Towards the end of his life, he was becoming increasingly paranoid, vindictive and unpredictable. On the night of the 1st of March 1953, he ordered his exhausted and frightened political associates (the Politburo) to engage in one of his all-night dinner parties at his residence in Kuntsevo. That he intended to soon have most of them exterminated or imprisoned is a matter of historical fact. Some accounts claim that he made them dance wildly to an opera recorded entirely using the howls of Siberian wolves. That night he suffered a stroke and later died on 5 March 1963. His death was attributed to natural causes, but was he really assassinated? Here’s everything strange about the Death of Joseph Stalin.
In the entire recorded history of mankind, there are less than 25 people who deserve the title: Butchers of Humanity. Joseph Stalin is one of them. If you don’t know who he was … you should. The son of a simple shoemaker, he took part in the revolution that overthrew the Tsar of Russia in 1917 and later established himself as the most powerful dictator of the modern world. People remember the six million Jews murdered by Adolph Hitler but still seem surprised to find out that under Stalin’s insane regime, more than 20 million people died as a result of his political policies. Many of these people died in the frozen concentration camps of Siberia – the Gulags.
The Doctors Plot
As Stalin grew older, he became increasingly frightened that people were plotting to overthrow or kill him. He was correct to be concerned. His brutal regime had ensured that he had literally tens of thousands of enemies. His savage treatment of those often closest to him and his frequent leadership purges meant that just about everyone wanted him dead.
Stalin increasingly distrusted doctors and had, for quite some time, believed that they were working together to kill or disable the soviet leadership. The alleged Doctors Plot was revealed to the media during January of 1953 and many were arrested and tortured. Stalin’s plan was to create a media and public panic that would support his decision to exile all Jews to Siberia. The date for the final trial of the ringleaders was set for 5th March 1953 – by coincidence, the exact day Stalin died. There is some substantiated speculation that there was in fact a plot by Stalin’s doctors to shorten his life. Some claim this was organised by the Americans but, if there was a real plot, then it was most likely to have been organised by Latvia Beria one of Stalin’s closet cronies who has recent fallen from favour. The argument made is that the polit bureau plotters where terrified what might come out in the imminent trials and were forced to act to save their own lives by killing Stalin.
Insane or Not?
Various medical journals and independent researchers both from Russia and the rest of the world have tried to ascertain if Stalin was suffering from a severe mental illness. The general consensus is that while Stalin was suffering from hardening of the arteries and was clearly psychopathic, he was not mentally ill or impaired. He knew what he was doing and why. As such, his decision-making ability and particularly his ability to conceive long-term plans remained fully functional. With this in mind, it becomes clear that his concerns that he was being poisoned must be taken seriously and not simply swept under the carpet and labelled paranoia.
Here is an order we’ve never been given before
Stalin liked to keep an eye on his closest deputies and on the evening of the February 28-March 1st he invited them to join him for a movie at the Kremlin and then dinner at his Dacha in Kuntsevo on the outskirts of Moscow. The truth is that this was more of an order and Malenkov, Beria, Khruschev and Bulganin dutifully attended. According to interviews, Stalin was not in a good mood and was critical of the leadership. As the evening went on, he became more vocal, irrational and disoriented. Some more fanciful accounts even claim he made them dance to an opera recorded using the howling of wolves. He finally went to bed at around 4.30 am on the 1st March 1953 with orders that he was not to be disturbed – orders that people had learned to take very seriously on pain of death. His relieved guests were now free to leave – which they did.
Just after Stalin had retired for the night, the chief guard (assignee), Khrustalev, apparently said: “Well, guys, here is an order we’ve never been given before. The Boss said, ‘Go to bed, all of you, I don’t need anything. I am going to bed myself. I shouldn’t need you today.” This statement was entirely out of character and strongly suggests that Khrustalev knew more than he was letting on and wanted to make sure that nobody entered the room.
Let’s Not be Hasty Comrade …
Stalin did not appear all day and this worried the staff, but they dared not disturb him particularly as they had received an order from Khrustalev. Desperately concerned, they finally opened his door at 11.pm and found ‘The Boss’ lying on the floor near the desk in a pool of his own urine. According to reports he was conscious, mumbling but incoherent. He was lifted on to the nearby sofa and the phone calls were made to the senior members of the Soviet Politburo. What happened next is confused and debatable. The Politburo members, particularly Beria and Malenkov denied there was an issue and as a result Stalin was only seen by doctors on the morning of the 2nd March 1953 – some 13 hours after he had been discovered. By this time he was in a very bad condition. Based on behaviour, its fair to conclude that Stalin’s right-hand men were initially in no rush to save him.
Leeches, Injections, and Dubious Enemas
The doctors summoned were terrified. There are accounts that they used leaches to try lower Stalin’s blood pressure and injections of adrenaline and even enemas reportedly containing glucose raw eggs and other stuff. Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, was summoned and reported that he looked dreadful while his son, Vasili, quickly became drunk and accused the doctors of trying to kill his father. The scene was chaotic and just about anything could have been administered to Stalin during this time. The truth is that other than Svetlana, everyone else felt it would be better if he died. They just needed him to live long enough to sort out what happened next and who would be in charge.
Stalin eventually died horribly on the 5th March 1953. According to Svetlana, “He suddenly opened his eyes and looked at everyone in the room,” she said. “It was a terrible gaze, mad or maybe furious and full of fear of death.”
Stomach Bleeding, Muscular Haemorrhages and Hidden Reports
If ever there was a smoking gun in the death of Stalin, this is it. An autopsy conducted after Stalin’s death did reveal a massive cerebral haemorrhage that, from the moment it formed, would have eventually killed Stalin. However, there were also many smaller muscular haemorrhages and severe stomach bleeding that were consistent with poisoning. (Surgical Neurology International 2013) Just as interesting is the fact that these reports were hidden and not made public for many years. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524003/)
His Face Turned Black
According to Svetlana, her father’s face had become discoloured and blackened prior to death. While a darkening of the skin can occur after death due to post-mortem lividity, Stalin’s changed colour prior to his death suggesting possible poison. In addition, Svetlana describes Stalin as being in severe even agonising pain which is commonly associated with poisoning. Some modern doctors now believe that the drug Warfarin was given to Stalin during the dinner party and that it was this that this induced his fatal stroke. He was then given a second injection the following morning – some suggest the toxin thallium was used. Interestingly, Both Warfarin and Thallium are used in Rat poisons.
I did him in! I saved all of you.
According to Molatov, some two months after Stalin’s death, Beria actually said to him. “I did him in! I saved all of you.” This was recorded by Vyacheslav M. Molotov and published in 1992 as ”Molotov Remembers”. On the day that Stalin actually died, Beria laughed and summoned a driver to take him to the Kremlin. Who was the driver? None other than chief Guard Khrustalev who had given the original order for Stalin not to be disturbed.
Lavrentiy Beria may have tried to grab power but things didn’t work out to well for him. By the end of the year he had been executed by firing squad – not for killing Stalin but because he favoured a financial deal with the USA that would have seen massive reorganisation of the eastern bloc powers and the possible early reunification of Germany. Krushchev organised the coup and Beria was arrested in June – just three months after Stalin’s death.
No New Autopsy Just Two Slabs of Concrete
Over the years there have been several suggestions that Stalin’s body should be exhumed and tested for toxins in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. This has never happened. Apparently, he remains buried up against the Kremlin wall in relative obscurity. There’s even a joke that he’s buried under two slabs of concrete so he can never rise from the dead.
It’s unlikely that we will ever know what really killed Stalin. Even if his body was exhumed, the embalming process used on him is likely to mask any latent findings. What we do know is that most of the senior soviets involved with the death of Stalin went on to experience mixed fortunes.
The two that stand out are Lavrentiy Beria, head of the secret police, who was soon executed and Nikita Khrushchev who became Premier of the USSR. For the rest it was political intrigue as usual with some successes until one-by-one they were forced into retirement and sent to the back county to live out their lives.
Peter Lozgachev, Deputy Dacha Commander, stayed out of trouble, eventually retired and later helped to provide much information about the night that Stalin died.
Assignee Khrustalev, the guard that was appointed by Beria and who gave the unusual order regarding Stalin’s privacy, died of an unknown disease shortly after the incident. Coincidence – perhaps not.