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Lazar Kaganovich
Ла́зарь Кагано́вич
File:Lazar Kaganovich.jpg
First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union

In office
5 March 1953 – 29 June 1957
Premier Georgy Malenkov
Nikolai Bulganin
Nikita Khrushchev
Preceded by Lavrentiy Beria
Succeeded by Anastas Mikoyan
First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine

In office
3 March 1947 – 26 December 1947
Preceded by Nikita Khrushchev
Succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev

In office
7 April 1925 – 14 July 1928
Preceded by Emanuel Kviring
Succeeded by Stanislav Kosior
People's Commissar for Transport of the Soviet Union

In office
26 February 1943 – 20 December 1944
Premier Joseph Stalin
Preceded by Andrey Andreyev
Succeeded by Alexei Bakulin

In office
5 April 1938 – 25 March 1942
Premier Vyacheslav Molotov
Joseph Stalin
Preceded by Aleksei Bakulin
Succeeded by Andrei Khrliov

In office
28 February 1935 – 22 August 1937
Premier Vyacheslav Molotov
Preceded by Andrei Khruliov
Succeeded by Ivano Kovaliov
Personal details
Born Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich
(1893-11-22)22 November 1893
Kabany, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 25 July 1991(1991-07-25) (aged 97)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich (Russian: Ла́зарь Моисе́евич Кагано́вич; 22 November [O.S. 10 November] 1893 – 25 July 1991) was a Soviet politician and administrator and one of the main associates of Joseph Stalin. At his death in 1991, he was the last surviving Old Bolshevik, almost outliving the existence of the Soviet Union itself.

Early life

Kaganovich was born in 1893 to Jewish parents in the village of Kabany, Radomyshl uyezd, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire (now named Dibrova, Poliske Raion, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine). Early in his political career, in 1915, Kaganovich became a Communist organizer for a shoe factory where he worked.

In 1911, he enlisted with the Bolshevik party (his older brother Mikhail Kaganovich was already a member). Later in 1915, Kaganovich was arrested and sent back to Kabany. During March–April 1917, he was the Chairman of the Tanners Union and the vice-chairman of the Yuzovka Soviet. In May 1917, he became the leader of the military organization of Bolsheviks in Saratov, and in August 1917, he became the leader of the Polessky Committee of the Bolshevik party in Belarus. During the October Revolution, he was the leader of the revolt in Homel.

Communist functionary

In 1918, Kaganovich acted as Commissar of the propaganda department of the Red Army. From May 1918 to August 1919, he was the Chairman of the Ispolkom of the Nizhny Novgorod gubernia. In 1919–1920, he was governor of the Voronezh gubernia. From 1920 to 1922, he was in Turkmenistan, where he was one of the leaders of the Bolshevik struggle against local Muslim rebels (basmachi) and also commanded the succeeding punitive expeditions against local opposition.

In May 1922, Stalin became the General Secretary of the Communist Party and immediately transferred Kaganovich to his apparatus to command the Organizational Department or Orgburo of the Secretariat. This department was responsible for all assignments within the apparatus of the Communist Party. Working there, Kaganovich helped to place Stalin's supporters in important jobs within the Communist Party bureaucracy. In this position, he was noted for his great work capacity and personal loyalty to Stalin. He stated publicly that he would execute absolutely any order from Stalin, which at that time was a novelty.[citation needed]

In 1924, Kaganovich became a member of the Central Committee. From 1925 to 1928, Kaganovich was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Ukrainian SSR. He was given the task of "ukrainizatsiya", the task of creating Ukrainian communist popular cadres. He was also given the task of implementation of collectivization and the policy of economic suppression of the kulaks (wealthier peasants). He was opposed to the more moderate policy of Nikolai Bukharin who argued in favor of the "peaceful integration of kulaks into socialism." In 1928, due to numerous protests against Kaganovich's management, Stalin was forced to transfer Kaganovich from Ukraine to Moscow, where he returned to his position as a Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a job he held until 1939. As Secretary, he endorsed Stalin's struggle against the so-called Left and Right Oppositions within the Communist Party, in the hope that Stalin would become the sole leader of the country. In 1933–1934, he was the Chairman of the Commission for the Vetting of the Party Membership (Tsentralnaya komissiya po proverke partiynykh ryadov) and ensured personally that nobody associated with anti-Stalin opposition would be permitted to remain a Communist Party member. In 1934, at the XVII Congress of the Communist Party, Kaganovich was the chairman of the Counting Committee. He falsified voting for positions in the Central Committee, deleting 290 votes opposing the Stalin candidacy. His actions resulted in Stalin's being re-elected as the General Secretary instead of Sergey Kirov. By the rules, the candidate receiving fewer opposing votes should become the General Secretary. Before Kaganovich's falsification, Stalin received 292 opposing votes and Kirov only three. However, the "official" result (due to the interference of Kaganovich) was that Stalin ended with just two opposing votes (Radzinsky, 1996).

In 1930, Kaganovich became a member of the Soviet Politburo and the First Secretary of the Moscow Obkom of the Communist Party (1930–1935) and Moscow Gorkom of the Communist Party (1931–1934). He also supervised the implementation of many of Stalin's economic policies, including the collectivization of agriculture and rapid industrialization.

In the 1930s, Kaganovich organized and contributed greatly to the building of the first Soviet underground rapid transport system, the Moscow Metro, which was named after him until 1955. During this period, he also supervised the destruction of many of the city's oldest monuments, including the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.[1] In 1932, he led the suppression of the workers' strike in Ivanovo-Voznesensk.

Responsibility for 1932–33 famine

Kaganovich (together with Vyacheslav Molotov) participated with the All-Ukrainian Party Conference of 1930 and were given the task of implementation of the collectivization policy that caused a catastrophic 1932–33 famine known as the Holodomor. He also personally oversaw grain confiscations during the same time periods. Similar policies also inflicted enormous suffering on the Soviet Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, the Kuban region, Crimea, the lower Volga region, and other parts of the Soviet Union. As an emissary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Kaganovich traveled to Ukraine, the central regions of the USSR, the Northern Caucasus, and Siberia demanding the acceleration of collectivization and repressions against the Kulaks, who were generally blamed for the slow progress of collectivization. Attorney Rafael Lemkin in his work The Soviet Genocide in Ukraine tried to present the fact of Holodomor to the Nuremberg trials as a genocide of a totalitarian regime.[2]

On January 13, 2010, Kiev Appellate Court posthumously found Kaganovich, Postyshev and other Soviet Communist Party functionaries guilty of genocide against Ukrainians during the catastrophic Holodomor famine.[3] Though they were pronounced guilty as criminals, the case was ended immediately according to paragraph 8 of Article 6 of the Criminal Procedural Code of Ukraine.[4] The importance of the case is its historical aspect that legally explains the particularity of that historical event[Clarification needed]. By New Years Day, the Security Service of Ukraine had finished pre-court investigation and transferred its materials to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. The materials consist of over 250 volumes of archive documents (from within Ukraine as well as from abroad), interviews with witnesses, and expert analysis of several institutes of National Academies of Sciences. Oleksandr Medvedko, the Prosecutor General, confirmed that the material gives clear evidence of the genocide occurring in Ukraine[citation needed].

"Iron Lazar"

File:Kaganovich stalin postyshev voroshilov1934.jpg

From left to right: Kaganovich, Stalin, Postyshev, Voroshilov

From 1935 to 1937, Kaganovich worked as Narkom (minister) for the railways. Even before the start of the Great Purges, he organized the arrests of thousands of railway administrators and managers as supposed "saboteurs".

From 1937 to 1939, Kaganovich served as Narkom for Heavy Industry. During 1939–1940, he served as Narkom for the Oil Industry. Each of his assignments was associated with arrests in order to improve discipline and compliance with Stalin's policies.

In all Party conferences of the later 1930s, he made speeches demanding increased efforts in the search for and prosecution of "foreign spies" and "saboteurs". For his ruthlessness in the execution of Stalin's orders, he was nicknamed "Iron Lazar". During the period of Great Terror starting in 1936 Kaganovich's signature appears on 188 out of 357 documented execution lists.[5]

One of many who perished during these years was Lazar's brother, Mikhail Kaganovich, who was people's commisar (Narkom) of the Aviation Industry. On January 10, 1940, Mikhail was demoted to director of aviation plant 124 in Kazan[citation needed]. In February 1941, during the 18th Conference of the Communist Party, Mikhail was warned that if the plant missed its quotas he would be eliminated from the Party[citation needed]. On June 1, 1941, Stalin mentioned to Lazar that he had heard that Mikhail was "associating with the right wing". Lazar reportedly did not speak in the defence of his brother to Stalin, but did notify him by telephone. The same day Mikhail committed suicide.[6]

During World War II (known as the Great Patriotic War in the USSR), Kaganovich was Commissar (Member of the Military Council) of the North Caucasian and Transcaucasian Fronts. During 1943–1944, he was again the Narkom for the railways. In 1943, he was presented with the title of Hero of Socialist Labour. From 1944 to 1947, Kaganovich was the Minister for Building Materials. In 1947, he became the First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party. From 1948 to 1952, he served as the Chairman of Gossnab (State Committee for Material-Technical Supply, charged with the primary responsibility for the allocation of producer goods to enterprises, a critical state function in the absence of markets), and from 1952 to 1957, as the First Vice-Premier of the Council of Ministers. He was also the first Chairman of Goskomtrud (State Committee for Labour and Wages, charged with introducing the minimum wage, with other wage policy, and with improving the old-age pension system)[citation needed].

File:May Day Parade 1957 Moscow.jpg

May Day Parade 1957. Left to right: Georgy Zhukov, Nikita Khrushchev, Nikolai Bulganin, Kaganovich, Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoyan

Until 1957, Kaganovich was a voting member of the Politburo as well as the Presidium. He was also an early mentor of the eventual First Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev, who first became important as Kaganovich's Moscow City deputy during the 1930s. In 1947, when Khrushchev was dismissed as the Party secretary of Ukraine (he remained in the somewhat lesser "chief of government" position), Stalin dispatched Kaganovich to replace him until Khrushchev was reinstated later that year.

Later life

Kaganovich was a doctrinaire Stalinist, and though he remained a member of the Presidium, soon lost influence after Stalin's death in March 1953. In 1957, along with fellow devoted Stalinists Vyacheslav Molotov, Dmitri Shepilov, and Georgy Malenkov (the so-called Anti-Party Group), he participated in an abortive party coup against his former protégé Khrushchev, whose criticism of Stalin had become increasingly harsh during the preceding two years. As a result of the unsuccessful coup, Kaganovich was forced to retire from the Presidium and the Central Committee, and was given the job of director of a small Ural potassium factory. In 1961, Kaganovich was completely expelled from the party and became a pensioner living in Moscow. His grandchildren reported that after his dismissal from the Central Committee, Kaganovich (who had a reputation for his temperamental and allegedly violent nature) never again shouted and became a devoted grandfather[citation needed]. At the time of Molotov's death in November 1986, he was refused access to his friend's funeral because of his severe state of dementia[citation needed].

Kaganovich survived to the age of 97, dying in 1991, just before the events that resulted in the end of the USSR. He is buried in the famed Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

The Wolf of the Kremlin

In 1987, American journalist Stuart Kahan published a book entitled The Wolf of the Kremlin: The First Biography of L.M. Kaganovich, the Soviet Union's Architect of Fear (William Morrow & Co). In the book, Kahan made a series of claims about Kaganovich's working relationship with Joseph Stalin and his activities during the Ukrainian famine, and claimed to be the long-lost nephew of Kaganovich. He also claimed to have interviewed Kaganovich personally and stated that Kaganovich admitted to being partially responsible for the death of Stalin in 1953 (supposedly via poisoning). A number of other unusual claims were made as well, including that Stalin was married to a sister of Kaganovich (supposedly named "Rosa") during the last year of his life and that Kaganovich (a Jew) was the architect of anti-Jewish pogroms.[7]

After The Wolf of the Kremlin was translated into Russian by Progress Publishers, and a chapter from it printed in the Nedelya (Week) newspaper in 1991, remaining members of Kaganovich's family composed the Statement of the Kaganovich Family in response. The statement disputed all of Kahan's claims.

Rosa Kaganovich, who the Statement of the Kaganovich Family says was fabricated, was referenced as Stalin's wife in the 1940s and 1950s by Western media including The New York Times, Time and Life.[8][9][10][11][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]


Light cruiser Lazar Kaganovich

In 1944, the newly launched light cruiser of the project 26-bis was named after Lazar Kaganovich. It entered the Soviet Pacific Fleet in December 1944.

Kaganovich seems to have been responsible for the "eggs and omelette" metaphor commonly attributed to Stalin himself.[23]

According to Time magazine and some newspapers, Lazar Kaganovich's son Mikhail (named after Lazar's late brother) married Svetlana Dzhugashvili, daughter of Joseph Stalin on July 3, 1951.[24] Svetlana in her memoirs denies even the existence of such a son.[25]

Decorations and awards


  1. Rees, Edward Afron. 1994. Stalinism and Soviet Rail Transport, 1928-41. Birmingham: Palgrave Macmillan [1]
  2. Lemkin, Raphael (2009). "Soviet Genocide in the Ukraine (reprint of 1951 article)". Holodomor: Reflections on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine. Kingston: Kashtan Press. 
  3. Ukraine court finds Bolsheviks guilty of Holodomor genocide, RIA Novosti (13 January 2010)
    Yushchenko brings Stalin to court over genocide, RT (14 January 2010)
    Yushchenko Praises Guilty Verdict Against Soviet Leaders For Famine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (14 January 2010)
  4. The Kiev Court of Appeals named the organizers of Holodomor. by Ya.Muzychenko (Ukrainian)
  6. citing K. A. Zalesskiy, Stalin's Empire
  7. Kahan, Stuart. The Wolf of the Kremlin: The First Biography of L.M. Kaganovich, the Soviet Union's Architect of Fear (William Morrow & Co, 1987)
  8. Life - July 14, 1941. p. 19: "A sister Rosa first lived with Stalin, then after the suicide of his second wife is supposed to have married Stalin"
  9. Life - March 29, 1943. page 40: "His sister Rosa is supposedly married to Stalin"[2]
  10. Time - April 18, 1949: "Lazar Kaganovich, who is Stalin's brother-in-law"
  11. 11.0 11.1 Time - July 23, 1951: "Lazar Kaganovich, long time politburo member and Stalin's brother-in-law"
  12. Life - March 16, 1953. page 22: "Kaganovich, the brilliant and energetic Jew, Stalin's brother-in-law"
  13. Life - April 13, 1953. page 168: "Kaganovich (a member of the Politburo and brother of Stalin's third wife)"
  14. Time - September 7, 1953: "Lazar Kaganovich (Stalin's brother-in-law)"
  15. The New York Times - November 22, 1953 KAGANOVICH DECORATED; Malenkov's Regime Gives High Honor to Stalin's Brother-in-Law
  16. Time - February 7, 1955 - "Lazar M. Kaganovich, wartime commissar for transport, reputedly Stalin's brother-in-law"
  17. Youngstown Vindicator - March 7, 1953: "Rosa Kaganovich"
  18. Milwaukee Sentinel - June 11, 1960: "Rosa Kaganovich"
  19. The New York Times - July 27, 1991: "Kaganovich's sister, Rosa"
  20. Face of a Victim is the autobiography of Elizabeth Lermolo, a woman who fled Russia, arriving in the US in 1950. The book tells the story of the death of Stalin's second wife Nadezhda (Nadya) as witnessed by Natalia Trushina, who was employed as a housekeeper in Stalin's home, and who in 1937, Elizabeth Lermolo shared an NVKD prison cell with. Rosa (Roza) Kaganovich, with whom Stalin was having an affair, was whom Stalin and his wife were arguing about before she died. This book alleges Stalin struck Nadya a fatal blow with his revolver.[3][4]
  21. Robert Payne mentioned Rosa in a 1965 biography of Stalin, where he said: "At such parties he was always inclined to drink dangerously. Something said by Nadezhda - it may have been about another woman, Rosa Kaganovich, who was also present, or about the expropriations in the villages which were dooming the peasants to famine - reduced Stalin to a state of imbecile rage. In front of her friends he poured out a torrent of abuse and obscenity. He was a master of the art of cursing, with an astonishing range of vile phrases and that peculiarly." (The Rise and Fall of Stalin, p. 410)[5]
  22. Harford Montgomery Hyde also wrote about Rosa in his 1982 biography of Stalin: "However, it has been established that after the birth of their second child Svetlana, Stalin ceased to share his wife's bed and moved into a small bedroom beside the dining room of the Kremlin apartment. It has also been stated that, after the Georgian singer's departure for Afghanistan, the woman who was the chief cause of their difference was another dark-eyed beauty, the brunette Rosa Kaganovich, sister of the commissar Lazar, with whom Molotov had previously had an affair. At all events, by 1931 Nadya was thoroughly disillusioned with her husband and most unhappy." (Stalin: The History of a Dictator, p. 260)[6]
  23. "RUSSIA: Stalin's Omelette"Time October 24, 1932
  24. "Social Notes" Time July 23, 1951
  25. Alliluyeva, Svetlana (1969). Only One Year. Harper & Row. p. 382. 

Further reading

  • Rees, E.A. Iron Lazar: A Political Biography of Lazar Kaganovich (Anthem Press; 2012) 373 pages; scholarly biography
  • (Russian) Collection of six Kaganovich bios at Khronos
  • Radzinsky, Edvard, (1996) Stalin, Doubleday (English translation edition), 1996. ISBN 0-385-47954-9

External links

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