Vyacheslav Molotov

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Vyacheslav Molotov : biography

9 March 1890 – 8 November 1986

Rehabilitation, death, beliefs and legacy

The first signs of a rehabilitation were seen during Leonid Brezhnev’s rule, when information about him was again allowed inclusion in Soviet encyclopaedias. His connection, support and work in the Anti-Party Group was mentioned in encyclopaedias published in 1973 and 1974, but eventually disappeared altogether by the mid-to-late-1970s. Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko further rehabilitated Molotov; in 1984 Molotov was even allowed to seek a membership in the Communist Party. A collection of interviews with Molotov from 1985 was published in 1994 by Felix Chuev as Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics. Molotov died, during the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev, on 8 November 1986. He was 96 years old at the time of his death, and was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow.

Molotov, like Stalin, was pathologically mistrustful of others, and because of it, much crucial information disappeared. As Molotov once said "One should listen to them, but it is necessary to check up on them. The intelligence officer can lead you to a very dangerous position… There are many provocateurs here, there, and everywhere." Like Stalin, he never recognised the Cold War as an international event. He saw the Cold War as, more or less, the everyday conflict between communism and capitalism. He divided the capitalist countries into two groups, the "smart and dangerous imperialists" and the "fools". Molotov was also a staunch Russian nationalist, claiming that Russians, unlike the Hungarians, liked "to do things large-scale". Before his retirement, Molotov proposed establishing a socialist confederation with the People’s Republic of China (PRC); Molotov believed socialist states were part of a bigger, supranational entity. In retirement, Molotov criticised Nikita Khrushchev for being a "right-wing deviationist".

The Molotov cocktail is a term coined by the Finns during the Winter War, as a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons. During the Winter War, the Soviet air force made extensive use of incendiaries and cluster bombs against Finnish troops and fortifications. When Molotov claimed in radio broadcasts that they were not bombing, but rather delivering food to the starving Finns, the Finns started to call the air bombs Molotov bread baskets. Soon they responded by attacking advancing tanks with "Molotov cocktails" which were "a drink to go with the food". According to Montefiore the Molotov cocktail was one part of Molotov’s cult of personality which he highly disliked.

At the end of 1989, two years before the final collapse of the Soviet Union, the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev’s government formally denounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, acknowledging that the bloody annexation of the Baltic States and the partition of Poland had been illegal.

Winston Churchill in his wartime memoirs lists many meetings with Molotov. Acknowledging him as a "man of outstanding ability and cold-blooded ruthlessness", Churchill concluded: "In the conduct of foreign affairs, Mazarin, Talleyrand, Metternich, would welcome him to their company, if there be another world to which Bolsheviks allow themselves to go."