Merkulov, Vsevold Nikolaevich
- (1895–1953)Merkulov, whose father was an army officer, received a strong scientific education and served for a short time as a lieutenant in the Imperial Army. After World War I, Merkulov taught in a school for the blind. He joined the Cheka in 1921 and rose quickly as a protégé of Lavrenty Beria in the security service and the Communist Party apparatus. By 1938 he was one of Beria’s chief lieutenants. When Joseph Stalin appointed Beria to head the NKVD in late 1938, Beria in turn appointed Merkulov to be his deputy to oversee counterintelligence and foreign intelligence. In 1939–1940, he was placed in charge of the sovietization of Polish territory.In 1941 Stalin divided the NKVD. Merkulov was made chief of the newly minted NKGB (People’s Commissariat for State Security) and given responsibility for intelligence and counterintelligence. He bares some responsibility for failing to provide Stalin with adequate intelligence about Operation Barbarossa, the German plan to invade the Soviet Union. Like Beria and other senior intelligence officers, he refused to forward or confirm accurate intelligence reports of German intentions. Nevertheless, Stalin was satisfied with his record as a provider of intelligence on Germany and the Western Allies. Given his university education, Merkulov was better prepared than previous intelligence chiefs to direct operations to collect intelligence about the Anglo-American nuclear weapons program, which the NKVD codenamed Enormoz.Merkulov was promoted to general of the army in 1945 and made the first minister of state security at the MGB the next year. After World War II, Merkulov held a series of important posts in the government, as Beria sought to expand his power in the waning years of party leader Stalin’s power. In September 1953 Merkulov was arrested. He was tried for treason with Beria in December of the same year and executed immediately following the trial. Intelligent and articulate, he is remembered in the memoirs of the period as the most urbane and perhaps the least odious of Beria’s subordinates.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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KGB Chairs — 1917–1991 • Feliks Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky 1917–1926 • Vyacheslav Rudolovich Menzhinsky 1926–1934 • Genrykh Grigoreyevich Yagoda 1934–1936 • Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov 1936–1938 • Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria 1938–1941 • Vsevold Nikolaevich Merkulov… … Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence