THE SUCCESSION OF POWER IN THE USSR (ORE 9)

Created: 1/13/1948

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL

THE SUCCESSION OF POWER IN THE USSR

THE SUCCESSION CUT POWKH XV THI TJ68S

BUUUABY

uccessor to Stalin's present position In th* Soviet hlaarchy will be made'tfw lo It* effect In Insuring the stability erf ihe project rt^lc^ and the

continuation ololicies. Because ot* tne putof Sorirt leaders, tba psychology and traditions of the Russian people, and the nature of Soviet pcliOcalransfer of Stalin's poweringle Individual would sxrpear morethan the division of thii power axoong several txkUvVruals. At present, tba best qualified candidate for the lucceaaian is Molotov, whose close samrfiUrm with Stalin, devotion to present Soviet policies, and long experience In both Party and aorenanent service giveistinct advantage over other Politburolaboratewill be taken to Insure that the transition of pover to Molotov, upon Stalin's death or retirement does not seriously endanger the stability or policies of th* regime. Th* immediate effects of such transition, therefore, probably willflrant If,the USSR is confrontederies of adversities, domestic and foreign, th* absence of Stalin's prestige and personality might give rise to manifestation* of pessimalamong Politburo members which would result In the rapid disintegration of the Soviet regime.

NOW: This paper baa the concurrence of tne intelligence ortanlxatlon* of the Department* of tbe army. Navy, and of tbe Airtatement of dissent by the Department of BUU la eat

forth Ui Enclosure

THE SUCCESSIONOWXB IN TUB USSR

Statin's advancing year* and mteraitteot reports of his failing health have several times within recent months given rise to considerable speculation as to the effect* which hie death might hare on the Sot let regime. Suchhasenewed stimulus from the soviet leader's failure to appear at the November 7thra lion ln Moscow, commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the RussianWhile Statin's absence on this occasion appears of small significance (he was likewise absent from the celebration for the previous twond while there la no reliable evidence of his present ill health, some Interest attaches to the treatmenthim by the Soviet propaganda machine during the recent festivities Inwith former years, his name was relatively Inconspicuous on the myriad of officially prescribed posters and banners which blossom forth on the Moscoweach November. Although his political and military proweu were the object of several glowing tributes, the general tone of the propaganda tended to place himosition of remoteness and reverence, similar to that previously accorded only to Lenin. It Is possible, therefore,eliberate effort is being made gradually to condition the Soviet people for Stalin's retirement from active participation ln Party andedfeirt. The following discussion is concerned with the succession to power ln the USSR upon Statin's retirement, disability, or death, and with the effecbTof such succession on the policies and stability of the Soviet regime.

There Is no positive evidence that this problem has been the subject of discussion between Stalin and his hierarchy, although conjecture and rumor have been almost limitless. The approach to the subject, therefore, is necessarily analytical, thebeing reached through attempting on tho basis of background experience, to analyze the thought processes of Stalin and members of the Politburo.

It Is Inconceivable that the question of succession would be brought up originally by any member of tho Politburo except Stalin himself. Anyone doing so would make himself vulnerable to charges of "lack of faith" andhat Statin would throw thc problem to the Politburo for discussion and decision Is also unlikely, since acrimonious debate and encouragement of power struggle would result. That Stalin has considered the possibility of his sudden or eventual elimination from the Soviet scene and formulated some plans for meeting the various contingencies must be accepted; whether his plans have been made known, and to whom,atter of conjecture.

The dominant criterion which must be met In maiHng the choice of succession to Statin's position Is "How well does It guarantee the safety of the present regime and the continuation of Its presentll other considerations, such as the popularity, merit or seniority of the Individual candidate must be secondary. That the choice will be made from without the Politburo Is remote beyond possibility. Since It will be made from within the ranks of the Politburo members, there are two alternatives: (a) Statin's tangible power will be divided among several members of the Politburo

2

who now servo as hi* chief advisers and assistants, or, (b) tbe power will be transferredingle Individual.

Stalin must have considered tho advisability and practicability ol the firstsince the complexities of the Pasty-State mechanism wouldriumvirate more practicable than any available single individual. In such event tbe power would be divided among the three members of the Politburo who are best fitted to constitute the basic authority of the Soviet State through control, respectively, of governmentParty policy, and Internal security. Under such an arrangement, the logical candidate to inherit tho direction of the government apparatus would be Molotor,evoted disciple of Stalinkilled administrator. HU extensive experience in foreign affairs, combined with previous experience In government and Partyqualifies him for government leadershiperiod In which foreign relations willrime factor in Soviet tactical policy. Andrei Zhdanov wouldbe selected for full control of the Party policy; he Is second only to Stalin as spokesman for the Party on Ideological matters, and,ember of tbe powerful Orgburoasealth of experience and influence inproblems of the Party. Total control of the interna] security of the USSR would be assumed by Lavrenti Beria. in the late thirties Berts was appointed CornmUsar of Internalosition which gave him control of the complex Soviet security system, including the secret police, penal institutions, and forced labor camps. While his pressstf official status is not entirely clear (he was relieved as Commissar of IoUmal Affairs In, he Is believed toarge measure of control over the two security agencies (MVD andn addition to being primarily responsible for Soviet atomic development.

Stalin must have applied the criterion of safety toisposition of his power as that outlinedisposition which has both logic and practicability, and found that there are stronger considerationsingle heir. These considerations are: a. Soviet experience has shown that the structure of the USSR can bestingleinfallible arbiter whose decisions on all questions are final.

ti. The fact that the present Soviet dictatorship has successfully withstood such strains as those created by the collectivlzaUon of agriculture, the purges, and World War IIonvincing argument for one-man control.

history of the Russian people, under both the Tsarist and Sovietthem to accept the ideaingle, all-powerful ruler. There isconcept in the Russian mindaternalisticcultivated by the present regime.

successor, with full authority, would be mora capable of dealingJealousies, disagreements, and desires for personal power amongof the Politburo.ivision of power among several leadingprobably satisfy none and would lead to an eventual struggle forthe best available method of assuring the perpetuation and expansion of the

Soviet systeminimum risk to the stability of the regime, Stalin would choose the second of the two alternatives and bequeath his poweringle Individual.

The relative position of possible successors has In tbo past been subject to sudden change, and their present standings must be considered as ephemeral Under present conditions the individual who now appears most capable of carrying on the Stalinist version of the Party doctrine with the least risk to the Stats is Vyaeheslav Molctov. Be has been associated Sri th Stalin longer and more closely than any other member of the Politburo, and his personal loyalty has never been questioned. Molotor's position si the number-two figure In the official hierarchy seems to be clearly established In the popular Soviet mind as well as In International circles; he Is referred to In the press as Stalin's closest adviser and most trusted sssisUnt In official photographs and st ofOdsi. functions heosition of prominence second only to Stalin. His long and varied experience makes him the most logical single candidate, for, In addition to baring occupied various key positions in both Party and government, he became an alternate member of the Politburo1ull membert Is believed that he would be most acceptable to the powerful Police Ministries, because of his demonstrated antagonistic and accusing attitude In foreign relations which enables those Ministries to Justify their actions ss being necessary to Insure the safety ot the USSR.

Stalin real Ires that Molotov has neither the personal characteristics nor theprestige to occupy the peculiar niche now filled byln himself. Further, Stalin's appreciation of Molotov's capabilities probably Includes the letter'sand therefore does not envisage Molotovew Stalin. Stalin would raj.be r, for glorification of his own memory and for the safety of the Soviet regime, consolidate Molotov's position In relation to himself as Stalin Is toother words, Molotov will be presented as the prophet of the demigod Stalin. Propaganda will include pictures showing the beads of Lenin, Stalin, and Molotov In such close proximity that to throw mud at the last would also splatter the two Immortals. In all probability, Stalin will prepare both Molotov and the Politburo for the eventual transfer of power by gradually delegating Increased control of State and Party to Molotov; an Initial indication would be the appointment of Molotov to the positionecretary of the Communist Party. This procedure would reduce the difficulties Inherent ln an abrupt transition and, at the same Ume, give Molotov the advantage of Stalin'sprestige, and Influence. Stalin would also be afforded an additional opportunity to estimate the chances or Molotov's success. The full transfer of power cannot,be accomplished before Stalin's death. No matter how much authority Molotov might enjoy, the very existence of Stalin, to whom the members of the Politburo owe their political success, would discourage any effective opposition to the master's will, even though the latter may be nominally retired to the position of elder statesman. Thus, Stalin will never be able to assess accurately the ability of Molotov to stand alone, while the latter will never, while Stalin lives, be certain that he, rather than thef Stalin, controls the Soviet system.

There are three additional contingencies which Stalin must have considered and provided for;

a That he might disappear suddenly from the Soviet scene, in which case he probably hasill addressed to the Soviet peoples and the Communist Party, enjoining them to accept Molotov as their new leader.

b. nut Molotov might pntooumhich out be baa pevtabt/ obescn to prepare tha wiaeminn for Ebdaaov who, for the prancnJ athe neat most suitable canomte,

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with hi. own; thUm car* erf iny namta. order of ggcoisrtoo.

Tbe effect of the tn ael Uoa of power on the Soviet regime aad IU policy altoWhile It ts not anticipated that the basic thru of the flewtatany change, there will probablyhange of tactical policy toward*from the Westerntendency already apparent inThe eflect on the Soviet regime will not be tfnrnedlsU since, tf Molotovprior to Stalin's death, the Politburo will pxetiunahfyhim

as Stalin's heir. This factor, combined with tha Ideological unity of tha Politburo, its royalty to Stalin,robable realisation that continuation in power depends on Its unity, will militate against anyxpression of disaffection. The ability of the Politburo to retain its unanimity for an extended period of timeStalin's death Is, however, open to question. Under Stalin, originality and initiative have been subordinated to obedience; tha eohedve strength of Stalin's memory is bound to diminish, and Molotov's ability to sub^ordlnate personal Jealousies andwill be severely taxed. The temptation of the dinppotnted airdrjnje, for povt^to. reach down for support Into those lower levels of the Party hierarchy which come under their Individual control will be Increased by what will be more violent dissension over tactical policy ln meeting current problems, if this occurs, the resulting disunity Ln the Party would emasculate It as the political Instrument heretofore capable of controlling the Inherent weaknesses of the Soviet system. The extent and the speed of deterioration will depend on developments In the global situation and the extent of the failures of the USSR to deal with the attendant problems. But if the Politburoeries of unfavorably resolved crises after the Influence of Stalin hasapid disintegration of the Soviet system will result

ENCLOSURE "A*

DISSENT OF THE INTELLIGENCEEPARTMENT OF STATE While rniring the absence ol reliable information rend ere highlyany conclusions as to Stalln'i successor, the Intelligence Organisation of the Department of State concurs ln the assumption that In the event of Stalin's death or retirement ln the near future, Molotov will probably be chosen to head the nominal government shortly thereafter. It doubts, however, that Molotov will at that time succeed to Stalin's present leading positions ln the Soviet State and in the Party. It also doubts that Stalin will voluntarily relinquish his power, although he may divest himself of one or another of his positions.

Although It may be argued tbtt supreme power In the Soviet Union will tend eventually to be concentrated ln the hands of one man after Stalin's withdrawal from the scene,oncentration of power will probably not occur at once. Up to the time of Stalin'sh birthday, na one man possessed the necessary power to succeed him nor were any Indications of preparations visible forransfer. Itsychologically ImproTBible that fflailn would himself designate one Individual asto the series of positions that symbolize bis power. Furthermore, Molotov lacks some of the qualifications that such an Individual might be expected to have.

It now appears probable that Immediately after Stalin's early death or retirement, the present distribution of power among the lop leaders will remain ln force: Molotov will fill Stalin's position as Chairmen of the Council of Ministers while Zhdanov will succeed Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party. The two otherofand armedremain-In the hands of Berla and ButganlrL This distribution of power Is not fixed and may change abruptly. In the long run, alter Stalin's demise, some one individual, possibly Zhdanov, might be able to concentrate supreme power In bis own hands, but there may be several "palacebefore the real successor to Stalin can consolidate his position.

It should be added that the relative strength of the top Soviet leaders la so fluid that any present prediction will probably require considerable future modification if Stsdln remains alive and able to direct the policies of the Soviet Union for some years to come.

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