March 5, 1953 - Death of Joseph Stalin

By Juliet Luers

On March 5, 1953, Joseph Stalin, former premier of the Soviet Union, died. Although you might think that he was killed by another person he died due to natural causes. Five days before his death he suffered a stroke; however, this was not his first episode. In 1945 Stalin suffered what was either a series of strokes or a heart attack. His health was never the same after the events in 1945. In 1945 after these events the doctor told him to rest more and work less, but Stalin did not listen. Also, because Stalin did not like what the doctor told him, the doctor was arrested and charged with be a British spy. Along with that Stalin became paranoid and believed that someone was poisoning him. Stalin’s paranoia continued through his death. After his stroke in 1953, no doctors were immediately called to treat Stalin.[1] Eventually, a doctor was called in to treat Stalin, but under the close eye of Stalin’s inner circle. Although he was being treated Stalin passed away on March 5th of 1953.

The news of Stalin’s death broke the next day. The people of the Soviet Union experienced many different emotions. Stalin, his actions, and his beliefs were received by the people of the Soviet Union in a variety of ways. Some saw him as a heroic leader. While others saw him as a monster that killed thousands. Stalin still had a funeral. During his funeral, tens of thousands of people flooded the streets in hopes that they would be able to see him. This caused a stampede to form. Within the panic, many were pushed and trampled, plus some were crushed to death in the crowd.

This fight to see Stalin is similar to the fight for power that occurred between the high-ranking officials in the Communist Party. Significantly those that were apart of Stalin’s inner Circle. After Stalin’s death, Georgi Malenkov became the premier of the Soviet Union and secretary of the Communist Party. While this transition seemed to be smooth, it masked a growing desire for power amongst the men of Stalin’s inner circle. One man in particular that felt we was overlooked to become premier was Nikita Khrushchev. By taking advantage of Malenkov, Khrushchev was able to force Malenkov out of the position of secretary. This position had more control over the party than the premier. It was at this time that the Communist Party created a five-man secretariat. As Khrushchev was the driving force of the secretariat, he was able to gain support and was named the secretary of the Communist Party in September of 1953. Then in February of 1955, Khrushchev, with the help of his supporters, pushed Malenkov out of the position of premier and replaced him with one of his supporters.

When Khrushchev became premier in 1958, the Soviet Union went through a period of what is now referred to as de-Stalinization. During this time Khrushchev made political reforms to make life within the Soviet Union less repressive. For example, he raised living conditions, closed Gulag labor camps, and freed political prisoners.

Also, at this time he caused the Cuban Missile Crisis. In which he placed nuclear weapons in Cuba, just 90 miles from Florida’s coast. This event along with others created a complicated relationship with the United States. Although the death of Stalin and Khrushchev coming to power benefitted the United States. This is because after Khrushchev and former U.S. President Eisenhower had a summit, Khrushchev agreed to reduce his troops. Similarly, Khrushchev called for a “peaceful coexistence” between the Soviet Union and the United States. Which showed that because Stalin was no longer in power the Soviet Union was becoming less repressive.



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Mansky, Jackie. “The True Story of the Death of Stalin.” Smithsonian Magazine.
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“Nikita Khrushchev Begins His Rise to Power.” History. Last modified November

13, 2009. Accessed May 24, 2020.


“Soviet Union.” History. Last modified September 1, 2017. Accessed May 24, 2020.


[1] This was because many of the doctors were Jewish and were on trial for the “doctors” plot. In which they claimed to have killed a soviet official. As well as Stalin’s inner circle was so used to being under complete control it took them a day to decide whether or not to call a doctor.