Events in the Department of History
On Starlin's Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics
6 August, 2014
We know a lot about Stalin but less about the team – Molotov, Kaganovich, Mikoyan and the rest of a group whose membership was roughly but never quite equivalent to the Politburo – that surrounded him in the Soviet leadership for 25 years. They went with him through collectivization, the Great Purges, the Second World War, and the travails of the postwar period, coming through the purges relatively intact but, in the case of Molotov and Mikoyan, barely surviving Stalin’s attempt to oust them in his last years. There can be no doubt that Stalin was the team’s boss, but what was the function of the rest of the team? Were they just yes men? If so, how do we explain their success, as the new “collective leadership,” in achieving a practically blood-free political transition, complete with a consensus reform programme, when he died?
Sheila Fitzpatrick is Professor of History, University of Sydney, Emerita Professor, University of Chicago