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From Communism to Anti-Communism

 | 
Andre Liebich
, 
Svetlana Yakimovich

The Death of Stalin

The Long Wait”, The New York Times, 8 March 1953

Alexey Antoshin

Texte intégral

"The Long Wait", The New York Times, 8 March 1953. The headlines read in English: “Malenkov regime acts swiftly to assure security after shift; Soviet press appeals for Unity”; “Firm steps taken. Measures of new Rulers Aim to Assure Public of Alert Control; Stalin’s policies invoked; Premier Strives to Exemplify Continuity and Solidarity to Mourning Masses”.

1Before Stalin was buried on 9 March 1953 his body lay in state and masses of Soviet citizens stood in line to pay him their respects.

2The vast majority of the Soviet people saw the death of Stalin as a great tragedy. The Soviet government received numerous letters from citizens, party organizations’ and labor groups’ resolutions with suggestions on the best ways to perpetuate the memory of the deceased leader. Later, people recalled their feelings: "Stalin had been a god for us, and when he died, we seemed to have lost a part of ourselves"; "He was believed to be tsar and god”; "People were crying as if something had been torn out of their heart", "Stalin had been loved and life without him was unimaginable". However, there were other points of view. Mostly it was those citizens of the USSR, who had not suffered from repressions who mourned Stalin's death. But others, whose relatives had been repressed, had different feelings. "Finally he croaked!" - some people thought. Part of the population nurtured secret hopes for a change in the situation of the country.

3Millions of people wished to say farewell to Stalin personally. Not only residents of Moscow and the Moscow region, but also those of more remote areas, rushed to the House of Unions in the center of Moscow, where a coffin with the body of the leader had been installed. To avoid overcrowding, the authorities banned the sale of tickets for all passenger trains en route to Moscow, and canceled all the suburban trains. However, people used any means to participate in Stalin's funeral. A line of trucks queued for many kilometers at the entrance to Moscow. From early morning in the center of Moscow on Pushkin Street and neighboring boulevards many thousands of people gathered. At 8 am there was already a long queue of mourners at the Column Hall of the House of Unions. By the time of the Hall opening at 2 PM the queue had spilled over into the streets adjoining the House.

4Hundreds and even thousands of casualties crushed in the crowd were reported later. On Trubnaya Square people crushed by the crowd fell into manholes. But historians have no exact data on the victims of the tragedy. According to the testimony of one state security employee, the casualty toll was about 400 people.

Bibliographie

Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers, with an introduction, commentary and notes by Edward Crankshaw, translated and edited by Strobe Talbott, London: A. Deutsch, 1971.

Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge: the Origins and Consequences of Stalinism, rev. and expanded ed., ed and trans by George Shriver, Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1989.

Table des illustrations

Légende "The Long Wait", The New York Times, 8 March 1953. The headlines read in English: “Malenkov regime acts swiftly to assure security after shift; Soviet press appeals for Unity”; “Firm steps taken. Measures of new Rulers Aim to Assure Public of Alert Control; Stalin’s policies invoked; Premier Strives to Exemplify Continuity and Solidarity to Mourning Masses”.
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