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Malenkov, Georgy Maximilyanovich


(19021988), prominent Soviet party official.

Georgy Maximilyanovich Malenkov was born in Orenburg on January 13, 1902. In 1919 he joined the Red Army, where he worked in the political administration at various levels during the Russian civil war. In April 1920, he became a member of the Bolshevik Party, and during the following month he married Valentina Alexeyevna Golubtsova, a worker in the Central Committee (CC) apparatus.

Malenkov's career during the 1920s was typical of many during that period. He was a ruthless party official without any clear political views. He studied at the Moscow Higher Technical Institute between 1921 and 1925, during which time he was a member of a commission investigating "Trotskyism" among fellow students. In 1925 he became a technical secretary of the Organizational Bureau of the Central Committee.

During the early 1930s he worked in the Moscow party committee as the head of the section for mass agitation, conducting a purge of opposition members. Between 1934 and 1939 he ran the party organization for the Central Committee and reviewed party documents in preparation for the Great Purge beginning in 1936. Malenkov took an active role in various aspects of this purge, supervising particularly harsh actions in Belarus and Armenia in 1937.

In 1937 Malenkov was appointed a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (he was promoted to the Presidium in 1938), and in this same year became the deputy to Nikolai Yezhov, head of the NKVD. By 1939 Malenkov was also a member of the party Central Committee (CC), and shortly he became the head of the administration of party cadres and a CC secretary.

Before the outbreak of the war with Germany, Malenkov became a candidate member of the Politburo. During the war, he supplied planes to the Red Air Force, and he appears to have undertaken his tasks efficiently. Josef Stalin relied on Malenkov increasingly after 1943. In that year Malenkov headed a committee of the Soviet government for the restoration of farms in liberated areas, and after mid-May 1944, he was the deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (second only to Stalin himself). From March 18, 1946, Malenkov was a member of the ruling Politburo.

During the ascendancy of Andrei Zhdanov after the war, Malenkov's career briefly declined. After the exposure of a scandal in the aviation industry, he lost both his deputy chairmanship of the government and his role as CC secretary controlling party personnel, in March and May 1946, respectively. Thanks to the intervention of Lavrenty Beria, however, he was able to recover both positions by August. In 1948 he took over the position of ideological secretary of the CC and was also given responsibility for Soviet agriculture, at that time the most backward sector of the Soviet economy.

During the late Stalin period, Malenkov once again played a leading role in new purges, including the Leningrad Affair and the exposure of the "Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee." The aging leader entrusted him to present the main report at the Nineteenth Party Congress (the first party congress in thirteen years). With Stalin's death on March 5, 1953, Malenkov became the chairman of the Council of Ministers (prime minister) and the main party secretary. On March 14, however, the latter position was given to Khrushchev.

Malenkov joined with Khrushchev to overcome a putsch by Beria in 1953, but then a power struggle between the two leaders developed. Malenkov eventually had to make a public confession regarding his failure to revive Soviet agriculture. By February 1955, he was demoted to a deputy chairman of the government and given responsibility over Soviet electric power stations. Malenkov and former old-guard Stalinists Lazar Kaganovich and Vyacheslav Molotov resented Khrushchev's de-Stalinization speech at the Twentieth Party Congress of February 1956. In 1957 the three engineered a majority vote within the Presidium for Khrushchev's removal. Khrushchev, however, was able to reverse the vote in a CC plenum, which saw the defeat of the so-called Antiparty Group. On June 29, Malenkov lost his positions in the Presidium and the Central Committee.

Though he was still relatively young, Malenkov's career was effectively over. He became the director of a hydroelectric power station in Ust-Kamengorsk, and subsequently of a thermal power station in Ekibastuz. In 1961, the Ekibastuz city party committee expelled him from membership, and Malenkov retired on a pension until his death in Moscow on January 14, 1988. He is remembered mainly as a loyal and unprincipled Stalinist with few notable achievements outside of party politics.

See also: anti-party group; khrushchev, nikitasergeyevich; leningrad affair; purges, the great; stalin, josef vissarionovich


Ebon, Martin. (1953). Malenkov: A Biographical Study of Stalin's Successor. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Radzinsky, Edward. (1996). Stalin: The First In-Depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Moscow's Secret Archives. New York: Doubleday.

David R. Marples

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