Becoming a Revolutionary & His Political Career
Mikoyan studied liberalism and socialism and eventually ventured into the revolutionary movements that were rising throughout Russia back then.
In 1915, he established the worker's council called 'Echmiadzin's Soviet' to encourage more Armenian workers to join the revolutionary movement. Mikoyan also stepped into politics by joining the ‘Bolshevik’ wing of the 'Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party.' He abandoned his priesthood to join the ‘Bolsheviks’ in 1915 and to participate in the ‘October Revolution’ in the Caucasus.
After the Civil War broke out, Mikoyan was appointed as a commissar of the newly formed 'Red Army' regiment in 1917. He was assigned to protect Baku from the attack of the opposition. He rose as one of the top revolutionaries in the Caucasus after the 1917 ‘Bolshevik Revolution’ in Russia. Mikoyan co-founded the 'Baku Soviet.'
Mikoyan turned his focus toward crushing the resistance aimed at the new ‘Bolshevik’ power. In 1918, he successfully countered the revolt of the independent ‘Müsavat Party’ of Azerbaijan.
While Mikoyan and other the ‘Baku Soviets’ were fleeing to Astrakhan in a ship, the ‘Transcaspian’ forces, along with the British troops that had participated in the Russian Civil War, captured all the 26 ‘Baku’ commissars. All of them, except Mikoyan, were executed. However, Mikoyan’s escape is a mystery to date.
In 1919, Mikoyan travelled to Baku (now the capital of Azerbaijan), where he served as the editor of the Armenian-language newspaper 'Social-Demokrat' and the Russian-language paper 'News of the Baku Soviet of the People's Deputies.'
He joined the 'Communist Party' and helped in the formation of the 'Baku Bureau’ of the ‘Caucasus Regional Committee' (‘Kraikom’).
In 1921, after attending the reburial ceremony of his fellow ‘Baku’ commissars, Mikoyan was summoned to Moscow, where he was appointed to the regional party committee of the Nizhny Novgorod region, located at the banks of the Volga River. He took some time to gain the favor of the local ‘Bolshevik’ party activists who were sceptical about working with a young activist from outside.
Around the same time, when the starved army and laborers in Nizhny Novgorod were on the verge of a revolt, due to the massive famine in the southern regions of Russia, he managed to suppress the tension. Mikoyan's newly found fame among the ‘Bolsheviks’ got him elected as the head of the governing body of Nizhny Novgorod. This eventually paved his way to become one of the top political figures in the country.
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While in Moscow, Mikoyan participated in all the ‘Congresses’ of the Soviets and met Vladimir Lenin, the famed Russian revolutionary and politician who developed the political theory of “Leninism.”
In 1921, Lenin introduced the 'New Economic Policy' (NEP) to liberalize trade and strengthen the weak economy of the country. Mikoyan supported Lenin's economic policy, even though he considered them destructive.
He caught the attention of Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician Joseph Stalin, whose set of policies is known as “Stalinism.” The two met in 1922. After Lenin's death, Mikoyan supported Stalin in the subsequent power struggle.
Stalin appointed Mikoyan as the head of the ‘Northern Caucasian Bureau’ of the ‘Communist Party,' headquartered in the city of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia. Mikoyan impressed Stalin with his managerial skills and his efforts toward expanding the ‘Bolshevik’ rule peacefully. Mikoyan did not harm people's religious sentiments and asked his comrades to respect the legitimate rights of the merchants and rich peasants.
In 1923, with the support of Stalin, Mikoyan earned a post in the 'Central Committee’ of the ‘Russian Communist Party.' He was named the people's commissar for external and internal trade in 1926.
He kept a low profile and continued to support Stalin even in the difficult phase of the 1930s, when the nation was suffering from inflation, hunger, mass collectivization, arrests, and famine. Mikoyan remarkably maintained a balance between supporting Stalin and doing his duties toward the people.
Mikoyan realized that supporting Stalin, even at the cost of his beliefs, was the only way to save his political position and life. Hence, taking a wise and practical approach, he turned his focus to food production.
Mikoyan became the people's commissar for food to boost food production. In 1935, he became a 'Politburo' member, as a trade matter specialist. He was one of the first Soviet leaders who went on a 3-month-long goodwill trip to America to ensure economic cooperation.
He studied the food industry of the U.S.A. and applied some of his ideas to his country. He encouraged the production of the Russian version of American hot dogs by boosting the canned goods and sausage manufacturing industries. Inspired by hamburgers, Mikoyan launched the mass production of the “Mikoyan cutlet,” named after him.
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He also drew inspiration from his favorite dessert, the ice-cream, and introduced mass production of frozen foods. Mikoyan's innovative ideas in the food industry were highly appreciated all over Russia. Additionally, Mikoyan contributed to the release of the home cookbook 'The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food,' published in 1939.
In September 1937, Stalin appointed Mikoyan to handle the liquidation of the 'Communist Party of Armenia' (CPA) in Yerevan, the capital of the 'Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic' (ASSR). Mikoyan, unfortunately, could not accomplish the mission.
After Germany's invasion in June 1941, Mikoyan supervised the transportation of food and supplies. In February the following year, he was named to the 'State Defense Committee' and oversaw the supply of essential stock for the 'Red Army' and civilians.
That year, he also supervised the relocation of the Soviet industry from the disturbed western cities to safer zones. Stalin appointed Mikoyan as a special representative of the ‘State Defense Committee.'
Mikoyan received the honor of the 'Hero of Socialist Labor' in 1943, at a time when he was mourning his son's death. The plane carrying his son had been bombed in Stalingrad.
In 1946, he became the vice-chairman of the 'Council of Ministers.' In 1949, he was the first 'Politburo' member to meet the Chinese ‘Communist Party’ chairman, Mao Zedong, directly.
Mikoyan's relations with Stalin began to deteriorate. Stalin had apparently thought of planning a new purge against Mikoyan, which, however, never materialized. It was even rumored that Mikoyan might get arrested for Stalin's death in 1953. He was also accused by many of plotting against him.
After Stalin's death, Mikoyan tactfully maintained relations with the two successors, the commissar for the interior, Lavrentiy Beria, and the head of the ‘Ukrainian Committee’ of the ‘Communist Party,' Nikita Khrushchev. The latter eventually led the run, and soon after that, Mikoyan directed his support to Khrushchev.
Mikoyan later supported Beria's execution. He gained the favor and sympathy of several comrades by safeguarding their posts in the 'Communist Party' and aided the families affected due to the purges.
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Mikoyan then became the minister of trade. In 1955, he became the first deputy chairman of the ‘Council of People's Commissars' (the 'Council of Ministers') in the post-Stalin government. He continued as a 'Politburo' member (renamed 'Presidium'). He became Khrushchev's close advisor and reversed the restrictions on nationalism and culture imposed by Stalin, as part of the ''de-Stalinization'' drive.
In 1956, Mikoyan organized Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" at the ‘20th Party Congress,’ which made some shocking revelations regarding Stalin's purges in the middle of the 1930s.
In October 1956, Mikoyan traveled to the People's Republic of Hungary to investigate the political scene when the communist government there was being heavily opposed. He did not support Khrushchev's decision to use the army to crush the revolt in Hungary and had almost resigned when no Soviet leader supported him.
Surprisingly, when Mikoyan was expected to revolt against Khrushchev, in 1957, he refused to support a coup to remove Khrushchev, hence maintaining his position as one of his closest allies.
In 1959, he became the first Soviet leader to visit Cuba, where he established relations with Fidel Castro and also cracked the trade deal of Soviet oil in exchange for Cuban sugar.
In October 1962, amidst the 'Cuban Missile Crisis,' Mikoyan successfully persuaded Castro to remove all the Soviet nuclear missiles and bombers from Cuba. This spelled another success for Mikoyan. However, he could not celebrate it due to a personal loss. His wife had passed away, and he could not even attend her funeral.
On July 15, 1964, Mikoyan became the chairman of the 'Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.'
After Leonid Brezhnev became the second secretary of the ‘Central Committee’ of the ‘Communist Party,' Mikoyan, to save his position, shifted his support to Brezhnev and participated in the coup to replace Khrushchev with Brezhnev.
Mikoyan's reign in Brezhnev's government was short-lived. Considering his age, he was forced to resign in 1965
His final days were dedicated to writing memoirs about his life and political career.