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Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov

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Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov

Sergei Kruglov
Minister of Internal Affairs of the USSR
In office
December 1945 – January 1956
Preceded by Lavrentiy Beria
Succeeded by Nikolay Dudorov
Personal details
Born Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov
Russian: Серге́й Никифорович Круглов

(1907-10-02)October 2, 1907
Ustye, Zubtsov Uyezd, Tver Governorate, Russian Empire
Died June 6, 1977(1977-06-06) (aged 69)
Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov (Russian: Серге́й Ники́форович Кругло́в) (October 2, 1907 – June 6, 1977) was the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union from December 1945 to March 1953 and again from June 1953 until January 1956. He held the military rank of Colonel General. Kruglov was a person of excellent education, and was known for his mild temper and generosity to his staff; nevertheless, he was involved in several brutal actions of the Soviet security forces, including the deportations of several ethnic groups such as Chechens and Ingushes. These actions occurred in the 1940s and were carried out alongside his comrade-in-arms General Ivan Serov.

Kruglov was fluent in several foreign languages, including English, and was awarded the Legion of Merit and created an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for organizing the security of the Yalta Conference and the Potsdam Conference during World War II.[1]

Early life and career

Sergei Kruglov was born on October 2, 1907, in a village in the Tver province in Russia; his family was of poor peasant stock, but Kruglov himself went on to receive an excellent education, studying at the Karl Liebknecht Institute in Moscow, the Japanese Department of the Soviet Institute of Eastern Cultures and the very prestigious Institute of Red Professors. His education was mostly about politics, international affairs, and foreign languages, in strong contrast with the scientists, economists and engineers that predominated in the Soviet political elite.

Security services career under Stalin

1938 through the end of World War II

Kruglov began working for the Soviet security forces in the early 1930s. In December 1938 he was made a Special Plenipotentiary of NKVD (Особоуполномоченный НКВД), as a part of the Great Purge, with responsibilities of investigating and prosecuting NKVD personnel. He played an active role in purging NKVD of protégés of Nikolai Ezhov.

On February 28, 1939 Kruglov became Deputy Commissar for Personnel of the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR, and a Chief of the Personnel Division of the NKVD. At the time of that appointment Kruglov held a relatively junior rank of Major.[2] In 1939 Kruglov also became a Candidate Member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In February 1941 Kruglov was appointed First Deputy Commissar under Lavrentiy Beria and he retained that position, with a brief interruption, until December 1945. During that period Kruglov was largely responsible in the NKVD for things such as finances, administration, personnel and the Gulag system.

During the Second World War, Kruglov had several military assignments. In 1941 he was a member of the Military Council of the Soviet Reserve Front and subsequently, commander of the 4-th Saper Army. During the initial months of the war he was involved in organizing special Blocking Detachments, that included mass executions of the soviet military personnel who were seen as guilty of desertion or unauthorized retreat.

In 1944-1945 Kruglov was one of the main Soviet officials in charge of the mass deportations of Chechens and Ingushes. For his role in organizing these deportations Kruglov was awarded the Order of Suvorov, first degree, that was usually given for exceptional combat bravery at the front.[3]

In January 1944 Kruglov and Vsevolod Merkulov prepared an NKVD report on the Katyn massacre which blamed the massacre on the Germans.[4] The NKVD report was subsequently used as a basis by the Soviet Union's Special Commission for Determination and Investigation of the Shooting of Polish Prisoners of War by German-Fascist Invaders in Katyn Forest (also known as the Burdenko Commission), that later in 1944 reached the same pre-determined conclusions of the Merkulov-Kruglov report.

In the summer of 1944, when the Soviet troops re-took Lithuania from the Germans, Kruglov was sent to Lithuania to coordinate ruthless punitive measures against the Lithuanian partisans who opposed the Soviet Union's annexation of the country.[5]

In 1945 Kruglov was promoted to the rank of Colonel General of NKVD.[6]

Kruglov was appointed as an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire during the Potsdam Conference, becoming the only Soviet intelligence officer to receive an honorary knighthood.[1][7]

1945 to 1953: at the height of power

On December 29, 1945 Kruglov replaced Lavrentiy Beria as the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union (head of NKVD). In 1946 the Soviet government transitioned to the ministerial system and the security apparatus underwent substantial reorganization. NKVD became the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), with Kruglov as its chief, the Minister of Internal Affairs. NKGB became the Soviet Ministry of State Security (MGB), and it was headed by Viktor Abakumov, who replaced Beria's protégé Vsevolod Merkulov. Beria became Deputy Prime Minister and retained overall nominal control over both MVD and MGB, which were both, however, now led by Beria's adversaries.

Although Kruglov rose through the ranks of Beria's machine, he was not considered a Beria loyalist and after the war allied himself with Viktor Abakumov, a Beria rival. The elevation of Kruglov and Abakumov is now seen by historians as part of a deliberate strategy by Joseph Stalin to limit Beria's influence after the end of the war.[8]

Kruglov's authority as the Minister of Internal Affairs fluctuated significantly over the period 1946-1953. In the beginning this authority included overall control over the Soviet Militsiya (the Soviet Union's regular police force), the paramilitary Internal Troops, running of the Gulag system, border guard, and other areas. In the late 1940s and early 1950s some of this authority had been transferred from MVD to MGB and by 1953 MVD has been mostly in charge only of running the Gulag prison camp system. However, for most of that period Kruglov remained the head of the State Special Commission (Особое совещание), an extrajudicial body with authority to prosecute those charged with crimes against the State.

In 1948 Kruglov organized mass deportation of the German population of the Kaliningrad oblast (formerly East Prussia) – the area around Königsberg that was annexed by the Soviet Union at the conclusion of World War II.

In January 1948 Kruglov and Abakumov presented for Stalin's signature a memorandum that significantly toughened the Gulag conditions for political prisoners.[9] Many of those who had been arrested at the height of the Great Purge in 1937-38 and given 10 year prison sentences and managed to survive their time in Gulag were due for release. The Abakumov-Kruglov memorandum, approved by Stalin, authorized the creation of a special system of labor camps for political prisoners. MVD was authorized to hold, when deemed necessary, such political prisoners beyond the expiration dates of their sentences and to send them to the so-called administrative exile (административная ссылка) in the cases where formal release did occur.[9] Thereafter, both significant terms of administrative exile, given after the completion of the nominal prison sentences, and significant delays of the nominal release after such completion of sentences (referred to as "overstaying one's welcome"), became standard MVD practices in running the Gulag system.

As head of the MVD, Kruglov played a key role in supplying the Gulag prison labor for the Soviet nuclear program headed by Beria. After a successful Soviet nuclear test in August 1949, Kruglov was awarded the Order of Lenin.[10]

In 1948 Andrei Zhdanov, who had been a patron of both Kruglov and Abakumov, died and Kruglov's position was temporarily in danger. Beria and Malenkov engineered the so-called Leningrad Affair which resulted in the persecution of many party officials connected to Zhdanov. However, due to Stalin's protection, who still needed a counterweight to Beria, both Kruglov and Abakumov retained their posts, although Beria's position was strengthened.

In 1952-1956 Kruglov was a member of the Central Committee of Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), to which position he was elected at the 19th Congress of the CPSU.[11] Kruglov was a member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in 1946–1950 and 1954–1958.

Post-Stalin career and later life

After Stalin's death in March 1953, the Soviet security services were reorganized again. In March 1953 MGB was merged into MVD and Beria became the Minister of Internal Affairs with Sergei Kruglov serving as his First Deputy.[10] Both Kruglov and Ivan Serov played key roles[10] in the June 1953 arrest of Beria, engineered by Nikita Khrushchev and Malenkov.

After Beria's arrest in June 1953, Kruglov became the Minister of Internal Affairs again,[12] with Kruglov's long-term protégé Ivan Serov being appointed as Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs.[13] Kruglov remained the Minister of Internal Affairs until 1956, although in 1954 MGB was again split away from MVD and renamed as KGB, with Ivan Serov becoming its head.

Kruglov was one of the few leaders of the Stalin-era security apparatus who lasted much beyond his death. Beria himself was executed in December 1953. Kruglov's long-term ally Viktor Abakumov was arrested in July 1951 in connection with the so-called Doctor's Plot; Abakumov was not released after Stalin's death and was executed in December 1954.

However, in February 1956 Khruschev fired Kruglov from the position of Minister of Internal Affairs, where Kruglov was replaced by a Khruschev loyalist, Nikolay Dudorov;[1] prior to Kruglov's dismissal his ministry came under some official criticism and the star of Kruglov's former protégé and then KGB's head Ivan Serov was seen as rising and displacing Kruglov's influence in the Soviet hierarchy.[1] After his departure from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kruglov was transferred to the post of Deputy Minister of Electric Power-Stations. In August 1957 Kruglov was demoted further to an even smaller administrative post. In 1958 Kruglov was sent into retirement as an invalid. In 1959 Kruglov was stripped of his general's pension and evicted from his elite apartment. In 1960 he was expelled from CPSU for complicity in the Stalin-era political repressions. Even after Khruschev's ousting in 1964, Kruglov's fortunes did not improve. Kruglov died in 1977 under unclear circumstances. Several sources state that Kruglov died due to accidentally being hit by a train.[10][14] Other sources suggest suicide or a heart attack as the cause of his death.[15]


  • K. A. Zalessky, Stalin's Empire: A Biographical Encyclopedic Dictionary (Империя Сталина. Биографический энциклопедический словарь), Veche, Moscow, 2000.

External links

  • General Kruglov, Sergei Nikiforovich; brief biography

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