The alleged personal diary of Lavrenty Beria, chief of the NKVD, the Soviet security body, has been published in Russia. The book reveals the thrilling story of one of the most powerful and ruthless people of Stalin’s era.
The purported diary covers the period between 1938, when Beria – then a senior figure in the Georgian Soviet Republic – was promoted to Moscow, and 1953, shortly before his arrest. Some Russian newspapers, including Komsomolskaya Pravda and Moskovsky Komsomolets, have published exempts from the book.
September 10, 1938
“I’m getting used to Moscow life. Nikolay [Ezhov, head of the NKVD, the body responsible for state security; Beria’s position at the time was Ezhov’s deputy – RT] mostly keeps distance. He seems to be calculating whether I’ll be burdened with the Narkomat [NKVD – RT] or not. I told him I’m not happy with the appointment and would rather keep working in Georgia. But I have my order. Still he looks with suspicion at me.”
November 8, 1938
“Nobody knows, but we’ve just survived the most difficult moment. There could have been a terrorist act at the demonstration. Convenient time; everyone at one place. Dagin [Israel Dagin, head of NKVD’s department responsible for personal security of government members; arrested in November 1938 for conspiracy and executed two years later – RT] and his boys could have taken the risk. Koba [Stalin’s nickname for the inner circle – RT] realized it, but there was no way to leave the mausoleum. I personally controlled it all. Now it will be easier. I believe we’ve busted the most dangerous cell.”
November 20, 1938
“We spent the whole night at Koba’s clearing up things about Ezhov. The pieces all fit. If Ezhov is not an enemy himself, he had plenty of those around him…
“How does it happen? You think you get power and have your hands untied. People start embezzling, selling stuff out, then neglect duty. Then you get caught with something, mostly with women; that’s it, you’re f…ed up and hooked. You’re an enemy and didn’t see it coming.
“Those Chekist [security agents; the word is derived from CheKa, the NKVD’s predecessor as the governmental security body – RT] a…holes! You’re given great authority, so use it for the sake of duty and with care. No, they start playing little Napoleons, as Koba said it now. They think they’re smart, and Koba is a fool, Lavrenty is a fool. Then comes a conspiracy…”
May 5, 1941
“I talked to Zhdanov [Andrey Zhdanov, a general and head of the RSFSR, the Soviet Union’s largest republic – RT]. Andrey says Koba has doubts about the war. Says the risk for Hitler is too big. I told Andrey this may be true, but news from the border is sh…ty; too many troops are being relocated. They also strengthen wooden bridges with iron. Why? To trick us? Bullsh…t!”
August 18, 1942
“The time is not for fun, but we had a good laugh. Koba said my advice about Churchill was handy. Churchill agreed, got drunk and mellowed. Koba told about it and laughed… ‘It’s good to know an enemy’s weaknesses in advance,’ Koba said later.”
[The episode mentioned refers to Winston Churchill’s visit to Moscow in August 1942, which was the time of very tough talks over Britain’s decision to invade North Africa instead of Europe, as Moscow was expecting. – RT]
April 19, 1938
“Summer is coming. I’d love to go to the seaside or at least fishing. Koba shouted at me, and then recalled how we ate trout, how I chopped firewood. It was so long ago and we were different people. I looked at myself – there’s a fat belly. I used to be slim, girls liked me…
“Time to go to bed. It’s past 2am, April 20. Hitler’s birthday. Vyacheslav [Molotov, Soviet foreign minister – RT] once told me he doesn’t eat meat and drinks mineral water. Let him drink. To our health.”
May 10, 1945
“Another evening with Koba. Again the three of us, Klim [Voroshilov, prominent Soviet military commander – RT], me and Georgy [Malenkov, head of the cabinet – RT]. Vyacheslav is far away, in America. Again Koba is unlike himself. Even softer, even shed a tear or two. I don’t recognize myself either. We took off such a burden; I still can’t believe it. Such a burden!”
March 8, 1947
“F…ing intellectuals paint Bolsheviks as cannibals; try sparing the rod here! The tsars failed to make Russia great in 300 years. We remade it in 30. But you can’t just make everyone responsible.
“Russians move mountains. Any man moves mountains, if he’s a real man and listens to a man’s word. And if you’re a s…t, the rod won’t get to you. Neither will the bullet.”
December 26, 1947
“Officials get greedy. This a..hole Egorov [head of the hospital serving Kremlin officials – RT] decided to kick my academicians from the Kremlin hospital, even Igor [Kurchatov, head of the atomic bomb research] and old man Khlopin [Vitaly Khlopin, director of the Radium institute – RT]. They treat their b…ches, but not those needed by the country. It’s good that I don’t shop there. The bastards would’ve treated me to death.
“So many b…ches around these days. I wish I could shoot them all, but being a bastard and an a…hole is not a crime.”
November 1, 1949
“I received a Lenin order from comrade Stalin and a commendation from the Politburo for the atomic bomb.
“I don’t work for the praise, but still I feel offended. Comrade Stalin could have given me a second Star [the Gold Star, the medal, which came with the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the country’s highest distinction – RT]… Here I receive a thank you, but I don’t feel good about it. Comrade Stalin distinguishes, comrade Stalin doesn’t distinguish. I know I could have done more with greater independence, but comrade Stalin holds me down.”
July 16, 1950
“They say I swear too much. Sometimes I do. I’m always polite with Igor. And with Khariton [Yuly Khariton, one of chief designers at the nuclear project – RT] too. I talk differently with some of my men. What else can I do? We have half of both sorts. Half of them work as heroes, with responsibility, half of them need a swear word to speed up… I know it would be better without it, people need upbringing. But I have no time, as I didn’t have it before.”
February 3, 1951
“I talked to Korolev [Sergey Korolev, head of the Soviet missile program – RT] recently. He’s a tough guy. And a dreamer. They say he wants to fly to space… I say: ‘Are you building a rocket for space? You’re supposed to be making a rocket for the bomb!’ He smiles and says: “One goes hand in hand with the other, comrade Beria. A powerful rocket for the bomb can go to space too.’
“He says man must go to space. I tell him: ‘You learn to fly over the land first.’ He says: ‘Space is over the land. It’s just a bit higher. We’ll soon send dogs into space, and then a man.’
“Let him dream. A good dream helps with work. I’ve got no dreams anymore. Not even about retirement.”
October 27, 1952
“Koba wants a big purge, but without much blood. He says: ‘We used to have political enemies with real conspiracies against us. Now our prime enemy is the bureaucrat and the selfish careerist. There’s no need to shoot them. They are to be sacked, and the worst ones tried at court.’ We agreed.”
The three-volume publication of Beria’s diary was prepared by Sergey Kremlev, who authored several books on the era of Stalinism and the World War II. The origin of the material is somewhat mysterious.
According to the writer, he was handed over a typewritten copy of the text by a man who introduced himself as “Pavel Lavrentievich” (the patronymic may imply the man was Beria’s son, but his only known child’s name was Sergo). The stranger also showed a photocopy of the original, and Kremlev believes it may have been written by Beria’s hand.
This and the text’s coherence with documentary evidence of the time convinced Kremlev that the copy is authentic.
Arsen Martinosyan, who wrote two books about Levrenty Beria’s life and misconceptions about the man, told RT the “diary” is most likely a fake.
“Not a single document has any hint that Beria had any personal diary. His primary occupation in security doesn’t imply keeping any diaries. All his life he was extremely busy and had no time for that,” he said.
“In all respects, my professional opinion is that it is a well-made fake. I can only regret that Sergey Tarasovich [Krmelev] chose this path,” he added.