The Anti-Party Group (Russian: Антипартийная группа, tr. Antipartiynaya gruppa) was a group within the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that unsuccessfully attempted to depose Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the Party in May 1957. The group, named by that epithet by Khrushchev, was led by former Premiers Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov. The group rejected both Khrushchev's liberalisation of Soviet society and his denunciation of Joseph Stalin.
The members of the group regarded Khruschev's attacks on Stalin, most famously in the Secret Speech delivered at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956 as wrong and hypocritical, given Khrushchev's complicity in the Great Purge and similar events as one of Stalin's favourites. They believed that Khrushchev's policy of peaceful coexistence would leave the Soviet Union open to attack. Additionally, they were protecting their self-interest. Malenkov and Molotov had been removed from their positions as Premier and Foreign Minister the year before. Others feared for their careers and possibly their lives in the continuing de-Stalinisation of Soviet life.
The leaders of the group - Malenkov, Molotov and Lazar Kaganovich - were joined at the last minute by Foreign Minister Dmitri Shepilov, whom Kaganovich had convinced that the group had a majority. In fact, in the Presidium the group's proposal to replace Khrushchev as First Secretary with Premier Nikolai Bulganin won with 7 to 4 votes in which Malenkov, Molotov, Kaganovich, Bulganin, Voroshilov, Pervukhin and Saburov supported and Khrushchev, Mikoyan, Suslov and Kirichenko opposed, but Khrushchev argued that only the plenum of the Central Committee could remove him from office. At an extraordinary session of the Central Committee held in late June, Khrushchev argued that his opponents were an "anti-party group". He was backed by Defense Minister Georgy Zhukov, who gave a forceful speech, and was reaffirmed in his position as First Secretary even using the military to bring in supporters of Khrushchev to convince people to support him.1
During the stormy meeting of the Central Committee, Zhukov - a man of immense prestige given his role in the war and his reputation of fearlessness even in the face of Stalin's anger - delivered a bitter denunciation of the plotters, accusing them of having blood on their hands over Stalin's atrocities. He went further still saying that he had the military power to crush them even if they did win the vote and implied he would be able to have them all killed, but the triumphant Khrushchev rejected any such move.
Malenkov, Molotov, Kaganovich and Shepilov - the only four names made public - were vilified in the press and deposed from their positions in party and government. They were given relatively unimportant positions:
- Molotov was sent as ambassador to Mongolia
- Malenkov became director of a hydroelectric plant in Kazakhstan
- Kaganovich became director of a small potassium factory in the Urals
- Shepilov became head of the Economics Institute of the local Academy of Sciences of Kyrgyzstan
In 1961, in the wake of further de-Stalinisation, they were expelled from the Communist Party altogether and all lived mostly quiet lives from then on. Shepilov was allowed to rejoin the party by Khrushchev's successor Leonid Brezhnev in 1976 but remained on the sidelines.
Khrushchev became increasingly distrusting and in the same year also deposed Defense Minister Zhukov, who had assisted him against the anti-party group but with whom he increasingly had political differences, alleging Bonapartism. In 1958, Premier Bulganin, the intended beneficiary of the anti-party group's move, was forced to retire and Khrushchev became Premier as well.
Khrushchev's treatment of his opponents, in that they were vilified and humiliated but not physically oppressed, marked a departure from earlier practice in Soviet politics (as last seen in 1953 during the purge of Lavrenti Beria) - a development that was followed during later power struggles, such as Khrushchev's own deposition by Brezhnev in 1964 and the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991citation needed.
Zhukov's subsequent partial rehabilitation under Brezhnev, after Khrushchev's 1964 ouster, was paradoxically seen as a gesture of peace towards the older guard in the party, as it honoured a hero of the war (and by implication Stalin as supreme commander).
- "The Anti-Party Group". Soviethistory.org. 1957-05-10. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Khrushchev Expels the 'Anti-Party Group' Central Committee decree on the Anti-Party Group, June 29, 1957
- Russian: Шепилов Д.Т. Непримкнувший. Воспоминания Издательство «ВАГРИУС», 2001. ISBN 5-264-00505-2