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Death and state funeral of Joseph Stalin

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Joseph Stalin, the second leader of the Soviet Union, died on 5 March 1953 at the Kuntsevo Dacha aged 74 after suffering a stroke. After four days of national mourning, Stalin was given a state funeral and then buried in Lenin's Mausoleum on 9 March. Nikita Khrushchev, Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Lavrentiy Beria were in charge of organizing the funeral.

Stalin's Funeral
Stalin's funeral procession on Okhotny Ryad.jpg
Stalin's funeral procession on Okhotny Ryad [ru].
Date9 March 1953
LocationRed Square, Moscow, Soviet Union
ParticipantsNikita Khrushchev, Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lavrentiy Beria and other Soviet and foreign dignitaries

Illness and deathEdit

Stalin's health deteriorated towards the end of World War II. He suffered from atherosclerosis as a result of heavy smoking, a mild stroke around the time of the Victory Parade, and a severe heart attack in October 1945.[1]

In the early morning hours of 1 March 1953, after an all-night dinner and a movie, Stalin arrived at his Kuntsevo residence and went to his bedroom to rest and he did not emerge from bed.[2] Although his guards thought that it was strange not to see him awake at his usual time, they were strictly instructed not to bother him and left him alone the entire day. At around 10 p.m., he was discovered by Peter Lozgachev, the Deputy Commandant of Kuntsevo, who entered his bedroom to check on him and recalled the scene of Stalin lying on his back on the floor of his room beside his bed, wearing pyjama bottoms and an undershirt, his clothes soaked in stale urine. A frightened Lozgachev asked Stalin what happened to him, but all he could get out of him was unintelligible responses. Lozgachev used the bedroom telephone to frantically call a few party officials; he told them that Stalin may have had a stroke and asked them to send good doctors to the Kuntsevo residence immediately.[3][4] Lavrentiy Beria was informed and arrived a few hours afterwards. The doctors arrived in the early morning of 2 March when they changed Stalin's bedclothes and tended to him. They diagnosed him with a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke) caused by hypertension (high blood pressure), with stomach hemorrhage facilitating.[5] He was treated in his dacha with leeches, as was customary at the time.[6] On 3 March, his double Felix Dadaev was recalled from vacation to Moscow "to be ready to stand in for Stalin if needed", but he was not used. On 4 March, Stalin's illness was covered in the media in surprising detail such as pulse, blood pressure and urinalysis; for convenience the time of his stroke was said to be 2 March and his location as Moscow. The bedridden Stalin died on 5 March, at 21:50 EET. According to his daughter Svetlana, it had been "a difficult and terrible death".[7] An autopsy revealed that he had died of a cerebral haemorrhage and that he also suffered from severe damage to his cerebral arteries due to atherosclerosis. It is possible that Stalin was murdered:[8] poisoning with warfarin has been suggested[9] and Beria has been suggested as a suspect, although no firm evidence has ever appeared.[10]

Funeral serviceEdit

External video
  Official Soviet documentary on Stalin's funeral

On 6 March, the coffin with Stalin's body was put on display at the Hall of Columns in the House of the Unions, remaining there for three days.[11] On 9 March, the body was delivered to Red Square[12] prior to interment in Lenin's Mausoleum (where it would lie in state until 1961).[13][14] Speeches were delivered by Khrushchev, Malenkov, Molotov, and Beria, after which pallbearers carried the coffin to the mausoleum. As Stalin's body was being interred, a moment of silence was observed nationwide at noon Moscow time. As the bells of the Kremlin tower chimed the hour, sirens and horns wailed nationwide along with a 21-gun salute fired from within the precincts of the Kremlin. Similar observances were also held in other Warsaw Pact countries along with China, Mongolia and North Korea. Immediately after the silence ended, a military band played the Soviet State Anthem, and following this, a military parade of the Moscow Garrison was held in Stalin's honor. In the public's efforts to pay their respects to Stalin's casket, a number of people were crushed and trampled to death.[15] Khrushchev later provided an estimate that 109 people died in the crowd.[16]

Foreign dignitaries in attendanceEdit

According to Ogoniok, the mourners included the following foreign dignitaries:[17]

Czechoslovak leader Gottwald died shortly after attending Stalin's funeral on 14 March 1953 after one of his arteries burst.[19] Fearing the encouragement of rivals within the ranks of the Party of Labour of Albania, neither Prime Minister Enver Hoxha nor Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu risked traveling to Moscow to attend the funeral, with Hoxha instead pledging eternal allegiance to the late Soviet leader.[20]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Medvedev, Zhores A. (2006). The Unknown Stalin. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-85043-980-6.
  2. ^ Sebag Montefiore, Simon (4 June 2004). "Why Stalin loved Tarzan and wanted John Wayne shot". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Последняя тайна Сталина" [The last secret of Stalin]. BBC Russian Service (in Russian). 25 February 2003. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  4. ^ Montefiore 2004, p. 634.
  5. ^ Brent & Naumov 2004.
  6. ^ "Stalins Tod - das Ende einer Aera". Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (in German). 3 March 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  7. ^ Khlevniuk, Oleg V. (2008). Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11066-1.
  8. ^ Service, Robert (2004). Stalin: A Biography. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-72627-3.
  9. ^ Wines, Michael (5 March 2003). "New Study Supports Idea Stalin Was Poisoned". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  10. ^ Conquest, Robert (1991). Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York & London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-016953-9.
  11. ^ Ganjushin, Alexander (6 March 2013). "Joseph Stalin's funeral: how it happened". Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Retrieved 17 January 2018 – via Russia Beyond. On 6 March, the coffin with Stalin's body was displayed at the Hall of Columns in the House of Trade Unions.
  12. ^ "The Manhoff Archive: Stalin's Funeral - Part One". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  13. ^ Ganjushin, Alexander (5 March 2013). "Russia on the day of Stalin's funeral: A photo look back". Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Retrieved 17 January 2018 – via Russia Beyond. On 9 March, Stalin's embalmed body was interred in the Lenin Mausoleum, which was called the Lenin–Stalin Mausoleum in 1953 to 1961.
  14. ^ Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Why Did Russia Move Stalin's Body?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  15. ^ Evtushenko, Evgenii (1963). "Mourners Crushed at Stalin's Funeral". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  16. ^ Khlevniuk, Oleg (2017). Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-21978-4.
  17. ^ "Mourning of millions". Ogoniok (11 (1344)). 15 March 1953.
  18. ^ Tikka, Juha-Pekka (18 October 2017). "Kun Josif Stalin kuoli – näin Urho Kekkonen ryntäsi tilaisuuteen" [When Josef Stalin died - Urho Kekkonen rushed to the event]. Verkkouutiset (in Finnish). Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Czechoslovakia: Death No. 2". TIME. 23 March 1953. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  20. ^ Pearson, Owen (8 September 2006). Albania as Dictatorship and Democracy. I.B. Tauris. p. 454. ISBN 978-1-84511-105-2.