Vyacheslav Molotov

71

Vyacheslav Molotov : biography

9 March 1890 – 8 November 1986

Despite the great human cost, the Soviet Union under Molotov’s nominal premiership made great strides in the adoption and widespread implementation of agrarian and industrial technology. In a document written by Molotov he noted how cannibalism and starvation were still serious problems even in 1937 in the Soviet Union. Andrey Vyshinsky, the Procurator General, even told Molotov personally of incidents involving mothers eating their newly born children. The rise of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany precipitated the development of a modern armaments industry on the orders of the Soviet government. Ultimately, it was this arms industry, along with American Lend-Lease aid, which helped the Soviet Union to prevail in World War II (Great Patriotic War). Set against this, the purges of the Red Army leadership, in which Molotov participated, weakened the Soviet Union’s defence capacity and contributed to the military disasters of 1941 and 1942, which were mostly caused by unreadiness for war. The purges also led to the dismantling of privatised agriculture and its replacement by collectivised agriculture. This left a legacy of chronic agricultural inefficiencies and under-production which the Soviet regime never fully rectified.

Molotov was reported to be a vegetarian and teetotaler by American journalist John Gunther in 1938.http://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=58 In 1938 American journalist John Gunther wrote: " He [Molotov] is… a man of first-rate intelligence and influence. Molotov is a vegetarian and a teetotaler." However, Milovan Djilas claimed that he "drank more than Stalin" Djilas Milovan: Conversations with Stalin. Translated by Michael B. Petrovich. Rupert Hart-Davis, Soho Square London 1962, pp. 59. and did not note his vegetarianism despite having several banquets with him.

Minister of Foreign Affairs (1939–1949)

In 1939, following the Munich Agreement and Hitler’s subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Stalin believed that Britain and France would not be reliable allies against German expansion so instead sought to conciliate Nazi Germany. In May 1939 Maxim Litvinov, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, was dismissed and Molotov was appointed to succeed him. Molotov was succeeded in his post as Premier by Stalin.

At first, Hitler rebuffed Soviet diplomatic hints that Stalin desired a treaty, but in early August 1939, Hitler authorised Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to begin serious negotiations. A trade agreement was concluded on 18 August, and on 22 August, Ribbentrop flew to Moscow to conclude a formal non-aggression treaty. Although the treaty is known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, it was Stalin and Hitler, and not Molotov and Ribbentrop, who decided the content of the treaty. The most important part of the agreement was the secret protocol, which provided for the partition of Poland, Finland and the Baltic States between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and for the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia (then part of Romania, now Moldova). This protocol gave Hitler the green light for his invasion of Poland, which began on 1 September. On 5 March 1940 Lavrentiy Beria gave Molotov, along with Anastas Mikoyan, Kliment Voroshilov and Stalin, a note ordering the execution of 25,700 Polish officers and anti-Soviets, in what has become known as the Katyn massacre.

Under the terms of the Pact, Hitler was, in effect, given authorisation to occupy two-thirds of Western Poland, as well as Lithuania. Molotov was given a free hand in relation to Finland. In the Soviet-Finnish War that ensued, a combination of fierce Finnish resistance and Soviet mismanagement resulted in Finland losing parts of its territory, but not its independence. The Pact was later amended to allocate Lithuania to the Soviet sphere in exchange for a more favourable border in Poland. These annexations led to massive suffering and loss of life in the countries occupied and partitioned by the two dictatorships.

In November 1940 Stalin sent Molotov to Berlin to meet von Ribbentrop and Adolf Hitler (see German–Soviet Axis talks#Molotov travels to Berlin). In January 1941, the British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden visited Turkey in an attempt to get the Turks to enter the war on the Allies’ side. Though the purpose of Eden’s visit was anti-German rather than anti-Soviet, Molotov assumed otherwise and in a series of conversations with the Italian Ambassador Augusto Rosso, Molotov claimed that the Soviet Union would soon be faced with an Anglo-Turkish invasion of the Crimea. The British historian D.C. Watt argued that on the basis of Molotov’s statements to Rosso, it would appear that in early 1941, Stalin and Molotov viewed Britain rather than Germany as the principal threat.