Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Circle, 1945-1953

By Yoram Gorlizki; Oleg Khlevniuk | Go to book overview
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2
STATE BUILDING STALIN STALE

T he subjugation of Stalin's Politburo companions after the war went hand in hand with his refashioning of high-level political structures. With the dissolution of the State Defense Committee in September 1945, Stalin's ruling group quickly reverted to prewar conventions designed to make life as comfortable as possible for the leader. Yet highly informal arrangements of this kind were by no means universal across the higher reaches of the political system after the war. In fact, formal and routine committees were very much a feature of high-level decision making in the late Stalin era. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the activities of the government. Under arrangements formalized in February 1947, the Council of Ministers (Sovmin) was given almost exclusive control of the economy, while “political” decisions were made the preserve of the Politburo. This delegation of authority to Sovmin committees was part of a general attempt to regularize decision making over a large range of economic and administrative issues. For the duration of Stalin's life, the inner councils of the government, the Sovmin bureaus, functioned as a routine committee system, meeting on a near weekly basis, handling a substantial workload, and enjoying a clear and continuous internal division of labor.

The other side of this arrangement was a Politburo entirely obedient to Stalin's whims. In addition to manipulating his companions through harassment and intimidation, Stalin conditioned the institutional environment in which they operated. The dictator personally selected the Politburo's membership, set its agendas, fashioned its procedures, and organized the locations and timing of its meetings to suit his own urges. In these respects the Politburo under Stalin was turned into an instrument of personal rule. Moreover, whenever Stalin felt that the government had gained

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