Lavrentiy Beria

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Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria (or Beriya; Georgian: ლავრენტი პავლეს ძე ბერია, Lavrenti Pavles dze Béria; Russian: Лаврентий Павлович Бéрия; 29 March 1899 – 23 December 1953) was a Georgian Soviet politician, and chief of the Soviet security and secret police apparatus (NKVD) under Stalin.

Beria was the longest lived and most influential of Stalin's secret police chiefs, wielding his most substantial influence during and shortly after World War II, when he simultaneously administrated vast sections of the Soviet state and served as defacto Marshal of the Soviet Union in command of the dreaded NKVD field units, responsible for anti-partisan reprisal operations on both friendly and enemy civilian populations and the apprehension and summary execution of thousands of "turncoats, deserters, cowards and suspected malingerers". Beria administrated the vast expansion of the Gulag slave labor camps, and was primarily responsible for the Katyn massacre. He attended the Yalta Conference with Stalin, who introduced him to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as "our Himmler".[1] Beria's uncompromising ruthlessness in his duties and skill at producing results by intimidating his subordinates culminated in his success in overseeing the Soviet atomic bomb project, which was given absolute priority by Stalin and completed in record time despite the purge of leading physicists in the late 1930s. Forming an alliance with Georgy Malenkov, Beria's singular personal control of the NKVD and violent nature made him feared and notorious even among the other Politburo members, whose wives, family members and friends were often arrested by Beria's NKVD in retaliation for opposing his political maneuvers.

Beria was widely seen as the most dangerous and ambitious of Stalin's inner circle during his final years. As he had promised, after Stalin's death in 1953 Beria elevated himself to First Deputy Prime Minister, where he carried out a brief campaign of liberalization; the economic realities of the Soviet alliance with the West during World War II as well as Stalin's especially irrational hatred in his final years had ideologically disillusioned Beria, who spoke of "de-Bolshevization" and craved the renewed wealth and resources a lucrative strategic peace with the US would provide. He was briefly a part of the ruling "troika" with Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov. However, Beria's overconfidence in his position after Stalin's death led him to underestimate the real feelings of his associates, many of whom still had relatives in his prisons. In addition, his proposals to free East Germany and normalize relations with the United States alarmed other Politburo members, especially in the wake of the 1953 East German uprising, which was only put down after an invasion by Soviet troops. Led by Nikita Krushchev and assisted by the military forces of the immensely influential Marshal Zhukov, they formed an alliance to remove and liquidate him. In that same year he was arrested on trumped-up charges of treason by Zhukov's soldiers during a meeting where the full Politburo condemned him; the non-opposition of the NKVD was ensured by Zhukov's troops, and after interrogation by his own NKVD torturers, Beria was taken to the basement of the Lubyanka and shot by Marshal Pavel Batitsky.[2]

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