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Lazar Kaganovich
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Lazar Kaganovich

Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich (Ла́зарь Моисе́евич Кагано́вич) (November 22, 1893 - July 25, 1991) was a Soviet politician and a supporter of Joseph Stalin.

In 1930, he became a member of the Soviet Politburo, and during the 1930s he became famous for his modernization of Moscow, including the construction of the first phase of the Moscow Metro. The Metro was named after Kaganovich until 1955. He also supervised the implementation of many of Stalin's economic policies, including the collectivization of agriculture and rapid industrialization.

According to Robert Conquest, Kaganovich, in league with Molotov, engineered the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine or Holodomor in which 7 to 10 million people died. Ukrainian wheat was shipped out of country to finance Soviet industrialization and to "pacify" the Ukrainians. However, most academics in Soviet studies such as Moshe Lewin, Alexander Dallin and Alec Nove dismiss the idea that the famine was a deliberate act.

On March 5, 1940, Kaganovich, together with other Soviet leaders, signed the order to execute 25,700 Polish intelligentsia, including 14,700 Polish prisoners of war. This became known as Katyn massacre.

Kaganovich was Jewish by birth, but ideologically he was a staunch atheist. He was, until 1957, a full member of the Politburo and its successor, the Presidium. Kaganovich was an early mentor of Nikita Khrushchev, who first rose to prominence as his Moscow City deputy in the 1930s. In 1947, when Khrushchev was stripped of the Party leadership in the Ukraine (he remained in the somewhat lesser head of government job), Stalin dispatched Kaganovich to replace him until the former was reinstated late that year.

Kaganovich was a rigid Stalinist, and though he remained in the Presidium, quickly lost influence after Stalin's death in March 1953. In 1957, along with fellow hard-line Stalinist Vyacheslav Molotov and Malenkov (the so-called Anti-Party Group) he participated in an abortive party coup against his former protege Khrushchev, who had over the preceding two years become increasingly harsh in his criticism of Stalin. As a result, Kaganovich was forced to retire from the Presidium and the Central Committee, and in 1964 he was expelled from the party.

He lived on, however, to the remarkable age of 97, dying in 1991, just before the events that led to the final unravelling of the Soviet Union.