Vyacheslav Molotov : biography
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov ( 25 February (9 March) 1890 – 8 November 1986) was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium (Politburo) of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev. He served as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (Premier) from 1930 to 1941, and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1939 to 1949 and from 1953 to 1956. Molotov served for several years as First Deputy Premier in Joseph Stalin’s cabinet. He retired in 1961 after several years of obscurity.
Molotov was the principal Soviet signatory of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939 (also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), after Britain and France repeatedly failed to join the Soviets in an anti-Nazi alliance, was involved in post-war negotiations where he became noted for his diplomatic skills, and knew of the Katyn massacre committed by the Soviet authorities. Following the aftermath of World War II (Great Patriotic War) Molotov kept his place, until 1949, as a leading Soviet diplomat and politician. In March 1949, after losing Stalin’s favour, he lost the foreign affairs ministry to Andrei Vyshinsky. Molotov’s relationship with Stalin deteriorated further, with Stalin complaining about Molotov’s mistakes in a speech to the 19th Party Congress. However, after Stalin’s death in 1953 Molotov was staunchly opposed to Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation policy. He defended his policies and the legacy of Stalin until his death in 1986, and harshly criticized Stalin’s successors, especially Nikita Khrushchev.
Decorations and awards
- Hero of Socialist Labour
- Four Orders of Lenin (including 1945)
- Order of the October Revolution
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour
- Order of the Badge of Honour
- Medal "For the Defence of Moscow"
- Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Medal "For Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Medal "In Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow""
Early life and career (1890–1930)
Molotov was born Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skryabin () in the village of Kukarka (now Sovetsk in Kirov Oblast), the son of a shop clerk. He was educated at a secondary school in Kazan, and joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1906, soon gravitating toward that organization’s radical Bolshevik faction, headed by V. I. Lenin.Geoffrey Roberts, Molotov: Stalin’s Cold Warrior. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2012; pg. 5.
Skryabin took the pseudonym "Molotov," derived from the Russian molot (hammer) for his political work owing to the name’s vaguely "industrial" ring. He was arrested in 1909 and spent two years in exile in Vologda. In 1911 he enrolled at the St Petersburg Polytechnic. Molotov joined the editorial staff of a new underground Bolshevik newspaper called Pravda, meeting Joseph Stalin for the first time in association with the project.Roberts, Molotov, pg. 6. This first association between the two future Soviet leaders proved to be brief, however, and did not result in an immediate close political association.
Molotov worked as a so-called "professional revolutionary" for the next several years, writing for the party press and attempting to better organize the underground party. He moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 1914 at the time of the outbreak of World War I. It was in Moscow the following year that Molotov was again arrested for his party activity, this time being deported to Irkutsk in eastern Siberia. In 1916 he escaped from his Siberian exile and returned to the capital city, now called Petrograd by the Tsarist regime, which thought the name St. Petersburg sounded excessively German.
Molotov became a member of the Bolshevik Party’s committee in Petrograd in 1916. When the February Revolution occurred in 1917, he was one of the few Bolsheviks of any standing in the capital. Under his direction Pravda took to the "left" to oppose the Provisional Government formed after the revolution. When Joseph Stalin returned to the capital, he reversed Molotov’s line; but when the party leader, Vladimir Lenin, arrived, he overruled Stalin. Despite this, Molotov became a protégé of and close adherent to Stalin, an alliance to which he owed his later prominence. Molotov became a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee which planned the October Revolution, which effectively brought the Bolsheviks to power.