“Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.” – Lavrentiy Beria
Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria (Russian: Лавре́нтий Па́влович Бе́рия, IPA: [ˈbʲerʲiə], Georgian: ლავრენტი პავლეს ძე ბერია, Lavrenti Pavles dze Beria, IPA: [bɛriɑ]; English: /ˈbɛriə/; 29 March 1899 – 23 December 1953) was a Soviet politician of Georgian ethnicity, Marshal of the Soviet Union and state security administrator, chief of the Soviet security and secret police apparatus (NKVD) under Joseph Stalin during World War II, and promoted to deputy premier under Stalin from 1941. He later officially joined the Politburo in 1946.
Beria was the longest-lived and most influential of Stalin’s secret police chiefs, wielding his most substantial influence during and after World War II. He simultaneously administered vast sections of the Soviet state and acted as the de facto Marshal of the Soviet Union in command of NKVD field units responsible for barrier troops and Soviet partisan intelligence and sabotage operations on the Eastern Front during World War II. Beria administered the vast expansion of the Gulag labor camps and was primarily responsible for overseeing the secret detention facilities for scientists and engineers known as sharashkas.
He attended the Yalta Conference with Stalin, who introduced him to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “our Himmler”. After the war, he organized the communist takeover of the state institutions of Central and Eastern Europe and political repressions in these countries. Beria’s uncompromising ruthlessness in his duties and skill at producing results culminated in his success in overseeing the Soviet atomic bomb project. Stalin gave it absolute priority and the project was completed in under five years mostly due to Soviet espionage against the West.
Upon Stalin’s death in March 1953, Beria was promoted to First Deputy Premier. He was briefly a part of the ruling “troika” with Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov. During the coup d’état led by Nikita Khrushchev and assisted by the military forces of Marshal Georgy Zhukov, Beria was arrested on charges of treason. Zhukov’s troops ensured NKVD compliance, and on 23 December 1953, he was executed by Pavel Batitsky.