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Stalin's Plan to Assassinate Tito

[Co-editor's Note: The following excerpt is from a document, discovered and published by Russian military historian Dmitrii Volkogonov (1928-1995) in the Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation in Moscow, outlining various options to assassinate the Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito with the help of losif Romualdovich Grigulevich alias Max,” a Soviet agent who had been involved earlier in operations to kill Trotskii and later became a historian and corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The document, classified as top secret and prepared in the Ministry of State Security (MGB), was addressed personally to Stalin (in its only copy). While, according to Volkogonov, Stalin did not indicate his authorization of the operation on the document, it is likely that he approved of it since preliminary preparations began. Grigulevich, for example, had to write a "farewell letterto his wife to cover up Soviet government involvement in case the assassination failed. Following Stalin's death in March 1953, however, the operation was terminated.]

among the crowd, allowing “Max” to escape and cover up all traces.

3. To use one of the official receptions in Belgrade to which members of the diplomatic corps are invited. The terrorist act could be implemented in the same way as the second option, to be carried out by “Max” who as a diplomat, accredited by the Yugoslav government, would be invited to such a reception.

In addition, to assign “Max” to work out an option whereby one of the Costa Rican representatives will give Tito some jewelry in a box, which when opened would release an instantaneously-effective poisonous substance.

We asked Max to once again think the operation over and to make suggestions on how he could realize, in the most efficient way, actions against Tito. Means of contact were established and it was agreed that further instructions would follow.

It seems appropriate to use “Max” to implement a terrorist act against Tito. “Max's” personal qualities and intelligence experience make him suitable for such an assignment. We ask for your approval."

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“The MGB USSR requests permission to prepare a terrorist act (terakt) against Tito, by the illegal agent *Max'," Comrade I.R. Grigulevich, a Soviet citizen and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union since 1950 ([biographical] information attached). 1

“Max” was placed in Italy on a Costa Rican passport, where he was able to gain the confidence and enter the circles of South American diplomats as well as wellknown Costa Rican political and trade figures visiting Italy.

Using these connections, “Max”, on our orders, obtained an appointment as the special plenipotentiary of Costa Rica in Italy and Yugoslavia. In the course of his diplomatic duties, in the second half of 1952, he visited Yugoslavia twice. He was well received there, with entrée into circles close to Tito's clique; he was promised a personal audience with Tito. “Max's” present position offers us opportunities to carry out active measures (aktivnye deistviia) against Tito.

In early February of this year, we summoned “Max” to Vienna for a secret meeting. While discussing options, “Max” was asked how he thought he could be most useful, considering his position. "Max" proposed some kind of active measure against Tito personally.

In relation to this proposal, there was a discussion with him (Max] about how he imagined all of this and as a result, the following options for a terrorist act against Tito were presented.

1. To order "Max" to arrange a private audience with Tito, during which a soundless mechanism concealed in his clothes would release a dose of pulmonary plague bacteria that would guarantee death to Tito and all present. "Max" himself would not be informed of the substance's nature, but with the goal of saving "Max's" life, he would be given an anti-plague serum in advance.

2. In connection with Tito's expected visit to London, to send “Max” there to use his official position and good personal relations with the Yugoslav ambassador in England, [Vladimir] Velebit, to obtain an invitation to the expected Yugoslav embassy reception in Tito's honor.

The terrorist act could be accomplished by shooting with a silent mechanism concealed as a personal item, while simultaneously releasing tear gas to create panic

(Published on 11 June 1993 in Izvestiia. Translated by Natasha Shur (CWIHP)]

Dmitrii A. Volkogonov (1928-1995) was a prominent Russian military historian. For several years, Volkogonov headed the Institute of Military History of the Soviet Army and since 1991 chaired a special parliamentary commission which oversees the handling of the former Soviet archives. His numerous publications include Iosif Stalin: Triumf i tragedija (Moscow, 1989) and Lenin: Politicheskii portret (Moscow, 1994).

1 Not printed.

The Turn in Soviet-Yugoslav Relations, 1953-55

By Andrei Edemskii

Between the spring of 1953 and July 1955, relations with Yugoslavia changed sharply from collaborating with Yugoslavia “as a bourgeois country" (May 1953) to Mikoian's May 1955 toast with Yugoslav leaders to the “prosperity of Yugoslavia.” Unfortunately, the correspondence carried out in 1954 and early 1955 between the central committees of the two ruling parties is not available in the archives. Other documents, however, can illuminate the earlier stages of the shift. Below, two Foreign Ministry internal reports prepared by M. Zimianin in May 1953 and October 1954 illustrate the radical change of opinion reached at the 31 May 1954 Presidium meeting in which the need to foil the “anti-Soviet plans of the Anglo-American imperialists and to use all means to strengthen our influence over the

Yugoslav people” prevailed, opening the door to rapprochement. (Ed. Note: N. Bulganin discussed this decision and the ostensible resistance to it by Molotov and the Foreign Ministry during the July 1955 plenums, excerpted in this CWIHP Bulletin)

About the Situation in Yugoslavia and

its Foreign Policy

To Comrade V. M. Molotov

Top Secret The internal policy of the Tito clique, after breaking with the USSR and peoples' democratic countries, aimed at restoring capitalism in Yugoslavia, at the liquidation of all the democratic accomplishments of the Yugoslav people, and at the fascistization of the state and army personnel

In foreign policy, the efforts of the ruling circles of Yugoslavia aim at broadening economic and political ties with capitalist states, first and foremost with the USA and England. This has made Yugoslavia dependent on them and has drawn it [Yugoslavia) into aggressive blocs organized by the Anglo-American imperialists....

duced serious positive results, has increased the influence of the USSR among the peoples of Yugoslavia, has helped explode the aggressive, anti-Soviet plans of the USA in the Balkans, and made difficult the actions of anti-Soviet elements in Yugoslavia itself.

At the same time it is impossible not to see that the Yugoslav ruling circles have normalized with the USSR within the bounds of their self-interest...

Under the given conditions, it seems appropriate to put forward measures for the further development of Soviet-Yugoslav relations that would force the Yugoslav government to come closer to the USSR and the peoples' democracies.

We make the following proposals.

To poll (zondazh) the Yugoslav government regarding joint action with the USSR against US plans to draw Italy and the Balkan Union into a broadening of anti-Sovietism in the region. To clarify the position of the Yugoslav government on establishing diplomatic relations with the GDR.

If the test (results of the Yugoslav government on two or three major foreign policy questions are positive, this will be an important condition towards the resurrection of the Treaty on Friendship and Mutual Aid between the USSR and Yugoslavia (of 1945).

27 May 1953

(Source: AVP RF f. 06, op. 12a, por. 74, pap. 617, II. 7-12. Translated by David Wolff]

On Recent Yugoslav Foreign Policy

(second half of 1954)

21 October 1954
Head of the IV European Sector of the Foreign Ministry


(Source: AVPRF f. 021, op. 8-a, por. 184, pap. 11, II. 16-21. Translated by David Wolff]

Yugoslavia's foreign policy measures in the second half (July-October) of this year have been dictated, as far as can be judged by sources, by the government's attempt to strengthen the country's position by improving relations with the countries of the capitalist camp and by normalizing relations with the USSR and other countries of the democratic camp...

The (Fourth European] Sector (of the Foreign Ministry) considers it possible to come preliminarily to the following conclusions and proposals:

Andrei Edemskii, a former CWIHP fellow, is a researcher at the Institute of Slavonic and Balkan Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Soviet Union's policy on Yugoslavia has pro

Soviet-Yugoslav Relations and the

Hungarian Revolution of 1956

By Leonid Gibianskii

[Co-editor's Note: The following essay by Leonid Gibianskii, a senior researcher at the Institute of Slavonic and Balkan Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and coeditor (with Norman Naimark] of The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949, introduces a fascinating set of documents on Yugoslav-Soviet relations in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Hungary on 4 November 1956. Though the immediate concern was the fate of Imre Nagy, the reform communist leader of the Hungarian Revolution, who had fled to the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest, the documents make clear that both Moscow and Belgrade were aware that more fundamental issues in the Soviet-Yugoslav relationship were at stake. The full version of Gibianskii's essay, which was abbreviated for this introduction, can be found in the CWIHP Electronic Bulletin (cwihp.si.edu). The documents printed below were obtained by the National Security Archive and CWIHP and translated by Benjamin Aldrich-Moodie. Additional documents may be found in the CWIHP Electronic Bulletin.)



uch has been written about Soviet-Yugoslav relations with respect to the Hungarian Revolu

tion. Even during the unfolding of the events themselves and the immediately following period, this subject became a topic of discussion in mass media channels and in the press. Later it was touched upon to a lesser or greater degree in the historiography. However, in both cases, this was done, as a rule, on the basis of only those facts which were available from public Soviet or Yugoslav declarations and actions. The behind-the-scenes side of the relations between Moscow and Belgrade regarding the 1956 events in Hungary remained hidden long afterwards: both sides, each for its own reasons, preferred to keep this secret. 1

The curtain of secrecy was partially lifted in the 1970s, first when Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs, which had been written, or, more precisely, recorded by him against the will of the Soviet Union after his removal from power,2 were published in the West; and secondly in

: Yugoslavia, where, not without obstacles, the memoirs of Veljko Micunovic, who had been the Yugoslav ambassador to the USSR during the 1956 Hungarian crisis, came to light.3 These publications contained some previously unknown evidence about secret Soviet-Yugoslav contacts in connection with the development of the revolution in Hungary and its suppression by Soviet troops. However, despite the importance of the publication of this evidence, it was very incomplete, and in a series of cases, imprecise, as a result of the political-ideological prejudices of each of the authors, but also because the disgraced Khrushchev, deprived of the chance to refer to documents, was sometimes betrayed by his memory, while Micunovic, who had his daily notes at his disposal, had to stay within the confines of the official Yugoslav version of the time in his

depictions of Belgrade's policy.

Only since the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet and Eastern European communist regimes, has the opportunity arisen for the first time to examine previously unavailable archival materials. In particular, I researched a number of aspects of this subject using documents from Yugoslav and Russian (former Soviet) archives. In addition, a significant number of relevant Russian, Yugoslav, and Hungarian archival documents have been published.5 This article is based on both already published materials as well as unpublished documents from Moscow and Belgrade archives. 6

Moscow's and Belgrade's concern towards the Hungarian revolution both differed and coincided simultaneously. Recently-released documents, including those contained in the aforementioned publications, leave no doubt that the Soviet leadership viewed the events in Hungary from the very beginning as a deeply threatening event, which had to be stopped at all costs. For this reason, the Soviets decided on 23 October and again on 31 October to move troops into Budapest. 8 The Yugoslav situation with regard to the Hungarian revolution was more difficult. Belgrade was not at all interested in preserving Moscow's ultra-conservative henchmen (Matyas Rakosi and Erno Gerö) and the severe Soviet mandate in Hungary. To the contrary, the relative liberalization of the regime and the weakening of Soviet control in a neighboring country could open the relatively alluring prospect of the emergence, alongside Yugoslavia, of another similar Communist country standing outside of the Soviet bloc or at least significantly independent from the Kremlin. However, while the Yugoslav leadership’s conception of the permissible changes in their neighboring

country was somewhat broader than the far more conser- ately and without reservations expressed his agreement vative conceptions of the Kremlin rulers, it could approve with this plan, since, in his opinion, the Hungarian events of liberalization in Hungary only to the degree that it did had gone in the direction of “counter-revolution."15 True, not threaten the existence of communist power there. Steps later, when the suppression of the Hungarian revolution by taken by Belgrade at the very beginning of November the Soviet troops elicited widespread disappointment and were a reflection of this ambiguous position.

condemnation from throughout the world, the Yugoslav Judging by its actions, the Soviet leadership consid- leadership, in a secret memorandum to Moscow, mainered the Yugoslav position to some extent ambiguous. tained that at the Brioni meeting it had accepted the Soviet Having decided on October 31 to militarily intercede again plan with reservations, as a "lesser evil,” since Khrushchev and to replace Nagy's government with a new government and Malenkov had declared that no other means existed for subservient to Moscow, the CC CPSU Presidium believed preventing the restoration of capitalism in Hungary. it necessary to hold talks regarding the impending military However, from the very same memorandum, it followed strike with Tito, the leaders of Bulgaria, Romania, and that Yugoslav reservations did not at all call into question Czechoslovakia (the agreement of which was never in the undertaking of military actions, but instead stressed the doubt) and with the new leadership in Poland. 9 The goal importance of taking care to insure that the costs of pursued by the Kremlin was obvious: afraid that Tito and "preserving socialism" to be incurred by the punitive Wladyslaw Gomulka might condemn the impending measures employed by the Soviet forces should be held to military action, Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev tried to a minimum. In essence, Tito stated in his correspondence incline them through direct negotiation toward some sort that the Soviet leadership should “normalize" the situation of agreement with it, using the argument that a counter- in Hungary not solely by military force but by accompanyrevolution had taken the upper hand in Hungary, threaten- ing simultaneous political measures to create a suitable ing the complete liquidation of socialist development and Hungarian government with Kadar at its head, which the establishment of Western control there. As is made would consist of people who had not been compromised clear in Khrushchev's memoirs, this very argument was set under Rakosi and were capable of uniting the forces out at the secret meeting of Khrushchev and CC CPSU supporting the "continuing progress of socialism.”:16 This Presidium members Viacheslav Molotov and Georgii accorded with the intentions of Moscow, which had Malenkov with Gomulka and the premier of the Polish already been planning such a step and of which government, Juzef Tsirankevich in Brest on November 1. Khrushchev and Malenkov immediately informed their However, they could not convince Gomulka of the

Yugoslav counterparts. necessity of implementing the Soviet plan. 10 With even

From the memoirs of Khrushchev and Micunovic as greater disquiet, Khrushchev and Malenkov went on to the well as the subsequent secret correspondence between meeting with Yugoslav leader Josip Tito, 11 expecting, in Moscow and Belgrade, it is clear that there were certain Khrushchev's words, that it would be still more compli- differences in the positions of Soviet and Yugoslav cated. 12 But despite this expectation, quite the opposite participants at the meeting. The Yugoslav side especially occurred.

stressed that the government had to condemn the regime of The secret meeting in Tito's residence on Brioni island Rakosi-Gerö, and put forth a program for surmounting the which took place on the night of November 2-3 and at "Stalinist inheritance" and “reforming socialism," using which Tito, together with his assistants Edvard Kardelj and the support of recently-emerged worker councils in Aleksandr Rankovich and in the presence of ambassador Hungary.18 Although the Soviet notions of acceptable Micunovic, conducted negotiations with Khrushchev and parameters for “reform" were significantly narrower than Malenkov, was until recently known about partly from the Yugoslav, judging by the documents, they did not Khrushchev's memoirs, but for the most part from

object to these proposals. As for the selection of people for Micunovic's memoirs. According to the latter's testimony, the government in question, Khrushchev expressed his there were no records made during the meeting, but

support for the candidacy of Ferenc Munnich as prime afterwards he set down the contents from memory.

minister, while the Yugoslav side leaned more toward one of the documents of the former CC LCY archive, the Kadar. In addition, the Yugoslavs favored including in the existence of this record was mentioned, but I was not able government certain persons close to Nagy. According to to locate it. 14 Clearly it was the basis for the account of Micunovic, Geza Losonczy and Pal Maleter were menthe Brioni meeting in Micunovic's memoirs. But from tioned. Khrushchev also noted the Yugoslav selection of other archival materials it becomes clear that the memoirs candidates in his memoirs, but, without remembering their do not include much that was discussed. Both Khrushchev names, maintained that both were rejected as unacceptand Micunovic relate the following basic results of the meeting: when the high ranking Soviet visitors informed From the subsequent secret Soviet-Yugoslav correthe Yugoslav side of the Kremlin's decision to employ spondence it becomes clear that the Yugoslav agreement military force in Hungary again in order to replace the with the proposed Soviet military intervention was Nagy government and to "defend socialism," Tito, to the accompanied at the Brioni meeting with an agreement to "pleasant surprise” of Khrushchev and Malenkov, immedi- give political assistance to the Soviet troops and in the

13 In

able. 19


replacement of Nagy with a “revolutionary worker-peasant agreed upon with Khrushchev, they contacted Nagy. But government.” Until recently, such an agreement was neither Tito nor Kardelj explained what exactly had been essentially unknown. It is not mentioned in Khrushchev's undertaken. In correspondence, Tito only tied the memoirs, while Micunovic's memoirs contain only an Yugoslav actions to the talks which had been conducted unclear suggestion that the meeting included a discussion since November 2 between the Yugoslav diplomatic of the question of Yugoslav efforts to try to see whether mission in Budapest and Nagy's close collaborator Zoltan something can be done with Nagy.” Micunovic did not Santo, who came with the request that, in the event of the explain what was meant by this, noting only that they had threat of an anti-communist pogrom, he and a few other in mind “using influence on Nagy in order to minimize communists from the government and party leadership, casualties and unnecessary bloodshed" and that the Soviet created to replace the collapsed HWP, be allowed to take participants expressed a special interest in this.20 It refuge at the embassy.25 From documents it is clear that becomes clear from the correspondence that the Yugoslavs, the envoy Soldatic inquired from Belgrade with regard to before the start of Soviet actions, were to try to convince Santo's request and received an answer on November 3 Nagy as well as his closest supporters from in the govern- that refuge would be given.26 However, apart from this ment to resign.21

exchange, references to Nagy or, more importantly, his In my earlier published work, I noted that Nagy's resignation, were not found. Nor did Tito say anything resignation from the post of prime minister would, under concrete in his later correspondence with Moscow. these circumstances, signal his government's liquidation; Whatever the case may be, when at dawn on Novemand this, in turn, would have created such a political and ber 4 Soviet troops began actions to suppress the revolulegal vacuum that in such conditions the self-declaration of tion and overthrow the Nagy government, the latter not a new government, created under Soviet aegis, would not only did not resign, but, to the contrary, broadcast an have seemed like a direct overthrow of the previous announcement on the radio condemning the Soviet government and the Soviet intervention itself would not intervention as illegal and then, with a large group of have been formally directed against a recognized Hungar- supporters, including Santo, took refuge at the Yugoslav ian government. That is why the Soviet participants at the mission. With this, the events took a turn directly contrary meeting expressed such an interest in agreeing with to what had been anticipated at the time of the Brioni Yugoslavia to combine their actions with Nagy's resigna- meeting. Belgrade, having been informed of what had tion.22 In contrast to Micunovic's memoirs, from which it happened by Soldatic, found itself in a ticklish situation.27 may be concluded that his question was discussed at

Intent on escaping from this extremely uncomfortable Soviet initiative, it follows from the aforementioned position, the Yugoslav leadership on November 4 informed Soviet-Yugoslav correspondence that such was the

the Soviets of what had transpired and affirmed that proposal of the Yugoslavs themselves.23 Of course, there Yugoslavia would attempt to influence Nagy to retract his is room for the possibility that the two may have over- recent statement and, to the contrary, make a statement of lapped. In any case, the Yugoslav promise would have his support for the Kadar government.28 At the same time, been in practice, had it been realized, an aid in camouflag- Soldatic received instructions to try to convince Nagy of ing the Soviet intervention and armed suppression of the this and to prevent him and members of his group from Hungarian revolution. This character of the Soviet

carrying out any kind of activity and establishing any kind Yugoslav understanding was acknowledged, obviously, by of contact outside the diplomatic mission.29 However, the the Yugoslav participants in the negotiations at Brioni, Soviet leadership immediately replied on November 4 that insofar as they, as it follows from the archival documents, in light of the new situation (i.e., in which Nagy's governdid not show a particular desire to enlighten their col- ment was already overthrown by military force and the leagues in the Yugoslav leadership about it. Judging by creation of the Kadar government already announced), it the minutes of the meeting of the executive committee of considered an address by Nagy to be unnecessary and the CC LCY on November 6, at which Tito informed the proposed that Belgrade hand Nagy and his group over to rest of the members of this higher party organ about the Soviet troops. They, in turn, would hand them over to Brioni meeting, the Yugoslav leader preferred to remain Kadar's government. 30 Evidently in order to achieve a silent about the said understanding 24

quicker extradition of Nagy and the rest, on November 5, The Yugoslav side, however, did not fulfill its prom- Khrushchev and Malenkov sent a telegram to Tito, ise. The documents on which I was able to conduct

Rankovic, and Kardelj which spoke of the successful research do not clarify the reasons for this. In the subse- suppression of the "counter-revolution” in Hungary and quent correspondence with Soviet leadership, Tito in emphasized that this action had been undertaken in accord general tried to assure Moscow that the Yugoslav side with what had been agreed to at Brioni and that the results started to act immediately according to the agreement and of this conference had made the most positive impression undertook corresponding efforts in Budapest in the second on the CC CPSU Presidium 31 half of November, but were unable to achieve concrete

The Soviet demands put Belgrade in a dead-end results. Kardelj informed the Soviet ambassador in

situation: on the one hand, the Yugoslav leadership by no Belgrade, Nikolai Firiubin, that on November 4, as was means wanted to argue with Moscow, while on the other

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