Kaganovich, Lazar Moiseyevich

views updated


KAGANOVICH, LAZAR MOISEYEVICH (1893–1991), Soviet politician. Born in Kiev province, Kaganovich joined the Communist Party in 1911 and became a member of the Kiev committee of the party in 1914. In 1915 he was arrested and restricted to residence in Kabana, his native village, but left illegally and for the following two years lived in various parts of Russia under false names. Kaganovich took an active part in the October Revolution in the Red Army, where he headed the Saratov war organization, and later in Belorussia, where he played a major role in taking Gomel. During the Civil War (1917–20) he served on the All-Russian Committee for building up the Red Army. He rose rapidly in the Party hierarchy. In 1924 he became a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee and from 1925 to 1928 was first secretary of the party organization in the Ukraine. Between 1930 and 1935 he was secretary of the Moscow party committee, headed the reconstruction of the capital, and managed the construction of the Moscow underground, which was named after him until 1957. In 1930 he became a member of the Politburo, the nine-man committee controlling the party. In 1932 he was in the Politburo for organizing terror in the party, and he took part in the execution of it. At the 17th party congress in 1934 he reported on "organizational questions" and was elected chairman of the party control commission.

Kaganovich organized the industrialization of the Moscow region. He was subsequently appointed commissar for communications and commissar for heavy industry. From 1938 he served also as vice chairmen of the Council of Commissars of the Union. During World War ii he was a member of the State Defense Committee. In 1947 he was again secretary of the party in Ukraine, and from March 1953 first vice chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union. Kaganovich's subservience to Stalin was made abundantly clear in his pamphlet Stalin vedyot nas k pobede komunizma ("Stalin leads us to the victory of Communism") printed in 1950 in half a million copies. For a number of years he was the only Jew to occupy a top position in the Soviet leadership. In 1957, as a member of the "anti-Party group" of Molotov, Malenkov, and Shepilov, he was expelled from the Central Committee and dismissed from all government posts. In the years 1957–61 he was director of a metallurgical factory in the Ural area. And in 1961 he was expelled from the party and pensioned. Regarding Jewish matters, he was not only estranged from Zionism and the Bund, but he was also against the Yevsektsiya. While visiting the Jewish State Theater in the 1930s, he called to show real Jewish heroes like the Maccabeans and Bar-Kokhba. It is not clear what his role was in the Crimean Affair, and rumors say that he was in favor of a Jewish republic there.


Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, 19 (19532), 282–3; Current Biography Yearbook 1955 (1956), 315–7.

[Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]