Beria as a possible leader of the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death

Possibly, the dreaded Stalin’s executioners Beria could have initiated China-style reforms in the USSR if he had lasted longer

Right after the death of Stalin, there was a interesting fork in the history of the USSR. At the time, the boss of Soviet secret services Lavrenty Beria was a front-runner for the position of next Soviet ruler.

He didn’t last long and was murdered shortly afterwards. But during the few months of his tenure, he pushed hard for a series of reforms. These reminded of the Deng’s 1978 reforms that laid the foundations of the Chinese success we are witnessing now.

  • Re-introduction of private farming
  • End to ideologically motivated repressions and a wide amnesty
  • Economic cooperation with the West

Beria’s ideas included also some foreign policy initiatives unthinkable before Gorbachev, like re-unification of Germany and a peace treaty with Japan.

Unlike the time of Gorbachev, in the early the Chinese option would have stood good chances of success. The USSR after WW2 resembled China of the late 1970s in several ways:

  • We had a large pool of population in the countryside that could be released to man the expansion of low-cost manufacturing in the cities
  • Countryside population still remembered how to run business as private farmers
  • National elites in the ethnic republics were still compliant and hamstrung after the bloodletting of the Great Purge

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