The Man Behind the Cocktail

Who was this man, Wjatscheslaw Michailowitsch Molotov? The world knows his name through the Molotov cocktail. A incendiary, a symbol of destruction, terror and the complete disregard for life. A man whose name is connected with ominous explosive power. A life that has entered history.

In fact, his name was Skrjabin. But just as Dsugashwili called himself “Stalin” the Man of Steel, he called himself “Molotov”, the Hammer. Both of them wanted to get closer to the people through their code names, but ultimately they drifted away from them. Hidden in their names was the essence of the men themselves : the hardness, the violence, the mercilessness, the remorseless terror of their system. He was the man next to Stalin, the man behind Stalin, and was also influential for a long time after Stalin´s death.

Molotov often counter signed the dictator´s orders. In an age of extremes, marked by political and military conspiracies, Molotov was an active player. He was stubborn, direct, quick-witted and clever, hiding behind a facade of respectability, kindness and good manners. At a time of purges, secret pacts and mass executions - especially in 1937 – he was called the “Accountant of the terror”. He left hundreds of lists with nearly 40.000 signed death sentences. A terrifying record: “Our mistakes, even the heaviest, were justified” he later said.

This film by H. Kasten Ulrich and Hans-Dieter Schütt tells the story of Molotov. In 1930 he became the prime minister of the Soviet Union, a post he retained for eleven years. After that he became the Foreign Minister, announcing to the world what had transpired behind the walls of the Kremlin. He negotiated with Hitler and Ribbentrop, with Roosevelt and Churchill, and with the Japanese Foreign Minister. He hammered out the Hitler-Stalin pact which robbed Poland of her territory, but during the Second World War became the mediator between Moscow and the Allies. After the Second World War he became the “Father” of every Stalin proposal which pushed the West towards the peace treaty with Germany.

During the Second World War, Molotov´s wife Polina was the leading member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist committee. After the war she bore the brunt of Stalin's anti-Semetism and was sentenced to five years exile because of her “constant contact with Jewish nationalists”. Molotov accepted this in silence under the orders of Stalin. What eventually saved her was not her husband's influence, but the death of Stalin. Molotov had been politically forced to divorce her. One of his granddaughters later said that she had never seen two people as much in love as her grandfather and his wife.

From World War II to the Cold War, Molotov´s life is key to understanding the process later called “the balance of terror”. After dictator Stalin´s death, he survived developments in the Communist Party, but then followed an inevitable decline – after being a minister he became the Soviet ambassador to Mongolia, then a diplomat of the Atomic Energy Commission in Vienna. In the end he was declared a “Party Enemy.” Expelled from the CPSU in the 1962, he eventually redeemed himself only at the age of 94. He died in 1986. The film is an allegorical study on the rise and the fall of a prototype .

Churchill wrote in his book “The Second World War” : „ In the conduct of foreign affairs Mazarin, Talleyrand, Metternich, would welcome him to their company, if there be another world to which Bolsheviks allow themselves to go.“

This Soviet biography is full of wicked, absurd and tragic-comic stories. It is a private biography of a man in the inner circle of the Kremlin who was connected to some of the greatest political events of the 20th century. This portrait of Molotov is also a portrait of Stalin.