Vyacheslav Molotov Biography

Vyacheslav Molotov was a prominent Soviet politician and diplomat who played a crucial role in the Soviet government during the 1920s and beyond. Serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and a key representative of the Soviet Union at Allied conferences during and after World War II, Molotov showcased his exceptional administrative abilities and unwavering support for Joseph Stalin. With his diplomatic skills, he engaged in negotiations with the Western Allied Forces post-war. Despite losing Stalin’s favor later on, Molotov remained a staunch defender of Stalin’s policies and legacy until his passing at the remarkable age of 96.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Vyacheslav Mikhaylovich Skryabin
  • Died At Age: 96
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Polina Zhemchuzhina (m. 1921–1948)
    • Father: Mikhail Skryabin
    • Mother: Anna Nebogatikova
    • Children: Svetlana Molotova
  • Occupations: Diplomat, Political Leader
  • Died on: November 8, 1986
  • Place of Death: Moscow, Russia
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Heart Attack, Alzheimer’s
  • Cause of Death: Alzheimer’s

Childhood & Early Life

Molotov was born as Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skyrabin on 9th March 1890 in a village named Kukarta in Vyatka Governorate in the Russian Empire. He studied at a secondary school in Kazan, and also assisted his father, who was a butler churner, in his business.

Career

Vyacheslav Molotov joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1906. He was soon attracted to the radical Bolshevik faction of the organization, which was headed by Vladimir Lenin. He got involved with the party’s revolutionary activities for which he was arrested twice (in 1909 and 1915). He also had to spend a few years in exile.

He enrolled at the St Petersburg Polytechnic Institute in 1911. During his involvement with an underground Bolshevik newspaper named ‘Pravada,’ he got acquainted with Joseph Stalin for the first time.

Molotov eventually gained prominence during the Russian Revolution. After the Bolsheviks gained power in 1917, he was involved with several provincial party organizations over the next few years.

Rise to Power

Vyacheslav Molotov was sent to Ukraine in 1918 as the civil war was breaking out; however, as he was not a military man, he didn’t take part in the fighting. Two years later, he was appointed the secretary to the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Bolshevik Party. A year later, he was called to Moscow again by Lenin, and was put in charge of the party secretariat.

His tenure as the secretary was however heavily criticized by Vladimir Lenin as well as Leon Trotsky. After Joseph Stalin became the General Secretary of the Bolshevik Party, Molotov gave his full support to his mentor. He also became Stalin’s chief agent in agricultural policy. Molotov became a full member of the Politburo in 1926, and continued his work in the Secretariat till 1930.

In 1930, he was elected Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissioners, a post considered equal to that of a Prime Minister. In this post, Molotov used to oversee the collectivization of agriculture under Stalin’s regime. Like Stalin, he used force and propaganda as a tool to crush the resistance of the peasants to collectivization. Millions of peasants who owned property were deported to the gulags.

The death of Sergei Kirov, the head of the party organization in Leningrad, led to the Great Purge over the course of which 20 out of the 28 People’s Commisars in Molotov’s Government were executed on Stalin’s and Molotov’s orders. Whenever Stalin required Molotov to sign the death warrants of prominent purge victims, Molotov would always do so without questioning.

There is no record of Molotov trying to moderate the course of the Purge or trying to save individuals as some other Soviet officers did. Molotov is known to have approved 372 documented execution lists. Even after Stalin’s death, Molotov continued to support the Great Purge as well as the executions carried out by his government.

In 1939, Molotov became the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, after succeeding Maxim Litvinov. He was involved with the signing of a treaty with Nazi Germany the following year, which was known as the ‘Molotov-Ribbentron Pact’. However, it was Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler who had decided the content of the treaty. It was a neutrality pact between the two nations, and an important part of the agreement was the secret protocol, providing for the partition of Poland, Finland as well as the Baltic States between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

Molotov was also responsible for the negotiation of the wartime alliances with the Great Britain and the USSR in 1942. At the Major Wartime international conferences, he represented the USSR along with Joseph Stalin. He also headed the Soviet delegation to the San Francisco conference in 1945, which led to the UN’s establishment. Later, he represented the UN at the postwar foreign minister’s conferences till 1949, when he stepped down as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Later Years

In 1952, at the 19th Party Congress, Molotov was elected to the replacement of the Politburo, known as the Presidium. However, as he had lost Stalin’s favor, he was not among the members of the newly established secret body called Bureau of the Presidium.

After the death of Joseph Stalin, Molotov again served as the foreign minister from 1953. However, because of his poor relations with Nikita Khrushchev, he was dismissed from his government offices.

In 1961, Khrushchev carried out his de-Stalinization campaign and Molotov’s devotion to Stalin got him expelled from the party in 1962. All his party documents and files were also destroyed. He was later rehabilitated by Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko in 1984.

Awards & Achievements

Vyacheslav Molotov had received several awards and honors for his service to the Soviet Union. He was named a ‘Hero of Socialist Labour’ and awarded four Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and the Order of the Badge of Honour.

He also received medals, such as the ‘Medal for the Defense of Moscow’ and ‘Medal in Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow’.

Personal Life

Molotov married Polina Zhemchuzhina in 1921. From 1932 to 1936, she served as the director of the Soviet National cosmetics trust. Later, she served as the Minister of Fisheries as well as the head of Textile Production in the Ministry of Light Industry.

As she was a supporter of Zionism, she was arrested for treason in 1948, and sentenced to five years in a labor camp. She was released in 1953, shortly after Stalin’s death. She was then reunited with Molotov and the couple lived together until her death in 1970.

Molotov passed away on 8 November 1986, after being hospitalized in the Kuntsevo Hospital in Moscow. He was 96 at the time of his demise.

Trivia

The Molotov cocktail, a term used for a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons, was coined by the Finns during the Second World War, as an insulting reference to Vyacheslav Molotov.

According to American journalist John Gunther, Molotov was a vegetarian and a teetotaler.

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