Vlacheslav Mikhaylovich Skryabin, foreign minister for the Soviet Union who took the revolutionary name Molotov, is born in Kurkaka, Russia.
Molotov was an enthusiastic advocate of Marxist revolution in Russia from its earliest days. He was an organizer of the Bolshevik Party in 1906 and suffered arrest in 1909 and 1915 under the czarist government for his subversive political activities. In 1921, after the coup d’etat that brought Vladimir Lenin to power and overthrew the old czarist regime, he became secretary of the revolutionary government’s Central Committee. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Molotov supported Joseph Stalin as Lenin’s successor; when Stalin did assume power, Molotov was rewarded with full membership in the Soviet Politburo, the executive policy-making body.
In 1930, he was made chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, a position roughly the equivalent of prime minister. On the eve of World War II, Molotov was also made Soviet commissar of foreign affairs–that is, the foreign minister for the USSR. It was in this position that he negotiated the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact (August 1939) with Nazi Germany, in which the antifascist Soviet Union and anti-Marxist Germany agreed to respect each other’s spheres of influence (an agreement that angered and stunned the world, and that only lasted a short time).
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Molotov became a member of the State Defense Committee, a war cabinet post, and negotiated alliances with the United States and Great Britain, arguing for a “second front” that would draw the Germans westward and away from the USSR. He won a reputation as a hard and relentless advocate for Soviet interests (nicknamed “Stone Ass” by Roosevelt), and did little to hide his contempt for the Western democracies–even as he desperately needed and relied upon them.
After the war, Molotov left the foreign ministry, but took it up once again upon the accession of Nikita Krushchev to power. Disagreements with Krushchev led to his dismissal from that post, and “anti-party”–really anti-Krushchev–involvement led to his being deposed from all government posts and denounced as a “henchman” of Stalin. He was then relegated to various low-profile jobs, including ambassador to Outer Mongolia. He retired from public life in 1962 and died in 1986. Though he held many notable posts in the Soviet government, many remember him for another reason–during the war, Molotov advocated the use of throwing bottles filled with flammable liquid and stuffed with a lit rag at the enemy, and the famous “Molotov cocktail” was born.