Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov

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(18801986), Russian revolutionary and Soviet politician, often regarded as Stalin's chief lieutenant.

Vyacheslav Molotov was born at Kukarka, Nolinsk district, Vyatka province, on March 9, 1880. His father was the manager of the village store. Molotov's real name was Skryabin; he was the second cousin of the composer and pianist Alexander Skryabin (18721915). After attending the village school, he was educated at Kazan Real School from 1902, and became involved in the 1905 Revolution in Nolinsk district, joining the Bolshevik Party in 1906. Engaged in revolutionary agitation in Kazan, particularly among student groups, he was arrested in 1909 and exiled to Vologda province.

In 1911, at the end of his period of exile, he enrolled first in the shipbuilding department but soon transferred to the economics department at St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. He continued his revolutionary agitation, again especially among student groups, and from 1912 was involved in the production of the early numbers of Pravda, to which he contributed a number of articles. It was at this time he first called himself Molotov (from the word for "hammer") after the hero in Nikolai Pomyalovsky's 1861 novel. In 1915, having been sent by the party to Moscow, he was again arrested and exiled to Irkutsk province, but escaped in 1916. Returning to St. Petersburg to continue his revolutionary activity, he was one of the leading Bolsheviks there in March 1917. He was prominent during the early weeks of the Russian Revolution, again working for Pravda and serving on the St. Petersburg Soviet, but retired into the background with the return of Lenin and other senior leaders from exile.

Molotov was involved but did not play a leading part in the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917. In March 1918 Molotov became chairman of the Sovnarkhoz (Economic Council) for the northern provinces, thus assuming responsibility for economic affairs in the Petrograd area. In 1919, during the civil war, he was in command of a river steamer charged with spreading Bolshevik propaganda in provinces newly liberated from the White armies. He then spent short spells as a party representative in Nizhny Novgorod and the Donbass.

Molotov now rapidly rose in the Bolshevik party. He was elected to the Central Committee in 1921, was first secretary from 1921 to 1922, preceding Josef Stalin's appointment as General Secretary, and continued to work in the Secretariat until 1930, having become a full member of the Politburo in 1926. During this period he became associated with Stalin, fully supporting him in his struggles against the opposition and becoming Stalin's chief agent in agricultural policy, particularly collectivization.

In December 1930, Molotov became chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom ), a post sometimes regarded as equivalent to prime minister, where he was responsible for the implementation of a planned economy and Stalinist industrialization and related economic and social polices. During the later 1930s he was fully identified with the Stalinist repressions, and for a short time in 1936 he was personally in danger for committing Stalin too openly to a pro-German foreign policy.

From May 1939 until 1949 Molotov was foreign minister. In August 1939 he was responsible for negotiating the notorious Nazi-Soviet pact. In May 1941, shortly before the outbreak of war, Stalin replaced him as Sovnarkom chairman. Molotov remained as vice-chairman, and during the war he was also deputy chairman of the State Defence Committee (GKO) with special responsibility for tank production, as well as foreign minister. He was responsible for negotiating the wartime alliance with the United States and Great Britain in 1942; with Stalin he represented the USSR at the major wartime international conferences. He then headed the Soviet delegation to the San Francisco conference of 1945 that established the United Nations organization. Representing the USSR at the United Nations and at postwar foreign ministers' conferences until his dismissal as foreign minister in 1949, he earned a reputation as a blunt, determined, and vociferous opponent of Western policies.

After Stalin's death, Molotov was again foreign minister, from 1953 to 1956, but his relations with Khrushchev were never good, and he was dismissed from his important government offices as a leader of the Antiparty Group in 1957. He then served as Soviet ambassador to Mongolia from 1957 to 1960, and as USSR representative to the International Atomic Energy Commission in 1960 and 1961.

Expelled from the Communist Party in 1962, Molotov lived in retirement until his death in 1986. He was reinstated in the party in 1984. His wife, Polina Semenova (also known as Zhemchuzhina), whom he had married in 1921 and with whom he had two children, also achieved high party and government positions but was incarcerated from 1949 to 1953. Molotov admitted that he had voted in the Politburo for her arrest.

See also: anti-party group; bolshevism; khrushchev, nikita sergeyevich; nazi-soviet pact of 1939; revolution of 1917; sovnarkom; stalin, josef vissarionovich


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

Watson, Derek. (1996). Molotov and Soviet Government: Sovnarkom, 193041. Basingstoke, UK: CREES-Macmillan.

Watson, Derek. (2002). "Molotov, the Making of the Grand Alliance and the Second Front, 19391942." Europe-Asia Studies 54 (1):5186.

Derek Watson

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Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov

The Soviet statesman Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (1890-1986) was second in command during Stalin's regime and served as the chief Soviet diplomat in World War II.

Vyacheslav Molotov was born on March 9, 1890, in the village of Kukarka (now Sovetsk) in what is now the Kirov Oblast. His family name was Scriabin, and he was distantly related to the famous composer of the same name. His family sent him to the gymnasium (high school) in Kazan, and it was there, as a teen-ager, that he first became involved in the revolutionary movement, taking a minor part in the Revolution of 1905. The following year he joined the Bolsheviks and, to avoid police harassment, changed his name to Molotov (literally, "of the hammer").

In 1909, just prior to his graduation, he was arrested for political agitation and exiled for 2 years to Vologda Province. Instead of returning to Kazan, he made his way to St. Petersburg, where he studied briefly at the Polytechnic Institute. More importantly, living in the capital afforded him the opportunity for involvement in the new Bolshevik newspaper Pravdaand for establishing his first contact with Joseph Stalin.

Unlike most other Bolsheviks, Molotov spent no time abroad, and when World War I broke out, he was still in Russia. In June 1915 he was again arrested and exiled, this time to the distant Siberian province of Irkutsk. Late in 1916 he escaped from Siberia and managed to get back to the capital, now renamed Petrograd, where he rejoined the revolutionary movement. He was one of the few Bolsheviks of any prominence who were in Petrograd when the monarchy was overthrown, and he became immediately involved in issuing the rejuvenated Pravda. He also joined the Petrograd Soviet, becoming perhaps the most important Bolshevik in that organization until the election of Leon Trotsky to its presidency. After the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917, he assumed a variety of government tasks, most of them away from the center of power.

In 1921, probably at the behest of Stalin, Molotov was chosen a candidate member of the Central Committee, and from that time his fortunes were irrevocably tied to Stalin's. In the intraparty struggle he identified even more closely with Stalin and was elevated to the Politburo in 1926. In 1928 he was made first secretary of the Moscow Party Committee and proceeded to purge it of non-Stalinists.

In 1930 Molotov's work was rewarded with his appointment as chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (that is, prime minister) of the Soviet Union. He held this post for over a decade, adding the foreign affairs post in 1939. In the latter post he acquired an international reputation, first negotiating the infamous Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 but later serving as Stalin's top representative at the various wartime conferences: Teheran (1943), Yalta (1945), and Potsdam (1945), and at the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945.

In 1949 Molotov yielded the Foreign Ministry to Andrei Vishinsky but continued as vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers. Upon Stalin's death in March 1953, he emerged as potentially one of the strongest leaders, reassuming control over the Foreign Ministry and forming, with Lavrenty Beria and Georgi Malenkov, an ephemeral triumvirate that presumably controlled the Bolshevik party. Though he outlasted both of his partners, by 1955 it was apparent that Molotov had lost considerable power.

The Twentieth Party Congress of February 1956 and the resultant anti-Stalin line ruined Molotov's chances as he was so closely identified in the public eye with the Stalinist heritage. Later that year, Dmitri Shepilov replaced him as foreign minister. In the summer of 1957 Molotov and others of the "antiparty" group were expelled from the Central Committee. Molotov himself was made emissary to Outer Mongolia, roughly the equivalent of exile, and was forced to remain there until 1960. Then he made a small comeback by becoming the Soviet representative to the International Atomic Energy Conference in Vienna. In 1961 at the Twenty-second Party Congress a renewed denunciation of Stalin led to new cries for punishment for Molotov, but he escaped banishment or any serious penalty and retired from public life. In 1984 he was reinstated to the party, but died in Moscow on November 8, 1986.

Further Reading

Molotov's views as a foreign minister can be seen in some anthologies of his speeches, for example, Problems of Foreign Policy (trans. 1949). Molotov was sufficiently bland to defy biographers, but there is Bernard Bromage, Molotov: The Story of an Era (1956). Most studies of Stalin devote some attention to Molotov, notably Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949; rev. ed. 1966). □

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Molotov, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich (1890–1986) Soviet statesman, premier (1930–41) and foreign minister (1939–49, 1953–56). A loyal ally of Stalin, he became a full member of the Politburo in 1926. As foreign minister, one of Molotov's first acts was to sign the Nazi-Soviet Pact (1939) with von Ribbentrop. His enthusiastic use of the veto in the UN Security Council contributed to the Cold War. He lost favour under Nikita Khrushchev, and was demoted and expelled from the Communist Party in 1962. Molotov was readmitted in 1984.

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