Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Bulganin, Nikolai Alexandrovich (1895–1975)

Soviet statesman, deputy prime minister, minister of defense, and premier. Born on 11 June 1895 in Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, the son of a factory worker, Nikolai Bulganin joined the Bolsheviks as a youth and became a member of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage (Cheka, or secret police) in Turkistan in the wake of the 1917 October Revolution. His accomplishments in the ranks of Cheka facilitated his political ascendancy, and in the 1920s he was tasked with managing a large electrical equipment factory in Moscow.

With his continued success and the connections he established among the elite of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Bulganin was appointed mayor of Moscow in 1931, remaining in that post for six years. There he oversaw the construction of the Moscow Underground. He then took over as head of the state bank from 1937 to 1941. During World War II, he served in Soviet leader Josef Stalin's war cabinet and as the chairman of the state defense committee.

In 1947, Bulganin assumed the post of minister of the armed forces, was granted the rank of marshal of the Soviet Union, and a year later became deputy prime minister and a full member of the Politburo. After Stalin's death in 1953, Bulganin assumed the post of minister of defense under Georgy Malenkov. Thus, Bulganin was one of the five central figures who ruled the Soviet Union during the interregnum following Stalin's death. Despite his links to Malenkov, Bulganin supported Nikita Khrushchev in the ensuing power struggle and in February 1955 was rewarded with the post of chairman of the council of ministers, that is, premier of the Soviet Union. He remained in that position until 1958.

During the summer of 1957, however, Bulganin disagreed with Khrushchev on a series of issues. As a result, Bulganin joined forces with Khrushchev's opponents, whose aim was to remove Khrushchev from the top leadership spot. When the putsch failed, Bulganin was accused of conspiracy, stripped of the rank of marshal, and forced into semiretirement in September 1958. He was expelled from the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1961. Bulganin remained in secluded retirement until his death in Moscow on 24 February 1975.

Cem Karadeli


Further Reading
Service, Robert. A History of 20th Century Russia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.
 

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