Suslov, Mikhail Andreyevich

views updated May 14 2018


(19021982), high-ranking Communist Party leader.

Mikhail Suslov was a member of the Politburo from 1955 to 1982 and headed the agitation and propaganda department of the Central Committee from 1947 to 1982. An ideologist of the Stalinist school, Suslov was a reactionary and doctrinaire defender of Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. Like many in his generation of party leaders, Suslov had humble origins. He was born into a peasant family in 1902 in the village of Shakhovskoye, within present-day Saratov oblast. From 1918 to 1920 he served as assistant secretary of the Committee of Poor Peasants (Kombed ) and organized a Komsomol branch in his village. In 1921 he joined the Communist Party and enrolled in a school for workers in Moscow. He went on to study economics at the Institute of Red Professors and the Plekhanov Economics Institute before entering the party-state apparatus in 1931. Suslov was a ruthless player in the party purges of the Josef Stalin era and rose through the ranks by moving into positions opened up by mass arrests. In 1937 he became a Rostov oblast party committee secretary. Two years later he headed the Stavropol regional party committee, a position he held until 1944. In 1944, as chairman of the Central Committee's bureau for Lithuanian affairs, he supervised the incorporation of Lithuania into the USSR and the subsequent deportation of thousands of people.

In 1947 Suslov became a secretary of the Central Committee in charge of shaping, protecting, and enforcing official ideology. He also held authoritative

positions in foreign affairs and was noted for his demand for strict adherence to Soviet foreign policy by foreign communist parties. In 1949, at a Cominform meeting in Budapest, he denounced the Yugoslav Communist Party for its independent stance and in 1956 went to Hungary with Anastas Mikoyan and Marshal Grigory Zhukov to supervise the suppression of the Hungarian uprising. Suslov was a shrewd political operator who served three Soviet leaders: Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev. Very different from Khrushchev in temperament and out-look, he opposed de-Stalinization and economic reform, but supported him in 1957 against the antiparty group. In 1964, however, he turned on his former boss and was instrumental in the removal of Khrushchev and the installation of Brezhnev as first secretary of the Communist Party. Eschewing the limelight, Suslov did not seek the highest party or state positions for himself, but was content to remain chief party theoretician and ideologist.

Deeply conservative, Suslov oversaw the official press and personally scrutinized publications to ensure conformity. According to Fedor Burlatsky (1988), he would also comment on everything written by members of the Central Committee departments. In 1969 he directed the dismissal of the progressive Novy mir editorial board. A hardline supporter of communism, he disliked the company of Westerners. At one Kremlin reception he placed tables between himself and foreign diplomats. Known as the "sea-green incorruptible of the Soviet establishment," Suslov protested against increasing corruption in the party. In 1982 he died from a stroke that reportedly followed a heated discussion with an individual who was trying to cover up Brezhnev family scandals.

See also: agitprop; central committee; committees of the village poor; communist party of the russian federation; communist party of the soviet union; hungarian revolution


Burlatsky, Fedor. (1988). Khrushchev and the First Russian Spring, tr. Daphne Skillen. New York: Scribners.

McCauley, Martin. (1997). Who's Who in Russia since 1900. London: Routledge.

Tatu, Michel (1968). Power in the Kremlin: From Khrushchev to Kosygin, tr. Helen Katel. New York: Viking.

Elaine MacKinnon