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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

The Death of Stalin

“Stalin Dies After 29-Year Rule”, The New York Times, 6 March 1953

Alexey Antoshin

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The headlines read in English: “Vishinsky leaving. Foreign Minister Called to Moscow to Report – Will Sail Today”; “Condolences sent. President Orders Terse Formal Note on Stalin Dispatched to Soviet”; “Tribute is omitted. Eisenhower Still Ready to Confer on Peace With the Kremlin”; “Premier Ill 4 days. Announcement of Death Made by Top Soviet and Party Chiefs”; “Stroke proves fatal. Leaders Issue an Appeal to People for Unity and Vigilance”; “Soviet fear of an Eruption Discerned in Call for Unity”.

1The New York Times’ headline announcing Stalin’s death suggests that Stalin’s opponents were just as clueless regarding the Soviet future as were his partisans. The note of condolences sent by the White House demonstratively omitted a tribute. The headline invoking President Eisenhower’s readiness to enter into peace talks with the new masters of the Kremlin, presumably over the Korean stalemate, could be seen as a pro forma declaration or as an expression of hope for an adjustment of Soviet foreign policy.

2The brief notice of Andrei Vyshinsky’s departure for Moscow deserves attention. Vyshinsky, a former Attorney General of the USSR had been the head of Soviet diplomacy since March 1949. His name was associated with Stalin’s repressions, as it was he who was a public prosecutor in the so-called “Great Moscow Trials” of 1936–1938. Since 1939, Vyshinsky had been in the diplomatic service; he was in charge of Soviet relations with the United States and the United Kingdom; he also took part in the Yalta Conference (February 1945) and the ceremony of signing of the capitulation of Nazi Germany (May 1945). As Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Vyshinsky was known for sharp, unparliamentary remarks against Western diplomacy. Nevertheless at times he appeared very charming, witty and resourceful, and some Western politicians and journalists (in particular, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Edgar Snow) fell under his charm.

3According to some Russian historians Vyshinsky was a “minister of Stalin”, “minister of the beginning of the Cold War.” He was not the person suitable for a “warming” in foreign policy, and even less so for the “thaw”. Therefore, on the day of Stalin’s death, Vyshinsky lost his membership in the Presidium of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Minister of Foreign Affairs. On 7 March 1953, the day after The New York Times had reported that he was sailing for Russia, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Soviet representative to the United Nations.


Yarem Golitzki and Oleg Khlevniuk, Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Class 1945–1953, London: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Vladislav Zubok and Consantine Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.


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