Khrushchev and Molotov on Beria

I post these excerpts here for a balanced view of Beria’s role in order to encourage dialectic analysis of whether he was a Marxist-Leninist or a revisionist. I post these here despite serious misgivings about the thesis that “Beria poisoned Stalin,” a theory for which I’ve found no evidence except for the book “Molotov Remembers,” which was published by an anti-communist after Molotov’s death.

 – Espresso Stalinist

No sooner had Stalin fallen ill than Beria started going around spewing hatred against him and mocking him. It was simply unbearable to listen to Beria. But, interestingly enough, as soon as Stalin showed these signs of consciousness on his face and made us think he might recover, Beria threw himself on his knees, seized Stalin’s hand, and started kissing it. When Stalin lost consciousness again and closed his eyes, Beria stood up and spat. This was the real Beria–treacherous even toward Stalin, whom he supposedly admired and even worshipped yet whom he was now spitting on.

Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 318

During his [Stalin] last days I had in some sense fallen out of favor…. I had seen Stalin for five weeks before he died. He was absolutely healthy. They called for me when he was taken ill. When I arrived at the dacha some Politburo members were there. Of non-Politburo members, only Mikoyan and myself, as I recall, had been called. Beria was clearly in command.

Stalin was lying on the sofa. His eyes were closed. Now and then he would make an effort to open them and say something, but he couldn’t fully regain consciousness. Whenever Stalin tried to say something, Beria ran up to him and kissed his hand.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 236

CHUEV: Beria himself was said to have killed him.

MOLOTOV: Why Beria? It could have been done by a security officer or a doctor. As he was dying, there were moments when he regained consciousness. At other times he was writhing in pain. There were various episodes. Sometimes he seemed about to come to. At those moments Beria would stay close to Stalin. Oh! He was always ready…

One cannot exclude the possibility that he had a hand in Stalin’s death. Judging by what he said to me and I sensed…. While on the rostrum of the Mausoleum with him on May 1st, 1953, he did drop hints…. Apparently he wanted to evoke my sympathy. He said, “I did him in!”–as if this had benefited me. Of course he wanted to ingratiate himself with me: “I saved all of you!” Khrushchev would scarcely have had a hand in it. He might have been suspicious of what had gone on. Or possibly… All of them had been close by. Malenkov knows more, much more, much more.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 237

MOLOTOV: It is totally obvious that he kept his plan secret, a plan aimed against building Communism in our country. He had another course–a course for Capitalism. This faint-hearted traitor, like other faint-hearted traitors whom the Party has dealt with satisfactorily, was planning nothing less than a return to Capitalism.

I must again draw your attention to Beria’s attempts to establish ties with Rankovich and with Tito, which Comrade Malenkov has already mentioned.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 30

What Beria proposed would never have come up for discussion in Stalin’s time. Stalin made a public statement when the GDR was created, that this was a new stage in the development of Germany, and that there could be no doubts about this. Stalin was the sort of man to sacrifice everything for the sake of socialism. He would never have abandoned the conquest of socialism.

I objected that there could not be a peaceful Germany unless it took the road to socialism. Therefore all talk about a “peaceful Germany” implied a bourgeois Germany, period.

I consider Khrushchev a rightist, and Beria was even further right. We had the evidence. Both of them were rightists. Mikoyan too.

…Being a rightist, Khrushchev was rotten through and through. Beria was even more of a rightist and even more rotten.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 336-337

He (Beria) was unprincipled. He was not even a communist. I consider him a parasite on the party.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 339

I regard Beria as an agent of imperialism. Agent does not mean spy. He had to have some support–either in the working class or in imperialism. He had no support among the people, and he enjoyed no prestige. Even had he succeeded in seizing power, he would not have lasted long.
…a big scum.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 340

He was a good organizer, a good administrator–and a born security operative, of course. But quite without principles.
I had a sharp clash with Beria the first week after Stalin’s death. It is quite possible that I was not the one to meet either his or Khrushchev’s requirements. Their policies would not have differed greatly.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 341

…he (Beria) was, in any event, a dangerous character.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 343

CHUEV: Beria is called a diehard enemy of Soviet power.
MOLOTOV: I don’t know whether he was a diehard or some other kind of enemy, but I do know he was an enemy.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 343

EDITOR: Molotov wonders with good reason whether Stalin really died a natural death. Shortly before Beria was liquidated by his fearful colleagues, he took credit for Stalin’s death. He confided to Molotov that he had “saved them all,” implying that he had killed Stalin or at least seen to it that the stricken Stalin did not receive adequate and timely medical attention.

Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 161

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2 responses to “Khrushchev and Molotov on Beria

  1. I agree with having a balanced view of Beria. But this also means it is not either… or… Beria played an important and good role after Yezhov was thrown out of the security apparatus. It was under Beria that people were indicted only on the basis of proof of conspiracy against Soviet power, not mass indictments.

    This would not be contradictory to his taking rightist views after Stalin’s death.

  2. i am sympathetic to Molotov’s perspective and i find labeling felix chuev an anti-communist a bit harsh especially as he conducted some interviews with molotov before his reinstatement to the CPSU, a dangerous clandestine activity. i think we can determine stalin found beria to be useful in attacking counter revolutionary activity, such as suppressing the chechen-ingushetian rebellion of 1940-44 or in hunting the “forest brothers” of the baltic, and thats probably why stalin kept him in the state apparatus. i definitly find it likely that stalin was preparing to shuffle his cabinet yet again in early ’53, as he so often did, but to say that invoked his assassination… maybe a little far fetched. after all stalin was in his early 70′s enjoyed his tobbacco, wine, and vodka and probably wasn’t getting much exercise besides a periodical walk. and frankly despite malenkov’s later conversion to christianity he molotov and kaganovich were the best hope for keeping the CPSU adherent to marxist ideology and preserving the monolithic front of bolshevism

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