Nikolai Bulganin

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Nikolai Bulganin
Николай Булганин
Bulganin in 1955
6th Premier of the Soviet Union
In office
8 February 1955 – 27 March 1958
PresidentKliment Voroshilov
First DeputiesAnastas Mikoyan
Mikhail Pervukhin
Maksim Saburov
Joseph Kuzmin
Lazar Kaganovich
Preceded byGeorgy Malenkov
Succeeded byNikita Khrushchev
Minister of Defence of the Soviet Union
In office
15 March 1953 – 9 February 1955
PremierGeorgy Malenkov
Preceded byAleksandr Vasilevsky
Nikolai Kuznetsov
Succeeded byGeorgy Zhukov
Additional positions
First Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union
In office
7 April 1950 – 8 February 1955
PremierJoseph Stalin
Georgy Malenkov
Preceded byVyacheslav Molotov
Succeeded byAnastas Mikoyan
Minister of the Armed Forces
In office
3 March 1947 – 24 March 1949
PremierJoseph Stalin
Preceded byJoseph Stalin
Succeeded byAleksandr Vasilevsky
Personal details
Nikolai Alexandrovich Bulganin
(Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Булга́нин)

(1895-06-11)11 June 1895
Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Empire
Died24 February 1975(1975-02-24) (aged 79)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Resting placeNovodevichy Cemetery, Moscow
Political partyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union (1917–1960)
AwardsHero of Socialist Labour
ReligionRussian Orthodox convert to Atheism
Military service
Allegiance Soviet Union
Branch/serviceRed Army
Years of service1941–1958
RankMarshal of the Soviet Union (1947–1958)
CommandsSoviet Armed Forces
Battles/warsWorld War II
Central institution membership

Other offices held

Nikolai Alexandrovich Bulganin (Russian: Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Булга́нин; 11 June [O.S. 30 May] 1895 – 24 February 1975)[1] was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 1955 to 1958. He also served as Minister of Defense, following service in the Red Army during World War II.

Born in Nizhny Novgorod, Bulganin joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917 and became a member of the Soviet political police Cheka a year later. After the Russian Civil War, he held a number of administrative positions until 1931, when he became chairman of the Moscow City Soviet with the support of Lazar Kaganovich. A loyal Stalinist, Bulganin rose through the Soviet hierarchy in the middle of Stalin's purges, and in 1937 he was named premier of the Russian SFSR and a full member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. A year later he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union and head of the Soviet State Bank. Although he was never a front-line commander, Bulganin held a number of important political posts in the Red Army during World War II, and served in Stalin's State Defense Committee. In 1947, he succeeded Stalin as Minister for the Armed Forces and was named a Marshal of the Soviet Union. In early 1948, he became a full member of the Politburo.

After Stalin's death in 1953, Bulganin supported Nikita Khrushchev during his power struggle with Georgy Malenkov. In 1955, he replaced Malenkov as Premier of the Soviet Union. Initially a close ally of Khrushchev, Bulganin came to doubt his policies and became associated with an opposition group led by Vyacheslav Molotov. The group's defeat led to the fall of Bulganin, and in 1958 he was dismissed as premier and expelled from the Politburo. Forced into retirement, Bulganin died in 1975 at the age of 79.

Early life and career[edit]

Bulganin was born in 1895 in Nizhny Novgorod. The son of an office worker, he was of Russian ethnicity.[2] He joined the Bolshevik Party in March 1917 and was recruited in 1918 into the Cheka, the Bolshevik regime's political police, where he served until 1922. During the summer of 1918, he worked with Lazar Kaganovich, the local communist leader, in imposing the Red Terror in Nizhny Novgorod. He worked with Kaganovich again in Turkestan in 1920. After the Russian Civil War (1917–1923), Bulganin became an industrial manager and worked in the electricity administration until 1927. He was the director of the Moscow electricity supply from 1927 to 1931. From 1931 to 1937, he served as chairman of the executive committee of the Moscow City Soviet (the equivalent of mayor). He came into office soon after Kaganovich had been put in charge of the Moscow party organisation.

In 1934, the 17th Congress of the Communist Party elected Bulganin as a candidate member of the Central Committee. A loyal Stalinist, he was promoted rapidly as other leaders fell victim to Joseph Stalin's Great Purge in 1937 and 1938. In July 1937, Bulganin was appointed Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (the equivalent of Prime Minister) of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) after the arrest of the previous incumbent, Daniil Sulimov.[3] Bulganin became a full member of the Central Committee later that year. In September 1938, he became Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union and head of the State Bank of the USSR (Gosbank).

World War II[edit]

During World War II, Bulganin played a leading role in the government and Red Army, although he was never a front-line commander. His first posting was as chief political commissar on the Western Front, which was commanded by Marshal Timoshenko. He held similar posts until July 1944, when he was appointed the Soviet representative on the Polish Committee of National Liberation. On 18 November 1944, he was given the rank of General, and three days later he replaced Marshal Voroshilov on the State Defence Committee. He was also appointed USSR Deputy Minister for Defence, the Minister being Joseph Stalin.

In March 1946, Bulganin became a candidate member of the 18th Politburo of the Communist Party. Later in March 1947, he succeeded Stalin as Minister for the Armed Forces, and was again Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, under Stalin, from 1947 to 1950. In November 1947, he was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. By February 1948, he became a full member of the 18th Politburo.

Bulganin in 1955


Bulganin reached the highest rank in the Red Army, despite only having served as political officer. His role was to ensure that none of the genuine wartime commanders, particularly Marshal Zhukov, became powerful enough to threaten Stalin. Pavel Sudoplatov, who participated in conferences in the Kremlin with him, wrote contemptuously about how Bulganin failed to understand elementary military concepts. Sudoplatov added:

Bulganin was notorious for avoiding decisions. Letters requesting urgent action remained unsigned for months. The entire secretariat of the Council of Ministers was furious with his style of work, especially when Stalin left him in charge while he vacationed in the Caucasus.... Bulganin's appearance was deceiving. Unlike Khrushchev or Beria, Bulganin was always smartly dressed and looked like an old nobleman, with well-groomed grey hair and goatee. Later I learnt he was a heavy drinker and an admirer of ballerinas and singers from the Bolshoi Theatre. He was a man without any political principles, only the obedient servant of any leader.[4]

In March 1949, Bulganin was replaced as Minister for Defence by a career soldier, Aleksandr Vasilevsky, and then was responsible for the arms industry.

Conversely, a 1955 report from the US Central Intelligence Agency suggests that Bulganin's tenure at the State Bank demonstrated high intelligence and his ability to learn quickly:

Bulganin impressed those who had worked with him in the State Bank, including a famous expert on banking, with his high intelligence, mild manners, and capacity to learn in a very short time the most special and difficult of problems.[5]


Bulganin and Khrushchev in India

After Stalin's death in March 1953, Bulganin moved into sixth place in the Soviet leadership, when he was reappointed to the post of Defense Minister, but with Marshal Zhukov as his deputy. He was an ally of Nikita Khrushchev during his power struggle with Georgy Malenkov, and in February 1955 he succeeded Malenkov as Premier of the Soviet Union.[6] He was generally seen as a supporter of Khrushchev's reforms and destalinisation. In July 1955, he attended the Geneva Summit, with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, French Prime Minister Edgar Faure, and British Prime Minister Anthony Eden. He and Khrushchev travelled together to India, Yugoslavia and in April 1956 to Britain, where they were known in the press as "the B and K show"[7] or "Bulge and Crush". In his memoirs, however, Khrushchev recounted that he believed that he "couldn't rely on [Bulganin] fully."[8]

During the Suez Crisis of October–November 1956, Bulganin sent letters to the governments of the United Kingdom, France, and Israel threatening rocket attacks on London, Paris, and Tel Aviv if they did not withdraw their forces from Egypt. In a letter to Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion, Bulganin wrote, "Israel is playing with the fate of peace, with the fate of its own people, in a criminal and irresponsible manner; [...] which will place a question [mark] upon the very existence of Israel as a State."[9] Khrushchev, in his memoirs, admitted the threat was designed simply to divide Western opinion, especially since at the time he did not have enough ICBMs to launch the rockets, and in any case he had no intention of going to war in 1956.

Bulganin with Khrushchev and Chinese Marshals Peng Dehuai and Ye Jianying

By 1957, however, Bulganin had come to share the doubts held about Khrushchev's policies by the opposition group (which Khrushchev and his supporters labelled the "Anti-Party Group") led by Vyacheslav Molotov. In June, when the dissenters tried to remove Khrushchev from power at a meeting of the Politburo, Bulganin vacillated between the two camps. When the dissenters were defeated and removed from power, Bulganin held on to his position for a while, but in March 1958, at a session of the Supreme Soviet, Khrushchev forced his resignation.[6] Bulganin was appointed Chairman of the Soviet State Bank, a job he had held two decades before, but in August was dispatched to Stavropol as Chairman of the Regional Economic Council, a token position, and on 12 November he was expelled from the Presidium (Politburo) of the Central Committee. In September he was removed from the Central Committee and deprived of the title of Marshal, and in February 1960 he was retired on a pension.

Personal life and death[edit]

His wife was Elena Mikhailovna Korovina, an English teacher from a Moscow school. The couple had two children: son Leo and daughter Vera. Vera married the son of Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov.

Bulganin died on February 24, 1975, after a long illness at the age 79 and was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery.

Honours and awards[edit]

Hero of Socialist Labour (10 June 1955)
Orders of Lenin, twice (1931, 1955)
Order of the Red Banner (1943)
Order of Suvorov, 1st class (1945) and 2nd class (1943)
Order of Kutuzov, 1st class, twice (1943, 1944)
Order of the Red Star, twice (1935, 1953)
Order of the Republic [ru] (Tuvan People's Republic, 3 March 1942)
Grand Cross of the Virtuti Militari (Poland)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nikolay Aleksandrovich Bulganin (premier of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) – Encyclopædia Britannica:. Retrieved on 2014-6-11.
  2. ^ XPOHOC
  3. ^ Николай Александрович Булганин председатель совета министров СССР с 1955 по 1958 годы. Россиа, моя история. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  4. ^ Sudoplatov, Pavel (1995). Special Tasks, the Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness – a Soviet Spymaster. London: Warner Books. p. 313. ISBN 0-7515-1240-0.
  5. ^ COMMENTS ON THE CHANGE IN SOVIET LEADERSHIP (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency. 1955-03-02. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-05-19.
  6. ^ a b Powaski, Ronald E. (1997). The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917–1991. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195078500.
  7. ^ Pratt, Julius William (1965). A History of United States Foreign Policy. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 470. ISBN 978-0-13-392282-0.
  8. ^ Khrushchev, Nikita (2006). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, Volume 2: Reformer (1945–1964). University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 238. ISBN 0271028610.
  9. ^ "7 Exchange of Letters- Bulganin- Ben-Gurion- 5 and 8 November 1956". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel).

External links[edit]

Nikolai Bulganin at Find a Grave

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of the Armed Forces
3 March 1947 – 24 March 1949
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union
15 March 1953 – 9 February 1955
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Preceded by Premier of the Soviet Union
8 February 1955 – 27 March 1958
Succeeded by
Preceded by
A. P. Grichmanov
Chairman of Board of the Soviet State Bank
Succeeded by
N. K. Sokolov
Preceded by
N. K. Sokolov
Chairman of Board of the Soviet State Bank
Succeeded by
Ya. I. Golev
Preceded by Chairman of Board of the Soviet State Bank
Succeeded by
A. K. Korovushkin