Three Wise Men
“At the beginning of his life, Andrei Zhdanov was a small boy in Mavropool, Ukraine, born in by the Azov Sea in 14 Feburary, 1896. In a family of five daughters, he was born as the only son and the youngest child. His father, Aleksandr Zhdanov, worked as the local school inspector while his mother, Ekaterina Gorskaia was a noble-blooded woman who meet her husband at her brother’s university. At the age of nineteen, Zhdanov moved to Moscow to further his education and there, he enlisted in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.
After being drafted in the Imperial Army, he began to gravitate further to the left, becoming enamored by communist ideals, and eventually becoming a member of the Bolsheviks. During the Russian Revolution, Zhdanov quickly fled to the Urals, and was enlisted into the Red Army, overseeing military production and collectivization programs. During the revolution, he would not see any fighting, instead of being tasked to maintain party loyalty as an “inspector-organizer” and a local “agitation-propaganda administrator”.
It is widely thought that his time as a propaganda administrator would make way for the nation-wide cultural purges that took place under his reign. During the rise of Joseph Stalin, Zhdanov became a favorite of the dictator’s due to his unyielding loyalty and bureaucratic efficiency. Eventually, Zhdanov rose in the party ranks yet again as Leningrad Party Secretary following the assassination of Sergey Kirov .
During his time as Secretary, Zhdanov oversaw the deportation and mass murder of thousands of suspected wreckers and counter-revolutionaries connected to the death of his predecessor. As Stalin’s chief contractor, he would play a massive role in redirecting the Soviet Union towards mass consumption, Russian culture, and Stalin’s personality cult. By the late 1930’s he had become the third highest-ranking member in Stalin’s inner circle behind Vyacheslav Molotov.
During the Second World War, Zhdanov oversaw the nine-hundred day long Seige of Leningrad. However, his illness often forced his deputies, Alexei Kuznetsov and Nikolai Voznesensky to take control of the city’s defenses. While the Germans had been beaten back, Stalin would soon lay bleeding and burned on the floor of the Kremlin at the hands of spies and traitors. It had quickly became clear that only one man would stand above the rest, the man who Stalin treated not as a minion, but as a trusted friend. On November 6, 1944, Andrei Zhdanov, who had been but a lowly spin doctor at the beginning of his career had risen to the highest office of the Soviet Union.”
- After Stalin and Before The Fall,
by Carmen Powell
From the Kremlin balcony, General Secretary Zhdanov salutes a funeral parade honoring the death of his predecessor
“Ultimatley, there was little question amongst the Russian people that the death of Stalin would send his inner circle into a cycle of squabbling and backstabbing in their quests for power. It was said that after the explosion, the silence was broken by NKVD Director Beria who, after seeing Stalin’s dead body, said a single word “blyat
” . Eventually, it had become clear that the reigns of power would be passed onto the Second Secretary of the Communist Party, Andrei Zhdanov.
Beria knew that Zhdanov would most likely seek to replace him with a loyalist or weaken the power of the NKVD, due to the personal enmity between the two. Even before Hitler had launched Operation Barbarossa, Zhdanov and Beria were bitter rivals, desperately fighting for the approval of their Red Tsar . During the war, Stalin would use this to his advantage, turning his own subordinates against each other to prevent them from forming any plots against him. As Zhdandov rose to power, it became clear that Beria needed to find potential counterweights against him.
Much like Zhdanov, Foreign Secretary Vyacheslav Molotov was considered to be another one of Stalin’s “pets” who viewed their leader as a living god and could not possibly imagine a world without their Red Tsar. The both had supported Stalin’s cultural, political, and economic policies with a great amount of enthusiasm, and worked tirelessly to please their Vohdz. And that was where the similarities ended.
Zhdanov was seen as a grand, verbose man who drunk often and enjoyed the sound of his own voice. Molotov was a serious man who suffered from a mild stutter and made efficiency a top priority . As such, Molotov began to hold a deep dislike for Zhdanov due to his crass and unprofessional behavior. Meanwhile, Zhdanov viewed Molotov as an “iron-ass technocrat” who sought to create his own brand of communism which diverged from Stalinist policies. As a close friend of the Vohdz, Zhdanov was strongly opposed to most policies proposed by Molotov, such as cooperation with the West or leaving Finland an independent nation .
It was this enmity that made Molotov the perfect counterweight to Zhdanov. In addition, Molotov was seen as Stalin’s right-hand man during the war and had a large say in foreign policy, whereas Zhdanov had none. Another reason why Beria backed Molotov was that he was seen as a weak candidate due to his injuries. The Kremlin Bombing had damaged Molotov’s spine, forcing him to temporarily move around in a wheelchair to prevent his leg pains from becoming too serious. Despite Zhdanov’s best efforts to obstruct the efforts of the “iron-ass diplomat”, Vyacheslav Molotov quickly replaced Joseph Stalin as Premier of the Council of Ministers.
The final member of the power axis would be Andrey Andreyevich Andreyev, Chairman of the powerful Party Control Commission and Head Soviet of the Union. Despite his wide array of titles, he would be supplanted by younger party members within Stalin’s inner circle during World War Two. But it was this distance from Stalin, along with his political experience that allowed him to become the compromise candidate between "culturalists" led by Zhdanov and the "rationalists" of the Molotov faction. Despite suffering from mild tinnitus after the bombing , Andreyev would become Chairman of the Presidium of the Soviet Union. And thus, a troika was formed.”
-In the Shadow of the Vohdz
by Harland Bridges
A Troika is Formed
 Sergey Kirov, a loyal Stalinist and Party Secretary of Leningrad was assassinated by NKVD officer Leonid Nikolayev in 1934. However, it is widely rumored that Stalin himself ordered the assassination despite lack of evidence.
is a Russian swear word, translating to either crap, damn, or whore
 The Beria/Zhdanov feud started over Zhdanov’s concerns regarding the NKVD’s control over wartime production and security during World War Two
 According to one of Moltov’s assistants “he was not the primitive clerk many portray him to be, he was a family man who dressed modestly and refused to tolerate untidiness, in work or at home.”
 IOTL, Zhdanov proposed annexing Finland which had previously been a Russian duchy under the Tsar. This angered Molotov who saw it as a foolish proposal
 IOTL, Andreyev was forced to resign by Stalin in 1952 due to hearing difficulties