Arrested that same year for his unionizing efforts, Kalinin was imprisoned for ten months and then exiled to the Caucasus. He escaped to Tiflis (Tblisi), where he again became a metalworker, but he lost this job when he again attempted to organize the workers. He then became a railroad worker but was arrested once again in 1903 and imprisoned in St. Petersburg.
Released after the 1905 Russian Revolution, Kalinin joined the radical Bolshevik faction of the Social Democratic Party. He helped establish a metalworkers' union and published a newspaper. An outspoken opponent of Russian participation in World War I, he was again arrested and exiled, this time to Siberia. Freed after the Russian Revolution of March 1917, he returned to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) where he took part in the November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
In 1919 Kalinin became mayor of Petrograd. During 1919–1938 he was chairman of the All-Union Executive Committee, in effect titular head of state. In 1938 the title was changed to chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Kalinin held that post until his death. He had been a full member of the Politburo since 1925. One of the more humane of Soviet leaders, he helped secure the release of a number of people imprisoned during the Great Purges. He apparently survived in office for so long primarily because he was a colorless figure who never took strong positions.
Kalinin died in Moscow on 3 June 1946. The former German city of Königsberg in East Prussia, taken by the Soviet Union after World War II, was renamed Kaliningrad in his honor.
Spencer C. Tucker
Mastny, Vojtech. The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.; Zubok, Vladislav, and Constantine Pieshakov. Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.