When you consider the controversial life of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, it’s perhaps no surprise that his death itself is shrouded in myth and mystery. Was Stalin murdered, or did he die of natural causes? There is evidence to suggest both and while historians lean towards the explanation that foul play was involved and that Stalin was killed, we may never really know for sure.
What do we know about Stalin’s death?
While cold hard facts may be a little scarce, we do know that Stalin died on the 5th of March 1953 after a few agonising days spent on his deathbed. He was believed to have suffered a stroke on the 1st of March before finally succumbing to a brain haemorrhage five days later.
In the United Kingdom, the BBC reported on the 5th of March that Stalin was close to death and then the news of his demise was confirmed the very next day.
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As the dictator had suffered from ill health for several years, the whole scenario seemed completely plausible but the alternative theories were quick to materialise and slow to go away.
Was Stalin Poisoned?
Back in 1953, it would have been much easier to carry out a poisoning and get away with it. Forensic methods were much less advanced and in the case of Stalin, there was no shortage of willing accomplices to help in a cover up and the dictator’s ill health gave a perfect explanation for his death.
One of the strongest assassination theories involves the use of rat poison in a possible murder scenario.
In 2003, a book was published entitled ‘Stalin’s last crime’ and inside, it makes reference to secret doctors’ reports, never before made public that suggested he was poisoned with the blood thinner and rat killer warfarin.
At the time, there were fears that the Soviet Union was on the brink of war with the United States and inside the Kremlin, Stalin’s officials were starting to believe that their leader was taking them headlong into a catastrophic conflict.
This was only eight years after the country’s heavy losses in World War II and the book infers that Stalin had to be stopped at any cost.
The fateful night
In a final dinner, Stalin found himself in the company of four members of his Politburo and it was here that the alleged act of poisoning took place.
The medical report indicated that there was extensive stomach bleeding which would have been consistent with an overdose of warfarin and this forms part of the basis of the book’s claims.
Stalin’s guards were slow to react to his initial stroke and to add to the problems, some of the best doctors in the country were imprisoned due to one of the dictators own purges.
The delays would have inevitably contributed to his death although it is doubtful as to whether swift action would have saved him. What is certain however is that the delayed treatment merely added to the myth and controversy surrounding the mysterious death of Joseph Stalin.