Soviet statesman and one of the leaders of the Soviet State Security (GB) in the 1930s. Dekanozov was head of the NKVD foreign intelligence from December 2, 1938 to May 13, 1939, and then, from May 1939 to 1947, was deputy head of the People’s Commissariat (later Ministry) of Foreign Affairs.
Dekanozov, whose real name was Dekanozishvili (or Dekanizishvili), was born in 1898 in Baku (now Azerbaijan) to the family of a controller of an oil company. His father later became the leader of the socialist-federationalist party in pre-revolutionary Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire. The son graduated from the first gymnasium (a seven- or eight-year school which provided secondary and high school education) in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia) and studied in the medical departments of the Universities of Saratov and Baku. Dekanozov took part in the revolutionary movement in Transcaucasia, including the underground revolutionary movement in Baku in 1918. That same year he joined the Red Army during the Russian Civil War and, in 1919, worked at the Ministry of Healthcare of Azerbaijan. In May 1920, he joined the Russian Communist Party (RCP (b)).
From 1920 to 1921, Dekanozov was the commander of a special detachment of the 20th division of the 11th army of the RKKA. In June 1921, he transferred to the Azerbaijan Emergency Commission, commonly known as the Cheka, as an operative of the department that was fighting gangs. There he came to know Lavrentii Beria, who would later become his patron. Until 1931, Dekanozov served in leadership positions in the Cheka agencies of Azerbaijan and Georgia. Meanwhile, the influence of the special services increased in all spheres of Soviet life, and, as a result, Dekanozov moved in December 1931 to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia, where he served as the secretary in charge of transportation and supplies. In February 1934, he became the head of the Central Committee’s Department of Trade. In October 1936, he was transferred to the Council of People’s Commissars of Georgia, where he became the People’s Commissar (Narcom) of the food-processing industry. In March 1937, he was simultaneously appointed chairman of Georgia’s state planning authority (Gosplan). During 1937, he also became a delegate [member] of the Soviet quasi-parliament, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
In late 1938, after Lavrentii Beria became the People’s Commissar (Narcom) of Internal Affairs, Dekanozov followed him to Moscow. On December 2, 1938, Beria appointed Dekanozov head of the counterespionage department (known at that time as the 3rd department) of the Main Directorate of State Security (GUGB) of the NKVD of the USSR – and, simultaneously, head of NKVD foreign intelligence (then known as the 5th department of the GUGB NKVD.) On December 17, 1938, he was also appointed deputy head of the GUGB NKVD. In that capacity, he became the main assistant to Beria in the latter’s purge from the NKVD of the protégés of its former Narcom, Nickolai Ezhov. Dekanozov also supervised the purges of the army, which had already been weakened by arrests in 1937 and 1938.
On May 4, 1939, Dekanozov was transferred to the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and appointed its Deputy People’s Commissar (Narcom). On August 23, 1939, the Soviets and the Nazis signed a non-aggression pact, often known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, after the Soviet and Nazi foreign secretaries who signed the pact and its accompanying secret protocols. That same year, Dekanozov became a candidate for membership in the Central Committee of the VCP (b).
In the summer of 1940, Dekanozov was in Lithuania, where he coordinated efforts to annex Lithuania to the territory of the Soviet Union – as well as a campaign of arrests of “anti-Soviet elements” there.
In late November 1940, Dekanozov was appointed Soviet Ambassador to Berlin (while remaining the Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs) – remaining in that position until the Nazi attack against the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. During 1941, he became a full member of the party’s Central Committee. It is a common wisdom in Russia that as an ambassador, Dekanozov proved unable to appraise the situation and evaluate the Nazi plans against the Soviet Union. In fact, according to recently published documents, Dekanozov did appraise the situation and warned his immediate boss, Molotov, of the Nazi plans to attack the Soviet Union. After his return to Moscow he remained the Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs. Beginning in October 1941, Dekanozov supervised the work of several departments of the commissariat, which were responsible for Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Mongolia, China, and all the nations that were allies of Nazi Germany. In addition, he controlled the commissariat’s finances, personnel and consular affairs.
In March 1947, Dekanozov was fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and transferred to the Main Directorate of Soviet Overseas Property. He was based in Budapest, where he worked with another Beria protégé, Vsevolod Merkulov. Reportedly, the reason for Dekanozov’s demotion was a scandalous story about sexual harassment of a young woman.
In 1949, Dekanozov was fired again, and this time, he had no job for several years. Then, in 1952, he was appointed to the board of the Committee of Radio Broadcasting. In April 1953, at a time when Beria was consolidating his power following Stalin’s death, Dekanozov was named Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia – only to be fired and arrested on June 30, following Beria’s arrest. On December 23, 1953, he was sentenced to death and executed. 1
- K.A. Zalesskii. Imperiya Stalina. Biographicheskii entsiklopedicheskii spravochnik. Moskva, Veche, 2000. (K.A. Zalessky, Stalin’s Empire: The Biographical and Encyclopedic Reference Book, Moscow: Veche, 2000); Dekanozov’s biographies at: http://svr.gov.ru/history/dekanozov.html; http://www.hrono.ru/biograf/dekanozov.html; http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%94%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%BE%D0%B2. For Dekanozov’s appraisal of the Nazi plans against the Soviet Union in his ciphered cable to Molotov sent on April 3, 1941, see the text of the cable published in the Informational Bulletin of the Historical-Documentary Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of RF at http://www.mid.ru/ns-arch.nsf/ 88ff23e5441b5caa43256b05004bce11/ e443b8b26bfda96743256b06002fb31f?OpenDocument ↩