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These efforts by the CCP leaders, far from being limited to the ideological sphere, extend into the sphere of practical politics among socialist countries and Communist parties. In seeking to enervate the unity and cohesion of the socialist commonwealth, the CCP leadership resorts to all manner of tricks and maneuvers to disrupt economic and political relations among the socialist countries and to sow discord in their activities on the international arena. Recently, the fissiparous and subversive actions of the Chinese leaders in the world Communist movement have drastically increased. There is no longer any doubt that Beijing is seeking to achieve a schism among the Communist parties and the creation of factions and groups that are hostile to Marxism-Leninism.
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The tone of Suslov's presentation at this plenum was far more somber than his earlier reports. He even warned of Chinese efforts to stir up unrest in the Soviet Union itself, alluding to a student demonstration that Chinese officials had orchestrated in Moscow in early March 1965 to try, as Suslov put it, to “incite an anti-Soviet hyste
No longer did he hold out any hope that relations with China could be ameliorated. Although Suslov affirmed that “the CPSU Presidium believes it necessary to move ahead patiently without giving in to provocations. . . to show the Chinese people our sincere desire to live with them in friendship,” he acknowledged that "the Chinese leadership has completely rejected all the positive suggestions in the communiqué from the Consultative Meeting.”
The increasingly harsh tone of the speeches given by Suslov and other Soviet leaders at Central Committee plenums provides a valuable way to track the deterioration of Soviet ties with China. After having sought, at the December 1959 plenum, to caution against public denunciations of China, Suslov over time had to embrace the hostile rhetoric that characterized Sino-Soviet relations. This trend corresponded with the shift in bilateral ties from the amity of the mid-1950s to the tensions in the late 1950s to the bitter dispute of the early and mid-1960s. Once the conflict was fully under way, the pronouncements by Suslov and others at the plenums were intended not only to warn about real dangers from China, but also to reassure the Central Committee that the top leaders would not compromise Soviet interests.
Suslov's warning seemed even more pertinent a year later, when Romania's defiance had become more overt. In April 1964 the Romanian government issued a stinging rejection of Khrushchev's scheme for supranational economic integration within the socialist bloc (a scheme that would have relegated Romania to being little more than a supplier of agricultural goods and raw materials for the more industrialized Communist countries).61 From then on, the Romanian authorities began reorienting their foreign trade away from the Soviet Union. By 1965, Romania's divergence from the basic foreign policy line of the Warsaw Pact countries was extending well beyond foreign economic matters. In March 1965, Ceausescu declined to take part in a Consultative Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties in Moscow, which was designed to lay the groundwork for another world conference of Communist parties, following up on the November 1960 session. Romania's refusal to attend was based, at least in part, on China's boycott of the meeting. Soviet leaders had assured Ceausescu and the Chinese authorities that, in the wake of Khrushchev's ouster in October 1964, there was an opportunity to search for "new approaches and new means of achieving unity in the world Communist movement," but neither the Chinese, nor Ceausescu, agreed to take up the offer. Romania's absence from the meeting was conspicuous as the only ruling Communist party other than China and Albania that failed to show up. (Officials from Cuba, North Vietnam, Mongolia, and North Korea all attended, as did representatives of several non-ruling Communist parties.)
At a CPSU Central Committee plenum on 24-26 March 1965, Suslov praised the consultative meeting, but noted regretfully that Romania had not taken part. He then accused the Chinese of trying to sow discord within the Warsaw Pact:
The Zhukov Affair
Normally, the Central Committee was not involved in military policy. That sphere of activity was left to the CPSU Presidium/Politburo, the Defense Council, the Ministry of Defense, and the CPSU CC Administrative Organs Department. Military issues were not brought before the Central Committee even for nominal approval. A partial exception came in late October 1957, when Khrushchev decided to oust Soviet defense minister Marshal Georgii Zhukov from all his senior party and ministerial positions. Khrushchev took this step to consolidate his own power, but the affair inevitably had some bearing on civil-military relations. Although it did not represent an institutional clash between civilian and military authorities (and clearly was not motivated by fears that Zhukov would try to seize power in a coup d'état), it reinforced the norm of the army's subordination to civilian (i.e., Communist Party) control.64
The declassification of the October 1957 plenum materials, amounting to several thousand pages, does not fully dispel the mystery that has long surrounded the Zhukov affair. Just four months earlier, in June 1957,
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The leadership of the CCP not only is directly supporting factional groups in the fraternal countries, but is also saying that “in the future this sort of work must be greatly stepped up." The Chinese leaders declare that their disagreements with the CPSU and the other
Zhukov had sided with Khrushchev against the “AntiParty Group" and had been rewarded for his efforts by being promoted to full membership on the CPSU Presidium. Khrushchev's abrupt shift against Zhukov in October 1957 came as a shock both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The decisive maneuvers to remove Zhukov occurred while the defense minister was on an extended trip to Yugoslavia and Albania in the last few weeks of October, a trip that had been authorized by the CPSU Presidium. When Zhukov began his travels he had no inkling that he was about to be dismissed, as he acknowledged at the plenum:
had been accused of. Nor was it known whether Zhukov had tried to defend himself against the charges. The vast quantity of declassified testimony and supporting documentation introduced at the plenum, beginning with Suslov's opening speech (which outlined all of Zhukov's alleged transgressions), gives a much better sense of what the charges entailed.
For example, it had long been known that Zhukov was denounced for having proposed certain changes in highlevel military organs, but it was not known precisely what his alleged intentions were. The plenum materials indicate that Zhukov was accused of having wanted to abolish the Higher Military Council, a body consisting of all the members and candidate members of the CPSU Presidium as well as all the commanders of military districts, groups of forces, and naval fleets. The Higher Military Council was under the direct jurisdiction of the Defense Council, the supreme
command organ in the USSR, whose existence had not yet been publicly disclosed. According to Suslov's speech at the plenum, Zhukov had refrained from convening the Higher Military Council and had then proposed to disband it. The CPSU Presidium, Suslov added, "rejected the defense minister's unwise pro
Some three weeks ago, when I was instructed to set off for Yugoslavia and Albania, I said goodbye to all the members of the CC [Presidium), or at least to most of them, and we spoke as though we were the closest of friends. No one said a word to me about any problem. ... I was not given the slightest hint that my behavior was somehow deemed improper. Only now are they saying this to me. ... We all parted in such good spirits and warm friendship three weeks ago that it's still hard to believe all this has suddenly happened.
The plenum materials also clarify what Zhukov allegedly wanted to do with the extensive system of Military Councils. Each military district, group of forces, and naval fleet had its own Military Council, which consisted of regional party secretaries as well as senior commanders and political officers from the local military units. The Military Council was responsible for "upholding the constant combat and mobilization readiness of troops, the high quality of combat and political training, and the strictness of military discipline."
According to Suslov, Zhukov wanted to “transform the Military Councils into informal consultative organs under the (military] commanders," a step that supposedly would have relegated the Communist party to a subordinate role in military affairs:
In a remarkably short period of time after Zhukov's departure, Khrushchev arranged with the other Presidium members (and with senior military officers) to deprive the defense minister of all his top posts. The CPSU Presidium formally endorsed the ouster of Zhukov and the appointment of a successor, Marshal Rodion Malinovskii, at a meeting on 26 October, which Zhukov was hastily summoned to attend while he was still in Albania. The announcement of his dismissal and the appointment of Malinovskii as defense minister was carried by the TASS news agency later that day. Only after Zhukov's fate was sealed did Khrushchev convene the Central Committee.
Because the notes from Khrushchev's earlier discussions and from the relevant Presidium meetings (especially the meetings on 19 and 26 October) have not yet been released, key information about Khrushchev's motives in the affair is still unavailable. 66 The plenum documents show only what Khrushchev wanted the Central Committee to hear, not necessarily what he really believed. Nevertheless, the plenum materials do add some intriguing details to previous accounts and, if used circumspectly, shed considerable light on the reasons for Khrushchev's move against his erstwhile ally.
One of the most valuable aspects of the declassified documents, repetitive and turgid though they may be, is that they clarify the allegations against Zhukov. The general case against Zhukov had been known since a few days after the plenum, when summary materials were published in the CPSU daily Pravda.67 Official histories of the Soviet Army's political organs, published in 1964 and 1968, had provided some additional information.68 Even so, a few of the allegations were at best unclear, and in some cases it was not known precisely what Zhukov
It didn't bother Com. Zhukov that the members of the Military Councils in the (military) districts include secretaries of the party's oblast and territorial committees and secretaries of the Central Committees of the union-republic Communist parties. It was perfectly fine with him that the secretaries of oblast committees, territorial committees, and Communist party CCs would be placed under the commanders and not given an equal voice" in the Military Councils.
Suslov emphasized that “the existence of full-fledged Military Councils in no way detracts from the dignity and role of (military) commanders. On the contrary, the Military Councils allow the commanders to be certain that the decisions they make are appropriate."72 Only a “petty tyrant,” Suslov added, would have tried to scale back the Military Councils.
Internal Affairs be replaced by military officers. What lay behind this suggestion? Wasn't it an attempt to fill the leading posts in these organs with his own people, with cadres who would be personally beholden to him? Isn't he seeking to establish his own control over the Committee on State Security and the Ministry of Internal Affairs?79
Another allegation discussed at great length at the plenum was Zhukov's supposed desire to establish a "cult of personality” around himself. One of the main things cited as evidence for this accusation was the efforts that Zhukov allegedly made to highlight the depiction of his own feats in the film “Velikaya bitva” (“The Great Battle"), a documentary about the Battle of Stalingrad. The film had been commissioned in October 1953 to replace the 1943 film “Stalingrad," which was deemed to give undue prominence to Stalin's role in the campaign. The new documentary was completed in early 1957 but was then subject to a number of revisions. At the CPSU Presidium meeting on 26 October, Zhukov insisted that he had not been involved in the production of “Velikaya bitva," but Suslov argued at the plenum that Zhukov's denials “do not correspond to reality."73 Relying on a
” letter from the Soviet minister of culture, Nikolai Mikhailov, which was drafted at Khrushchev's request after the decision to remove Zhukov had been made, Suslov claimed that the defense minister had directly and actively intervened in the film-making” numerous times to “propagandize [his own] cult of personality.”74 Suslov cited a few other items as well—notably, the preparation of an article about World War II for the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, and the majestic depiction of Zhukov in a painting in the Soviet Army Museum—to bolster his claim that “Zhukov was deeply concerned to aggrandize his persona and his prestige, without regard for the interests of the Communist] Party." Having waged “a struggle against the well-known abuses resulting from J. V. Stalin's cult of personality," Suslov declared, “our Party must never again permit anyone to build up a cult of personality in any form whatsoever.”75
Perhaps the most serious allegation put forth by Suslov and Khrushchev was that Zhukov had been trying to “take control of the army away from the party and to establish a one-man dictatorship in the armed forces.”76 Khrushchev argued that there was supposed to be "a division of responsibilities among (senior) members of the party," and that no single official, not even the CPSU First Secretary (much less the defense minister), could take on all the functions of the Central Committee."77 He condemned Zhukov for allegedly having sought to "place everything, the Committee on State Security as well as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, under the Ministry of Defense.” Khrushchev added that if the situation had continued this way “for another month or so”, Zhukov would have been insisting that “the Central Committee, too, must be brought under the jurisdiction of the Ministry
Newly available evidence suggests that this charge was disingenuous, or at least highly misleading. The KGB's own top-secret history of its activities and organization, compiled in 1977, makes no mention of any such effort by Zhukov. On the contrary, the KGB textbook emphasizes that in the mid- and late 1950s "the CPSU Central Committee and the Soviet government” themselves sought to “fill the ranks of the state security organs with experienced party and military personnel" in order to “eliminate the consequences of the hostile activity of Beria and his accomplices.”80 To the extent that military
: officers were brought into the KGB and MVD after 1953, this trend was initiated and encouraged by the top political leadership. (Khrushchev and his colleagues, after all, had learned at the time of Beria's arrest that they could count on Zhukov and other senior military officers to support the CPSU.)
The spuriousness of this particular accusation reflected a more general pattern. As valuable as the plenum materials are in spelling out the case against Zhukov, the main conclusion one can draw from the documents is that the affair was little more than a personal clash between Khrushchev and Zhukov. Despite the sinister veneer that Khrushchev gave (both at the plenum and later on in his memoirs) to Zhukov's actions, the documents leave no doubt that the charges against Zhukov were largely contrived. Zhukov was justified in pointing this out during his first speech at the plenum:
I think we have gathered here not to review individual offenses.... That's not what this is all about. In the end, the question here is political, not juridical. 81
Khrushchev's motive in convening the Central Committee was similar to his (and others') motives in orchestrating the July 1953 plenum to denounce Beria. Rather than acknowledge that the ouster of Zhukov was the latest stage in a consolidation of power, Khrushchev used the October 1957 plenum to suggest that the defense minister had been removed because of genuine concerns about the Communist Party's supervision of the army.
It is true, of course, that numerous problems existed in the Soviet armed forces in 1957, and that the military's political organs were not functioning as well as most officials had hoped. It is also true that Zhukov wanted to enforce stricter discipline in the army by establishing a more orderly chain of command and by mitigating the opportunities for insubordination. And it is true that Zhukov tended to be impatient and abrasive with his
Khrushchev produced no concrete evidence to substantiate these claims, but both he and Suslov specifically accused Zhukov of having sought to establish military jurisdiction over the main security organs:
Com. Zhukov recently proposed that the chairman of the Committee on State Security and the Minister of
colleagues and subordinates (both fellow soldiers and party officials), and that he went along with efforts to play up his own role in World War II. Nevertheless, these deficiencies hardly amounted to a broad indictment of Zhukov's tenure as defense minister. The activities that Suslov claimed were an attempt by Zhukov to establish a "cult of personality" were not at all unusual in the context of Soviet politics. The routine glorification of Khrushchev in the late 1950s far exceeded anything that Zhukov may have been promoting for himself. Similarly, most of the other problems that were highlighted at the plenum, both in the armed forces as a whole and in the political organs, had long existed. Zhukov may have marginally worsened a few of these problems, but he also seems to have rectified certain key deficiencies, notably by boosting morale and increasing the combat readiness of frontline units. During the one major operation that Zhukov oversaw as defense minister, the large-scale intervention in Hungary in November 1956, Soviet troops accomplished their mission within a few days despite encountering vigorous armed resistance from Hungarian insurgents.
The flimsiness of the allegations against Zhukov undoubtedly accounts for Khrushchev's decision to raise questions about Zhukov's military abilities and accomplishments. Although Khrushchev and Suslov both claimed that they "deeply value Com. Zhukov's performance during the Great Patriotic War," they also wanted to ensure that Zhukov's legendary reputation and stature would not cause members of the Central Committee to be hesitant about criticizing him. To this end, Khrushchev downplayed Zhukov's role in World War II by arguing that Vasilii Chuikov, not Zhukov, was the “chief hero" of the Stalingrad campaign. Khrushchev also rebuked Zhukov for dwelling solely on the positive aspects of his military career:
flights over one another's territory to monitor compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements. Khrushchev averred that the other members of the Presidium were startled to learn that "the defense minister, of all people, could have favored such a thing,” and they “reacted with heated protests against Zhukov's proposal. Khrushchev's efforts to impugn Zhukov's “adventurist" positions on the most important foreign policy issues facing the Soviet Union" (in the phrasing of the plenum resolution) were not altogether different from the attempts in July 1953 to portray Beria's alleged views about Germany in the most unsavory light possible.
Despite the many similarities between the October 1957 plenum and the July 1953 plenum, there was one fundamental difference. Unlike Beria, who was held in prison during the July 1953 sessions and executed five months later, Zhukov was given the opportunity to speak twice at the October 1957 plenum and to interject comments from time to time during others' remarks. His first speech came after the main allegations against him had been laid out, and his second, much briefer (and more contrite) statement came just before Khrushchev's lengthy speech at the fourth session of the plenum, on the evening of October 29. On neither occasion did Zhukov project an air of angry defiance or even take as firm a stand as Molotov did in July 1955, but he defended his record at some length and rebutted the most lurid accusations against him. Overall, he left no doubt that he strongly disagreed with the grounds for his dismissal. At the same time, Zhukov had decided beforehand that it would be best if he accepted responsibility for certain “mistakes" (whether real or not) and indicated his willingness to comply with the party's wishes:
I request that you understand that (my) mistakes were not the result of any sort of deviation from the line of the party, but were the sorts of mistakes that any working official might make. I assure you, comrades (and I think I will receive appropriate support in this regard), that with the help of our party I will be able, with honor and dignity, to overcome the mistakes I have committed, and I absolutely will be a worthy figure in our party. I was and always will be a reliable member of the party.
Amplifying on this point later on, Khrushchev declared that “our (other) generals and marshals know at least as much as Zhukov does, and perhaps much more, about military organization and the other military sciences. Com. Zhukov has only a poor understanding of the latest technology."83
In addition to expressing doubts about Zhukov's military prowess, Khrushchev alleged that Zhukov had advocated certain foreign policy steps that "bordered on treason." In particular, Khrushchev claimed that Zhukov "wrote a memorandum to the party's Central Committee recommending that we accept (the U.S. government's "Open Skies' proposal," which would have entitled the United States and the Soviet Union to fly reconnaissance
Zhukov's willingness to acknowledge unspecified shortcomings reinforced the long-standing pattern of civilmilitary relations in the Soviet Union. If the most renowned figure in the Soviet armed forces was willing to submit himself to the discipline of the Communist Party, the norm of civilian supremacy was clearer than ever.
This is not to suggest, however, that the affair was in any way an institutional clash between the party and the military. On the contrary, the declassified plenum materials show, more strongly than ever, that the Zhukov affair was not a confrontation between civilian officials and military commanders. During the plenum, senior military
even the officers who had known Zhukov the longestMarshal Semyon Budennyi, Marshal Ivan Konev, and Marshal Sergei Biryuzov, among others-disavowed their past ties with him. 91 After one of the speakers on the first day of the plenum referred to the "special friendship between Com. Konev and Marshal Zhukov," Konev spoke with Khrushchev and sent a note to the CPSU Presidium insisting that it would be a "profound mistake to believe I was ever particularly close to Zhukov.” Konev’s denials prompted Khrushchev to begin his own speech at the plenum by “correcting the record” along the lines that Konev sought:
officers went out of their way to emphasize that Khrushchev “is not only First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, but is also chairman of the Defense Council," a position equivalent to commander-in-chief of the Soviet armed forces. 86 Although it is now clear that General A. S. Zheltov, the chief political officer in the Soviet Army in 1957, was instrumental in pressing for Zhukov's ouster, a substantial number of career military officers were also behind the move. (The plenum documents suggest that Zheltov resented Zhukov mainly because Zheltov had been left off the Central Committee at the 20th Party Congress in 1956, an omission that Zheltov evidently blamed on Zhukov. 87) Zheltov's report at the CPSU Presidium meeting on October 19 was a catalyst for the final actions to remove Zhukov, but it is clear that the preliminary maneuvering had begun well before then, with the involvement of senior military commanders. Khrushchev was able to secure a political-military consensus on the need to dismiss Zhukov.
The lack of any civilian-military disagreements on this issue is well illustrated by the plenum itself, where not a single military officer spoke in defense of Zhukov. The norm of subordination to party control outweighed any inclination that senior commanders might have had to speak even mildly in favor of the deposed minister. 88 All of Zhukov's military colleagues and subordinates joined with Khrushchev and Suslov in denouncing Zhukov's alleged efforts to foster a "cult of personality" and to “take control of the army away from the party.” Zhukov's successor, Malinovskii, expressed regret that Zhukov had allowed problems in the military to become so acute that the Central Committee was forced to step in to resolve matters:
We don't have any basis for suggesting that Com. Konev's past relationship with Com. Zhukov should cast any sort of pall on Com. Konev. Com. Konev is a member of the CPSU CC and a long-time member of the party, and he always was a loyal member of the party and a worthy member of the CPSU CC. He remains so now.
Comrades, we military officers are very glad that the plenum of the Central Committee is discussing the matter of strengthening party-political work in the Soviet Army and Navy. On the other hand, it is regrettable that we, as military officers and members of the party, have reached the point where the Central Committee itself has been compelled to intervene in this matter. 89
By highlighting Konev's eagerness to renounce his previous ties with Zhukov, Khrushchev underscored the consensus against the deposed minister and let the full Central Committee see that, despite Zhukov's misdeeds, high-ranking military officers were no different from other "true Communists" in placing party loyalty above personal relationships.
One final point worth mentioning about the October 1957 plenum is the valuable light it sheds on the state of the Soviet armed forces in the mid- to late 1950s. Intriguing information about this matter can be found not only in the proceedings, but in the collection of documents associated with the plenum. These documents consist mainly of various drafts of the plenum resolution and the “Closed Letter” that was eventually distributed to all CPSU members about the Zhukov affair. 93 The letter itself adds nothing to the many charges outlined at the plenum, but one of the other documents released to the Central Committee, a top-secret “Order of the USSR Minister of Defense,” signed by Zhukov and the chief of the Soviet General Staff, Marshal Vasilii Sokolovskii, on 12 May 1956, provides an interesting assessment of "the state of military discipline in the Soviet Army and Navy" in the mid-1950s.94 Zhukov and Sokolovskii highlighted problems in the Soviet armed forces that seem remarkably similar to many of the ills afflicting today's Russian armed forces:
Even military officers who had benefited greatly during Zhukov's tenure, such as Fleet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, who had been appointed commander-in-chief of the Soviet navy in 1956, argued that Zhukov's "leadership of the ministry has created an extremely agonizing, oppressive, and distasteful situation, which is totally at odds with party and Leninist principles of leadership.” Gorshkov insisted that Zhukov "regards himself as absolutely infallible” and “refuses to tolerate views different from his own, often reacting with uncontrolled rage, invective, and abuse."90 Other officers expressed
. , even stronger criticism, doing their best to side completely with the party hierarchy.
So clear was the party's dominance of the military that
Both the army and the navy are plagued by a huge number of crimes and extraordinary incidents, of which the most serious dangers are posed by: cases of insubordination to commanders and, what is particularly unacceptable in the army, the voicing of insults to superiors; outrageous behavior by servicemen vis-àvis the local population; desertion and unexplained leaves of absence by servicemen; and accidents and