Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov
Иван Александрович Серов
Chairman of the Committee for State Security
In office
March 13, 1954 – December 8, 1958
Preceded by Sergei Kruglov
Succeeded by Aleksandr Shelepin
Personal details
Born August 13, 1905
Afimskoye, Kadnikov Uyezd, Vologda Governorate, Russian Empire
Died July 1, 1990(1990-07-01) (aged 84)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union

State Security General Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov (Template:Lang-ru, August 13, 1905 – July 1, 1990) was a prominent leader of Soviet security and intelligence agencies, head of the KGB between March 1954 and December 1958, as well as head of the GRU between 1958 and 1963. He was Deputy Commissar of the NKVD under Lavrentiy Beria, and was to play a major role in the political intrigues after Joseph Stalin's death. Serov helped establish a variety of secret police forces in Central and Eastern Europe after the rise of the Iron Curtain, and played an important role in crushing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.[1]

Serov headed both the political intelligence agency (KGB), and the military intelligence agency (GRU), making him unique in Soviet/Russian history.

Early life and military career[edit | edit source]

Serov was born on August 13, 1905, in Afimskoe, a village in the Vologda province of the Russian Empire. Major changes in Russia occurred during his childhood, culminating in the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917. In 1923 (when he was 18) he joined the Red Army, shortly after the end of the Russian Civil War; in 1926, he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and graduated from the Artillery Officers School of Leningrad in 1928.[2] A major step in his career as a Red Army officer was the attendance of Higher Academic Courses in the prestigious Frunze Military Academy[3] from which he graduated in 1939. Later that year, he entered the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), in a major capacity.

Serov was able to survive the Great Purge, and in 1937, was tasked as the executioner of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, along with other leading Red Army figures. Viktor Suvorov claims that Serov had a responsibility in the deposition and execution of Nikolai Yezhov.[4]

Actions in World War II[edit | edit source]

Serov became the Ukrainian Commissar of the NKVD in 1939, and from this point onwards he played a major role in many of the actions of the Soviet secret police in World War II, helping to organize the deportation of the Chechens and the peoples of the Baltic States, becoming Beria's primary lieutenant in 1941.

Ukrainian Commissar[edit | edit source]

Serov was the Ukrainian commissar of the NKVD between 1939 and 1941. Time magazine has accused him of being responsible for the death of "hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian peasants" in this time period.[5] Serov was also a colleague in Ukraine of Nikita Khrushchev, the local Head of State, who himself was nicknamed the "Butcher of the Ukraine".[6]

As well as performing his duties in this post, Serov was also responsible for the co-ordination of deportation from the Baltic States and Poland.[7] Viktor Suvorov claims Serov may have been one of the people responsible for the Katyn Massacre,[4] and William Taubman, Khrushchev's biographer, states this as a fact.[8]

Deputy Commissar of the NKVD[edit | edit source]

In 1941 Serov was promoted to become Deputy Commissar of the NKVD as a whole, serving under Beria as one of his primary lieutenants; in this function, Serov was responsible for the deportation of a variety of Caucasian peoples. He issued the so-called Serov Instructions, which detailed procedures for mass deportations from the Baltic States.[7] He also coordinated the mass expulsion of Crimean Tatars from the Crimean ASSR in the end of World War II.

Viktor Suvorov claims that in 1946 Serov personally took part in the execution of Andrey Vlasov, along with the rest of the command of the Russian Liberation Army, an organization that had co-operated with the Nazis in World War II.[4]

Serov was one of the major figures in SMERSH, the wartime counterintelligence department of the Red Army, a deputy to Viktor Abakumov. It was in this function that Serov established the Polish Ministry of Public Security, the Polish secret police until 1956, acting as its main Soviet adviser and organizer.

Serov organized the persecution of the Armia Krajowa as Deputy Commissar, helping to bring about the Stalinist era of Polish history.

Post-War actions[edit | edit source]

In 1945, Serov was transferred to the Second Belarusian Front, and he went to Berlin in May of that year. He stayed there until 1947, helping to organize the construction of the Stasi, the East German secret police.[9]

Becoming Head of the KGB[edit | edit source]

After the death of Stalin, Serov, who was close to Beria, betrayed him, conspiring with the officers of GRU against him, thus avoiding his own downfall in the aftermath. Serov was one of the few major figures in the secret police to survive this incident.

In 1954, Serov became Chairman of the KGB, and so the head of the larger part of the Soviet secret police. Serov organized security for the tours of Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, but did not travel to Britain in 1956 when he was decried by the British media as "Ivan the Terrible" and "the Butcher".[7]

Hungary[edit | edit source]

Serov played a key role in the Hungarian crisis, sending reports to the Kremlin from Budapest, and escorting visiting Soviet Presidium leaders Anastas Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov in an armed personnel carrier into Budapest on October 24, because there was too much shooting in the streets.[10]

In 1956, the Hungarian revolution overthrew the incumbent Communist Hungarian government and in response to this, János Kádár formed a new government more loyal to Moscow, but this received little popular support. Serov was responsible for arresting supporters of Imre Nagy who were trying to negotiate with Soviet military officials.

Serov organized deportations of Hungarians, among them Imre Nagy.[5] Serov co-ordinated the abduction of Pál Maléter, the Hungarian general, and the disruption of peace talks between the Red Army and the Hungarian forces.[7]

Removal[edit | edit source]

Serov was removed from his post as head of the KGB in 1958 after hints by Nikita Khrushchev, who had said that Western visitors could expect that they "wouldn't see so many policemen around the place", that the Soviet police force would undergo a restructuring. Serov was moved from his post to that of Director of the GRU.

GRU Executive and downfall[edit | edit source]

As head of GRU, Serov was a player in the Cuban Missile Crisis, helping the Soviet leadership with American intelligence. After the failure of the Soviet Union to gain the upper hand in the crisis, Serov was dismissed from the position, and in 1965 was stripped of his Party membership, bringing his career to an end.

Serov, however, lived on till 1990, the year before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Significance[edit | edit source]

Though Serov is generally considered less significant than Lavrentiy Beria in modern literature, his actions helped to bring Stalinism to Europe and to intensify the Stalinist process in the Soviet Union. Serov's consolidation of Soviet power in Eastern Europe was helped by his organization of both the UB (Polish Intelligence Service) in Poland and the Stasi in East Germany.

Serov's downfall from position of power has been linked to a case called the Penkovsky affair. Oleg Penkovsky was Serov's protégé, an officer who turned to be a double agent. Serov was married to Khrushchev's daughter and this saved him when he was expelled from power.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Erwin A Scmidl, Laszlo Ritter, Peter Dennis, The Hungarian Revolution 1956, 2006
  2. Jeanne Vronskaya, Vladimir Chuguev, A biographical dictionary of the Soviet Union 1917-1988, 1989
  3. H.W. Wilson Company, Current biography yearbook, vol 17, 1957
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Suvorov, V.: Inside Soviet Military Intelligence. Appendix A.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "The Shadow of Ivan Serov": Time, December 3, 1956. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  6. BBC h2g2: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: retrieved November 25, 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Dropping the Cop": Time, December 22, 1958. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  8. William Taubman, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (W. W. Norton & Company, 2004: ISBN 0-393-32484-2), p. 370: "He had helped organize the Katyn Forest massacre of Polish officers, had helped Stalinize Ukraine and the Baltics, had deported the Crimean Tatars and other 'lesser' peoples, had pacified Soviet-occupied East Germany, and had been Beria's MVD first deputy in Stalin's last years."
  9. Koehler, J.: "Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police" ISBN 0-8133-3409-8
  10. Johanna Granville, trans.,"Soviet Documents on the Hungarian Revolution, 24 October - 4 November 1956",Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC), Spring, 1995, pp. 22-23, 29-34.
Government offices
Preceded by
Sergei Kruglov
as Minister of State Security
Chairman of the
Committee for State Security

Succeeded by
Aleksandr Shelepin

bg:Иван Серов de:Iwan Alexandrowitsch Serow fr:Ivan Serov it:Ivan Aleksandrovič Serov lt:Ivanas Serovas hu:Ivan Alekszandrovics Szerov ja:イワン・セーロフ pl:Iwan Sierow pt:Ivan Serov ro:Ivan Serov ru:Серов, Иван Александрович fi:Ivan Serov uk:Сєров Іван Олександрович

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