Soviet politician and head of the secret police (NKVD and MVD) (1938–53). Born in Georgia, he rose to prominence within the Soviet Communist Party under Stalin's patronage. As head of the secret police Beria was directly involved in the infamous ‘purge trials’ in which Stalin's opponents were eliminated; he was also responsible for the deportation of thousands to forced labour camps. After Stalin's death he was rumoured to be planning to seize power; feared by rival politicians, he was arrested. Although his fate is not certain, it was officially announced that he had been tried and shot as a traitor.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).