MOSCOW -- Semyon Ignatiev, whose long career in the Soviet political police culminated in a high-ranking position in the KGB in the last years of Joseph Stalin, has died, Izvestia said Wednesday. He was 79.
Ignatiev, who died Sunday, was pensioned in 1960 and withdrew from public life, the government newspaper said.
He was the Minister of State Security -- the KGB -- from 1951 until March 1953, and was the first aide of Lavrentii Beria who in 1938 became Minister of Internal Affairs, the body that organized the purges which sent an estimated 8 million Soviets to their deaths under Stalin.
Ignatiev also was Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between 1952 and 1953 and served briefly on the Presidium, the country's highest governing body now called the Politburo.
He was relieved of his position on the Central Committee in April 1953, one month after Stalin's death, because during his term as security head he showed 'political blindness and slackness and came under the influence of criminal adventurers,' according to a biography published in the West.
Izvestia said he was four times awarded the Order of Lenin, the highest Soviet honor.
'Wherever S.D. Ignatiev was sent, he gave all his efforts to his job, showed lofty responsibility, and was marked by modesty and a sensitive attitude towards others,' said the obituary signed by 'a group of Comrades.'
After being ousted from the Central Committee, he served as first secretary of the Bashkir Oblast Party Committee and the same position in the Tatar Oblast, both in Central Asia until 1960.
Ignatiev was born in 1904 into a poor peasant family in Karlovka, a village in the Ukraine and from 1920 until 1931 worked at various positions in the security police, including the All-Russian Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Sabotage, and Speculation -- known as the Cheka, the precursor of the KGB, Izvestia said.