Alexander Shelepin

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Alexander Shelepin
Алекса́ндр Шеле́пин
Chairman of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions
In office
Preceded by Viktor Grishin
Succeeded by Alexey Shibaev
2nd Chairman of the Committee for State Security
In office
25 December 1958 – 13 November 1961
Premier Nikita Khrushchev
Preceded by Ivan Serov
Succeeded by Vladimir Semichastny
Deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers
In office
19 May 1972 – 7 May 1973
Premier Alexei Kosygin
Preceded by Mikhail Yefremov
Succeeded by Zia Nureyev
First Secretary of the Komsomol
In office
30 October 1952 – 28 March 1958
Preceded by Nikolai Mikhailov
Succeeded by Vladimir Semichastny
Full member of the 22nd, 23rd, 24th Politburo
In office
16 November 1964 – 16 April 1975
Member of the 22nd, 23rd Secretariat
In office
31 October 1964 – 26 September 1967
Personal details
Born Alexander Nikolayevich Shelepin
(1918-08-18)18 August 1918
Voronezh, Soviet Russia
Died 24 October 1994(1994-10-24) (aged 76)
Moscow, Russian Federation
Citizenship Soviet (until 1991) and Russian
Nationality Russian
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Alexander Nikolayevich Shelepin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Никола́евич Шеле́пин; 18 August 1918 – 24 October 1994) was a Soviet state security officer and party statesman. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its Politburo and was the head of the KGB from 25 December 1958 to 13 November 1961.

Early life and career

Shelepin was born in Voronezh, according to one source the son of a railway official.[1] A history and literature major while studying at the Moscow Institute of Philosophy and Literature, Shelepin was in charge of recruiting guerrilla fighters during World War II;[2] after the notorious execution by the Germans of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya (whom he had selected) Shelepin caught Joseph Stalin's attention and his political fortune was made. He became a senior official of the Communist Youth League in 1943, and at the head of the successor organisation, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, from 1952 to 1958. He accompanied Nikita Khrushchev on the Soviet leader's trip to the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1954.

Shelepin then became the head of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, which had been reorganised and reformed as the KGB after the death of Soviet leader Stalin. Nikita Khrushchev appointed Shelepin in part because of several major KGB defections in the 1950s during the tenure of Ivan Serov as head of the KGB. Shelepin attempted to return state security to its position of importance during the Stalinist era. He demoted or fired many KGB officers, replacing them with officials from Communist Party organisations, and, especially, from the Communist Youth League.

During the 1950s, Aleksandr Shelepin proposed and carried out a destruction of many documents related to the Katyn massacre to minimise the chance that the truth would be revealed.[3][4] His 3 March 1959 note to Nikita Khrushchev, with information about the execution of 21,857 Poles and with the proposal to destroy their personal files, became one of the documents that were preserved and eventually made public.[3][4][5][6]

The policy of providing KGB support to national liberation movements in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa was adopted during Shelepin's tenure in the summer of 1961 by Khrushchev and CPSU Central Committee. Cuba strongly supported an aggressive policy of military support for African national liberation movements with Che Guevara, in co-operation with Ben Bella of Algeria, playing a leading role.[7]

The overthrow of Khrushchev and fall from grace

Shelepin left the KGB and was promoted to the Central Committee secretariat in November 1961, where it is believed he still exercised control over the KGB, which was taken over by his protégé Vladimir Yefimovich Semichastny. Shelepin became a First Deputy Prime Minister in 1962. He was a principal player in the coup against Khrushchev in October 1964, obviously influencing the KGB to support the conspirators.[8]

Shelepin probably expected to become First Secretary and de facto head of government when Khrushchev was overthrown. Shelepin occupied a uniquely powerful position within the party, leading a large conservative faction within the Party[9] and holding two high-level posts, one in the government Council of Ministers as Deputy Premier and one in the central party apparatus as a member of the Secretariat.[10] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn suggested that Shelepin had been the choice of the surviving Stalinists in the government, who asked what "had been the point of overthrowing Khrushchev if not to revert to Stalinism?"[citation needed] As far as his own views on the role of Soviet government went, Shelepin opposed the relaxation of tensions with the United States, and favoured a return to domestic policies that favoured discipline and the promotion of Russian interests within the wider Union.[11]

Rather, Shelepin's reward was to be made a full member of the ruling Politburo in November 1964—by a significant margin its youngest member. But he still held ambitions of becoming the "first among equals". His colleagues on the Politburo watched him carefully, seeking to halt his ambitions. So as to weaken his substantial power base within the CPSU, Shelepin was stripped of the Deputy Premiership at the end of 1965 and from 1965–1970 witnessed the systematic dismissal of his most powerful allies within the Party.[12] He survived in that body until 1975, when he rapidly fell from power, being successively demoted to a number of lower positions, until his retirement in 1984.

Honours and awards


  1. Rigby, T.H. (July 1971). "The Soviet Politburo: A Comparative Profile 1951–71". Soviet Studies. 24 (1): 3–23. doi:10.1080/09668137208410841. Retrieved 07/11/2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Braithwaite, Rodric (2010). Moscow 1941: A City & Its People at War. Profile Books. pp. cxxii. ISBN 978-1861977748.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ouimet, Matthew J. (2003). The rise and fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet foreign policy. UNC Press Books. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-8078-5411-2.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cienciala, Anna M.; Materski, Wojciech (2007). Katyn: a crime without punishment. Yale University Press. pp. 240–241. ISBN 978-0-300-10851-4.
  5. Sanford, George (2005). Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940: truth, justice and memory. Psychology Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-415-33873-8.
  6. RFE/RL Research Institute (1993). RFE/RL research report: weekly analyses from the RFE/RL Research Institute. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc.. p. 24. Retrieved 7 May 2011. "One of the documents turned over to the Poles on 14 October was Shelepin's handwritten report from 1959"
  7. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (2005). "24 "The Cold War Comes to Africa". The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (hardcover). Basic Books. pp. 432–433. ISBN 9780465003112.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Gelman, Harry (1984). The Brezhnev Politburo and the Decline of Detente. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-8014-9280-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Knight, Amy (1988). "The Party, The KGB, and Soviet Policy Making". The Washington Quarterly. 11 (12): 121–136 [124]. doi:10.1080/01636608809477490.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Gelman, Harry (1984). The Brezhnev Politburo and the Decline of Detente. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-8014-9280-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Zubok, Vladislav (2009). Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev. University of North Carolina Press. p. 1957. ISBN 0807859583.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Gelman, Harry (1984). The Brezhnev Politburo and the Decline of Detente. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. pp. 77–78. ISBN 0-8014-9280-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Government offices
Preceded by
Ivan Serov
Chairman of Committee of State Security
25 December 1958 – 13 November 1961
Succeeded by
Vladimir Semichastny