What Stalin’s Last Days Reveal About His Character

February 24, 2017 Updated: June 4, 2018

In a parting shot before his death in 1953, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had several doctors arrested by state police and charged them with attempted assassination via intentional medical malpractice.

These Moscow doctors, who were primarily Jewish, weren’t held for long, as after Stalin’s death the new Soviet leadership dropped their case against the doctors. What’s more, they said that the case was in fact fabricated.

Historians often described Stalin as incredibly paranoid, turning on his own friends, family, and his closest subordinates to maintain his political power.

His personal doctor, Vladimir Vinogradov, apparently wasn’t spared. In early 1952, after suggesting to Stalin that he take things more easily to reduce stress, the dictator flew into a rage and arrested him. Later that year, more doctors were arrested amid rumors and conspiracy theories published in newspapers that doctors were conspiring to kill the Soviet leadership. The state-run TASS news agency, which still operates today, published a report saying that nine members of “a criminal group of killer doctors” were apprehended.

There were elements of anti-Semitism contained in the reports, as six of the nine doctors were Jewish. Stalin, meanwhile, was considering sending all Jews to gulags in Siberia. Pravda, the propaganda newspaper of the Soviet Union, named the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, based in New York, as one of the orchestrators of a nefarious plot, suggesting that Jews—American Jews in particular—were trying to take down the communist party.

Some later speculated that Stalin may have been targeting doctors as part of plans for a wider purge—possibly an arrangement for an ethnic cleansing of Russian Jews. An unsent letter was reportedly found in Stalin’s papers that would have asked Jews to denounce the doctors named in the plot and declare their loyalty to the communist party.

But Stalin later reportedly had a stroke and died under mysterious conditions at his dacha (country cottage), while recent reportage and studies suggest the tyrant was poisoned. In 2003, the book “Stalin’s Last Crime” said he may have been poisoned with warfarin during a dinner with close confidants who were members of the Politburo.

Stalin was found paralyzed of a stroke at his cottage in Kuntsevo. Guards had become worried about the unusual silence, but didn’t dare enter the home, as they were fearful of what he’d do. After about a day, a maid or a guard eventually summoned the courage and went inside, finding him lying sprawled on the floor. One account claims he was conscious but couldn’t speak or move. Doctors later attempted to attend to him and Politburo members went to the dacha every day. He died on March 5.

Lavrenti P. Beria, then chief of the secret police, apparently later boasted of killing Stalin about two months after he died in May of 1953. “‘I did him in! I saved all of you,” he is said to have told Vyacheslav M. Molotov (who the Molotov cocktail is named after), as quoted in memoirs penned by Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1970.

Communism is estimated to have killed around 100 million people, yet its crimes have not been fully compiled and its ideology still persists. Epoch Times seeks to expose the history and beliefs of this movement, which has been a source of tyranny and destruction since it emerged.

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Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.