Serov, Ivan Aleksandrovich

(1900–1990)
   After service in the Communist Party bureaucracy and the military, Serov (like Sergei Kruglov) was brought into the NKVD in 1938, as part of Lavrenty Beria’s efforts to purge the service and establish his own power base. In September 1938, Serov was appointed NKVD chief in Ukraine, where he worked closely with Nikita Khrushchev. He inherited a security service deeply traumatized by 18 months of purges, arrests, and killings. His immediate predecessor, Aleksandr Uspenskiy, had gone so far as to fake his own suicide and disappear. In 1939–1941, Serov supervised the sovietization of the western Ukraine and the Baltic states, directing the mass deportation of Poles, Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians to Siberia. Serov was also implicated in the murder of thousands of Polish officers and civilians in 1940. DuringWorld War II, Serov, serving as the deputy chief of state security, supervised the deportation of more than 1.5 million Soviet citizens—Volga Germans, peoples of the Caucasus, and Crimean Tatars–of whom approximately one-third perished of cold, sickness, and hunger. For carrying out these deportations, Joseph Stalin approved 413 medals for Serov’s team. During the last days of the war, Serov served as Stalin’s security chief in Poland and eastern Germany. Serov was instrumental in the arrest of anti-Soviet Polish patriots, members of the AK (the Polish Home Army) in 1944 and 1945. He also acted as the Soviet leader’s watchdog on the Red Army and its popular commander Marshal Georgi Zhukov in Germany. In July 1945 Serov was rewarded by promotion to colonel general.
   Following the war, Serov became one of the most important figures in the security service. Among his responsibilities was oversight of “special prisons,” where especially important people were interrogated and executed. Following Stalin’s death, Serov successfully plotted against Beria, and he maintained his rank and authority in the security service. In March 1954 he was made chief of the newly minted KGB, in part because of his close relationship with Khrushchev. As KGB chair, Serov was involved in putting down the Hungarian revolution and supporting Khrushchev against the plotting of the Antiparty Group, which had sought to remove Khrushchev from the party leadership. In 1958 Khrushchev moved Serov to the GRU, where his career was ended by the exposure of Oleg Penkovskiy as a spy for the Americans and British. Serov was demoted, stripped of many of his decorations, and sent to a military post in the provinces.
   Serov was one of the last of Stalin’s Chekists to die. Well rewarded by Stalin, he received six Orders of Lenin and four Orders of the Red Banner, the same number as Marshal Zhukov. Nevertheless, he was truly a monster, responsible for the execution and exile of millions of innocent Soviet citizens.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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