The Soviet Occupation: Moscowís Man in (East) Berlin
The Soviet Occupation: Moscowís Man in (East) Berlin
By Norman M. Naimark
The Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SVAG in
Russian, SMAD in German) ruled the eastern zone of the defeated
and occupied country from June 1945 until the creation of the
German Democratic Republic in the fall of 1949. Given SVAGís
importance to modern German and Soviet history, it is surprising
that there have been so few scholarly studies of its policies,
organization, and actions. Yet when one recalls both that Soviet and
GDR historiography refused to recognize that Soviet activities in
Germany were determined by an occupation regime and that West
German historiography, especially between the late 1960s and 1989,
was often unwilling to ask hard questions about the origins and
legitimacy of the East German state, the lack of attention to the
Soviet Military Administration in Germany is easier to understand.
Particularly in the West, the reticence of historians was also
reinforced by the paucity of primary sources on SVAGís activities.
With Soviet and GDR archives closed to researchers from both the
West and East, there was little hope for a breakthrough in the
historiography of the Soviet presence in Germany.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the
USSR in 1991, historians have begun to come to terms with
Moscowís role in the development of East German communism and
the creation of the GDR. But despite the availability of important
new sources in the archives ofthe former East German communist
party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED), and access to individuals
who took part in the building of the East German state, very little
progress has been made in advancing our understanding of the ways
in which the Soviet military government worked. Who determined
Soviet policies in the eastern zone of Germany? How were
decisions reached? Who was responsible for implementing policies
in Germany itself? What did Soviet occupation officers think they
were doing in Germany? We have
known generally what happened in the Soviet zone, but have been
unable to document how and why these events occurred.
The career of Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) S. I.
Tiulípanov is central to any analysis of Soviet decisionmaking in the
eastern zone. Tiulípanov was in charge of the Propaganda (later
Information) Administration of SVAG, and he dominated the
political life of the Soviet zone as no other Russian (or for that
matter East German) figure. One can argue about the extent of his
power and the reasons why he was able to exert so much influence
on the course of events. But there can be little question that his
machinations can be detected behind virtually every major political
development in the zone. A clear understanding of Tiulípanovís
responsibilities and activities would go a long way towards
elucidating the dynamics of Soviet influence in Germany in the early
The partial opening of the Russian archives over the past three
years has made possible a much more reliable rendition of
Tiulípanovís work in the eastern zone. In particular, the former
Central Party archives in Moscow, now called the Russian Storage
Center for the Preservation of Contemporary Documents
(RTsKhIDNI), which contain the records of the CPSU Central
Committee through 1952, contain important communications
between Tiulípanov and his Central Committee bosses. We learn
from these communications that Tiulípanov was under constant
investigation by his superiors in Moscow and that his goals and
methods of work were repeatedly questioned by party officials. His
reports and those of his superiors make it possible to tear down the
monolithic facade presented to the outside world (and to the
Germans) by Soviet Military Headquarters in Karlshorst. Historians
have known that Tiulípanov fell into disfavor in the late summer of
1949 and that he was removed from his position shortly before the
creation of the GDR in October. But they have been able only to
speculate about the reasons why this happened. With the opening of
the Central Committee archives and the willingness of the
Tiulípanov family to turn over documents related to S. I.
Tiulípanovís career to Russian historians, the puzzle associated with
Tiulípanovís removal can also be solved.
The following excerpts have been translated from a recent
collection of documents on Tiulípanov and SVAG, published in
Moscow and edited by Bernd Bonwetsch, Gennadii Bordiugov and
Norman Naimark: SVAG: Upravlenie propagandy (informatsii) i S.
I. Tiulípanov 1945-1949: Sbornik dokumentov [SVAG: The
Propaganda (Information) Administration and S. I. Tiulípanov
1945-1949: A Document Collection] (Moscow: ďRossiia Molodaia,Ē
1994), 255 pp. The collection comprises primarily materials from
RTsKhIDNI, fond 17, opisí 128, but also contains several
documents from other opisy and from the Tiulípanov family
archive. The translated excerpts from the first document printed
below provide a glimpse into Tiulípanovís understanding of his
political tasks in the fall of 1946. Here, Tiulípanov provides a frank
assessment of the parties and personalities important to furthering
the Soviet cause in Germany. The second document is a translation
of the 17 September 1949 report recommending his removal and
detailing the trumped-up charges against him. As best we know,
Tiulípanov was recalled from Berlin to Moscow at the end of
September, shortly before the GDRís official creation.
I would like to thank Andrei Ustinov for his help with the
translation from the Russian. As a rambling stenographic report, the
translation of the first document required considerable editing.
Document I: From S. Tiulípanovís Report at the Meeting of the
Commission of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) to
Evaluate the Activities of the Propaganda Administration of
SVAG ó Stenographic Report, September 16, 1946
. . . What is the situation in the party itself today?
ó I believe that in no way should even the SEDís victory in the
district elections be overestimated. There are a number of obvious
major shortcomings that threaten the worker, Marxist, and pro-
Soviet nature of the SED, which it strived to attain at the outset and
remain important in its work [today].
Most importantly, since the unification [of the Communist Party
of Germany (KPD) and Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)
in the SED in April 1946] there has been a noticeable decline in
party work within the SED itself. There is a marked political
passivity among the former members of the SPD, which will long be
felt among members of the SED. The Social Democrats still feel
frustrated by the attitudes of our apparat; the commandants have
treated them with cautious distance; and they felt that they were not
trusted completely and that they were treated inequitably. We have
gotten past this by now to a certain extent, but not completely.
Secondly, even the most farsighted Communists feel the need to
discuss every issue with the Social Democrats in order not to offend
them, [and this] has led to a lessening of flexibility within the party.
We sensed this especially during the elections and referendum. One
can also feel this in the Central Committee of the party.
Full attention has been given to the technical questions of the
organization, but not to its political character. Organizational
questions of the party were considered, while issues having to do
with the apparat and with the masses, especially in Berlin, were
obviously neglected. This was demonstrated by the fact that there
were no [SED] leaders at the biggest enterprises. The Social
Democrats took advantage of this [fact] and strengthened their
position in Berlin precisely in the large enterprises and among the
basic [workersí] organizations.
Despite the merger of the parties, there is still a sense that two
distinct groups exist. The results of the elections, which were
discussed in the Saxon party organization, offer [only] the most
recent example. The results of these elections prompted extremely
heated debates.* First of all, they [the Saxon party members] were
disconcerted by the results because they had counted on a much
higher percentage of the vote, reflecting the extent to which they
overestimated their influence among the masses. They were overly
complacent because they could count on our administrative support.
They were reassured by the fact that they had more paper, posters
and other resources, and, if necessary, there was always the
possibility to put some pressure [on the population]. This led in
Saxony to a major overestimation of their influence on the masses.
It was immediately obvious at the Saxon party meeting... that there
was a group of Social Democrats talking on the one hand and a
group of earlier Communists on the other. One still notices this
Organizationally the party is also still not fully formed, which
can be seen in the fact that even the exchange of party membership
cards has not yet been implemented, or, if it has been implemented
it has been done in such a way that the individualís files are
processed but they keep their old membership cards. Both Social
Democrats and Communists keep their cards. And when you talk to
them, they pull out their old membership cards and say: ďI am a
former Communist and member of the SED.Ē This shows that the
party is not fully accepted as a real Marxist party....
We have another dangerous problem here. óAnd I donít even
know whether it is the more dangerous... and that is the presence of
sectarianism among some former Communists. This sectarianism is
expressed in conversations, which are held in private apartments and
sometimes during the course of [party] meetings. [They say] that
we [Communists] have forfeited our revolutionary positions, that we
alone would have succeeded much better had there been no SED,
and that the Social Democrats are not to be trusted. Here is an
example for you: once one of my instructors came and said: ďI am a
Communist, so itís not even worth talking to him [a Social
Democrat], you can tell him by sight.Ē These are the words of the
Secretary of the most powerful organization [in Berlin] and this kind
of attitude is cultivated by [Hermann] Matern. This is not to
mention [Waldemar] Schmidt, who has gone so far as to invent the
existence of a spy apparatus among Communists [allegedly] to
inform on Social Democrats [in the SED]. This is over now, but
serious problems remain.
At the moment, it is hard to evaluate the strength of sectarianism
among the [former] Communists, but one could estimate that in the
Berlin organization approximately 10 percent [of the members] are
so discontented that they are ready to join another group in order to
break off with the SED. The problem is less serious in other
regions. From the point of view of the Communists [in the SED] the
party is considered to be more solid [than among former Social
Democrats]. But there is the danger that these Social Democrats
hold key positions, and their group has much more power. It is
impossible to evaluate the phenomenon of sectarianism in a simple
manner, because, at the same time, the right wing [the Social
Democrats] dreams of the day when it will be able to drop out of the
SED. [They] have established contacts with the Zehlendorf [SPD]
organization (we even have names) and with the [Western] Allies.
Nothing is simple. The same [Otto] Buchwitz, who completely
supported the unification, supervised the process in Saxony, and had
served time in [Nazi] prisons, when he comes here [to Berlin] he
stays with those Social Democrats who are members of the
Zehlendorf organization. When he was confronted with this fact, he
responded: ďBut he is my old friend, and our political differences are
not relevant.Ē Therefore, contacts between the Berlin Social
Democrats [in the SED] and this group [the Zehlendorf, anti-SED
Social Democrats] sometimes have the character of a party faction,
and sometimes simply of Social Democrats getting together.... We
should very cautious with them.
Therefore, there are two wings [in the party.] There is another
major shortcoming of the Central Committee of the SED and its
district committees. They do not seek out and develop new cadres
who can work consistently with the party aktiv.
In addition, the party is just beginning the theoretical elucidation
of all of our earlier disagreements [with the Social Democrats]. The
journal, ďEinheit,Ē which has [Otto] Grotewohl among its authors,
as well as others, is still rarely read by the regular members of the
party, and moreover, it is seldom read by [SED] functionaries.
There still remains in the party a whole list of major
[unanswered] questions. The time has come to ask these questions
clearly. Otherwise the party may become dominated by
opportunistic and conciliatory members. Deviations from Marxist
positions pose a substantial danger for the party. There is a
significant percentage of petit-bourgeois members [in the SED]; 40
percent to 51 percent workers. Still, neither the Communists nor the
Social Democrats understand the new forms shaping the struggle for
power, the movement towards socialism. They do not understand
that the SED is not a tactical maneuver, but the situation by which
they can achieve [....] that which was accomplished in our country
by different means. They do not speak about the dictatorship of the
proletariat, but about democracy. [Still], they have no
understanding of the nature of the struggle after World War II.
Then there is another issue; the party can very easily retreat into
nationalist positions. My comrades and I observed this even at the
large meetings. When Grotewohl spoke in Halle about social
questions and equality between men and women, he was greeted
very quietly. But as soon as he touched upon the national question,
all 440 thousand [sic] applauded.
Recently this issue was raised at the large party meeting in
Chemnitz. They argued that they did not have to orient themselves
either on the Soviet Union or on Great Britain. They should be
oriented on Germany. That said that Russian workers live badly and
that they, the Germans, should think only about the German working
And now I would say the following. I am not sure that for all
that the party proclaims on its banners, [whether] they have
managed to distinguish between the correct national viewpoint on
this question and the nationalistic and chauvinistic [one]. In all the
major addresses and reports in the preelection period, in the
speeches addressed to wider audiences, the contents diverged from
our censored versions. As a way of demonstrating confidence in
themselves, they carried this to extremes. This was the case, when,
at Polandís border, Pieck stated that soon the other half [Polish-
occupied Germany] would be theirs. After Molotovís speech, they
[the SED party leaders] were given permission to state that as a
German party they welcomed any revision of the borders which
would improve the situation of Germany....
They are allowed to make this statement, but we run the danger
of allowing the party to revert to extreme nationalism. Despite this,
the SEDís propaganda was unable to convince the population that
the party is a real German party, and not simply the agents of the
occupation authorities. There are still countless such shortcomings
and failures of [the SEDís] propaganda....
Here is the principal question ó how should the party develop?
Those whom the Old Social Democrats call functionaries,
understand their connection with the party in this struggle, and we
firmly count on them. They are the basic party unit; they are those
we call the party aktiv. All the rest at best carry their membership
cards and pay their party dues, but do not view the partyís decisions
as binding. An example of this is Leipzig. Neither the provincial
leadership [of the Saxon SED] nor Berlin understand the conditions
in Leipzig. Twice they met and twice they rejected the positions of
the Central Committee and the [provincial] committee. This is [not
serious] under the conditions here, but in a different situation, such
as during the Reichstag elections, these questions will require great
As for the situation in the [SED] Central Committee itself.
Grotewohl is the central figure after Pieck in the Central Committee;
and he enjoys authority among and the respect of not only Social
Democrats but also Communists. (I am still working especially
closely with him. I visit him at his home. He has not visited me yet,
but I would like to invite him to mine.) All of his behavior
demonstrates that he sides with Marxist positions quickly and
firmly, and for him there is no problem of speaking up at any
meeting, and of speaking up very strongly and saying: if we look at
the struggle in our social life, then we will crush our enemies by
force of arms. However, at the beginning [of the occupation] he
would have never used this expression, but he [now] sees and feels
that these things are acceptable. Nevertheless, he has a very well-
known past as a Social Democrat. I remember how he hesitated
before he came to [his present stance]. I remember his [hesitation]
during his last discussion with the Marshal [Zhukov, in February
1946], when there was only he [Grotewohl] and no one else, and the
Marshal tackled the question of the political situation ó whether or
not he [Grotewohl] wanted or did not want [to join with the
Communists], this was the political choice. [Zhukov] pointed out
the differences between us and the [Western] Allies. Nevertheless,
[said Zhukov,] I am used to fighting for the interests of the working
class, and we, if necessary, will crush all [opponents]. Grotewohl
demanded permission to travel to another zone. He went, reviewed
[the situation], and said, I will go along with you [the Soviets].
In conjunction with a new [wave of] dismantling and with the
fact that difficulties [in the economy] will not diminish but may
even get more serious, the danger exists that if we leave here that we
will leave behind only one such figure [as Grotewohl], that even in
the Central Committee we donít have prominent figures who would
be able to lead the masses during the transition.
Fechneróthe second Social Democrat, who wavers a great deal,
a powerful parliamentary agitator, activist, a member of the
Reichstag.... He appears to be a rather amorphous figure, not much
of a battler, though he has produced a number of fine documents,
denouncing [Kurt] Schumacher [of the SPD West].
Of the other Social Democrats who are thereóLehmann,
Gniffke: one can rely on them with considerably less certainty. In
the provinces we have only one such figure ó Buchwitz, on whom
one can rely, but he is the age of Pieck....
As for the Communists, Pieck is undoubtedly the most
acceptable figure for all party members. Pieck is the all-around
favorite, but often he says things that he should not; he too easily
accepts compromising alliances and sometimes states even more
than the situation permits.
I do not see any sectarianism on Ulbrichtís part. Ulbricht
understands organizational work, and he can secretly forge any
political alliance and keep it secret. But Ulbricht is not trusted as a
person. He speaks with greater precision and he understands [the
political situation] better than anyone else. But they [members of
the SED] donít like Ulbricht; they do not like him for his harshness.
Moreover, relations between Grotewohl and Ulbricht are not
satisfactory. Recently Grotewohl said [to Ulbricht]: you know,
Pieck is the leader of the party, not you. However, at big meetings,
Ulbricht always commands a great deal of respect, and even more
for his efficiency at the meetings of the Central Committee, of the
district committees, of functionaries, and others....
Now I will move to the characterization of the LDP [Liberal
Democratic Party]. The LDP was regarded by all of us as a
counterweight to the CDU [Christian Democratic Union], which
during the last year, from the beginning of the liberation though all
of 1945 until the beginning of 1946, constituted the major party
(within the framework of democratic organizations), to which were
attracted reactionaries [and] anti-Soviet elements who were looking
for outlets to express their discontent.
I will begin with the CDU. We understand perfectly well that it
is impossible to change the position of the hostile classes and that it
is impossible to make this party pro-Soviet. But we can accomplish
the goal of depriving [the CDU] of the possibility of making anti-
Soviet and ambiguous statements; [we] can strengthen the scattered
democratic elements in this party. Therefore, when this party turned
out to be an obvious threat and synonymous with everything
reactionary, we undertook to arrange the replacement of [Andreas]
Hermes with [Jakob] Kaiser [in December 1945].... Currently, this
party has a very diverse composition, comprised of the following
elements: first of all, there is a significant group of workers and
Catholic peasants, but mainly [the CDU includes] those who
belonged [before the war] to the Center Party. Approximately 15 to
20 percent of the party is comprised of office workers and
For a long time, we thought of the LDP as a counterpoint to the
CDU. I would even say that we promoted [the LDP] artificially. In
October and November of last year, we used [the LDP] every time
we had to put pressure on the CDU. In other words, we suckled a
snake at our own breast. And in fact, before these elections this
party never enjoyed any credit [among the population] or any
[Now I will speak about] the leadership of the Kulturbund.**
We have come to the firm conviction that it is now time to replace
[Johannes R.] Becher. It is impossible to tolerate him any more. I
spoke against [his removal] for a long time, and we had many
reservations. But now, especially in connection with [the process of
the] definition of classes and the intensification of the political
struggle, we must prevent the Kulturbund from becoming a gang of
all the members of the intelligentsia. We need it to become the
cultural agency of the democratic renewal of Germany, as well as a
society for [promoting] cultural relations with the Soviet Union.
The Kulturbund ... has to be changed and has to have its own
leading aktiv. Without them, it [the Kulturbund] can only be of
harm and not of use, and Becher cannot and does not want to
In his intellectual aspirations, Becher is not only not a Marxist,
but he is directly tied to Western European democratic [thinking], if
not to England and America. He is ashamed to say that he is a
member of the Central Committee of the SED. He hides this in
every way. He even never allows us to call him Comrade, and
always Herr Becher. [He] avoids any sharp political speeches in the
Kulturbund. Becher is well known enough; in the current situation
he represents the progressive intelligentsia. He would not, and did
not want to, let [Erich] Weinert into the Kulturbund. He did not
want to let [Friedrich] Wolf take part in it, and he despises all party
Source: RTsKhIDNI, fond 17, opisí 128, delo 149; SVAG Sbornik,
* [Local (Gemeinde) elections were held in the Soviet zone on 1-15
September 1946; State Assembly (Landtag) and Regional Assembly
(Kreistag) elections in the Soviet zone, as well as voting for the
Berlin city government, were conducted on 20 October 1946.ó
** [Kulturbund refers to the Kulturbund fuer demokratische
Erneuverungóthe Cultural Association for Democratic Renewal.
See David Pike, The Politics of Culture in Soviet-Occupied
Germany, 1945-1949 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992),
Document II: Report of the Deputy Chief of the GPU (Main
Political Administration) of the Armed Forces of the USSR, S.
Shatilov, to Politburo member G. Malenkov on the Dismissal of
September 17, 1949
Central Committee of the CPSU (b), Comrade Malenkov G.M.
I request permission to relieve Major General TIULíPANOV
Sergei Ivanovich of his post as Chief of the Information
Administration of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany,
placing him under the command of the Main Political
Administration of the Armed Forces.
It has been established that the parents of Major General
TIULíPANOV were convicted of espionage: the father in 1938, the
mother in 1940. The wife of TIULíPANOVís brother was in
contact with the Secretary of one of the embassies in Moscowóan
agent of English intelligence; her father was sentenced to be shot as
a member of the right-wing Trotskyist organization.
TIULíPANOVís brother and his brotherís wife are closely
connected with the family of Major General TIULíPANOV S.I.
At the end of 1948, organs of the MGB [Ministry for State
Security] in Germany arrested LUKIN ó TIULíPANOVís driver
ó for traitorous intentions and for anti-Soviet agitation. LUKINís
father betrayed his Motherland in 1928 and fled to Iran.
Major General TIULíPANOV concealed the facts of the arrests
and convictions of his father, mother, and relatives from the party,
and he did not indicate these in his biographical information.
A number of employees of the Information Administration
departments have been arrested lately on suspicion of espionage,
and several were recalled to the Soviet Union from Germany for the
reason of political unreliability. Major General TIULíPANOV took
no initiative in instituting these measures against the politically
compromised persons. He did not approve of these measures,
although he expressed no open opposition to them.
The arrested LUKIN, TIULíPANOVís driver, testified that
TIULíPANOV revealed his negative attitudes in the driverís
presence. Felídman, the former employee of the Information
Administration who is now under arrest, testified that
TIULíPANOV made criminal bargains with his subordinates,
engaged in extortion, and received illegal funds. There were 35
books of a fascist nature seized from TIULíPANOVís apartment.
By his nature TIULíPANOV is secretive and not sincere. Over
the last year he has behaved especially nervously, taking different
measures to find out about the attitude of the leading organs in
Moscow towards him.
I regard it as undesirable to keep Major General TIULíPANOV
in the Soviet Military Administration in Germany. I consider it
necessary for the sake of the mission to relieve him of his post and
not to let him reenter Germany. The Main Political Administration
contemplates using TIULíPANOV to work within our country.
Comrades Vasilevskii and Chuikov support the proposal to
relieve Major General TIULíPANOV of his duties in the Soviet
Military Administration in Germany.
17 September 1949 SHATILOV
(Source: RTsKhIDNI, fond 17, opisí 118, delo 567; SVAG Sbornik,
Norman M. Naimark is Professor of History at Stanford University;
his The Soviet Occupation of Germany, will be published by
Harvard University Press in 1995.