningraders were trying to create a rival Communist Party of Russia in conspiracy with another former Leningrad party chief, Alexei Kuznetsov. Malenkov used as pretexts a wholesale trade market that had been set up in Leningrad without Moscow's permission, as well as alleged voting irregularities in a Leningrad party conference. The Leningrad party members were also charged with treason.

Aside from Kuznetsov, the most prominent victims of the "Leningrad Affair" were Politburo member and Gosplan chairman Nikolai Voznesensky and first secretary of the Leningrad party committee Pyotr Popkov. The three were shot along with others on October 1, 1950. The purge signaled a return to the violent and conspiratorial politics of the 1930s. It eliminated the Leningraders as contenders for national power and downgraded Leningrad essentially to the status of a provincial city within the USSR.

See also: beria; lavrenti pavlovich; malenkov, georgy maksimilyanovich; zhdanov, andrei alexandrovich; stalin, josef vissarionvich


Knight, Amy. (1993). Beria: Stalin's First Lieutenant. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Volkogonov, Dmitri. (1991). Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, ed. and tr. Harold Shukman. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.

Zubkova, Elena. (1998). Russia After the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957, tr. and ed. Hugh Ragsdale. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Richard Bidlack