Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Vyshinskii, Andrei Ianuarevich (1883–1954)

Soviet politician, chief prosecutor for Soviet leader Josef Stalin's show trials in the 1930s, and Soviet foreign minister (1949–1953). Born on 10 December 1883 in Odessa to a Polish family, Andrei Ianuarevich Vyshinskii fraternized with Marxists while at the University of Kiev studying law, and in 1920 he joined the Bolshevik Party. Working in the Soviet legal system, he demonstrated a talent for prosecuting alleged saboteurs and wreckers in the Shakhty Trial (1928) and the Industrial Party Trial (1930). In 1933 he became deputy prosecutor of the Soviet Union, further proving his skills in the creation and manipulation of evidence and the histrionic abuse of defendants. In the aftermath of the assassination of the Leningrad party boss Sergei Kirov in December 1934, Vyshinskii was involved in the secret trial of the Nikolayev-Kotolynov group, which was blamed for the murder.

The trial of the alleged conspirators in the assassination of Kirov led to the great show trials of 1935–1939 in which leading Bolsheviks were arrested, tortured, humiliated in court, and sentenced to death or imprisonment on the basis of fraudulent confessions. It was Vyshinskii, as chief prosecutor during 1935–1939 and faithful servant of Stalin, who dominated the trials with his wild, dramatic, vitriolic denunciations of the defendants and the use of falsified evidence. His reward was a seat in the Soviet parliament (1938) and the deputy premiership during 1939–1944.

After 1939, Vyshinskii's career was mainly in foreign affairs. He served as deputy foreign minister during 1939–1949 and then foreign minister during 1949–1953. Stalin had ousted Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov after the humiliating setback of the failed Berlin Blockade (1948–1949).

Vyshinskii's tenure in office was singularly unremarkable. He made no major foreign policy decisions and was content merely to carry out Stalin's mandates. After Stalin's death in March 1953, Molotov assumed his old post, and Vyshinskii was cast aside. As a sort of consolation prize, Moscow's new collective leadership sent Vyshinskii to the United Nations (UN) in New York as a permanent Soviet delegate. There he became well known for his acerbic wit and scathing denunciations of the West and the United States in particular. Vyshinskii died in New York City on 22 November 1954.

Paul Wingrove


Further Reading
Vaksberg, Arkady. Stalin's Prosecutor: The Life of Andrei Vyshinskii. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990.
 

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