Soviet politician Vyacheslav Molotov was born on this day in 1890. His birth name was Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skryabin, and he took the pseudonym “Molotov” after joining the Bolsheviks (similarly to Lenin, Stalin, Gromyko etc.). The word “Molotov” is derived from “molot”, which means “hammer” in Russian, while the suffix “-ov” was probably added to make it sound more like a Russian surname.
It is interesting that his party colleagues gave Molotov the nickname “Stone Bottom” for his ability to spend long hours at his work desk. He allegedly corrected such colleagues by telling them that Lenin had actually nicknamed him “Iron Bottom”. Molotov was also allegedly the only Bolshevik who always wore a suit and a tie. He served a long time as Stalin’s foreign minister (though the title of minister wasn’t originally used because it was considered bourgeois – ministers were called NARKOM, i.e. People’s Commissar). Molotov also served as Stalin’s prime minister (the Chairman of SOVNARKOM, the Council of People’s Commissars).
Molotov gained infamy due to the well-known Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which basically partitioned Poland between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Today Molotov is best known for the so-called “Molotov cocktail”. This is an improvised firebomb made from a glass bottle filled with petrol or some other flammable substance. This is held in place by a cloth wick placed in the bottle’s neck, which is set alight just before the bomb is thrown. Upon striking a hard surface (such as a vehicle), the bottle breaks and causes a large fireball. The name “Molotov cocktail” originates from the Winter War, which was fought between the USSR and Finland in 1939 and 1940.