Molotov pp 146-165 | Cite as

1939 — Molotov Becomes Foreign Minister

  • Derek Watson
Part of the Studies in Russian and East European History and Society book series


After the Great Terror, Molotov, like Stalin’s other lieutenants, became more preoccupied with trying to retain the leader’s confidence and repel possible rivals to ensure their own survival.1 Moreover, after 1936, Stalin no longer took long vacations: he was a constant presence as he consolidated his tyrannical authority. The increase in his despotism was reflected in a decline in the number of meetings of top-level institutions: the Politburo met only six times in 1937, on four occasions in 1938, and only twice in 1939 and 1940.2 Sovnarkom convened on 19 occasions in 1938, but met only 9 times in 1937, and there were only 12 meetings in 1936, 1939 and 1940. In addition, compared to the early years of the decade, when there could be twenty or thirty items on a Sovnarkom agenda, the number of agenda items was normally less than ten,3 and discussion was often replaced by use of the opros procedure.4 The new tyranny was reflected in the way that Molotov conducted Sovnarkom business. Nikolai Kuznetsov, who became Commissar for the Navy in 1939, wrote:

When I was appointed … in my ignorance I at first attempted to bring all questions to V. M. Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. But it was very difficult. Minor, daily affairs, still moved, but important ones got stuck. Whenever I was persistent it was suggested that I turn to Stalin.5


Foreign Policy Foreign Affair Foreign Minister British Government French Government 
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Copyright information

© Derek Watson 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek Watson
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Russian and East European StudiesThe University of BirminghamUK

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