Molotov, Poetic Justice and Outer Mongolia March 13, 2014Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
There is always some fun seeing people placed in hells of their own making, hells that they amply deserve. Of course, there is the whole ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ thing: Samuel K. Doe, president of Liberia being tortured to death on celluloid; Gaddafi meeting his end in a culvert (‘God forbids this’); Jesse James being shot in the back of the head while cleaning a picture… But there isn’t much in the way of aesthetics when the sword is unsheaved. That is why the fate of Vyacheslav Molotov is so satisfying.
Indictment: Molotov was Soviet Foreign Secretary under Stalin (1939-1949). He stitched up brave Poland with Ribbentrop. He signed the kill orders for Katyn along with the rest of the Politburo. He has moral responsibility for the purges and for the terror famines. He supported Stalin’s legacy after Uncle Joe’s death. In terms of pure evil he wasn’t at the level of Stalin’s executioner Beria: he rarely had a knife or gun in his hands. But, make no mistake, this was a man who’d walked knee deep in blood and talked Marxist-Leninist sophisms while doing so. If someone deserved to be kicked hard in the shins by God this was the man.
And Molotov’s hell? Khrushchev quickly outmaneuvered Molotov in the post-Stalin era and Molotov found himself at cunning Nikita’s mercy. Khrushchev had himself waded, let’s say, ankle deep in blood, but he wouldn’t do anything as crude as killing sad old Molotov. Instead, in 1957, Molotov, the man who had mastered the foreign relations of one of the most powerful nations in the world was made – a thrill shoots through me Beach’s veins as he writes this – Ambassador to Mongolia. Now think about that for a moment. Sending Molotov to Mongolia would be the equivalent of Pavarotti being transferred from the Scala to sing in a high school production of Cats; of Gordon Ramsey being made to work in a soup kitchen for the homeless; of Sir Ian MacEwan ending up in Debbie Does Dallas… A tiny ‘outer’ nation with servile relations to the Soviet Union Mongolia certainly didn’t offer many challenges to Molotov. Most of its population still lived in tents and were not amenable to persuasion. But it wasn’t about talent it was about humiliation and Khrushchev proved a past master at this. He had, for example, sent Molotov’s Stalinist friend Malenkov, one of the leaders of the purges and almost-ruler of the USSR at Stalin’s death, to Kazakhstan to run a power station.
Malenkov got depressed in central Asia and then converted to Orthodoxy. It sounds as if the power station gave him some time to think on his sins. Molotov though just gritted his teeth and carried on being Molotov in distant Ulan Bator. He gave talks to the local Lenin Club on Foreign Policy, he intrigued with the then leader of Mongolia (Yumjaagin Tsedenbal) and pontificated constantly on the ‘need for peace’, while serving the country that had done almost as much for war as the Nazis. The joy of his position, though, was that his actions meant absolutely nothing, not even for the one million pastoralists, who comprised the population of his new home.
After a little over three years in Mongolia he was recalled to Moscow and expelled from the Communist Party in Khrushchev’s final act of revenge. It was probably, however, a relief after the steppes: anything but ceremonial feasts with Yumjaagin, eating cooked mutton and debating Das Kapital through interpreters… Molotov died in 1986 three years before Gorbachev finally did the decent thing and admitted that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which had effectively started WW2 and so killed some 28 million Russians, had been a terrible, terrible mistake. Stalin’s diplomatic hit man was 96 when he was lowered into the Moscow earth. Only the good die young…
Other’s who got non-violent but nevertheless emphatic rhyming, scanning poetic justice: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
13 March 2014: Tacitus from Detritus writes: Regards those who got something akin to their just deserts, lets remember the many inept French generals of World War I. Their incompetence killed many. And their reward was to be send to Limoge to do….nothing. I would like to imagine that the “Limoged” generals had a clique ridden little society. Maybe the disgraced three star generals made the one and two star underlings march in parade formation every morning. If they didn’t, they should have. Thanks Tacitus, wish I’d thought of that!