Born in Merkheuli,Georgia near the Black Sea in 1899. Drafted into the Russian Imperial Army and saw brief action during World War I before deserting in 1917 to take part in the Russian Revolution. Received an architectural degree from a technical college in Baku in 1919 but became a member of the Bolshevik Party and joined the Check, the Bolshevik Secret Police. Was sent back to his native Georgia where he spied on friends and family and anyone else who was less than supportive of the Bolshevick Revolution. As a result of his reports, hundreds of people were executed.
Quickly climbed his way up through the ranks of the Cheka, th GPU, the OGPU and later the NKVD. He ruthlessly blackmailed officials in order to gain political backing and promotions. Would often set up his superiors with married women and then expose the affairs, ruining them and then taking their posts when they resigned in disgrace. Was even more ruthless with his use of violence.
Was appointed head of Soviet intelligence by Vladimir Lenin, with the backing of Josef Stalin. Was supportive in Stalin’s bid for the head of the Communist Party and was rewarded by Stalin, who appointed Beria with a membership on the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Beria loyally set out to eliminate all of Stalin’s potential rivals or enemies, targeted thousands of them for death. Stalin, extremely paranoid, ordered several purges of his own hitmen, including OGPU head Felix Dzerzhinsky who was killed by his successor Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, then Genrikh Yagoda and then Nicolai Yezhov. Stalin feared that each bloodthirsty liquidator that he empowered was more powerful than him. Beria was yet another of these murderers and in one of his first actions upon ascending to the head of the NKVD, Lavrentiy ordered the execution of five officials high in command in the Ukraine.
Gave the order for the assassination of Leon Trotsky, an exile in Mexico in in 1940. Named Deputy Prime Minister in February 1941, in charge of Russian security after the invasion by the Germans. He used this opportunity to murder as many old Bolsheviks as he could, thus eliminating as many of Stalin’s old political rivals as he could. He began a horrific purge, going so far as to order the mass execution of more than 10,000 political prisoners he had sent to detention camps.
Was named a member of the State Defense Committee and was named Marshall of the Soviet Union in 1945. Was made a full member of the Soviet Politburo in 1946. Was eventually put in charge of Atomic bomb development. Was viewed by many as a distasteful monster, believed to be a sexual predator, accused of raping and sodomizing young girls and threatening their families to keep them quiet. Gave the NKVD a makeover, renaming it the MVD, In addition to massive internal investigations and purges, Beria oversaw the implementation of a worldwide espionage system, aimed at gathering intelligence from the west.
As had happened with his predecessors, Beria fell out of favor with Stalin due to Stalin’s continued paranoia. Stalin, feeling Beria possessed too much power, feared that his top policeman would attempt to overthrow him. Believing that Beria had set in motion a plot to assassinate him, Stalin ordered him arrested. Stalin died soon thereafter (some believe Stalin suffered a stroke while speaking alone with Beria).