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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

The Death of Stalin

Moskva: Krasnaya Ploshchad’”, Pravda, 11 March 1953

Alexey Antoshin

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"Moskva: Krasnaya Ploshchad’", Pravda, 11 March 1953. The headings read in Russian : "К новым победам в борьбе за великое дело Ленина-Сталина!"; "Еще теснее сплотим ряды вокруг коммунистической партии!“; ”По пути, указанному вождем"; "Слово советских воинов"; "Ответ трудящихся на призыв партии" – [“Towards new victories in the struggle for the great cause of Lenin and Stalin!”; “We shall close our ranks even tighter around the Communist Party!”; “By the path indicated by the leader”; “Word of the Soviet soldiers”; “Response of the workers to the party call”].

1Despite all official statements, the new Soviet government initiated a review of Stalin’s policies in the very first days after the leader's death. The scriptwriter Alexey Kapler, who had been arrested during World War II for his relationship with Stalin's daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva, was released from prison on 6 March 1953. On 9 March 1953 (the day of Stalin's funeral, which coincided with Molotov‘s birthday) Molotov's wife Polina Zhemchuzhina, who had been accused of involvement in the so-called "Zionist conspiracy" during Stalin's lifetime, was released. Already in March 1953 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR declared an amnesty, on the basis of which hundreds of thousands of convicts, mostly criminals and those who committed small (so-called "household") crime were liberated from prisons and camps. The decree was signed by Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, who was to be appointed, four days after the issue of Pravda portrayed here, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, i.e., Soviet head of state. A very small (less than 1%) number of political prisoners came under this amnesty.

2The impressive display of flowers, a universal form of tribute to the departed, shown here at the Kremlin Wall prolongs the homages to Stalin that marked the period between the announcement of his death and his funeral. One can detect the anxiety that reigned throughout the Soviet Union, both at the popular and at the leadership level, regarding a world without Stalin. There is a “whistling-in-the dark” quality to the editorials on this page of Pravda. “Closing ranks” rather than “new victories” would seem to correspond to the prevailing mood. One can assume that the many onlookers behind the flower display at the Kremlin Wall were themselves wondering what the future held in store for them.


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


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