Beria, Lavrenti Pavlovich (ləvrĕnˈtyē pävˈləvĭch bâˈrēə) [key], 1899–1953, Soviet Communist leader, b. Georgia. He rose to prominence in the Cheka (secret police) in Georgia and the Transcaucasus, became party secretary in these areas, and in 1938 became head of the secret police. As commissar (later minister) of internal affairs, Beria wielded great power, and he was the first in this post to become (1946) a member of the politburo. After Stalin's death (Mar., 1953), Beria was made first deputy premier under Premier Malenkov, but the alliance was shaky; in the ensuing struggle for power Beria was arrested (July) on charges of conspiracy. He and six alleged accomplices were tried secretly and shot in Dec., 1953.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.