Lavrenti Beria’s Reforms
02 June, 2011
Lavrenti Beria’s Reforms

Beria meant to offer a more humane way of life to those who had lived under permanent stress and fright for 30 years. He was trying to liberalize and normalize the relations of the Soviet Union with the West. At the same time, he was also trying to strengthen national tendencies in the Soviet republics. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

GJ – The Triumvirate which was created in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death for the division of power was practically

controlled by Lavrenti Beria. It eventually became evident that Stalin’s long-standing comrade-in-arm and an outstanding performer of all his gloomy and shadowy assignments wanted to rule the Soviet Union based on a model which was totally different from that of Stalin. It is also known that Beria was made victim to his inclination towards that dissenting style of management. What is it that Beria had still managed to achieve?

SM – Beria had never had enough time and chance to do what he intended to perform. In the short period of time between March and June of 1953 he made an attempt to put the development of the Soviet Union on a very different track. He convened the Communist Party plenary meetings and conferences in every single Soviet republic wherewith he forced the party leaders to conduct those meetings in a local language. That was an unprecedented event in the life of the Soviet people.

GJ – Was this done before in the Russian language exclusively?

SM – Even a minor meeting in a small town or village was held in the Russian language which continued up until 1970. Right from the very first days of Stalin’s death Beria started the process of releasing from prisons and rehabilitation of the victims of Stalinist purges. Above all, the party leaders’ family members and relatives were set free, including Molotov’s wife. Soon after Stalin’s death, the anti-Russian manifestations took place in Germany. Beria went to Germany and managed to stop the process practically without any bloodshed. He also raised the question of restoring the German democratic state. That was a fantastically progressive idea and message in terms of normalizing the future alliance and cooperation with the West.

GJ – He had indeed come up with that perfect idea but the implementation of it could not have been completely in Beria’s hands, was it?

SM – True! As it seems, Beria’s statement had reverberated very painfully among the Party bosses. The Soviet military had never liked Beria (this was something very commonplace in the USSR– the military didn’t usually have a lot of liking for the state security people), and the top brass, both party and military, started contemplating a plot against Beria. All this was happening behind his back, but the ‘back’ was probably so close to Beria that the security service could not manage to control the situation. This is just one side of the story. The other side was that it was impossible to suspect anything because the motivation for ousting Beria was practically nonexistent.

GJ – What do you mean there was no motivation?

SM – Just imagine what Beria was suggesting to those people. Molotov was Stalin’s deputy, and his wife was banished. As soon as Stalin died, Beria had Molotov’s wife released from exile, telling Molotov to go to the railways station to pick her up. Beria returned children to their parents, spouses to their other halves and relatives to their families, having set them free from remote exiles. And most importantly, he liberated the party elite from the ever-present fear of repressions. I don’t know, they might have been thinking that Beria was trying to put them off guard by slackening their vigilance purposefully to finally take over the entire power in his own hands.

GJ – That might be true too . . .

SM – I don’t think so. As far as I am concerned, I doubt it strongly. If Beria wanted to be an autonomous ruler he could easily have become one when Stalin died, because there is no doubt that hardly anybody could have hampered him from doing so. Just the contrary, Beria was for the division of power and he did exactly as he thought. This was another mile made towards democracy on his part. Moreover, Beria gave a chance of good and normal life to those, who had lived under unmitigated and unbearable stress in the duration of thirty years because nobody knew when would Stalin’s next whim occur to him to label them with the stigma of ‘the enemy of people’, apprehend them and finally execute them. (Continued in the next article on the same page)

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