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State Defense Committee

The State Defense Committee (Russian: Государственный комитет обороны, ГКО, translit. Gosudarstvennyj komitet oborony, GKO) was an extraordinary organ of state power in the USSR during the German-Soviet War (Great Patriotic War) which held complete state power in the country.

General scope

The Soviets set up the GKO on 30 June 1941 (a week after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941) by a compound decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom), and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The complicated situation at the front lines apparently required a more dictatorial form of government (centralized to a maximum degree). (The Supreme Soviet, however, continued unsuspended. On 18 June 1942 over a thousand members attended the 9th session of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow.[1])

Several historical records tell of Stalin's "depressed state" on 29 and 30 June 1941 after the disastrous defeats of Soviet forces on the western border, which he feared he would be blamed for. He isolated himself at his Kuntsevo Dacha, afraid that he would be arrested and executed. On 30 June Vyacheslav Molotov (Commissar of Foreign Affairs) called for a meeting in his cabinet. Lavrentiy Beria (Commissar of Internal Affairs), Kliment Voroshilov (Deputy Chairman of Sovnarkom) and Georgy Malenkov (member of Sovnarkom) attended; they were joined later by Anastas Mikoyan (Commissar of Foreign Trade) and Nikolai Voznesensky (First Deputy Chairman of Sovnarkom). The group decided to form the GKO, with Stalin at its head. That afternoon they drove to Stalin's dacha and asked Stalin resume his functions as head of state, to head the newly-established committee, and to assign the duties of its members.[citation needed]

Geoffrey Roberts sees the GKO as "a sort of war cabinet".[2]


The initial composition of the committee was such:

  • Chairman - Stalin
  • Deputy Chairman - Molotov (until May 16, 1944)
  • other members - Beria, Voroshilov, Malenkov (Aviation Industry)[3]

On February 3, 1942 the members of the committee also became the chairman of Gosplan Voznesensky and Mikoyan, while on February 20, 1942 was also included Lazar Kaganovich (Narkom of Transportation). By the end of the war on November 22, 1944 Nikolai Bulganin (Chairman of State Bank Directory) replaced Klim Voroshilov in the committee.

See also


  1. ^ Compare: Handbook on the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: "Верховный Совет СССР, сессии [:] I созыв [:] всего 1143 депутата, 569 в Совете Союза и 574 в Совете Национальностей [...] 18.6.1942 [:] IX сессия (Москва)"
  2. ^ Roberts, Geoffrey (2006). Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780300112047. Retrieved 2018-10-01. The State Defence Committee, or GKO, stood at the pinnacle of Stalin's decision-making system during the war [...]. As a sort of war cabinet chaired by Stalin, it was a political body charged with directing and controlling all aspects of the Soviet war effort.
  3. ^ Handbook on the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union


  • Barber, John, and Harrison, Mark. (1991). The Soviet Home Front 1941–1945: A Social and Economic History of the USSR in World War II. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-00964-2, ISBN 0-582-00965-0.
  • Werth, Alexander. (1964). Russia at War 1941–1945. New York: Carrol and Graf.

Further reading

Glantz, David M. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army stopped Hitler. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1995. ISBN 978-0-7006-0899-7 Overview of Eastern Front from Soviet side.

Roberts, Geoffrey. Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-300-11204-1 Post-revisionist study of Stalin's wartime and post-war leadership.