During the 1920s Kaganovich held a succession of important posts in the Communist Party in Ukraine. Called to Moscow, he was appointed first secretary of the party committee in the capital in 1930, in effect mayor of the capital city. Here he supervised construction of the Moscow subway and, later, the purging of the city's party organization. He also became a full member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
Kaganovich supported Stalin against his popular rival, Sergei Kirov, who wanted to slow the pace of collectivization and industrialization in the early 1930s. Kaganovich also played a major role in the collectivization of agriculture, which brought the deaths of millions of peasants. A slavish admirer of Stalin, Kaganovich was one of the few "old Bolsheviks" to survive the Great Purges of the 1930s, in which he took an active part. Along with Stalin and Vyacheslev Molotov, Kaganovich signed the death warrants of thousands of Soviet citizens.
Closely identified with Soviet domestic affairs and in particular with the railroads (a traditional Bolshevik stronghold), Kaganovich was minister for transport (1935–1937), heavy industry (1937–1939), and the fuel industry (1939). He became deputy premier in 1938, and during World War II he played an important role as part of the five-man council that supervised the Soviet Union's economy.
A prominent member of the collective leadership after the death of Stalin in March 1953, Kaganovich strongly opposed the de-Stalinization policies of his former Ukrainian protégé, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. In 1957 Kaganovich joined with fellow hard-liners Nikolai Bulganin and Molotov in an effort to unseat Khrushchev in the so-called Anti-Party Affair. In sharp contrast to what would have occurred under Stalin, Khrushchev expelled Kaganovich from his posts and the party and banished him to Sverdlovsk as manager of a cement factory. Kaganovich died in Moscow on 25 July 1991.
Spencer C. Tucker
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