Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Malenkov, Georgy Maksimilianovich (1902–1988)

Soviet politician and premier. Born in Orenburg, Russia, on 13 January 1902, Georgy Malenkov served in the Red Army from 1918 to 1921 and joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1920. After graduation from technical school in 1925, he worked as an administrator for the CPSU Central Committee and in the Moscow party apparatus until 1941. During this period he handled personnel matters and the implementation of the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Elected to the Central Committee and its secretariat in 1939, he became a candidate member of the Politburo by 1941.

During World War II, Malenkov served as a member of the Council of State Defense and as senior political officer. In 1943 he supervised economic recovery efforts in liberated Soviet territory, serving in this capacity until his election as a full Politburo member and deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1946. He also helped engineer the purge of his rival and CPSU chief ideologist Andrei Zhdanov in 1948.

As Malenkov's political fortunes continued to rise during the next five years, he was named chairman of Council of Ministers (premier) and, briefly, first secretary of the Central Committee after Josef Stalin's death in March 1953. Malenkov was, however, soon compelled by his Politburo colleagues to surrender the post of first secretary to Nikita Khrushchev, although the two cooperated in opposing the attempted seizure of power by Deputy Chief of the Council of Ministers Lavrenty Beria in June 1953, which led to the execution of Beria. Nevertheless, rivalry between Malenkov and Khrushchev over economic and other policy issues became a struggle for power. Khrushchev gained the upper hand in the end, and Malenkov was forced to resign as premier in February 1955. Nikolai Bulganin replaced him as premier, although Malenkov remained in the Presidium (Politburo) and became a deputy premier responsible for electric power.

Following Khrushchev's 1956 de-Stalinization speech, Malenkov joined with fellow Stalinist Presidium members Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, and Dmitri Shepilov in an attempt to oust Khrushchev in June 1957. Successful in the Presidium, the so-called Anti-Party Group failed when the matter was taken to a plenum of the Central Committee, where Khrushchev received vital support from Marshal Georgi Zhukov, minister of defense. In July, Malenkov lost his seats in the Presidium and the Central Committee and was named manager of a hydroelectric power station in Kazakhstan. In 1961, the CPSU expelled him from its ranks and forced him into retirement. He lived in obscurity until his death in Moscow on 14 January 1988.

Steven W. Guerrier


Further Reading
Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Knopf, 2004.
 

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