What would happen if Beria came to power in the USSR in 1953?
The arrival of Beria to power after Stalin’s death was more than a real scenario in 1953. It was then the main scenario of a personal change of power, and the fight against this scenario. Without White’s rights, none of the technical applicants for power — Malenkov, Khrushchev and, to a degree, Molotov — had no chance of success.
Moreover, even non-pretenders in the Soviet style of that period wanted to get rid of Beria - everyone was mortally afraid of him, and this was why: he concentrated in his hands the leadership of the entire repressive apparatus in the USSR to such an extent that even Stalin, according to his associates, was afraid Beria and planned to shift him. Beria understands this and therefore does not have any regrets about the death of the leader. “Stalin did not know that if he tried to arrest me, the KGB would have staged an uprising” —that, according to Kaganovich at the plenum of the Central Committee in July 1953, Beria told his colleagues in the Presidium of the Central Committee on the day of Stalin’s funeral, when they all stood on the podium of the Mausoleum.
Not Abakumov and Kobulov, and not even Yagoda with Yezhov, but Beria became a symbol of the Soviet state security, and also a distinctive, if not the main feature of the Soviet system was that during its existence from December 1917 the state security bodies sprouted throughout the structure of society and the state supported the atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion and fear: arrests were constantly occurring for unknown reasons, in the press endlessly exposed all new enemies and spies, familiar people disappeared for a long time or forever, all the diverse scenes, about the time a car drove up to the house, a neighbor was put into it and taken away; The state security agencies tightly controlled all other authorities in the country and acquired such a role and importance that the requirements and instructions of even a junior state security officer were mandatory for everyone.
Not only the nomenclature, but also the top management was not protected from arbitrariness, many senior workers lived in constant anticipation of arrest, they always had a suitcase or bundle with necessary things in their house in case of arrest. Many who had a bonus or service weapon used them for suicide, just to avoid arrest and the preparation of the massacre. For example, the elder brother of a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee Kaganovich acted in July 1941, when they began to interrogate him. When in 1937 a candidate member of the Politburo, Petrovsky, who had a son-in-law and a son who were repressed, turned to Kalinin for help, he replied that he himself had a wife arrested and that he could not do anything about it. The wife was arrested and the second man in the party and the state - Molotov.
Not only members of families repressed — they arrested and shot members of the Politburo, secretaries of the Central Committee and “ordinary” members of the Central Committee, ministers, marshals, generals.
Beria was also subordinate to the personal security of the top Soviet leaders, and they also knew that all their conversations were being tapped. In addition, in March 1953, Beria headed the newly incorporated ministry of internal affairs and state security, which strengthened his hardware capabilities.
By setting such levers of pressure and coercion, Beria was sure that after a short period between the authorities, Stalin’s place was in the end. Why did he not decide to immediately take over the position of the first head? He could well insist on this in the distribution, however, for various reasons did not.
Beria’s actions in the spring of 1953 suggest an assumption, perhaps wrong, that in addition to seizing power for its own sake (for many, unfortunately, power is an end in itself) he also wants to realize some idea of reforming the Soviet system on new, more pragmatic beginnings. “Whoever is not blind, he sees ...”, - this phrase, mysterious and unusual for the party vocabulary, sounded twice as a kind of refrain in his speech from the Mausoleum on Stalin’s death.
Apparently, he understood and wanted first to change the reputation that he was in the country and among his colleagues in the leadership, and for the sake of this he planned to somehow announce himself new things that would distance him from the spots of repression. Yes, there are not stains - there are truly elbow-high hands in blood!
Everything else, Beria had ideas that spread to many areas of politics, both internal and external. Because he was not interested in quasi-theoretical calculations), in his political views he was repelled from the realities of practical life.
Immediately after the death of Stalin, he launched a stormy activity, and he acted independently, without coordinating his actions and decisions with other members of the Presidium of the Central Committee.
The name of Stalin almost ceases to be mentioned in the press, and people immediately noticed and understood this signal.
On his own initiative, Beria not only stopped the repressions the very next day after Stalin’s death, but immediately began to debunk the most odious “affairs” of the Late Nestinian period, in particular, the “doctors' case”, the murder of Mikhoels. He was the first in the leadership to raise the question of the rehabilitation of innocent victims and the punishment of the guilty (in connection with the case of doctors).
He began to disaggregate the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs: he significantly reduced the construction program, transferring a part of the volume to civilian authorities, transferred the GULAG to the Ministry of Justice. Declared an amnesty for the “cold summer” of 1953.
Beria insisted on postponing consideration of all substantive issues from the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPSU to the Presidium of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, thereby charting a policy of weakening the role of the party, which was then charged to him after his arrest on June 26, 1953.
In foreign policy, in the incomplete 4 months of his activity, Beria attempted to implement two fundamentally large reversals, which, however, met fierce resistance from his “comrades-in-arms” and were never implemented: agree to the reunification of Germany within the FRG according to the formula of a “single democratic bourgeois state” , from which he saw no threat to the security of the USSR (only in the first months of 1953, 450 thousand Germans moved from East Germany to West in search of satiety and wealth), and to restore the 100 relations with Yugoslavia and Tito personally, and without any requirements for preserving socialism there and recognizing their close ties with the West. Beria may have seen the path Tito had chosen — a combination of socialist and capitalist elements in economics and politics — as the most optimal for THE USSR.
Beria spoke in favor of expanding and strengthening the role of national personnel in the leadership of the republics.
Answering the first part of the question, I tend to think that Beria, having come to power as the supreme leader, would be guided by a certain Yugoslav variant.
It was Beria’s actions that in the Soviet people gave rise to hopes for changes for the better and the improvement of the moral and ethical situation in society, although among people these actions were not directly associated with Beria’s name, they talked more about Malenkov.
How to treat Beria? This should determine society, although, probably, the time for such an assessment has already been missed, and the events of those years and decades - the Stalinist dictatorship and overcoming its most severe consequences - are of little interest to the modern generation, for which all this seems to be an old and irrelevant history. However, the current generation does not understand that since the consequences of that dictatorship were not completely overcome in public consciousness and political practice, all of these tragic events in one form or another can be repeated once, and the fact that even now 40% of Russians justify the repressions of that time, indicating the preservation of the totalitarian virus in the public body.
The hand does not rise to write about Beria at least the same thing as, for example, about Khrushchev: they say it was an ambiguous figure, yes, there is a lot of repression and blood on his conscience, but he, he says, did a lot for their termination and even condemnation. Of course, Beria did not have the few years that Khrushchev had afterwards, in order to turn around and put into practice his reforms. Perhaps he would not only have traveled the same path to the Twentieth Congress as Khrushchev, but would have gone further.
However, unlike the assessment of Khrushchev, as well as other Soviet leaders of that period, public opinion was formed in relation to Beria - and it was not without purpose - an unequivocally negative assessment. It is difficult to find someone who would justify and protect Beria. Only his son did it - in his memoirs. In public memory, Beria will remain the embodiment of evil.