Dmitri Shepilov

Dmitri Shepilov
Dmitri Shepilov
Дмитрий Шепилов
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union
In office
1 June 1956 – 15 February 1957
Premier Nikolai Bulganin
Preceded by Vyacheslav Molotov
Succeeded by Andrei Gromyko
Personal details
Born 23 October [O.S. 5 November] 1905
Ashgabat, Imperial Russia
Died 18 August 1995(1995-08-18) (aged 89)
Moscow, Russian Federation
Nationality Soviet and Russian
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Profession Economist

Dmitri Trofimovich Shepilov (Russian: Дмитрий Трофимович Шепилов Dmitrij Trofimovič Šepilov) (5 November [O.S. 23 October] 1905– 8 August 1995) was a Soviet politician and Minister of Foreign Affairs who joined the abortive plot to oust Nikita Khrushchev from power in 1957.



Dmitri Shepilov was born to a worker's family in Askhabad. He graduated from the Law School of the Moscow State University in 1926 and was sent to work in Yakutsk, where he worked as a deputy prosecutor and acting prosecutor for Yakutia. In 1928-1929 Shepilov worked as an assistant regional prosecutor in Smolensk. In 1931-1933 Shepilov studied at the Institute of Red Professors[1] in Moscow while simultaneously working as the "responsible secretary" of the magazine On the Agrarian Front. After graduating in 1933, Shepilov was made head of the political department of a sovkhoz. In 1935 he was made Deputy Chief of the Sector of Agricultural Science of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party.

In 1937 Shepilov became a Doctor of Science and was made the Scientific Secretary of the Institute of Economics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He also taught economics in Moscow's colleges between 1937 and 1941.

Shortly after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Shepilov joined the Soviet People's Militia (Narodnoe Opolcheniye) in July 1941 and was a Political commissar of its Moscow component during the Battle of Moscow in 1941-1942. In 1942-1943 he was the political commissar of the 23rd Guard Army and in 1944-1946 of the 4th Guard Army, ending the war with the rank of Major General. Between May 1945 and February 1946, Shepilov was one of the top Soviet officials in Vienna during the early stages of the Soviet occupation of eastern parts of Austria.

Early career

In February 1946, Shepilov was appointed deputy head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Soviet Army's Main Political Directorate. On 2 August 1946 he became the head of the propaganda department of the main Communist Party daily Pravda.

In mid-1947, the head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Communist Party Central Committee Georgy Aleksandrov and his deputies were subject to public criticism for being insufficiently vigilant and removed from their positions. Shepilov was appointed deputy chief of the Department on 18 September 1947. Since the new department head, Mikhail Suslov, had other responsibilities, Shepilov had almost complete control of the Department's day to day operations.

While in Moscow, Shepilov– famous for his near-eidetic memory, erudition and polished manners– became an expert on Communist ideology and a protege of Joseph Stalin's chief of Communist ideology Andrei Zhdanov[2]. The 1 December 1947 appointment of Yuri Zhdanov, Andrei Zhdanov's son, to lead the Propaganda Department's Science Sector put Shepilov in a delicate position of supervising his patron's son. The situation was made even more delicate by the fact that Yuri Zhdanov had just married Joseph Stalin's daughter Svetlana and the fact that Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's closest advisor at the time, had many enemies in the Soviet leadership.

When in April 1948 Shepilov approved Yuri Zhdanov's speech critical of Soviet biologist and Stalin favorite Trofim Lysenko, it started an intense political battle between Andrei Zhdanov on the one hand and his rivals who were using the episode to discredit Zhdanov[3]. On 1 July 1948, Zhdanov's main rival, Georgy Malenkov, took over at the Communist Party Secretariat while Zhdanov was sent on a two-month vacation, where he died. Shepilov, however, not only survived this change at the top, but even improved his position and was appointed as the next head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department on 10 July 1948. He also survived the next round of the intra-Party struggle associated with the removal and later execution of the Politburo member Nikolai Voznesensky. However, on 14 July 1949, he was censured by the Central Committee for allowing the Party's main theoretical magazine Bolshevik to publish Voznesensky's book on economics back when Voznesensky was still in power[4].

In 1952 Stalin put Shepilov in charge of writing a new Soviet economics textbook based on Stalin's recently published treatise Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR[5]. On 18 November 1952, after the 19th Communist Party Congress, Shepilov was appointed editor-in-chief of Pravda[6].

Khrushchev's theoretician

After Stalin's death in March 1953, Shepilov became an ally and protege of the new Soviet Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev[7], providing ideological support in the latter's struggle with the Soviet prime minister Georgy Malenkov. He was made a Corresponding Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences the same year. While Malenkov argued in favor of producing more consumer goods, Shepilov emphasized the role of heavy and defense industries and characterized Malenkov's position as follows:

In generally understandable language this means: we surrender the advantage of forcing forward the development of heavy industry, machine construction, energy, chemical industry, electronics, jet technology, guidance systems, and so forth, to the imperialist world... It is hard to imagine a more anti-scientific, rotten theory, which could disarm our people more.[8]

In February 1955 Malenkov was ousted as prime minister while Shepilov was elected one of the Secretaries of the Central Committee on 12 July 1955. He retained his Pravda post and became a senior Communist theoretician, contributing to Khrushchev's famous "secret speech" denouncing Stalin at the 20th Party Congress in February 1956[9].

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Even though his field was Communist ideology, Shepilov soon began to branch out into foreign policy. In late May 1955 he accompanied Khrushchev and the new Soviet prime minister Nikolai Bulganin to Yugoslavia to end the confrontation between the two countries which had begun in 1947-1948. According to Veljko Mićunović, then a member of the Yugoslav leadership:

At a lunch with Tito in 1955, Khrushchev several times asked Shepilov to confirm an incident he had just described. "Shepilov would remove the table napkin," Micunovic recalled, "stand up from the table, and as though he were reporting officially, would reply: 'Just so, Nikita Sergeyevich!' and sit down again. I found such behavior on Shepilov's part most unusual, as I did Khrushchev's in tolerating it".[10]

In July 1955 Shepilov traveled to Egypt for talks with the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and secured an arms deal, which meant de facto Soviet recognition of Egypt's military regime and paved the way for subsequent Soviet-Egyptian alliance[11]. It also signaled the Soviet Union's new found flexibility in dealing with non-Communist Third World countries in marked contrast to the intransigence of Stalin's years. On 27 February 1956, after the Soviet Communist Party's 20th Congress, Shepilov was made a candidate (non-voting) member of the Central Committee's Presidium (the Politburo's name in 1952-1966)[12].

On 1 June 1956, Shepilov replaced Vyacheslav Molotov as the Soviet foreign minister. He gave up his Pravda post, but remained a Secretary of the Central Committee until 24 December [13]. In early June 1956 Shepilov went back to Egypt and offered Soviet assistance in building the Aswan Dam, which was eventually accepted after a competing American-World Bank offer was withdrawn in July 1956 in the context of general deterioration of Western-Egyptian relations.

On 27 July 1956, one day after Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, Shepilov met the Egyptian ambassador to the Soviet Union and offered general support for Egypt's position, which Khrushchev made official in his 31 July speech. Although the Soviet Union, as a signatory to the Constantinople Convention of 1888, was invited to the international conference on the Suez issue to be held in London in mid-August, Shepilov at first hesitated to accept the offer. However, once the decision to go was made, he led the Soviet delegation at the conference. Although the conference adopted the American resolution on the internationalization of the Suez Canal 18 votes against 4, Shepilov succeeded in striking an alliance with India, Indonesia and Ceylon as directed by the Soviet leadership.

Shepilov represented the Soviet Union at the UN Security Council during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the Suez Crisis in October-November 1956, although all important political decisions were made by Khrushchev and other top Soviet leaders[14].

Post-Ministership and resignation

On 14 February 1957 Shepilov was once again made Secretary of the Central Committee[15] responsible for Communist ideology and the next day, Andrei Gromyko replaced him as the Soviet foreign minister. In his new capacity, Shepilov oversaw the Second Composers' Congress in March 1957, which re-affirmed the decision of the First Congress (January 1948) to denounce Dmitri Shostakovich and other modernist composers[16]. When Shostakovich privately composed a satirical cantata Rayok (Peepshow) later that year (published in 1989), he made one of the basses a caricature of Shepilov[1]. Shepilov also denounced jazz and rock music at the Congress, warning against "wild cave-man orgies" and the "explosion of basic instincts and sexual urges"[17].

Shepilov was the only Central Committee Secretary to oppose Khrushchev in June 1957 when a majority of the Presidium members tried to oust Khrushchev during the so-called Anti-Party Group affair. He reportedly joined the plot at the last moment when Lazar Kaganovich assured him that the plotters had a majority in the Presidium[18] When Khrushchev prevailed at the Central Committee meeting, he was furious over what he saw as Shepilov's betrayal. Shepilov was ousted from the Central Committee on 29 June 1957 and vilified in the press along with Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich, the only 3 other Soviet leaders whose participation in the coup attempt was made public at the time. Shepilov was friend of Marshal Georgy Zhukov and perhaps that was one of the reasons why a few months later Zhukov himself was removed from the office.

After losing his Central Committee positions, Shepilov was sent to Kyrgyzstan to head the Economics Institute of the local Academy of Sciences, but was soon demoted to deputy director. In 1960 he was recalled to Moscow, expelled from the Soviet Academy of Sciences and sent to the Soviet State Archive (Gosarkhiv) to work as a clerk, where he remained until his retirement in 1982. Following a second wave of denunciations of the "Anti-Party Group" at the 22nd Communist Party Congress in November 1961, Shepilov was expelled from the Communist Party on 21 February 1962. In 1976 he was allowed to re-join the Communist Party, but remained on the sidelines.

When Khrushchev was ousted as the Soviet leader in October 1964, Shepilov began working on his memoirs, a project which he continued intermittently until circa 1970. His papers were lost after his death at age 89 in Moscow, but were eventually found and published in 2001.

Political offices
Preceded by
Vyacheslav Molotov
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR
Succeeded by
Andrei Gromyko


  1. ^ William Taubman. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, New York, W. W. Norton and Co., 2003, ISBN 0-393-05144-7 p.314.
  2. ^ Transcripts of frank conversations between Zhdanov and Shepilov in Jonathan Brent and Vladimir Naumov. Stalin's Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953, Harper Collins Publishers, 2003, ISBN 0-06-093310-0 p.79.
  3. ^ See Alexei Kojevnikov. "Games of Stalinist Democracy: ideological discussions in the Soviet sciences 1947-1952" in Stalinism: New Directions, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick, London, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-15234-8 p.158-159
  4. ^ Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Volume 4, No. 50, 24 January 1953, p. 15.
  5. ^ I primknuvshii k nim Shepilov: pravda o cheloveke uchyonom, voine, politike, eds. Tamara Tochanova and Mikhail Lozhnikov, Moscow, 1998, pp. 127-28, 180-82, 281-82
  6. ^ See Yoram Gorlizki, Oleg V Khlevniuk. Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Circle, 1945-1953, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-516581-0 p.215
  7. ^ Taubman, op. cit., p.313.
  8. ^ Pravda, January 24, 1955. Quoted in Lawrence Freedman. The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003 (third edition), ISBN 0-312-02843-1 p.140
  9. ^ Roger D. Markwick. Rewriting History in Soviet Russia, New York, Palgrave, 2001, ISBN 0-333-79209-2 p.262, note 146
  10. ^ Quoted in Taubman, op. cit., p. 312
  11. ^ Rami Ginat. The Soviet Union and Egypt, 1945-1955, London, Frank Cass and Company Ltd., 1993, ISBN 0-7146-3486-7 pp. 213-214.
  12. ^ USSR: Communist Party: Presidium at
  13. ^ Since Central Committee Secretaries were only appointed and dismissed by infrequent Central Committee plenary meetings, Shepilov formally retained the post until the next meeting
  14. ^ Laurent Rucker. "The Soviet Union and the Suez Crisis", in The 1956 War: Collusion and Rivalry in the Middle East, ed. David Tal, London, Frank Cass Publishers, 2001, ISBN 0-7146-4394-7 pp.67-82.
  15. ^ USSR: Communist Party: Secretariat at
  16. ^ L.N. Lebedinsky. "Rayok: The Music Lesson" in Modernism and Music: An Anthropology of Sources, ed. Daniel Albright, University of Chicago, 2004, ISBN 0-226-01267-0 p.363. Also see Daniel Zhitomirsky. "Shostakovich the public and the private: reminiscences, materials, comments" in Daugava, 1990, No. 3. An English translation is available online as of March 2006
  17. ^ Quoted in David Caute. The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy During the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-924908-3 p.457
  18. ^ Taubman. op. cit., p.313.


In English
  • Speech at the 20th Congress of the C. P. S. U., 15 February 1956, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1956, 28 p.
  • The Suez Problem, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1956, 95p.
In Russian
  • Obshchestvennoe i lichnoe v kolkhozakh, 1939, 79p.
  • Velikij sovetskij narod, Moscow, 1947, 47p.
  • I. V. Stalin o kharaktere ekonomicheskikh zakonov sotsializma, Moscow, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stwo politicheckoj literatury, 1952, 35p.
  • Pechat' w bor'be za dal'nejshij pod'em sel'skogo hozyajstwa, Moscow, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stwo politicheckoj literatury, 1954, 63p.
  • Za dal'nejshij rastsvet sovetskogo hudozhestvennogo tvorchestva, 1957, 31p.

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