18 Things You Didn't Know About the Death of Joseph Stalin

Updated on May 23, 2018
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin | Source

As dictator of the USSR from 1924 to 1953, Joseph Stalin was responsible for the death of millions. Yet, he reigned victorious against Nazi invaders and set the stage for the Soviet Union to become one of the most powerful nations in the world. In what Khrushchev called “a time of the cult of personality,” Stalin was feared, loathed, and loved in life as well as in death. A Georgian who rose to status within the ranks of Vladimir Lenin, Stalin’s descent into power is just as controversial as his death nearly 30 years later. Since it has only been since the crash of the Soviet Union that researchers have been able to delve into the life and death of the despot, it’s likely that more information concerning the man and the myth will be uncovered in years to come. For now, here is a list of 25 things you just may not know about the death of Joseph Stalin.

  1. Stalin’s death was officially announced on March 6, 1953. However, he stroked on March 1, 1953.
  2. At his death, the masses of the Soviet Union were traumatized and grief-stricken despite it being known that Joseph Stalin held little regard for life.
  3. Stalin lay for hours before doctors were notified. It has been suggested that Nikita Khrushchev and Lavrentiy Beria, of the NKVD (secret police), were too afraid to notify the doctors without Stalin’s consent. Others say they purposely waited on the prospect that he would die.
  4. As citizens lined the streets on March 8, 1953 to see Stalin’s remains, the square became overcrowded and a stampede occurred. Hundreds died of asphyxiation while others were trampled upon.
  5. Despite Stalin’s suspicion, war-time fallacies, absolutism, mass penalization, worker exploitation, mass murder, and general disregard for human rights, many still fully embraced the tyrants propaganda of his own greatness- even after his death.
  6. Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoir that Lavrentiy Beria would hold Stalin’s hand and kiss his head as he was awake in pain, but spat in disgust as he drifted into unconsciousness.
  7. Once they decided to notify a physician, politburo leaders struggled to find good doctors. The best doctors in the region, being predominantly Jewish, were imprisoned.
  8. To rid of Stalin quietly and softly, “De-Stalinization,” reforms were made within the first week after his death. His successors believed that to publicly decry Stalin’s actions would show state weakness.
  9. At the time of Stalin’s death at least 5.5 million people were in camps, gulags, colonies or prisons. Workers were exploited and the Soviet budget was failing from arms investments, but the Soviet Union was a major military and industrial superpower.
  10. Stalin was found dying in his “dacha” (seasonal home) immersed in urine.Since they knew the price of disobeying orders that he not be awakened, Stalin lay there an estimated 12 hours before his security had the courage to open the door.
  11. Eight years after the premier’s death, all entrances to the Red Square were closed in the night. Stalin’s body, which lay beside Lenin’s in a mausoleum, was taken to a grave with dirt shoveled atop. It’s been said that it was proposed to lay two concrete slabs for fear that he would return.
  12. Vyacheslav Molotov (yes, that Molotov!) and the Commissariat for Internal Affairs, Lavrentiy Beria showed no grief, only relief, as they provided Stalin’s eulogies. Besides being cruel and unjust themselves, it’s reported that they deeply feared Stalin.
  13. Stalin’s personal interpretation of Marxist writings were removed from mandate and millions of prisoners released after his death.
  14. Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor, initiated a war crimes investigation into Stalin’s activities posthumously; however, he made no mention of the millions Stalin murdered and ended up making similar policies during his own reign.
  15. Stalin and his successor, Khrushchev, possessed many similarities concerning corruption. For example, Khrushchev had the head of the MVD (formerly NKVD), Beria, executed for fear of a Coup d’ etat.
  16. Author and Stalin biographer, Adam Hochschild has argued that Russians did not repress the memory of Stalin’s crimes after his death, but repressed the feelings to be angry about it.
  17. Although it is officially stated that Stalin died of a stroke, speculations suggests that he may have been poisoned during the banquet he held the night before. Again, Lavrentiy Beria’s name arises as the possible culprit.
  18. After his death, Stalin’s former maid, Maria Nemchemko, was quoted as saying, “I personally think well of Stalin. He did nothing bad to me. It was [Lavrentiy] Beria who did the bad things. That scum, I hated him!"


Hochschild, Adam. Russians Remember Stalin. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday Publishing, 1996.
Service, Robert. A History of Twentieth- century Russia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Service, Robert. Stalin. London: Macmillan Publishing, 2004

© 2012 Nicole Paschal


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    • Vega Vallari profile imageAUTHOR

      Nicole Paschal 

      6 years ago from Saint Petersburg, Florida

      1. Are you kidding me? How can you even attempt to cite Dmitri Volkogonov in defense of Stalin when it is FACT that Volkogonov's father was murdered in Stalin’s purge and his mother died in a Krasnoyarsk labor camp under Stalin. Even Volkogonov has confirmed that himself! However, I noticed you left that part out. He also waivered in his views and rewritings of Soviet History, not to mention he was in the political propaganda office before promoted to historian. The historian Yuri Semenov wrote that Volkogonov often praised Bolsheviks and Lenin when needed, but when his superiors views changed, his did as well. He was eager to please. That can be a lengthy discussion in itself, but I'll move on to the next point. You seem to want to make an argument that if every name is not recorded or numbers not written, it didn’t happen. It’s an old useless argument, but one I’m sure that Hitler, Mugabe and Stalin amongst others appreciated.

      2. Service as a secret agent posing as a historian/academic? – Hmmm, I will let you and your fellow conspiracy theorists have this one.

      3. Anti-Semitism? - Nowhere in this piece did I use that term or address it. You used this term. I think your point is that Jews suffered “at least” equally under Stalin as the rest of Russians. Sure, I will agree with that. Regarding fact #7, it is true that near Stalin’s death he was arresting a “disproportionate” amount of Jews. Historians have even suggested that he had further plans for them, but we will never know that because he died. I didn’t note that in the article because you can’t say what a dead man would have done. However, it is fact that some of the best doctors were imprisoned when he died and that, yes, many were Jews- just like I stated. However, if you believe Service is a Secret Agent, it’s unlikely you will believe this point.

      4. It appears as if your final argument is, “… but,… but, the people loved him.” I really shouldn’t honor this with a response, but it’s a slow day. First of all, not all Russian people at any moment of time have supported Stalin. Those that disagreed just lived in fear. Many Russian laypersons and academics today disavow him, some do not. This has no bearing upon whether or not he committed crimes against humanity.

    • Comrade Joe profile image

      Comrade Joe 

      6 years ago from Glasgow, United Kingdom

      It has been called such things because it shatters the decades of lies and propaganda. You want to talk about documents released in the 80's and 90's, well indeed those are the very things which back Furr up, these are the very documents he uses, those buried in the Kremlin archives by the revisionist leadership of the CPSU. For instance, Dimitri Volkogonov, Yeltsin's very own archivist notes 30,514 death sentences passed during the purges at the hight of Stalin's "repression". This is the extent of these "crimes".

      But on the point of Service. It is known that his sources were mainly right-wing Ukrainians living in the US, some of whom were Nazi collaborators eg Mykola Lebed. Service himself was outed in the 70's as a British agent responsible for spreading disinformation.

      As for specifics in your hub. We can start with your spreading the nonsense myth of anti-semitism. When in fact the jews suffered no disproportionate "repression", they "suffered"proportionately.

      Also the notion that De-Stalinization had to occur quietly because it would show state weakness is quite unlikely. Far more plausible that things happened quietly, eg the Secret Speech, was in the knowledge that to do this openly would lead to open rebellion as the Soviet people would have never believed their lies, hence why it was smuggled out to the west, where the ruling powers desperately wanted to believe it and would believe it.

      If Stalin was the monster they say he wouldn't be the national hero that he was and is. Those who supposedly suffered are those who love him.

    • Vega Vallari profile imageAUTHOR

      Nicole Paschal 

      6 years ago from Saint Petersburg, Florida

      Be more specific. Your personal disagreement with Service does not make his claims lies. That is the purpose of listing sources, so you can feel free to peruse them and find alternative works that fit your worldview if needed. The book you are referring to has been called "appalling," "without merit," ( even by Russian critics) and it has been said to overlook the crimes committed by Stalin. My husband actually is Russian, we both have degrees and can assess English- language or Russian-language sources. Regardless of Krushev, most of the world, documented fact (most finally released in the 1980s under Gorbachev), and the stories of numerous Russian families recognize the crimes committed by Stalin. If your source says Stalin was a saint and the majority of academia disagrees, both are possible. That's the great thing about democracy.

    • Comrade Joe profile image

      Comrade Joe 

      6 years ago from Glasgow, United Kingdom

      It's a shame you have used now discredited sources like Service and therefore make rather shaky claims. Academia has left this falsified journalistic history behind thanks to works like Khrushchev Lied by Grover Furr.

    • Vega Vallari profile imageAUTHOR

      Nicole Paschal 

      7 years ago from Saint Petersburg, Florida

      Om, you always crack me up. I will get on that asap. If these historians don't know that, then they didn't really earn their Ph.D.'s! ..lol

      Thanks a lot for leaving a comment!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      7 years ago

      And was he in his bathrobe or pajamas when he died? That's the most interesting thing I'd like to know! .....Okay, just kidding. It was a really fun read. Very intriguing. Thanks for sharing, my friend!


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