840.811/7–2648: Telegram

The Minister in Austria (Erhardt) to the Secretary of State


943. Deldu 5 from Stevens.1 Speculation on significance reemergence Malenkov2 as Secretary Central Committee appears risky pending availability further evidence (Deptel 661 July 233). Must be remembered Malenkov removal as secretary although repeatedly rumored was never confirmed and that he is co-signer with Zdanov4 of Cominform blast at Tito.5 While his relative influence seems to have decreased since end of war, fact that he was named number two Soviet delegate to Cominform last fall, that he reported to that body on status of All Union CP and that he received enviable task announcing end rationing last December all point to continued importance his position in Kremlin.

If as was assumed last fall Malenkov’s role in Cominform is to serve as watchdog over Zdanov he may be in ideal position to exploit Zdanov’s role in Tito fiasco. It may be assumed Cominform acted publicly only after Politburo clearance. Zdanov presumably advocated course which ended so disastrously for Kremlin prestige. If Malenkov took opposite line in Politburo or was even noncommittal he may be able divert to Zdanov’s head lightning which must strike sooner or later and at same time save his own.

From all we know of Stalin’s character he will not permit those responsible for Cominform policy toward Yugoslavia to go unpunished and violent reaction on his part might be signal for sweeping [Page 906] purge of party ranks, both in Soviet Union and satellites. In this situation Malenkov with his undoubted talents for conspiracy and maneuverability might greatly strengthen his position.

Please repeat to Belgrade for me any telegrams throwing further light on Tito Cominform conflicts.

Sent Department 943, repeated Moscow as 22. [Stevens.]

  1. Francis B. Stevens, the Chief of the Division of Eastern European Affairs, was on his way to the Danube Conference in Belgrade as an adviser on the United States delegation.
  2. Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkov was a Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and a member of the Politburo, whose political influence was diminished after the war until a rapid recovery began in July 1948.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Andrey Andreyevich Zhdanov.
  5. For documentation on the strained relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the expulsion of the Yugoslav Communist party from the Cominform, see pp. 1054 ff. The communiqué of June 28 by the Cominform on this expulsion is printed in the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Margaret Carlyle, editor), Documents on International Affairs 1947–1948 (London, Oxford University Press, 1952), pp. 389–397. Marshal Josip Broz-Tito was President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of National Defense of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.