Abakumov, Viktor Semenovich

(1908–1954)
   Born into a working-class family in Moscow, Abakumov joined the security service in 1932 and rose very quickly during the Yezhovshchina to head regional state security offices. In the early days of World War II, he served in military counterintelligence. In 1943 Joseph Stalin appointed him head of an independent military counterintelligence component (Smersh) located within the People’s Commissariat of Defense. As chief of Smersh, Abakumov met Stalin on an almost daily basis, providing details of counterintelligence operations, as well as information and gossip about Red Army commanders. In 1946 Abakumov was promoted by Stalin to head the newly minted Ministry of State Security (MGB) with the rank of army general, to counter Lavrenty Beria’s power. As minister of state security, Abakumov used the service to crush armed rebellions in the Baltic states and the western Ukraine. In 1948–1949, in what became known as the Leningrad Case, he led the prosecution and eventual execution of senior Communist Party, MGB, and military officials. The MGB was not a “band of brothers” in the late 1940s. Abakumov often denounced his subordinates to Stalin, accusing them of malfeasance. There is a certain justice then that Abakumov was arrested after being denounced by one of his subordinates for fiscal and moral corruption. A search of his home found war booty from Germany worth thousands of rubles. Even more damning in Stalin’s eyes was the charge that Abakumov had deliberately failed to find traitors in the party and the police, and that he was guilty of protecting Jews. In his own hand, Stalin approved the following indictment of Abakumov shortly before the leader’s death: “The accused Abakumov sabotaged the investigation of criminal activity of the arrested American spies and Jewish nationalists, acting under the cover of the Jewish After his arrest, Abakumov was interrogated and tortured by teams of his former colleagues. He remained in jail for the next three years and was not rehabilitated by the post-Stalinist leadership. Rather, he was tried and shot in December 1954 for treason. At his trial, Abakumov had argued that he acted under Stalin’s direction and that he “was responsible only to Stalin.” Abakumov apparently had not been informed that he was to be shot immediately following the trial. His last words, spoken before a bullet took his life, were: “I am going to write the Politburo . . .”
   Abakumov was both a sensationally successful counterintelligence chief and a major coconspirator in Stalin’s crimes against the Soviet people. Unlike Beria, he was never personally close to Stalin, but in the years he served as minister of state security he briefed Stalin almost daily. Abakumov was partially posthumously rehabilitated in 1990 by a Leningrad court, which found his sentence and execution to have been decided illegally.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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