The real cause of Stalin’s death

It is official–the cause of death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, history’s most prolific mass murderer, was from a stroke.  One of the most brutal dictators to have lived, Stalin died at the age of 73 on 5 March 1953.  The official postmortem report was only released today and it finally dispenses with various theories about how the madman died, specifically ruling out death by poisoning.

Stalin blanket map

Medical records and the postmortem report referred to the dictator as ‘Patient Number One’ and details the stroke which occurred sometime around 6.30pm on 1 March 1953.  He had left stern orders not to be disturbed and his staff, afraid to enter his quarters, waited until late the following day to check on the Soviet leader.  At the time of his death Stalin was purging many in his inner circle including his top doctors in what he called “The Doctors Conspiracy” and his primary physicians were sitting in a Moscow prison.

The lead autopsy physician, Alexander Myasnikov, wrote in the report that Stalin suffered a progressive hardening of the arteries in his brain and might explain some of Stalin’s paranoia and inability to distinguish between enemies and friends.  The autopsy report revealed that he suffered from extremely high blood pressure, hardened arteries and a fatty liver.  There was apparently no evidence of poisoning as many historians had suspected.  The Russian State Archives gave no reason why the report had not been released previously.

Stalin coffin

The official report to the Soviet people came at 4am that morning in a brief statement that read, “The heart of the comrade-in-arms and successor of Lenin’s genius, of the wise leader and teacher of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, has ceased to beat.”

His body was put on temporary display in the Hall of Columns where hundreds of thousands of citizens waited in long lines to get a last glimpse of their leader.  It is estimated that around 500 persons died of trampling and suffocation in those lines.

Stalin remains one of the most admired historical figures in Russia, especially among older citizens and among the young adult hard-core nationalistic movements.

Photo: Anton Klyushev
Photo: Anton Klyushev

Earlier this week on the 60th anniversary of his death, thousands of Communists across Russia marked the anniversary with marches and bringing flowers to his monuments across Russia.  In Moscow there was a steady flow of mourners bearing flowers and carrying posters of Stalin.

Those marchers were met by opposing marchers bearing signs calling attention to the millions murdered at Stalin’s orders.

Photo: Anton Klyushev
Stalin’s grave, 5 March 2013.

He was buried at first inside Lenin’s tomb on Red Square. Later during the period of de-Stalinization his body was moved to the Kremlin walls area.

Footnote: Russian state television channel broadcast a documentary about the dictator this past Tuesday. The documentary portrayed Stalin as a kind yet strong leader and suggested that the millions of murders were done without his knowledge or by overzealous regional and local officials of whom Stalin was unable to stop.

"Stalin with us"
“Stalin with us”

The documentary also blamed the West for spreading lies about Stalin and for hiring Russians to assassinate the Soviet leader.   Opposition leaders quickly pointed out that the NTV documentary supports the position of new history textbooks being prepared for Russian schools.