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Who Killed Stalin? -

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The Soviet Union, March 1953 - is unleashed. a brutal wave of terror 30 million Soviet citizens, Josef Stalin, who's already killed Its architect the dictator suddenly falls into a coma. have a motive to want him dead. Those surrounding his bed each Svetlana, his estranged daughter. alcoholic son. Vasily, his unbalanced, Stalin's most trusted accomplice. Vyacheslav Molotov, Nikita Krushchev, Stalin's fool. the secret policeman. And Lavrenti Beria, in this room may have killed Stalin. New evidence suggests that someone Tonight we set out to find out who. Stalin, The Court Of The Red Tsar Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of private world. machinations of Stalin's is an expert on the bizarre the great dictator's last days. to unravel the mystery behind He is now returning to Moscow mystery about how Stalin died - For 50 years there's been a huge Did he die naturally? was he murdered? And suddenly now in 2004, available, because we can still talk the archives that have just become because of the new documents from to witnesses who knew Stalin well, 20th century. Did he die naturally? one of the great mysteries of the at last we have a chance to clear up believed he deserved to be murdered. monster like Stalin many people Was he murdered? With a great is a succession of waves of terror. the "man of steel", The career of Josef Stalin, Stalin rose to power of Communist leader Lenin, First, following the death eliminating his political rivals. by plotting against and eventually his ruthlessly imposed policy Second, of collective farms in the early 1930s. starved 10 million to death and tightened his grip on power. killed and exiled millions more, Third, his purges later that decade Soviet lives, Hitler at the cost of 26 million Fourth, in WWII he defeated executed many Russian heroes. but afterwards, when suddenly, he died. a final wave of terror, And in 1953, Stalin was preparing are like a bunker. Now, these doors are like... Yeah. A bunker with very heavy doors. Right. a nuclear war I guess? Yeah. And these could withstand the director of the archive, Simon has persuaded regime, to take him into its vaults. files of the former Communist which contains most of the secret they actually are? Yeah. actually... This is where So this is where the documents on the death of Stalin Inside them is a medical report being locked away for 50 years. which has just been released after and valuable documents. Inside, our most precious was this incredibly detailed file watched Stalin slowly die, Compiled by the doctors who information on Stalin's illness suppressed because it contains him needed to keep secret. that those surrounding new materials. and it contains very exciting This file has just been released, progress of Stalin's death. the minute by minute, er, Until now, we never knew This great mysterious event in 1953. about an old man dying, personal document On one hand it's an intimate in the world at his most powerless. is the most powerful man and it happens that this old man

temperature was, how he urinated, how he breathed, what his It's telling you, minute by minute, political leaders may have concealed but it's also showing how new and suppressed medical details their own potential mischief... in order to conceal Simon will be using this document some of the inconsistencies to help disentangle which surround Stalin's last hours. of suspicious questions. 48 hours that emerges is full The picture of Stalin's last Why did the ultra-paranoid leader leave himself vulnerable his bodyguards to go to bed? in his sleep by telling assistance for 12 hours? deprive Stalin of medical Why did his most senior ministers omit crucial medical details? announcement of his death And why did the official Agatha Christie whodunnit. one could treat it like any If the death of Stalin was a murder, at motive and then at opportunity. You would look at first of all who really wanted him dead? But first we'd ask a big question, Stalin's daughter Svetlana, The first suspect is, surprisingly, must begin with a crushing tragedy. and an examination of her motives

married to her bullying husband, wife could no longer tolerate life On November 8th 1932, when Stalin's in a final letter as a tyrant. she denounced him in the heart. Then she shot herself dead by this event. daughter Svetlana was scarred Inevitably, the life of her and no longer gives interviews. Today she lives as a recluse, this shadow of my mother's suicide, In our family there was always er, everyone felt it and knew that. which was done not for nothing and, and first, er... er, gave me the first shock So that was the moment which, is right. thought that not everything is... for your mother's suicide? your father was to blame Are you convinced that in the family was. This is what everybody's opinion In order to understand more about Stalin's relationship with his daughter, Simon is going to her mother's grave to meet Svetlana's cousin Kira who was present

at her aunt's funeral. TRANSLATION FROM RUSSIAN: 'He saw her there in the coffin and said that she died like an enemy, 'and he pushed the coffin away from him. My mother said, ' "Perhaps you are to blame." "No," he said, "she died like an enemy." 'Perhaps that's why he took revenge on us and broke our lives.' After the funeral, Stalin arrested his dead wife's relations one by one. Finally he turned on Kira. 'In the end I was in a camp for half a year and then I was an exile for five years. 'It wasn't much fun, but I think this is how he took revenge on us in the end.' Stalin's behaviour left his daughter ever more isolated. 'Svetlana was completely terrified. 'She went to him and said, "Papa, why have you put my aunts in jail?" 'He said, "If you start defending them, I'll put you in jail too." 'That's the kind of loving father he was.'

And Svetlana's isolation became complete when adulthood arrived. In 1943, Stalin discovered his little girl had embarked on her first affair. He broke into her room, abusing and ridiculing her. Suka! Then he arranged for Svetlana's lover to be arrested. The lover was duly made to confess to invented crime and sent to the salt mines in Siberia. The tragic story of our family only confirms that he was a really, um, moral and spiritual monster. After all Stalin had done to Svetlana you might have thought she would welcome his death, but I don't believe that's the case. Basically, I think she still loved him. The links between his little girl and the great dictator were long and enduring. He was all she had. In the end he may have been a cruel dictator, but he was still her father. If Svetlana didn't kill him, then who did? Of the two siblings, Vasily Stalin had arguably even greater cause to loathe his father. Vasily, the older child, was even more damaged by his mother's death than his sister. Her suicide removed the one protective barrier between him and his contemptuous father. Simon is meeting a boyhood friend of Stalin's children, Stepan Mikoyan. Stepan is the son of one of Stalin's closest political allies. Oh, Simon. Hi. He grew up in the hothouse world of the ruling Communist elite. TRANSLATION: 'Svetlana told me that whenever he came 'to see his father he was so afraid of him he could not even utter two words properly. 'He felt frozen and didn't know what to say to Stalin.' Being Stalin's son catapulted Vasily up the ranks of the air force. He was soon made General.

But being promoted beyond his abilities, Vasily was, by the mid-1940s, a glaringly visible embarrassment to his father. He constantly tried to seduce other men's wives, culminating in an act of aggressive seduction that Stalin could not ignore. MIKOYAN: 'Once at one of these parties he seduced the wife of a famous film director, Carmen, 'who he'd known for a long time. He locked her in his country villa 'and left her there. His wife was away somewhere 'so he held Nina Carmen, who was considered one of the most beautiful women alive, for a week there.' Vasily's fall from grace was inevitable. Stalin sent him to the front, then demoted him from his exalted military position and added to his public humiliation by locking him up, revealing to the world Vasily's utter dependence on his father. The pattern of Vasily's life had been set. Over-promotion and then humiliation, debauchery and failed marriages, alcoholism, futile attempts to dry out. As he watched his father die, you might have expected Vasily to want him dead, to blame the mess of his life on his father. I don't think this is the case. He was dependent on Stalin. More than anyone he depended for his status, his life itself, on Stalin's survival. He didn't want his father dead. However, there was another person near Stalin's deathbed who had the right background for murder. Vyacheslav Molotov, a man with bloodstained hands. Since 1912, Stalin and Molotov had been friends and comrades in both work and play. They holidayed together, but had also drawn up the death lists of thousands of people together. Molotov added the names of victims' wives and children to ensure that whole families were wiped out. Molotov was cold, ruthless, efficient, ambitious. In his office he could say, "I'm going to sleep for 13 minutes," and wake up on the thirteenth. It was not for nothing the public expected him to succeed Stalin. Stalin had other ideas. By the end of his life, Stalin was obsessed with the idea that there was a Jewish conspiracy against him, and his suspicious glance turned on Molotov's Jewish wife, Pallina. In 1949, she was arrested on trumped up charges, including having group sex with young Communists, and Molotov was forced to divorce her. How was it that someone who had been so close to Stalin for so very long, who had proved his loyalty to Stalin again and again with his tireless labour could tolerate the sudden persecution of his beloved wife?

To answer these questions, Simon went to meet Molotov's grandson. Of course he protested against what Stalin did, and all the rumours that he said nothing, that's just not true, but there was not much he could do, because Stalin's answer was, you know, the special services provided me with information, and that's not in my power to change a thing, which, of course, was also not true, and my grandfather knew it well. In late 1952, Stalin turned on Molotov himself,

denouncing him in a speech as a potential traitor who had made mistakes for the last 20 years. My grandfather knew the rules of the game better than anyone else and he had a clear feeling that he is in trouble physically and not just politically. There was no way in Stalinist Russia to suffer politically and not to suffer physically. That was absolutely inter-related. Molotov's complete fall from grace became clear ten weeks before Stalin's death. While his wife was being transported into the heart of Russia, Molotov made a last desperate attempt to re-establish relations with Stalin.

Uninvited, he turned up at Stalin's 73rd birthday party. THEY SPEAK IN RUSSIAN But Molotov was powerless to save his wife Pallina from entering the vast system of camps that he himself had helped to build. HE SPEAKS IN RUSSIAN When Stalin refused to acknowledge his presence, he knew that his own days were numbered. It was now clear he would never see his wife again whilst Stalin lived. Only Stalin's death could bring him back from the abyss. So, did Molotov murder Stalin? Molotov had every reason to want Stalin dead. He should have wanted Stalin dead. But I don't believe that he did kill him. First of all, Stalin was the high priest and supreme leader of this international religion of Communism, and Molotov was its most devout believer, so I don't think he'd have gone against him. But second, in his last weeks Stalin didn't see Molotov, and Molotov had no access, so whatever his motive he certainly didn't have the opportunity. So the next suspect who did have access to Stalin at his last supper was Nikita Khrushchev, the man to who Stalin's death ultimately gave power over the Soviet Union. "When Stalin says dance a wise man dances." So said Khrushchev, and that is just what Stalin forced him to do every night. An illiterate peasant, Khrushchev rose in the 1930s to become governor of Moscow. By day, he murdered enemies of the people,

by night, entertained his boss at increasingly humiliating evenings. Khrushchev said later that Stalin made him feel like a ludicrous lumbering old cow. Simon is going to meet his next witness, Khrushchev's son, Serge, whose father told him stories about the bizarre life of Stalin's inner circle. Stalin dinners started very late and many time it started with them watching movies. Watching the old American Western without any translations, so they didn't understand what they really talking. FILM: 'The most notorious gunman since Billy the Kid.' Stalin could watch 20 time, 40 time. You have to watch with him.

FILM: 'He's Singing Sandy I tell you!' And after this, at one o'clock in the morning, you have to go to Stalin's Dacha, sitting with him and eating, and Stalin was very suspicious. He tried to make these people drunk, maybe they will say something else.

Because he have different tests. He talk about that he's old, that he now cannot run the country and he will resign, and then he looking what you will respond. Would you respond that, yes, you are 70 year old, then it will be your last words. This part of this usual game that he playing with his colleagues all his life.

Typically, towards the end of his life, Stalin's parties would end with these threatening words. "You've all got old. I'll replace you all." My father told that we are temporary people. He understood that sooner or later Stalin would replace them and that also that they living just depending on the Stalin's will. At the end of one evening, one guest of Stalin's spoke these words to Khrushchev. "One never knows if one is going home or to prison." They think if Stalin live two, three years longer, it will be nobody there. I will not be here, my father will be purged and many of the other to the level of the ministers and the lower level will be replaced with the new people, and he started this preparation. So my father and all of us were very lucky that he died just in time. So could Khrushchev have killed him? Here's someone you would expect to want Stalin dead, because after all here was the man who succeeded to the Soviet throne, and yet I don't believe that he killed Stalin. Apart from anything else, there was no guarantee he'd succeed to Stalin's throne at all, and, indeed, there was someone close to Stalin, hungrier for the job and just as well positioned to seize it, and that was the real suspect in this case - Lavrenti Beria. Stalin first recognised his protege's potential on holiday in 1933 when Beria, required to help out with the gardening,

told Stalin that, "There is no tree I will not chop down." He then murdered his way through the ranks of the secret police. After engineering his boss's downfall in 1938, he made it to the very top.

In 1949, he delighted Stalin by masterminding the development of the Soviet Union's own atomic bomb. Stalin knew that Beria was the most ruthless, the most calculating, the most sadistic and probably the most gifted of all his cohorts. A secret police chief, he had killed and maimed and tortured everyone Stalin wanted to be killed and tortured, including Stalin's own family. But he was also a superb manager, a brilliant statesman, a man who kept Russia going during the war. He was really very much the most talented of all around Stalin,

and yet he was also the most genuine monster. He drove round Moscow in his black limousine picking women off the streets, kidnapping them, raping them and often murdering them. And lately bones have been found in the cellars of his Moscow house. But unlike Molotov and Khrushchev,

Beria's perception of Stalin was tempered by true faith in Communism. As the '50s approached, and seeing that it had failed, he also saw the tyrant beneath Stalin's godlike image. He began to loathe Stalin. My father thought Beria knew everything about Stalin.

but Beria received all the orders from the Stalin - how to kill these people, how to execute them, that made him very dangerous to Stalin. So Stalin started plotting against Beria. And in the first few weeks of 1953, Stalin decided that he would eliminate Beria by implicating him in his last great conspiracy, the Jewish doctor's plot. This, Stalin's last wave of terror, had been planned down to the smallest detail. He had camps built in a distant province. He accused Jewish doctors of plotting to murder Soviet leaders. Empty trucks rolled into the cities, prominent Jewish families began disappearing in the early hours. Then, on January 13th 1953, an article appeared in the government newspaper, Pravda,

implying that Beria had neglected his duty to catch the alleged criminals. Beria knew where this was leading. He could soon be denounced as a fellow conspirator against Stalin. It was at this point, according to one theory,

that Beria began a secret campaign to change staff surrounding Stalin. Simon is going to meet someone directly affected by this - the daughter of Stalin's personal bodyguard for over 20 years. She believes her father's sacking was masterminded by Beria to isolate Stalin. TRANSLATED: Beria knew that while the person most devoted to Stalin

was with him, he was never going to succeed in his dirty plans. It was then that Beria made up his mind to destroy my father by any means. But, as he was very clever and scheming, he approached him gradually. In November of 1952, my father was called in for interrogations, and once, when he returned from one of these, he said to my mother and me, "It's likely that I'll be arrested, "but if I'm no longer going to be by Stalin's side, he will soon be dead, too." This is what he said, and this is what really happened. 2.5 months after my father was arrested, Stalin passed away. February 28th 1953 - Stalin's last supper. And the archive shows it was business as usual, the boss humiliating his drunken guests. However, after the guests had left, the night ended oddly. At 6am, a new bodyguard called Krushtaliov emerged from Stalin's room.

Strangely, he told the other guards that Stalin had issued an order for them to go to bed. One of the other bodyguards later said this had never happened before and that no-one but Krushtaliov had heard the order. Molotov's grandson believes that Krushtaliov may have been acting on Beria's instructions.

The guards around Stalin were not reporting directly to Beria. But many of those people, like Krushtaliov, for example, were former subordinates of Beria. My grandfather did not exclude that Stalin was assassinated, and of course mentioned the name of Beria,

who was...a clear person who was interested in killing Stalin and who had some people to do that. So could the new bodyguard, Krushtaliov, have been one of Beria's people? Could Krushtaliov have poisoned Stalin as he slept? The events of the next few hours only add to the suspicions.

12 hours went by, and the boss, a well-known insomniac, did not appear, until at 6.30 the next evening his staff finally saw his light go on. But then three more hours passed and still Stalin failed to emerge. Imagine in this tiny enclosed, high security zone,

rising anguish, fear and nervousness. No movement from Stalin. We last saw him turning on the light at 6pm. Nothing. And for hours afterwards, no movement. The guards become increasingly worried what to do, and later on in the evening they finally had an excuse to go and see what had happened to Stalin - the post arrives from the Central Committee. This means they have an excuse to go into his apartment. The archive recalls that it was not until 10pm that a bodyguard finally went in. He found Stalin lying on the floor in a pool of his own urine. The guards called Beria, who ordered, "Don't tell anybody about comrade Stalin's illness, and don't call back." This night is pregnant with rumour. There's a sort of miasma of crisis through which it's very hard to shine a clear light. But what we do know is that at about three in the morning, Beria had taken the leadership role, and crept into the house to find out what was happening and look at comrade Stalin. The bodyguard who discovered Stalin remembered Beria entering the room with his chubby sidekick Molenkov. "What's wrong with the boss? What do you mean by starting a panic? "The boss is obviously sleeping peacefully." "Let's go, Molenkov." Now a remarkable event took place. Someone, it is not known who, issued an order halting preparations for the Jewish Doctors' Plot. Could this order have come from Beria trying to save himself from the new wave of terror? Meanwhile Stalin slept on, and still no doctors were called. Stalin's actually been in this comatose state for about 12 hours, still soaked in his own urine, still snoring on the sofa. No doctors have been called and nothing has been done. The answer could be the doctors were deliberately not called for 12 hours in order to give Stalin time to die. TRANSLATED: My father said that it was all a plot by members of the government headed by Beria not to give Stalin medical help.

That's what my father thought. The guards call again at dawn and they say to Beria, "Help, he is ill. There's something really wrong here. You've got to do something. Call the doctors." And Beria and Molenkov, who are in charge, then call the doctors, and the doctors then arrive. Now, they're new doctors - all the best specialists in the Soviet Union are, of course, Jewish, and therefore imprisoned in the Doctors' Plot and being tortured at that very moment. Therefore, this new set of doctors turn up, very nervously, and suddenly everyone arrives at seven o'clock. COUGHING AND WHEEZING Beria shouted at the inexperienced doctors while Vasily cursed them. One of them turned to Beria saying, "The clotted blood vessel, it's the size of a five Kopeck piece. "Stalin would still be alive if the vessel had been cleared in time."

Beria replied, "Are you going to save his life or not?" Beria's subsequent conduct only strengthened the case against him. No sooner had Stalin fallen ill than Beria started going around spewing hatred against him and mocking him. But interestingly enough, as soon as Stalin showed signs of consciousness and made us think he might recover, Beria threw himself on his knees, seized Stalin's hand and started kissing it. However, when Stalin lost consciousness again, Beria showed his true colours. The archive now further raises the prospect of murder, undermining the idea that Stalin's illness was solely caused, as officially related, by a haemorrhage in the brain. 5th of March, it's now mid-day in the Dacha. Around the bed everyone's watching, there's quiet. And suddenly Stalin retches, and then vomits blood, and this is significant - we knew nothing of this before. Why was his stomach suddenly bleeding so heavily? And the answer could well be that he had received some sort of poison which caused his stomach to bleed. But in any case, this bleeding from the stomach, this vomiting of blood is surely significant. So could this be the result of poison administered earlier by the bodyguard on Beria's orders? My grandfather thought Beria had special laboratories working for him which was specialised in poisons and other means of...killing people. So, for Beria, it was not a big deal to organise an assassination. The idea that the vomiting of blood was caused by poison gains greater weight when Simon looks at the version in the Soviet press. We're looking at Pravda on the 6th March, the announcement of Stalin's death the next day, the next morning, and one finds no mention whatsoever of stomach haemorrhaging, no blood in the stomach, no vomiting of blood. So what has happened between the public announcement of Stalin's death and the conclusion of the doctors just hours earlier? and clearly it's Beria, Well, someone has decided, of blood into Stalin's stomach. Why? information about the haemorrhaging to drop this rather significant of this document. That's the great mystery fact that Beria had poisoned Stalin? Were they trying to cover up the Stalin was finally dying. At 9.50pm, March 5th, Svetlana described his last act. as though he were pointing up above Suddenly he lifted his hand on us all. and bringing down a curse The gesture was full of menace. Vasily shouted... have murdered father." "..The bastards bearing of triumph unconcealed. Then came Beria's voice, "Krostaliov, my car." to the bodyguard. "Krostaliov," he shouts that Stalin be left alone earlier. who had passed on the order Yes, the same bodyguard Beria rushes off to seize power. And they bring round the car and make it to the top. But Beria never did Khrushchev outwitted him, naked in a cell weeping for mercy secret policeman found himself and in a few months the with a gun against his skull. remains were finally stowed, No-one knows where Beria's if he's guilty as charged? but can we now finally decide Did Beria really kill Joseph Stalin? he had the opportunity, He had the motive, there was another bit of evidence. and the knowledge of poisons, and he had the murderous expertise he whispered to Molotov, At Stalin's funeral I did him in." and he said, "I did you all a favour.

but the question is, did he? to think he'd killed Stalin, We know Beria wanted people any of our suspects, killed Stalin. Simon asked his witnesses who, if do it because he was immoral person. From the inner circle Beria could Beria. Beria, possibly. Beria. Beria, Simon is not convinced. Although these witnesses suspect to convict Beria in a court of law. there's enough evidence I don't believe Let's reassess the evidence. of trusted staff around Stalin The dismissal of his ever increasing paranoia. was perhaps just one more sign paranoia and unpredictability It was also typical of Stalin's rather than trusting his guards. to prefer locking himself up at night recent persecution of the doctors. was probably a response to Stalin's The delay in medical assistance and the vomiting of blood The stomach haemorrhage he mistrusted medical advice. old body packing up, partly because could just be the result of a sick from the public announcement may have deleted these details And the leadership frightened of arousing any suspicion. meant they were understandably because Stalin's system of government that Stalin himself inspired. was the result of the terror Every suspicious circumstance to come to his aid. that people were simply too afraid Alone and dying, it may be someone at Stalin's deathbed scene So if I had to point the finger at for Stalin's death, to take responsibility point the finger at Stalin himself. then I think, ironically, I'd

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