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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.
The GKO was created on 30 June 1941, a week after the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany, 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 necessity of the organ was the complicated situation at the front lines that required more dictatorial form of government (centralized to a maximum degree). The Supreme Soviet, however, was not suspended. On 18 June 1942, over a thousand members attended the 9th session of the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union in Moscow.
According to several historical records, on 29 and 30 June 1941, Stalin was in a "depressed state" after the disastrous defeat 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 as its head. That afternoon they drove to Stalin's dacha, and asked Stalin resume his functions as head of state, to head the newly created committee, and assign the duties of its members.
The initial composition of the committee was such:
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.
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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.