“MOLOTOV: Khrushchev opposed Stalin and Leninist policy. He wanted changes in the Leninist policy pursued by Stalin and ultimately by all of us who supported Stalin. You know what the rightists were after? In the party? The rightists wanted to block us from pressing for the liquidation of the kulaks; they were champions of a pro-kulak policy. Even after the kulaks had been destroyed they continued to hold right-wing political views. So they maintained afterward that Stalin had pushed things too far, and that this had been a mistake. We saw this in Khrushchev, and spoke about it, and this was even openly acknowledged by the Central Committee under Stalin. Everyone makes mistakes. Lenin made mistakes, and Stalin made mistakes. Khrushchev was no exception. I had my own mistakes. Who is infallible? If, however, one has good intentions but is in error, he must be corrected …
Khrushchev hinted that Stalin had Kirov killed. There are some who still believe that story. The seeds of suspicion were planted. A commission was set up in 1956. Some twelve persons, from various backgrounds, looked through a welter of documents but found nothing incriminating Stalin. But these results have never been published.
CHUEV: Who else was on that commission?
MOLOTOV: As far as I can recall, Shvernik was on it, I think, Suslov, Kaganovich, Furtseva, Procurator-General Rudenko, also someone who used to work in the Cheka … what’s his name? In all, there were ten or twelve people. I don’t remember exactly. I think Mikoian was there, too. But I can’t be absolutely sure. Voroshilov, I think, wasn’t included in that commission. Or he might have been there after all. I can’t recall all of them.
The KGB made a special report. Rudenko’s group authenticated and examined the material–and there was a great deal of material. We used all the materials sent to us as well as those we managed to obtain ourselves.
The commission concluded that Stalin was not implicated in Kirov’s assassination. Khrushchev refused to have the findings published since they didn’t serve his purpose.
Khrushchev got by because we had many Khrushchev supporters. Stalin was firm, a firm hand–that was Stalin–and under that strong hand everyone sang the same tune. But as soon as that hand grew weak, everyone began to sing his own tune.
In 1957 Khrushchev was relieved of his duties for three days. This happened at one of the Politburo sessions. This, of course, had to be announced. He was chairing Politburo sessions; he was merely relieved of the chairmanship. Nothing more occurred then. He wasn’t removed from his job, and he couldn’t be removed. The Central Committee plenum would decide this. How else could he have been removed?
At the XXth Party Congress a Presidium consisting of eleven members had been elected. Later, in 1957, we decided to remove Khrushchev. At the Politburo he chaired its sessions; we decided to replace him with Bulganin. The point was that starting with Lenin–and it was always so–the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars always chaired sessions of the Politburo. This was a Leninist tradition. From the beginning, Lenin chaired–when he was ill, Kamenev sat in for him– then Rykov chaired, then I, then Stalin. Khrushchev was the first to break with this Leninist tradition. He began to act like a regional party secretary … He was not chairman of the Council of Ministers, nevertheless he chaired Politburo sessions … Now we had Bulganin chair.
CHUEV: Did Khrushchev remain silent?
MOLOTOV: No way! He screamed, he was furious … But we had already reached an agreement. We were seven out of eleven, and his supporters were but three, including Mikoian. We had no program to advance. Our only goal was to remove Khrushchev and have him appointed minister of agriculture. Commotion could be heard behind the door. Furtseva, Serov, Ignatiev were there. They convened the members of the Central Committee.
The Central Committee plenary meeting was held the following day. Furtseva and Suslov were Central Committee secretaries who played roles. Serov played a major role. He employed the staff to best advantage. He had all the Central Committee members promptly summoned to Moscow. They all gathered in Suslov’s office. Serov helped out, though his role was purely technical. Inasmuch as Khrushchev remained the first secretary of the Central Committee, the entire staff was in his hands.
Suslov is such a small-minded politician! And he is a big bore, too.”
– Felix Chuev, “Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics” (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), p. 346-360.