Offical Soviet Government picture released upon the death of Stalin

21 December 1879 - 5 March 1953

[From page 1 of The New York Times, March 7, 1954]



Announcemet of Death

Made by Top Soviet

and Party Chiefs




Leaders Issue an Appeal

to People for Unity

and Vigilance






Special to The New York Times

MOSCOW, Friday, March 6 - Premier Joseph Stalin died at 9:50 P.M. yesterday [1:50 P. M. Thursday, Eastern standard time] in the Kremlin at the age of 73, it was announced officially this morning. He had been in power twenty-nine years.

The announcement was made in the name of the Central Committee of the Communist party, the Council of Ministers and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.

Calling on the Soviet people to rally firmly around the party and the Government, the announcement asked them to display unity and the highest political vigilance "In the struggle against internal and external foes.” [No announcement was made of a successor to Premier Stalin.]

The Soviet leader's death from general circulatory and respiratory deficiency occurred just short of four days after he had been stricken with a brain hemorrhage in his Kremlin apartment.

Accompanying the death announcement was a final medical certificate issued by a group of ten physicians, headed by Health Minister A. F. Tretyakov, who cared for Mr. Stalin in his last illness under the direct and closest supervision of the Central Committee and the Council of Ministers.

Pulse Rate Was High

The medical certificate revealed that in the last hours Mr. Stalin's condition grew worse rapidly, with repeated heavy and sharp circulatory and heart collapses. His breathing grew superficial and sharply irregular. His pulse rate rose to 140 to 150 a minute and at 9:50 P. M., “because of a growing circulatory and respiratory insufficiency, J. V. Stalin died.”

[The news of Mr. Stalin’s death was withheld by Soviet officials for more than six hours]

Pravda appeared this morning with broad black borders around its front page, which was devoted entirely to Mr. Stalin, The layout included a large photograph of the Premier, the announcement by the Government, the medical bulletins, and the announcement of the formation of a funeral commission headed by Nikita S. Khruschchev, Secretary of the Central Committee of the party.

Other members of the commission are Lazar M. Kaganovich, Premier Stalin's brother-in-law; Nikolai M. Shvernik, President of the Soviet Union; Alexander M. Vasilevsky, War Minister; N. U. Pegov, an alternate member of the Presidium; P. A. Artemyev, commander of the Moscow military district, and M. A. Yasnov, chairman of the city of Moscow.

Pravda's announcement said Mr. Stalin’s body would lie in state in the Hall of Columns.

His death brought to an end the career of one of the great figures of modern times - a man, whose name stands second to none as the organizer and builder of the great state structure the world knows as the Soviet Union.

[The United Press said members of Mr. Stalin's family and his closest associates in the Presidium and Central Committee were at his bedside.]

The Soviet leader began his life in the simple mountain village of Gori deep in poverty-stricken Georgia. He rose to head the greatest Russian state that has ever existed. For nearly thirty years, Mr. Stalin was at the helm of the country. No other statesman of modern times has led his nation for a longer period.

This morning's official announcement declared that the Government and party would strengthen “the defense, capacity and might of the Soviet state” in every manner, and in “every way” strengthen the Soviet Army, Navy and organs of intelligence “with a view to constantly raising our preparedness for a decisive rebuff to any aggressor.”

The declaration comprised an important statement of policy, both external and internal. With regard to foreign relations, it declared that the party and Government stood by an inflexible policy of securing and strengthening peace, of struggle against the preparation and unleashing of a new war, and for a policy of “international collaboration and development of businesslike connections with all countries.”

Friendship for China Cited

The second foreign policy point was the declaration of firm support for “proletarian internationalism,” for the development of brotherly friendship with [Communist] China, with the workers of all countries of the “people's democracy” and with the workers of capitalist and colonial countries fighting “for peace, democracy and socialism.”

The announcement of Mr. Stalin’s death was made to the Soviet people by radio early this morning. The announcement was early enough so that persons going to work had heard the news before leaving their homes.

This correspondent circled the Kremlin several times during the evening and early morning. The great red flag flew as usual over the Supreme Soviet Presidium building behind Lenin’s Tomb.

Lights blazed late as they always do in many Kremlin office buildings. Sentry guards paced their posts at the Great Kremlin Gate.

The city was quiet and sleeping, and in Red Square all was serene. The guards stood their duty at Lenin's Tomb, but otherwise the great central square was deserted, as it always is in the hours just before daylight.

The last medical bulletin before the announcement of Mr. Stalin's death was issued shortly before 9 o'clock last night, reporting his condition as of 4 P. M. yesterday. It said his condition had grown worse despite every method of therapy employed by Soviet physicians.

The bulletin revealed that at 8 o'clock yesterday morning, there occurred a sharp heart-circulatory collapse, which was corrected by “extraordinary curative measures.”

A second “heavy collapse” occurred at 11:30 A. M., which “was eliminated, with difficulty.”

Pravda, organ of the Central Committee of the Communist party, and Izvestia, organ of the Soviet Government, called on the Soviet people yesterday to rally around the party and the Government in “these difficult days” and to display what Izvestia characterized as “heightened revolutionary vigilance.” Pravda also demanded from all Soviet citizens, “stanchness of spirit and, vigilance.”

Pravda's editorial appeal to the populace was read repeatedly over the radio. It was also read and discussed in factories, shops and offices throughout the country. Pravda had clearly sounded the theme of the day - vigilance and unity.

Last night’s medical bulletin on the Premier’s condition declared that an electrocardiogram taken at 11 A. M., showed “sharp disturbances in blood circulation in the coronary arteries of the heart with lesions in the back wall of the heart.” An electrocardiogram taken on Monday had not established these changes, the bulletin said.

After measures taken to liquidate the 11:30 A. M. collapse, the condition was eased to some extent although the “patient's general condition continued extremely grave,” the bulletin asserted.

At 4 P. M., Mr. Stalin's blood pressure stood at 160 over 120, the bulletin said, With his pulse rate at 120 a minute and his respiration 36 times a minute. His temperature stood at 37.6 centigrade (99.68 degrees Fahrenheit), slightly lower then in a 2 A.M. bulletin.

The bulletin noted that the white blood corpuscle count stood at 21,000. At 2 A. M. the white blood corpuscle count was 17,000.

The bulletin said the principle objective of the struggle now being waged with Mr. Stalin’s illness was an effort to curb the interruptions in respiration and in blood circulation, particularly coronary circulation.

Every device and treatment known to modern medicine was employed, by a team of ten top Soviet specialists, headed by the country’s new Health Minister, A. P. Tretyakov, and directed closely by the highest bodies of the party and Government - the Central Committee and the Council of Ministers.

The medical bulletin issued at 7 o'clock yesterday morning, giving his condition as of 2 A. M., was the second issued since Mr. Stalin’s stroke Sunday night. It carried a most detailed account of the progress of the illness and the measures taken to combat it. The communiqué showed that, despite every treatment thus far employed, Mr. Stalin's breathing and heart functions continued to be sharply impaired. He lay unconscious. 

Penicillin had been administered to Mr. Stalin. Other treatments mentioned in the communiqué were directly concerned with the fight to maintain and regularize his breathing and heart functions. These included the use of oxygen to supplement his oxygen deficiency, and camphor and caffeine to stimulate the heart. Strophantine and glucose also were introduced, and medical leeches applied as a means of bringing down his blood pressure.

In its call to the people to rally in unity and in vigilance around the party and Government, Pravda declared that the qualities now needed were “unity and cohesion, stanchness of spirit and vigilance,” and called on all citizens to stand firm behind Mr. Stalin's goal – “building communism in our country."

Pravda called its editorial “Great Unity of the Party and People.” Izvestia called its editorial “Unity and Solidarity of the Soviet People.”

Izvestia said that In these times “there is no doubt” that all citizens will “multiply their strength in the struggle for a successful fulfillment of the tasks of Communist construction and will ceaselessly raise their revolutionary vigilance and even more closely rally their ranks around the Central Committee of the party and the Soviet Government.”

Throngs of Muscovites made their way to Red Square this morning and stood in silent tribute to their lost leader.

The Hall of Columns where Mr. Stalin’s body will lie in state is one of the most beautiful buildings In Moscow and one of the architectural jewels of Europe.

The building is ordinarily used as the house of Soviet trade unions, but is often employed for important state functions. It was here that Lenin's body lay in state in January 1924, and it is here that many great thinkers of the Soviet world have lain in the last hours before their burial.

The central hail of the building is dominated by twenty-four beautiful marble columns reaching three stories to the ceiling. The room is hung with great crystal chandeliers.

The Hall of Columns was erected in the mid-nineteenth century as a club for Moscow noblemen.

The outside of the hall, which is located in the heart of the city only a few hundred yards from Red Square, was decorated just after dawn today with heavy black-bordered red Soviet flags, which are used here as a symbol of mourning.

A great forty-foot portrait of Mr. Stalin in his gray generalissimo’s uniform was erected on the front of the building. It was framed in heavy gilt.

In this famous hall Mr. Stalin's body will lie in state so that millions of Soviet citizens can throng past the bier and pay their last respects.

Stalin Rose From Czarist Oppression to Transform Russia Into Mighty Socialist State

By The New York Times, March 7, 1953

Joseph Stalin became the most important figure in the political direction of one-third of the people of the world. He was one of a group of hard revolutionaries that established the first important Marxist state and, as its dictator, he carried forward its socialization and industrialization with vigor and ruthlessness.

During the second World War, Stalin personally led his country's vast armed forces to victory. When Germany was defeated, he pushed his country's frontiers to their greatest extent and fostered the creation of a buffer belt of Marxist-oriented satellite states from Korea across Eurasia to the Baltic Sea. Probably no other man ever exercised so much influence over so wide a region.

In the late Nineteen Forties, when an alarmed world, predominantly non-Communist, saw no end to the rapid advance of the Soviet Union and her satellites, there was a hasty and frightened grouping of forces to form a battle line against the Marxist advance. Stalin stood on the Elbe in Europe and on the Yalu in Asia. Opposed to him stood the United States, keystone in the arch of non-Marxist states.

Stalin took and kept the power in his country through a mixture of character, guile and good luck. He outlasted his country's intellectuals, if indeed, he did not contrive to have them shot, and he wore down the theoreticians and dreamers. He could exercise great charm when he wanted to. President Harry Truman once said in an unguarded moment:

"I like old Joe. Joe is a decent fellow, but he is a prisoner of the Politburo."

But the Stalin that the world knew best was hard, mysterious, aloof and rude. He had a large element of the Oriental in him; he was once called "Ghengis Khan with a telephone" and he spent much of his life nurturing the conspiracies that brought him to power and kept him there.

Opinion of Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky, Stalin's brilliant and defeated adversary, regarded him as an intellectual nonentity who personified "the spirit of mediocrity" that impregnated the Soviet bureaucracy. Lenin, who valued Stalin highly as a party stalwart, characterized him as "crude" and "rough" and as a "cook who will prepare only peppery dishes."

But those who survived the purges hailed Stalin as a supreme genius.

Although he remained an enigma to the outside world to the very end of his days, Stalin's role as Russia's leader in the war brought him the admiration and high praise of Allied leaders, including President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. And, indeed, only a man of iron will and determination like Stalin's could have held together his shattered country during that period of the war when German armies had overrun huge portions of Russian territory and swept to the gates of Moscow, Leningrad and the Caucasus. Like Churchill in England, Stalin never faltered, not even at moments when everything seemed lost.

When most of the Government machinery and the diplomatic corps were moved to Kuibyshev in December, 1941, in expectation of the imminent capture of Moscow, Stalin remained in the Kremlin to direct the operations that finally hurled the Nazi hordes from the frontyard of the capital. His battle orders and exhortations to the Russian armies and people to persevere in the fight contributed immensely to final victory. Repeatedly, Churchill referred to him in Parliament as Russia's "great warrior."

War Role Paramount

With the turn of the tide against the Germans, Stalin proclaimed himself marshal of the Soviet Union and later generalisimo. Surrounded by a galaxy of brilliant generals, whose names will go down in history as among the greatest of Russia's military leaders, Stalin was portrayed in the Soviet and foreign press as the supreme commander responsible for over-all strategy. To what extent this was true will have to be determined by the future historian, but that his role in the conduct of the war was paramount is undeniable.

The energy and will power he displayed both before and during the warconfirmed the justification for his name, for Stalin in Russian means "man of steel," a nom de guerre he adopted early in his revolutionary career. Long before he dreamed of becoming the supreme autocrat of Russia he haddisplayed the steel in his character as a political prisoner under the Czarist regime. A fellow prisoner of that period gave an illustration of Stalin's grit. This was in 1909, in the prison at Baku. In punishment of rioting by the prisoners, the authorities ordered that they be marched in single file between two lines of soldiers who proceeded to shower blows upon them with rifle butts. With head high, a book under his arm, Stalin walked the gantlet without a whimper, his face and head bleeding, his eyes flashing defiance. It was the kind of grit he demanded from others, the kind that helped save Russia from Nazi conquest and domination. His experience under the Czarist regime and his Asiatic character taught him how to treat political opponents.

In his relations with the Allied powers during the war and in his diplomacy before and after the war Stalin won the reputation of a grim realist.

Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, later to become famous under his revolutionary name of Joseph Stalin, was born in the Georgian village of Gori Dec. 21, 1879.

His father was an impoverished and drunken shoemaker who made him sullen and resentful by regular beatings. His mother, Ekaterina, a peasant's daughter, was a woman of singular sweetness, patience and strength of character who exercised great influence on her son. She called him Soso (Little Joe) and lived to see him dictator of the world's largest empire.

Attended a Seminary

When he was 6 or 7, young Stalin contracted smallpox, which left him pock-marked for life. Through the efforts of his mother, who worked as a part-time laundress, Stalin entered a church school at 9. He was remembered there as a bright, self-assertive boy who loved argument and who flew into a fury with those who did not agree with him. He remained in this school from 1888 to 1893.

By heroic exertions, Stalin's mother obtained for him a scholarship in the Theological Seminary of Tiflis, where he studied from October, 1894, to May, 1899. The seminary was a gloomy institution--a cross between a barracks and a monastery--where the students attended endless lectures on theology and spent their few spare moments plotting to obtain forbidden books from the outside.

Stalin was among the worst offenders. An entry against him in the seminary's book of discipline has been preserved:

"At 11 A.M. I took away from Joseph Djugashvili Letourneau's 'Literary Evolution of the Nations.' Djugashvili was discovered reading the said book on the chapel stairs. This is the thirteenth time this student has been discovered reading books borrowed from the Cheap Library."

The official reason for Stalin's expulsion was that for "unknown reasons" he failed to attend examinations. He declared he was expelled for "propagating Marxism."

To support himself he obtained a temporary job as night attendant in the Tiflis Observatory, but he was more concerned with his observations at meetings of Tiflis railway workers during the day than of the stars at night. His revolutionary apprenticeship was served as an organizer of the Tiflis transportation workers. He helped stage street demonstrations and distribute revolutionary leaflets.

In April, 1899, he received his first baptism of fire at a demonstration he helped organize in the heart of the city. The demonstration was drowned in blood by Cossacks, and he went into hiding for a year to escape the police. At this time he assumed the nickname of "Koba," after a hero in Georgian mythology.

On Nov. 11, 1901, he was elected a member of the Tiflis Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labor party, in his native Georgia. A few weeks later he was deputized to go to Batum, a thriving industrial and commercial center, to direct revolutionary activity. In March of that year he led a strike of oil workers in that city.

In April, 1902, he was arrested and lodged in the Batum prison, from which he was transferred to Kutais. While in prison he learned of the meeting in London, in 1903, of the second congress of the Russian Social Democratic party, at which the party split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks --extremists and moderates--an event that subsequently determined the entire course of the Russian Revolution. Stalin allied himself with Nikolai Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks. Trotsky was against Lenin, although in 1917, after the revolution, he joined Lenin and became his principal lieutenant in the October Revolution and in the establishment of the Soviet regime.

On July 9, 1903, while in prison in Kutais, Stalin was sentenced to three years of exile to Siberia, and in November of that year he was transferred to the bleak, remote village of Novaya Uda. There he received his first letter from Lenin in response to one posing certain questions concerning Bolshevist policy and tactics. The letter confirmed him in his adherence to Lenin, whom he glorified as "Mountain Eagle." Determined to escape, Stalin made his way safely to Irkutsk at the end of the year. From there he proceeded to Baku, in the Caucasus, where he experienced his second baptism of fire as leader of a strike of oil workers. It was part of a wave of strikes that swept Russia with her defeat by Japan, a wave that was the harbinger of the Revolution of 1905.

Shortly after the outbreak of the general strike which was the key element in the revolution of 1905, Stalin met Lenin for the first time at a party conference in Tammerfors, Finland.

From the Tammerfors conference Stalin returned to his activity in the Caucasus, where on June 26, 1907, on Erivan Square in Tiflis, he directed the celebrated "expropriation" which netted the Bolshevik party 340,000 rubles. There had been other such "expropriations," but this was the biggest and most dramatic. Formally, Lenin and his associates had frowned upon these acts, but they, nevertheless, accepted the proceeds to help finance the party's work. In the Erivan Square affair a band of revolutionists directed by "Koba" fell upon a convoy of two carriages carrying Government funds from the railway station to the state bank, and after bombing the Cossack guard escaped with the money, which was sent to Lenin.

Following the "expropriation," Stalin was arrested and lodged in Bailov fortress, in Baku, where the incident of his running the gantlet of rifle butts took place. Soon thereafter he was exiled for the second time to Solvychegodsk, in Siberia, from which he escaped on June 24, 1909. He returned to Baku to resume his revolutionary activity, but remained at liberty only eight months, when he was again arrested and sent back to Solvychegodsk. From that place he conducted secret correspondence with Lenin and his staff at Bolshevik headquarters in Cracow.

Eager to attend a party conference in Prague, Stalin again escaped and made his way to St. Petersburg, where he was arrested and exiled to Vologda. Once more he escaped and reached St. Petersburg on the day of the notorious massacre of workers in the Lena goldfields in Siberia. In St. Petersburg he helped found Pravda, the official organ of the Bolshevik party, but on the day of its first issue he was arrested and exiled to Narym, in the Urals. On Sept. 1, 1912, he escaped and returned to St. Petersburg to resume the editorship of Pravda. This time he was betrayed by the agent provocateur Malinovsky, who had him arrested together with Jacob Sverdlov, the future first President of the Soviet Union, at a concert given for the benefit of Pravda. Stalin and Sverdlov were exiled to Turuchansk, in Siberia, from which they were taken to the outlying settlement of Kureika, 800 miles north of the Trans-Siberian Railway. After twenty years of revolutionary activity and repeated imprisonments and exilings. Stalin found himself at a dead end. Letters arrived from Lenin, but they seemed very remote and futile. Then came the news of the first World War in 1914, the war that Lenin predicted would bring the downfall of the Russian autocracy and world revolution.

Stalin was transferred to Atchinsk, on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and it was there he first received word of the revolution of March 12, 1917. Almost the very first act of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, in which Alexander Kerensky was at first Minister of Justice and later Premier, was to order the release of all political prisoners. Among the many thousands who profited by this decree signed by Kerensky was Joseph Stalin. He made his way speedily to Petrograd.

On his arrival in Petrograd in March, 1917, Stalin went directly to the office of Pravda, where he was met by V. M. Molotov and Leo Kamenev. Lenin and most of his staff were in Zurich, Switzerland. It was not until April 16, 1917, that Lenin arrived in Petrograd after his famous journey through Germany in a sealed car provided by the German General Staff. The journey lead across Germany to Stockholm and through Finland. A month later Trotsky arrived from America.

Upon his arrival in Petrograd in May, 1917, from the United States, where he had lived for several months, Trotsky lost no time in associating himself with Lenin in his demand for the overthrow of the Provisional Government, conclusion of an immediate peace, a sweeping Socialist program and advocacy of world revolution. From the very beginning of this development Trotsky completely overshadowed Stalin and all others among Lenin's lieutenants. He became Lenin's "big stick."

In the first Council of Commissars, formed upon the formation of the Soviet Government, Stalin was given the modest, obscure post of Commissar of Nationalities. Nevertheless, that post in the hands of Stalin became symbolic and significant, for it was under Stalin as supreme dictator that the Soviet Union, conceived as a multiple state of nationalities, achieved its greatest expansion, territorially and politically.

In the October Revolution Stalin took a relatively modest part. Although his admirers picture him as taking the initiative with Lenin in planning and executing that historic upheaval against the opposition of Trotsky and others in Lenin's immediate encourage, the minutes of the Central Committee of the party for Oct. 23, two days before the coup d'etat, show clearly that Lenin and Trotsky took the lead in demanding approval of the uprising, while others were either opposed or hesitant. Stalin supported Lenin. On that occasion, the minutes attest, Lenin, angry and defiant over the refusal of his collaborators to approve the plans for the uprising, rose and, pointing to Trotsky, shouted, "Very well, then, he and I will go to the Kronstadt sailors," meaning that he would summon the sailors of the Baltic Fleet to rise in rebellion against the Kerensky regime. The Baltic Fleet played a leading role in the uprising. Later these same sailors, who had been gloried by Trotsky as "the pride and beauty of the Russian Revolution," were shot down en masse by Trotsky in their revolt against the Soviet regime in March, 1921.

During the civil war after the Bolshevik revolution Stalin and Trotsky were at loggerheads. This was particularly true during the fighting on the Tsaritsin and Perm fronts. Repeatedly Trotsky called him to order and on various occasions Lenin had to intervene to make peace between them. The enmity and hatred between Trotsky and Stalin dated from that period.

Already during Lenin's illness, which lasted about two years, Stalin began preparing for his future leadership of the party and of the Government. This he ultimately achieved by utilizing his new position as general secretary of the party in building a party machine loyal to him.

Member of Triumvirate

After Lenin's death, authority was vested by the party in the hands of a triumvirate, consisting of Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev. There were three principal factions in the party, the left, represented by Zinoviev; the right, headed by Rykov and Bukharin, and the center, of which Stalin was regarded as the spokesman. Trotsky, who was ill a good part of the time, so much so that he had been unable to attend Lenin's funeral, had plans of his own. He felt that ultimately, as Lenin's chief collaborator, he would inherit Lenin's mantle.

In the bitter factional polemics that ensued, Stalin played the left against the right and vice versa, and eventually defeated both, as well as Trotsky.

In 1936, during the period of purges, Stalin proclaimed a new Constitution for Russia, with promises of universal secret suffrage, freedom of the press, speech and assembly. It was interpreted to maintain the dictatorship and to stabilize the revolution.

Not since the days of Peter the Great, who sought to westernize Russia by force, had the country witnessed so violent a transformation. In fact, nothing in the history of revolutions could compare with the gigantic social and economic upheaval brought about under Stalin.

In 1929 Stalin began predicting a second world war and avowed that his purpose was to keep Russia clear of the conflict. Despite this policy, with the advent of Hitler to power he joined in collective security measures. He abruptly abandoned his advocacy of collective security in 1939, when he about-faced and signed a mutual nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany.

It led to World War II, into which Russia later was drawn by Hitler's attack on her. This onslaught forged a Soviet alliance with the West, an alliance that ultimately enlarged the Soviet sphere.

70th Birthday Celebrated

Stalin's fiftieth and sixtieth birthdays were celebrated, but the press prepared the Soviet public on his sixty-ninth anniversary for the grim reality that years had left their impress even on "the teacher and inspirer of the world proletariat." Pictures were published showing that Stalin's hair had whitened. Then on his seventieth birthday in 1949 his anniversary was celebrated in grand fashion.

It was the first occasion in which Stalin had permitted public participation in his private life, and hence little was known about his personal affairs. He married twice. His first wife was Ekaterina Svanidze, who died after a long illness in 1907. They had a son, Jacob, whose fate has been unknown since he became a German prisoner during World War II. In 1919 the Premier married Nadya Alliluyeva, the 17-year-old daughter of his old revolutionary crony, Sergei Alliluyev. She died in 1932 under mysterious circumstances. They had a daughter and a son. The latter, Vassily, is now a lieutenant-general in the Soviet Air Force. All that became known of the daughter was her name, Svetlana, and her intellectual interests.

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