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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Brent: Underlings poisoned Stalin

Far from dying a natural death, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was murdered by his colleagues for his anti-American and anti-Jewish stances, Jonathan Brent, the executive editor of Yale University Press, asserted Friday afternoon during a speech.

Brent cited a medical report written in July 1953 after Stalin's death indicating that he likely died of warfarin poisoning.

Warfarin is an anticoagulant, commonly used as a blood thinner to treat the victims of heart attacks. It is only lethal if administered cumulatively, so Stalin could have made everyone around him try his poisoned food -- as was his habit -- and his dining companions would thus have been unaffected.

Portions discussing Stalin's internal bleeding and vomiting blood are missing from the medical report. Both of these symptoms are strongly indicative of warfarin poisoning.

The report also describes peculiarities in the treatment Stalin received just before his death. For example, Stalin was not given a glucose drip to block the hemorrhage, which would have been standard medical procedure in the Soviet Union at the time, according to Brent.

Similarly, doctors placed leeches by Stalin's ears, which would have reduced his blood pressure and thus accelerated the very process of internal bleeding that eventually killed him.

Only after being "grotesquely black" from hemorrhaging blood for five days was Stalin given Vitamin K, the normal treatment to stop internal bleeding. One physician at Yale Medical School who reviewed the report told Brent that "it was almost as though the doctors did this to cover their own tracks," suggesting that they were complicit in Stalin's murder.

The report also states that Stalin stayed unconscious from shortly after he suffered the stroke until his death, contradicting the account of Stalin's death given in Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs. According to Khrushchev, Stalin was conscious and able to wish his companions a sentimental goodbye.

Finally, Lavrentii Beria, head of the secret police, remarked to foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov the following May Day, "I want you to know, I saved you, I saved all of us, I did him in," seemingly referring to how he saved the Soviet Union from Stalin.

Brent argued that Beria was motivated to kill Stalin because of Stalin's increasingly elaborate plans to vilify America and to single out the Russian Jews as agents of American and British influence who sought to destabilize the Soviet government.

While Stalin was traditionally seen as at the height of his power after the Second World War, various documents recently released show a different picture, Brent said. Although Russia was supposedly a victor, the nation was worse off economically than Germany or Japan.

The resurgence in Russian Jewry's sense of solidarity following the establishment of Israel particularly irked Stalin. Brent mentioned, as example, his negative reaction to Golda Meir's popular reception in Moscow.

Stalin also planned to build four new concentration camps, allegedly for 5,323 "very dangerous" prisoners, though the existing camps should have been large enough to hold these people. After Stalin's death, their construction was cancelled.

Brent said he contacted contractors who worked on the camps who claimed that they were being built to hold Jews.

Stalin's reaction to the capture of an alleged American agent named Vartoloyemev also demonstrates the extent of his paranoia, according to Brent.

Vartoloyemev confessed to Soviet agents that he knew of a planned March 1952 American nuclear strike on Moscow.

Among the conspirators involved, he named a member of the du Pont industrial family who died in 1885. This detail, and others like it, led Soviet interrogators to label his testimony as "inspiring doubt."

Even after March 1952 came and went, Stalin nonetheless continued to insist that Vartoloyemev's testimony could be "useful" to the regime one day.

Brent also noted that after foreign minister Molotov said in an interview that he wanted to relax censorship in the Soviet Union, Stalin "went ballistic."

Approximately 50 people attended the speech, the vast majority of whom were Dartmouth faculty or members of the Hanover community.