A Personal View – March 2014
I have an intense fascination for the great dictators of the Twentieth Century – Hitler, Stalin & Mao. This preoccupation is an attempt to understand how they managed to obtain power, why nobody attempted to thwart their diabolical plans & what the impact on the ordinary person was.
Of the three, Hitler’s Germany has been comprehensively dissected & analysed from all possible angles whereas those of Stalin & Mao have not been as thoroughly explored. This is probably a result of the lack of information available on those societies.
With the collapse of Communism & Russia in particular, much information has become available as archives & vaults were prized open. In other cases, the Russians have now publically admitted to some past atrocities such as the Katyn Woods Massacre of 22000 Polish Officers in 1940.
Unlike Hitler’s regime, the reign of terror perpetuated by the Bolsheviks, as they called themselves until 1952, was directed not so much at non-Russian subjects but mostly at its own citizens. During the numerous Reigns of Terror, various categories of people were classified as undesirable & liquidated. These campaigns affected not only some penniless kulak on a rural commune but it even included Stalin’s closest associates & friends of long standing.
As a sociopath, he relished mentally abusing his inner circle without them in any way being able to retaliate or resist his devious ploys.
Most of inner circle – it must be admitted – were themselves psychopaths or sociopaths or both. Even the supposedly mild-mannered Khrushchev himself had copious quantities of blood on his hands arising from his days as head of the Ukraine.
All of them – Malenkov, Zhdanov, Beria, Molotov –had a deep & abiding fear of the charismatic but vindictive Stalin. This charm was not the allure of an empathetic person but rather that of a sociopath where he would almost obsequiously fawn over a person knowing that he had already authorised their execution on some bogus charge!
Those not close to Stalin were not wary on this trait but were rather beguiled by this charming placid man whereas his acquaintances are fully aware of the momentous truth.
In the last few years before his death in 1953, Stalin became paranoid once more. This time it was the doctors who were the subject of his spite & ire. In the grip of this psychosis, he became suspicious of all doctors as he had believed that they had not prevented Zhdanov from dying.
Concurrently with that, Stalin’s personal physician, one of the leading doctors in Russia, had suggested to Stalin that he “take it easy”. In Stalin fetid mind, he conflated his doctor’s (in)valid concern with his own paranoia about being replaced & viewed it as a plot to remove him from power.
Thus what became known as the Doctors’ Plot was conceived by Stalin. Almost contemporaneously, the Jews of Russia identified emotionally with the establishment of the State of Israel. Again Stalin perceived this to be a plot, the so-called Jewish Plot.
As all of the leading medical personnel in Russia at the time were Jewish, the most competent doctors were all incarcerated & tortured to establish their complicity in these nebulous crimes.
Stalin’s health steadily declined over the proceeding year. Instead of first rate medical care, second rate doctors were appointed to attend to Stalin. Not that they would have made any difference to his life expectancy, but none the less, due to the supposed Doctor’s Plot, Stalin was receiving substandard treatment.
When Stalin did not rise as he usually did at midday, his guards were too terrified to even open the door to check on him that they refused to take any action. Eventually various members of the Politburo & Supreme Soviet started phoning his house to enquire about him. Even close friends such as Malenkov & the ruthless duplicitous Beria refused to take any action.
All were afflicted with the same malady: they were too scared to intervene in case they themselves were accused of being implicated in some way with Stalin’s condition.
Due to this paralysis & morbid fear, Stalin was left to lie on the carpet where he had fallen after suffering a stroke. It was only some twelve hours later, that a group of guards & friends dared to enter the room. There lay Stalin, crumpled on a carpet. In their dilemma, none of them would issue any instructions. Eventually doctors were summonsed. Aware of the fate of Stalin’s personal physician & the hysteria regarding the alleged plots of their fellow doctors, they initially refused to treat Stalin without first consulting other doctors who in turn refused to get involved.
Likewise Stalin’s friends. Each fearing for their lives refused to make any suggestions. Their paranoia extended to only visiting Stalin collectively. By this tactic they hoped that if retribution came, which it surely would if Stalin survived, they could deflect criticism onto their fellow visitors such was the corrosive effects of their mutual suspicions.
Thus Stalin, lying on a divan close to where he had fallen some days before, was dying. The citizens of Russia were oblivious to the critical condition that Stalin was in & even the fact that he had suffered a stroke as they were merely (mis)informed that he was resting.
Air Force Major-General Vasily Stalin, commander of Moscow’s air defences & Stalin’s alcoholic & incompetent son, stormed through Stalin’s apartment threatening all the doctors with death & torture unless they revived his clearly rapidly fading father. This further exacerbated an already fretful situation.
Even though living quarters for all top Government Officials was reserved within the Kremlin itself, Stalin seldom used these quarters. He preferred to stay in his dacha at Kuntsevo on the outskirts of Moscow, where he now lay gravely ill.
Instead of friends mourning the passing of a friend of 50 years, the years of mistrust of Stalin & one another prevented a communal sense of grieving. Instead each in his own way was plotting the future & all its contingencies rather than on comforting one another & a grieving nation.
It was under these pitiful conditions that Stalin finally passed away of 5th March 1953.
What a fitting end to a tyrant who dominated & domineered the lives of his closest friends. But did Stalin understand the meaning of friendship? In treating his friends as his personal play things & by making them subservient to him in toto, he displayed the classic traits of a sociopath. They in turn nourished this psychosis by their fawning & obsequious attitude towards him.
All of them are reminiscent of my feelings towards a childhood bully.
But that type of relationship cannot be construed as friendship and in death it was revealed for what it was; a sham.
Other Articles on History:
This Day in History: 6th June 1944 – D-Day
The largest beach landing in history
Stalin: Abandoned on his Death Bed
The Narvik Landings Fiasco: In its wake why was its progenitor Churchill appointed as Prime Minister
Hitler: Was he complicit in the death of his half-niece Geli Raubal?
The Victoria Cross: What it takes to Acquire One
Nazi Germany: Was there Passive Resistance?