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From Communism to Anti-Communism

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Andre Liebich
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Svetlana Yakimovich

The Death of Stalin

Honor Guard”, The New York Times, 10 March 1953

Alexey Antoshin

Texte intégral

"Honor Guard", The New York Times, 10 March 1953. The headlines read in English: “Malenkov Eulogy of Stalin stresses peace and plenty”; “Beria Pledges Civil Liberties, Assuring Soviet Populace It can “Work Calmly”; “Molotov Urges Vigilance”; “Chinese and Eastern Satellite Chiefs Attend to Show They Support New Hierarchy”; “Dulles Says Death of Stalin Enhances Peace Prospects”; “Kremlin Guns Roar In Dirge for Stalin. Thunder 30 Times, Then Hush Settles Over Red Square as Leader Is Enshrined”. The sign under the photograph reads: ”Honour guard: Four of Russia’s top officials standing at bier of Joseph Stalin in the Hall of Columnes in Moscow the day before the late Premier’s funeral. Left to right: V.M.Molotov, Foreign Minister; Marshal K.E.Voroshilov, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet; L.P.Beria, Minister of Internal Affaires, and Premier G.M.Malenkov”.

1Georgii Malenkov, Lavrenti Beria and Viatcheslav Molotov spoke at Stalin’s funeral on 9 March 1953. They tried to seize the opportunity of expressing their vision for the further development of the USSR.

2Due to his rank as President of the Council of Ministers, Malenkov was the first to deliver a speech, which took the form of a vow: "Stalin commanded - and we preserve and enhance”. He stated that "the gains of socialism" were not only valuable as such, but also as a prerequisite for the further progress of the country. The goal of the new leadership was announced as: "continuously aiming at further improvement of material well-being." However, Stalin and his associates had made such statements earlier. Malenkov’s idea of the possibility of long-term coexistence and peaceful competition between the two systems - capitalism and socialism - became a new feature of Soviet foreign policy. According to Malenkov, the main task of the USSR was supposed to be "peace with all countries."

3After Malenkov it was the turn of Beria, newly-appointed vice president of the Council of Ministers and reappointed Minister of the Interior upon Stalin’s demise. Although Beria was very close to Stalin, it was reported that he had been in partial disgrace during Stalin’s last years and rumors continued to fly that he had been responsible for Stalin’s death. Beria paid attention mainly to the solution of internal problems, speaking about the significance of the national factor and friendship between the peoples of the USSR, emphasizing that the policy of the Soviet leadership should focus on the growth of economic and military power of the country, on the maximum fulfillment of the growing material and cultural needs of Soviet society. Beria urged "to steadily improve and sharpen the vigilance of the party and the people against the intrigues and machinations of the enemies of the Soviet state" without mentioning "peaceful coexistence" but referring to the fact that the armed forces of the USSR were equipped with "all kinds of modern weapons."

4Stalin’s old comrade-in-arms Molotov was the last to speak at the funeral. He also stated the necessity to strengthen the armed forces of the USSR in the event of an "attack of the aggressor and to maintain "vigilance and firmness in the fight against all kinds of snares of the enemy". As Foreign Minister, he declared that he would liaise only with those countries that aspire to cooperate with the Soviet Union. Molotov also paid attention to "the growth of the national liberation movement in the colonial and dependent countries." Thus, Molotov's speech was the most conservative in spirit while those of Malenkov and Beria contained some hints as to the possibility of adjusting Stalinist policy.

5The very next day after Stalin’s funeral Malenkov summoned a group of employees of the Central Committee of the CPSU and announced: "In the past we used to have major abnormalities, various things tended towards a cult of personality. Now we must immediately correct the trend that goes in this direction ... We consider it necessary to stop the policy of the cult of personality!"

6Starting from 20 March 20 1953, Stalin was no longer mentioned in the headlines of newspaper articles, his words were almost never quoted in the Soviet press.

Bibliographie

Yuri Aksiutin, “Khrushchevskaya ‘ottepel’ ‘ i obschchestvennye nastroeniya v SSSR v 1953-1964, Moskva: Rossiiskaya politicheskaya entsyklopediya, 2010 (last Malenkov’s quotation, p. 43).

Yuri Zhukov, “Bor’ba za vlast’ v partiino-gosudarstvennych verkhakh SSSR vesnoi 1953 g.,” Voprosy istorii, 1996, no. 5-6 (first five quotations from p. 45).

Table des illustrations

Légende "Honor Guard", The New York Times, 10 March 1953. The headlines read in English: “Malenkov Eulogy of Stalin stresses peace and plenty”; “Beria Pledges Civil Liberties, Assuring Soviet Populace It can “Work Calmly”; “Molotov Urges Vigilance”; “Chinese and Eastern Satellite Chiefs Attend to Show They Support New Hierarchy”; “Dulles Says Death of Stalin Enhances Peace Prospects”; “Kremlin Guns Roar In Dirge for Stalin. Thunder 30 Times, Then Hush Settles Over Red Square as Leader Is Enshrined”. The sign under the photograph reads: ”Honour guard: Four of Russia’s top officials standing at bier of Joseph Stalin in the Hall of Columnes in Moscow the day before the late Premier’s funeral. Left to right: V.M.Molotov, Foreign Minister; Marshal K.E.Voroshilov, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet; L.P.Beria, Minister of Internal Affaires, and Premier G.M.Malenkov”.
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