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Beria file photo [10334]

Lavrentiy Beria

Given NameLavrentiy
Born29 Mar 1899
Died23 Dec 1953
CountryGeorgia, Russia


ww2dbaseLavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was an ethnic Georgian born in Merkheuli in southern Russia (now Georgia) to Pavel Khukhaevich Beria and Marta Ivanovna. He was educated at a technical school in nearby city of Sukhumi. In Mar 1917, he joined the Bolsheviks included Baku, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. In 1919, he worked in the security service of Azerbaijan. In 1920 or 1921, he became a member of the Bolshevik secret police, Cheka and played a role in the Soviet invasion of Georgia. In 1922, he became the deputy head of the Georgian branch of the Cheka (later evolved into the OGPU organization). In 1924, during the Georgian nationalist uprising, he played a role in the arrest and execution of 10,000 political opponents of the Soviet government; for his ruthless efficiency in the suppression of the uprising, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and was made the head of a secret political division of the Transcaucasian OGPU. In 1926, he was named the head of the Georgian OGPU. It was about this time that he met and became an ally of fellow Georgian communist Joseph Stalin. In 1931, he was appointed the Secretary of the Community Party of Georgia. In the following year, he became the Secretary of the Community Party for the entire Transcaucasian region. In 1934, he became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. During the Great Purge orchestrated by Joseph Stalin, he removed several of his political opponents. In Aug 1938, he was brought to Moscow, Russia and was appointed the deputy head of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, NKVD; in this role, he further aided Stalin's purge with his new-found power over the Soviet police forces. In Sep 1938, he was named the head of the Main Administration of State Security (GUGB) of the NKVD. In Nov 1938, he became the head of the NKVD after his successor Nikolai Yezhov was purged (later executed) by Stalin. As the purge began to damage the Soviet infrastructure, he oversaw the easing of the repression, releasing over 100,000 people from labor camps back into the work force, blaming the excesses during the purge on Yezhov.

ww2dbaseStarting in 1938, Beria began a project rebuilding a monastery in the Moscow suburbs. When Sukhanovo (also known as Special Object No. 110) was completed, he would maintain a personal office there. The lower levels of Sukhanovo housed a complex of prison cells and torture chambers, and Beria was said to have personally witnessed many brutal interrogations at Sukhanovo. Some of the Sukhanovo prisoners were as high ranking as Red Army generals, many of whom would be held there for extended periods of time before facing trial.

ww2dbaseIn Mar 1939, Beria became a candidate member of the Politburo governing body while still being in control of the NKVD. He held these roles as the Soviet Union entered the WW2 in Sep 1939. On 5 Mar 1940, he sent a note to Stalin regarding his recommendation to eliminate captured Polish officers and intelligentsia; this recommendation led to the Katyn Massacre which saw the deaths of over 20,000 people. Starting in Oct 1940, he conducted a new round of purge, this time within the army and industries related to the military. In Feb 1941, he became Deputy Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars. In Jun 1941, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Beria became a member of the State Defense Committee (GKO). In 1942, he suggested the GKO to widen the range of crimes to which family members of the accused could also be arrested, and for the large part he got what he wished, and thousands were arrested and placed under his control. Shortly after, with his power over the labor camps, he bolstered the Soviet industrial base by providing forced laborers from the vast numbers of arrestees to the armament industry. In 1944, after German troops were driven out of Soviet territory, he was in charge of punishing those who had collaborated with the German occupation administration. In Dec 1944, he was placed in charge with the security efforts surrounding the Soviet atomic research project, as well as the labor force required for related construction. In Jul 1945, the Soviet police was militarized, and Beria's title was converted to Marshal of the Soviet Union.

ww2dbaseWhile in power, Beria was known among his peers as a sexual predator. On many occasions he would bring women into his sound-proof office and rape them; some of the women who objected to his advances found themselves arrested within the following days. Stalin and other Soviet leaders who had daughters were reported to have demanded them to be careful with Beria. He had kept a list of his sexual conquests; the Soviet government acknowledged the list's existence on 17 Jan 2003, but would not declassify the list for another 25 years. His wife Nina Gegechkori, however, maintained that Beria had been faithful to her, and the sexual predatory character was a fiction created by Beria's political opponents. She noted that Beria was far too busy with his responsibilities to have raped all those women that he was accused to have done.

ww2dbaseIn Jan 1946, Beria resigned as the chief of the NKVD, but still asserted power over security matters as the First Deputy Prime Minister. He slowly lost control of the NKVD, however, especially as his successor Sergei Kruglov later aligned with Beria's political opponents. In Aug 1948, he purged some of his opponents during the Leningrad Affair. In the early 1950s, he installed several leaders in Soviet governments in Eastern Europe, many of which were later accused of being supporters of Zionism and accused of selling weapons to Israel. This initially shook Beria's control in the government, leading to the removal of several of his supporters from power on the orders of Stalin. On 1 Mar 1953, Stalin and Beria had dinner together along with other Soviet leaders; that evening, Stalin collapsed, dying four days later. In the post-Stalin Soviet Union, Beria was named the First Deputy Prime Minister and the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). He was a champion of liberalization. Among one of his first acts was to free some of the Jews that were arrested during the anti-Semitic purge that took place in the early 1950s. Shortly after, he began freeing millions of non-political prisoners from the labor camp system, followed by the banning of torture in prisons. His liberal policies earned him some enemies, including Nikita Khrushchev, who ordered Beria's arrest on 26 Jun 1953 on the basis that Beria was secretly working with British intelligence.

ww2dbaseIn captivity, Beria was initially held at the Moscow prison gauptvakhta, and then was moved into the Moscow Military District where two divisions guarded the district from any potential rescue attempts. Beria was found guilty of treason, terrorism, and counter-revolutionary activities during the 1919 civil war. He was executed by a firing squad in Dec 1953. His remains were cremated, and his ashes were buried in various locations in forests in and near Moscow. His wife Nina Gegechkori and his son Sergo remained imprisoned until 1954.

Vadim Birstein, SMERSH

Last Major Revision: Jun 2010


Lavrentiy Beria with Joseph StalinPortrait of Marshal of the Soviet Union Lavrentiy Beria, circa late 1940s

Lavrentiy Beria Timeline

29 Mar 1899 Lavrentiy Beria was born.
16 Nov 1938 Lavrentiy Beria personally interrogated Yakov Serebryansky, a former NKVD leader; Serebryansky later reported that he was beaten severely until he agreed to sign a previously prepared confession document.
17 Sep 1939 Lavrentiy Beria, head of the Soviet NKVD, established the Directorate for Prisoners of War and Interned Persons (UPVI), which would run camps for 240,000 Polish prisoners of war in the near future.
18 Dec 1939 Lavrentiy Beria ordered first mass deportation of Poles to Soviet Union.
20 Jun 1940 Lavrentiy Beria sent Joseph Stalin a list containing names of 232 Soviet prisoners of war returned by Finland and recommended everyone on the list to be executed; in fact, 158 of them had already been killed.
30 Jan 1941 Lavrentiy Beria was promoted to the rank of State Security General Commissar.
18 Oct 1941 Lavrentiy Beria ordered the execuation of Nikolai Rychagov, Rychagov's wife, and other conspirators.
14 Apr 1943 The Soviet State Defense Committee divided the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs Main Directorate for State Security (GUGB/NKVD) into three organizations: People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD; under Lavrentiy Beria; political repression, slave labor camps, prisoners of war camps, and NKVD troops), People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB; under Vsevolod Merkulov; foreign intelligence and domestic counterintelligence), and State Directorate of Counter-Intelligence (GUKR-NKO or SMERSH; later assigned under Viktor Abakumov; counterintelligence).
4 Mar 1944 Lavrentiy Beria was awarded the Order of Suvorov 1st Class.
5 May 1944 Lavrentiy Beria was named the deputy chairman of the Soviet State Defense Committee (GKO) and the chairman of the Operational Bureau of the GKO.
17 Oct 1944 Lavrentiy Beria informed Joseph Stalin that Viktor Abakumov had transferred 100 SMERSH personnel to reinforce the staff of the Main Information Directorate (under Piotr Kozuszko) of the Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation.
29 Oct 1944 Lavrentiy Beria informed Joseph Stalin that two NKVD regiments were being relocated to the Bialystok, Poland area to bolster total NKVD strength in the region to 4,000 men. The troops were used to suppress the activities of the Polish Home Army.
11 Jan 1945 Lavrentiy Beria was named the head of a new effort to coordinate the operations of NKVD, NKGB, and SMERSH, thus gaining partial control of all Soviet counterintelligence agencies.
17 Apr 1945 Lavrentiy Beria reported to Joseph Stalin that a total of 215,540 people (138,200 Germans, 38,660 Polish, and the remainder Soviet citizens) were arrested by the NKVD, NKGB, and SMERSH since Beria gained influence over all three agencies in Jan 1945.
19 Apr 1945 Lavrentiy Beria ordered the agents of NKVD, NKGB, and SMERSH to sent all German prisoners of war to concentration camps and all Soviet citizens suspected to have helped the Germans to special vetting camps. SMERSH agents would disobey this order, continuing to send their arrestees directly to SMERSH-run prisons in Moscow, Russia.
5 May 1945 Lavrentiy Beria removed Viktor Abakumov from his position as the head counterintelligence chief of Soviet 3rd Byelorussian Front. Three generals were named to replace Abakumov: Colonel General Arkadii Apolonov, Lieutenant General Ivan Gorbatyuk, and Lieutenant General Fyodor Tutushkin.
22 May 1945 Lavrentiy Beria received a report from Soviet NKVD official Ivan Serov regarding Adolf Hitler's final days.
16 Jun 1945 Lavrentiy Beria gathered the conclusive evidence of Adolf Hitler's death and reported this to Joseph Stalin.
19 Jul 1945 Lavrentiy Beria was promoted to the rank of marshal.
20 Aug 1945 Joseph Stalin signed the final GKO order (No. 9887) making Lavrentiy Beria the head of State Committees No. 1 (atomic research), No. 2 (jet engine research), and No. 3 (radio location equipment development); he no longer held direct authority over counterintelligence.
29 Sep 1945 Lavrentiy Beria ordered that the response to inquiries regarding those arrested and executed by the Special Board (OSO) of the Soviet NKVD during WW2 would be that they were sent to imprison for 10-year terms and they were not allowed to send nor receive letters.
29 Dec 1945 Soviet Politburo approved Lavrentiy Beria's request to be dismissed as the head of NKVD; secretly, it was done so that he could focus on his new role in leading atomic weapons research.
18 Mar 1946 Georgy Malenkov and Lavrentiy Beria were made full members of the Soviet Politburo.
19 Mar 1946 Lavrentiy Beria was named one of the deputies of the newly renamed Soviet Council of Ministers.
26 Jun 1953 Lavrentiy Beria was arrested near Moscow, Russia as an alleged spy and an enemy of the people.
23 Dec 1953 Lavrentiy Beria was executed in Moscow, Russia.

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Event(s) Participated:
» Katyn Massacre and Related Atrocities
» Yalta Conference

Related Books:
» SMERSH: Stalin's Secret Weapon, Soviet Military Counterintelligence in WWII

Lavrentiy Beria Photo Gallery
Lavrentiy Beria with Joseph StalinPortrait of Marshal of the Soviet Union Lavrentiy Beria, circa late 1940s

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