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“always gotten along well" with him), but then offered a highly critical assessment. “Plenum TsK KPSS, oktyabr' 1957 goda, XX Sozyv: Stenogramma vtorogo zasedaniya plenuma TsK KPSS," 28 October 1957 (Strictly Secret), in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 267, LI. 63-64. 89 Ibid., L. 64. 90

"Plenum TSK KPSS, oktyabr' 1957 goda, XX Sozyv: Stenogramma pervogo zasedaniya plenuma TSK KPSS,” 28 October 1957 (Strictly Secret), in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 266, LI. 123-124. 91

See, for example, the speeches recorded in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, Dd. 267, 268, and 269. 92

“Rech tov. N. S. Khrushcheva," LI. 4-5. 93

"Materialy k Protokolu No. 5 zasedaniya plenuma TsK KPSS 2829. 10. 1957 g.,"in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 261. The drafts of the closed letter, "Zakrytoe pis’mo Tsentral'nogo Komiteta KPSS ko vsem partiinym organizatsiyam predpriyatii, kolkhozov, uchrezhdenii, partiinym organizatsiyam Sovetskoi Armii i Flota, k chlenam i kandidatam v chleny Kommunisticheskoi partii Sovetskogo Soyuza,” are found on Ll. 99-1220b.

“Prikaz Ministra oborony SSSR No. 0090, 12 maya 1956 g., O sostoyanii voinskoi distsipliny v Sovetskoi Armii i Voenno-Morskom Flote i merakh po ee ukrepleniyu," 12 May 1956 (Top Secret), signed by G. Zhukov and V. Sokolovskii, in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 261, LI. 31-35. 95

Ibid., L. 32. 96

Herbert Goldhamer, The Soviet Soldier: Soviet Military Management at the Troop Level (New York: Crane, Russak & Company, 1975), pp. 141-169.



was assured as of 25 October, the day before the CPSU Presidium formally approved the measure. See “V Prezidium TsK KPSS,” 25 October 1957 (Secret), from N. Mikhailov, in TsKHSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 261, LI. 45-51. No doubt, other documents, not yet released, will shed greater light on the timing and motives of Khrushchev's actions. 67 "Informatsionnoe soobshchenie o plenume Tsentral'nogo Komiteta KPSS” and “Postanovlenie plenuma TsK KPSS ob uluchshenii partiino-politicheskoi raboty v Sovetskoi Armii I Flote," Pravda (Moscow), 3 November 1957, pp.

1-3. 68

Yu. P. Petrov, Partiinoe stroitelstvo v Sovetskoi Armii i Flote (1918-1961) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1964), pp. 460-462; and Yu. P. Petrov, Stroitelstvo politorganov, partiinykh i komsomol'skikh organizatsii Armii i Flota (1918-1968) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1968), pp. 434-439. 69 “Doklad tov. Suslova M. A.: Ob uluchshenii partiinopoliticheskoi raboty v Sovetskoi Armii i Flote,” 28 October 1957 (Strictly Secret), in "plenum TsK KPSS 28-29 oktyabrya 1957 g., XX Sozyv: Stenogramma pervogo zasedaniya (utrennego)," 27-29 October 1957 (Strictly Secret), in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 266, L. 14.

Marshal S. F. Akhromeev, et al., eds., Voennyi entsiklopedicheskii slovar', 2nd ed. (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1986), p. 146. 71 "Doklad tov. Suslova M. A.," LI. 15-16. 72 Ibid., L. 16. 73

Ibid., L. 21. 74

Ibid. For the letter from Mikhailov, see “V Prezidium Tsk KPSS," as cited in Note 61 supra. When evaluating Mikhailov's letter, it is important to bear in mind that the letter was not written spontaneously. Mikhailov had been instructed by Khrushchev to write such a letter, and his detailed assertions must be judged accordingly. 75

“Doklad tov. Suslova M. A.," LI. 4, 17-18. 76 -Materialy k Protokolu No. 5 zasedaniya plenuma TsK KPSS," L. 72. 77 "Rech' tov. N. S. Khrushcheva,” LI. 60-61. This passage in the verbatim transcript was deleted from the stenographic account. 78 Ibid., L. 61. 79 "Doklad tov. Suslova M. A.," L. 21. 80

Lieut.-General V. M. Chebrikov et al., eds., Istoriya sovetskikh organov gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti, No. 12179, Top Secret (Moscow: Vysshaya Krasnoznamennaya Shkola Komiteta Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, 1977), p. 532 (emphasis added). This lengthy textbook is still classified in Moscow, but a copy was unearthed in Riga by the Latvian scholar Indulis Zalite, who is now head of the Center for Documentation of the Consequences of Totalitarianism, a leading research institute in Riga. He generously allowed me to photocopy it and many other Soviet KGB documents that are currently inaccessible in Moscow. 81 “Plenum TSK KPSS, oktyabr' 1957 goda: Stenogramma tret'ego zasedaniya (utrennego)," in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 266, L. 60. 82 “Rech’tov. N. S. Khrushcheva na plenume TSK KPSS, 29 oktyabrya 1957 g.," 29 October 1957 (Strictly Secret), in “plenum TSK KPSS, oktyabr' 1957 goda: Stenogramma chetvertogo zasedaniya plenuma TsK KPSS,” in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. I, D. 269, L. 45. 83 Ibid., L. 65. This passage in the verbatim transcript was toned down in the final stenographic account.

Ibid., LI. 58-59. 85 “Plenum TSK KPSS 28-29 oktyabrya 1957 g. XX Sozyv: Stenogramma vtorogo zasedaniya," L. 76. 86 “Plenum Tsk KPSS, oktyabr' 1957 goda, XX Sozyv: Stenogramma tret'ego zasedaniya plenuma TsK KPSS, 2829.10.1957 g.," in TsKhSD, F. 2, Op. 1, D. 268, L. 77. 87 See the comments to this effect in "Rech’tov. N. S. Khrushcheva," LI. 5-6. 88 Malinovskii, who had been a first deputy minister during Zhukov's tenure, started his remarks with a positive observation (saying that “he had no ill feelings toward Com. Zhukov” and had


Central Committee Plenums, 1941-1966:

Contents and Implications

By Gael Moullec



ince the collapse of the USSR, the doors of the Soviet archives are partially open to Russian and

foreign researchers and we can say that the balance sheet is, for today, "on the whole, positive.” At the same time, however, faced with the multiplicity and diversity of meticulous scientific publications, the historian has the

1 right to ask: Is Soviet history hiding collections of unedited documents, worthy of publication in full?

In order to better grasp the importance of this question, we must keep in mind the fact that we are studying a system that made a veritable religion of secrecy. Currently, we are only in possession of very weak documentation on Soviet decision-making and on the exact terms of the decrees adopted at the top of the State-Party pyramid. In contrast to historians of France, we have neither an official journal nor a complete anthology of laws. Thus, after five years of a democratic regime, the collection of the joint decisions of the Soviet Central Committee and Council of Ministers is still stamped "for official use" and doesn't include any secret decisions, clearly the most important ones.2 Still more serious, the titles, (let alone the texts) of Politburo resolutions made after 1953 have not yet been declassified and the preparatory materials for these resolutions (notes, reports, etc.) remain inaccessible in the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF).

Happily, in February 1995, the files containing the documents of the plenary sessions of the Central Committee of the VKP(b)-CPSU3 which took place between 1941 and 1966 were declassified and transferred from the APRF to the Center for the Storage of Contemporary Documentation (TsKhSD).4

material to meet the needs of the population. This subject deserves a special study of its own.

These transcripts also offer a view into the innerworkings of the nomenklatura. Personnel changes at the head of the Soviet Party and State resulted in particularly violent settlings of accounts. Strong language was employed to discredit adversaries in the eyes of the Party “Parliament” which at least on paper made the final decision regarding the nomination and dismissal of leaders. Plenum transcripts concerning the dismissal of Beria, the demise of the antiparty group, and the removal of Khrushchev have already appeared in the journal Istoricheskii archiv. Therefore I use as an example the dismissal of Bulganin, decided by the 26 March 1958 plenum without even a hint of discussion. During the 5 September 1958 plenum, Suslov returned to this issue in order to justify this decision, certainly imposed by the Presidium on a Central Committee that possibly still needed convincing.

[The full citation is available on the CWIHP website.)

Another aspect of these transcripts is to present, from the inside, the formulation of Soviet foreign policy. One cannot hope to find in these transcripts "revelations” on the diverse interventions of Soviet troops which adorned the period or on major international crises. These subjects are part of the “private preserve" of the Politburo and they never directly appear in the plenum debates. These documents, however, do furnish us with supplementary information about specifics of Soviet foreign policy. An example of this is the angry altercation given below between Khrushchev and Molotov during the 4-12 July 1955 plenum devoted to the results of the Soviet-Yugoslav discussions. 6

[A chronological classification of plenum files follows and can be found in the CWIHP Electronic Bulletin.]

[The citation is available on the CWIHP website.]

Four major themes run through the plenum materials. The first has to do with major reports about the economic life of the country, especially agricultural reforms. Thus, we note the importance of the plenary session of 23 February to 2 March 1954 dedicated to the development of the "virgin lands" of northern Kazakhstan, of Siberia, of the Altai, and of the southern Urals. Less than a year later, at the 25-31 January 1955 plenum, Khrushchev returned again to the necessity of launching a major campaign to grow corn. In addition to agricultural reform, Khrushchev’s project also emphasized expanding the production of consumer goods. In this respect, the 6-7 May 1958 plenums sanctioned the reorientation of the chemical industry towards the production of synthetic

The question of Soviet-Chinese relations was also broadly discussed during the 13-16 July 1960 plenums on the eve of the withdrawal of Soviet experts from China. [Ed. note: On this, see Chen Jian, “A Crucial Step Toward the Sino-Soviet Schism: The Withdrawal of Soviet Experts from China, July 1960” in CWIHP Bulletin 7, pp. 246250.] More than Suslov's report on the ideological differences between the two parties, it is the statements of Khrushchev which clarified the lack of understanding between Mao and the Soviet leader. 7

Finally, these transcripts also shed some light on more specific questions about the organization of cultural life in the Soviet Union, the circuitous route that a non-conformist manuscript had to follow to be published, and the resistance of certain sectors to all forms of change.

documents would permit us, to borrow the apt expression that Nicolas Werth applied to the 1930s, "to scrape off the many layers of vagueness, of factual error, and of hypotheses based on second-hand accounts, (the very source] on which the history of the USSR had been founded."10

Gael Moullec is Assistant Professor at the Institute of
Political Studies of Paris (IEP-Paris) and Associate
Researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History

[Translated from French by Christa Sheehan Matthew]


Khrushchev: A number of you have most certainly read the novel by Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, published in the last issue of Novyi Min8...

[A few months ago) Comrade Tvardovskii, the editor in chief of Novyi Mir, sent me a letter and the manuscript of this new author, and asked me to read it. I read it, and it seemed to me that it was worth publishing the manuscript. I gave the manuscript to other comrades and asked them to read it. A little while later, I met these comrades and asked

I them their opinion: they were quiet (movement in the room)

They didn't say that they were against it—no, nobody said anything openly—they simply said nothing. But me, the First Secretary, I realized what this really means and I convened them to review the situation.

One discussant said to me, “We should be able to publish it, but there are certain passages ...."

I said to him: “We ban books precisely because they have this type of passage. And if it didn't have such passages, the editor in chief wouldn't have asked our opinion. Which passages bother you?"

-Yes, he said, the (security] organ officials are presented in a bad light.

-What do you want, it was exactly these people who were the executors of the orders and the wishes of Stalin. Ivan Denisovich dealt with them and why would you want him not to talk about it? Moreover, Ivan Denisovich does not have the same sentiment towards all of these people. In this novel, there is also the moment where the captain of the ship, the second rank captain, this Soviet sailor, who finds himself in a camp just because an English admiral sent him a watch as a souvenir, says to the head of the camp, Beria’s henchman: “You don't have the right, you're not a real Soviet, you are not a communist.”

Buinovskii, this communist sailor, speaks on behalf of the prisoners, to a soulless being and calls for justice in calling to mind the high standards of communism. What has to be softened here? If we have to make it milder, and take this away, then nothing will remain of this novel.

Following that, I asked the members of the Presidium to read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and we reached a consensus: we had the same positive opinion of this work as Comrade Tvardovskii ... Why did certain of our comrades fail to understand the positive contribution of Solzhenitsyn's book? Because once more we have before us some people branded by the period of the personality cult, and they haven't yet freed themselves from it, and that's all....9

| See, e.g., Stalin's Letters to Molotov (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1995); Stalinskoe Politbiuro v 30-e gody (Stalin's Politburo During the 1930s) (Moscow, AJRO-XX, 1995); The Special Files" for I. V. Stalin, (Moscow, Blagovest, 1994); N. Werth, G. Moullec, Rapports secrets soviétiques (1921-1991) (Secret Soviet Reports), La société russe dans les documents confidentiels [Russian Society Revealed in Confidential Documents) (Paris: Gallimard, 1994); Neizvestnaia Rossiia XX vek, Arkhivi, Pis 'ma, Memuary, Istoricheskoe nasledie, [The Unknown Russia in the 20th Century: Archives, Letters, Memoirs, Historical Heritage] (Moscow, vol. 1: 1992, vol. 2: 1992, vol. 3: 1993); also the reviews of Istoricheskii arkhiv (Historical Archives] and Istochnik (Sources).

See, e.g., Postanovleniia Soveta Ministrov SSSR za oktiabr' 1981, No. 957-1051. Dlia sluzhebnogo pol’zovaniia [The Decisions of the Soviet Council of Ministers in October 1981) [for official use). Also decisions No. 961 (On Obligatory Insurance) and No. 964 (Nomination of the Vice-Minister of Energy) are in this collection; decisions 962 and 963 are not included. 3 We review here the definitions given by Soviet works: “The Central Committee of the CPSU: supreme organ of the Party in the interval between two congresses. It is elected by the congress. It elects the Politburo of the Central Committee, the Secretariat of the Central Committee, and the Secretary General of the Central Committee.” [Sovetskii Entsiklopeditcheskii Slovar', p. 1483] **Plenum of the Central Committee: plenary meeting of the Central Committee. It meets at least once a semester to resolve the political questions that are of the utmost importance for the Party" [Sovetskii Entsiklopeditcheskii Slovar, p. 1025).

See essay by Mark Kramer in this issue for full list of plenums and fond numbers.

“Poslednaia antipartiinaia gruppa” [The Last Antiparty Group), Istoricheskii arkhiv 2-3-4-5-6 (1993).

TsKhSD, f. 2, op. 1, d. 180, 11. 132-202. A Soviet delegation led by Khrushchev, Bulganin, and Mikoian went to Yugoslavia from 26 May to 3 June 1955. This was the first visit of Soviet leaders since the 1948 rupture of relations between the two countries. On the rupture, see, The Cominform, Minutes of the Three Conferences 1947/1948/1949 (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1994).

TsKhSD, f. 2, op. 1, d. 469.

The novel was published in the journal Novyi mir 11 (November 1962). 9 CC Plenum 19-23 November 1962, TsKhSD, f. 2, op. 1, d. 623, 1. 99ob. 10 See the preface of N. Werth in O. Khlevniuk, The Kremlin's Circle, Stalin and the Politburo in the 1930s.




This brief overview of the broad range of questions raised by these transcripts testifies to their importance for a better understanding of the last four decades of the Soviet Union. Publication and a complete study of this body of

CPSU Plenums, Leadership Struggles,

and Soviet Cold War Politics

by Vladislav M. Zubok


The transcripts of plenums of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is

perhaps the most valuable collection released during the second (after 1991-92) declassification campaign in the Russian archives. Pressure from central media and his approaching re-election campaign made Russian President Boris Yeltsin deliver on his promise to transfer documents of “historical” value from the closed Kremlin archive (now the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation) to the open state archives for public scrutiny and publication. In fulfillment of Yeltsin's decree of September 1994, no less than 20,000 files arrived at the Russian Center for the Study and Preservation of Documents of Contemporary History (RTsKhIDNI) and the Storage Center for Contemporary Documentation (TsKhSD). Among them are the files of CPSU plenary meetings (plenums) declassified in February 1995, organized as “Fond 2," and made available in the fall of 1995 in the TsKhSD reading room. This event brought surprisingly little attention in the press, so several months passed before researchers took notice of it.

The significance and role of CPSU plenums varied dramatically: in the early years of the Bolshevik regime they were reminiscent of the Jacobean club with its lively and sometimes vituperative debates. The Stalin plenums, along with Party congresses, became stages for the orchestrated character assassination of “deviationists,” yet only at the February-March 1937 plenum, the last of any political significance, did Stalin manage to crush the lingering resistance of the Bolshevik political elite to his absolute tyranny and continuing purges. The next

1 plenum known for its political drama took place only in October 1952, when Stalin feigned an attempt to resign, then before the stunned audience he denounced his staunchest, most senior lieutenants, Viacheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoian, and excluded them from a proposed new political structure, the Bureau of the Presidium. 2

In the years after Stalin's death the plenum's importance increased. Stalin's former lieutenants, the oligarchs of the regime, mauled and bruised each other, seeking to change the power balance by appealing to the party and state elites, heads of the central CPSU apparatus, secretaries of regional party committees, leaders of powerful branches of the economic, military and security structures. Khrushchev's son Sergei concluded that “in June 1957 (as a result of the plenum on the “anti-party group"] a totally new correlation of forces emerged. For the first time after many years the apparatus...from passive onlooker became an active participant that defined the balance of power.”3

. In fact, this happened not just in June 1957, but gradually,

as the CC members recognized the importance of their role in demystifying, dislodging, and dismissing formidable oligarchs to the political profit of the half-baffoon N.S. Khrushchev. After Khrushchev's ouster there was yet another period of collective leadership" during which Kremlin infighting continued into the late 1960s, ending only with the victory of Leonid Brezhnev.

The "thirty-year rule" embedded in Russian legislation on secrecy allowed the release of plenum files up to 1966. Most of the documents contain copies of stenographic minutes of discussions that had been sent by the CC General Department to all members of the Secretariat and Politburo as well as other plenum speakers so that they could insert their corrections. After that, additional editing was done by professional editors and the copies were published in bound volumes for internal consumption. It is therefore possible to see to what extent the initial “unvarnished" discussion changed in the process of editing. In general, there was no deliberate policy to distort or excise texts (with a few important exceptions to which I will return later). In quite a few cases some speakers objected to cuts and editorial remarks and reinserted the passages from the verbatim transcripts. The guiding principle in this editorial game was, no doubt, political opportunism and (for some) ideological correctness.

The first important plenum reflecting the power struggle after Stalin's death is the one devoted to the “Beria affair” in July 1953. It was published in 1991 in Vestnik TSK KPSS” [CC CPSU News) and then translated into English and published in the United States by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 4

After Beria's removal the next to fall was Georgii Malenkov who had first slipped in March 1954 when he made a controversial statement in his “electoral” speech that nuclear war might bring about the end of civilization. He was roundly criticized for this by Molotov and Khrushchev. However, this criticism did not leave the narrow confines of the CC Presidium. Only when the fate of Malenkov had been decided by political intrigues and coalition-building, his “sins” became a subject for discussion at the plenum on 31 January 1955. The scenario, like that of the “Beria affair” is easily recognizable: in fact, its prototype had been honed to perfection by Stalin and his assistants during the “party deviations” struggle in the second half of the 1920s. The victorious group, that is Khrushchev and Molotov, revealed, with well-rehearsed indignation, facts and judgments that led them to believe that Malenkov was unfit to occupy the leadership position.

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I viewed this question at that time from a tactical side. I fully understand that defending this view essentially is politically harmful, politically dangerous, incorrect. And I did not adopt such a position. The decision that was passed at that time at the suggestion of comrade Molotov I consider to be the correct one. Bulganin: At that time you thought it was incorrect. Malenkov: In the course of discussion I considered it to be incorrect. Bulganin: You then said: For how long will we feed ourselves with the cud from Molotov's mouth, why do you read Molotov's lips. Malenkov: You must have confused my words with Beriia's. Khrushchev: You simply lack courage even now to admit it, and Bulganin told me about (your words ] exactly at that time. Malenkov: Today I admit that I essentially took a wrong position on the German question.

a peace treaty with Austria and, to a real showdown over Khrushchev's decision to reconcile with Tito's Yugoslavia. Molotov had since 1953 given lip service to the idea of “normalizing state relations” with Yugoslavia, while treating the Tito clique” there as renegades of the communist movement. Khrushchev, however, insisted that there should be an attempt to bring Yugoslavia back into the communist camp. Molotov finally agreed to a trip of the Soviet party-state delegation to Yugoslavia in April 1955, but refused to support the resolution on the results of the visit and, according to his accusers, threatened “to go to the plenum" to explain his dissent, but Khrushchev and

5 his growing camp of supporters pilloried Molotov. Again, in the best traditions of Stalinist politics, everyone had to spit on the fallen leader, only Klement Voroshilov among the Presidium members attempted to protect his old friend Molotov from the pack of party wolves.

The July 1955 plenum was a remarkable discussion, for such a large forum, of underlying principles, aims, and tactics of Soviet foreign policy. Perhaps it was the most extensive airing of such topics for the entire period of the Cold War. Khrushchev defended his initiative on Yugoslavia from two angles-geo-strategic and political: “The United States of America has in mind for a future world war, as in the past war, to let others fight for them (chuzhimi rukami), let others spill blood for them, with the help of equipment supplied to future 'allies. Knowing the combative mood of the Yugoslav people...American top brass considered that the Yugoslavs, along with the Germans, could be a serious force that could be used against the Soviet Union. It is known that in an emergency Yugoslavia is capable of mobilizing from 30 to 40 divisions."

Besides this concern about the Yugoslavs as a factor in the future, Khrushchev evoked memories of World War II, so important for the vast majority of the people in the audience: he indignantly reminded them that the Yugoslav communists were the only force that fought the Nazis right until 1944, only to be rewarded with excommunication from the communist camp in 1948.

28 Although Khrushchev had won the power game against Molotov even before the plenum began, it was not enough. The man had been a member of Lenin's Secretariat and Politburo, the second most respected and visible politician in the Soviet Union for at least two decades— therefore it was necessary to destroy his political authority in the eyes of the elite gathering. The Khrushchev group was prepared to do it by all means, including ideological polemics. Their goal was to prove that Molotov became hopelessly dogmatic and lost touch with the "everevolving and live" ideology of Marxism-Leninism. But the old party horse Molotov was unusually well prepared for this kind of battle and delivered a broadside of Lenin quotations.

In the political discussion about Titoism, Molotov also held strong cards. His main thesis was about the political danger of the Yugoslav version of “nationally-oriented

Most remarkably, the Plenum transcript confirms that two leaders of the ruling triumvirate, and not only Beria, proposed to renounce the slogan of "socialist" Germany. This could hardly be "a confession" of the kind elicited by torture and terror in Stalin's times, although Malenkov must have been filled with dread when placed in the same category with the spy and traitor" Beria, who wanted, according to the verdicts of the July 1953 plenum, to sell the GDR to the imperialists. Hence, his lame explanation that his support of Beria's proposal was dictated only by tactical expediency. (Ed. Note: After all, Malenkov would be the first top leader to be demoted in a non-fatal manner. But there was no way to know of this distinction in advance.]

After just six months of relative peace, infighting within the Presidium spilt over again onto the plenum floor. Khrushchev's growing annoyance with Molotov's seniority and the fact that Molotov was the permanent critic of Khrushchev's foreign and domestic initiatives led to frictions in February-April 1955 over the conclusion of

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