Today In History: Stalin Dies

March 5, 1953

The beginning of the end came for Joseph Stalin on March 1, 1953, when he collapsed in the bedroom of his Volynskoe dacha (a country house). His staff found him on the floor, covered in his own urine. Stalin had had a cerebral hemorrhage that would eventually claim his life.


After being found on the floor, he was carried to a couch, where he would stay for three days. Doctors fed him and attempted various medical interventions, including injections and leeches. His children Svetlana and Vasily arrived at his bedside on March 2. A drunken and belligerent Vasily was turned away after screaming at the doctors.

Stalin died on March 5. Svetlana described it as “a difficult and terrible death.” The cause of death was ruled by autopsy to be the result of the cerebral hemorrhage as well as damaged cerebral arteries from atherosclerosis.


It is plausible, and some people think likely, that Stalin was murdered. Many suspect Beria, but there is a dearth of evidence.

Stalin’s body was embalmed and displayed in Moscow’s House of Unions. During those three days, upwards of a hundred people were crushed to death by the enormous crowd. Stalin was then moved to Lenin’s Mausoleum on March 9.

Celebrations of his death within the USSR were harshly suppressed and labeled “anti-Soviet agitation.” While Stalin is considered one of the most murderous human beings in history, responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 20 and 25 million people, his legacy is also a complicated one. Many modern Russians still venerate him as a great modernizer.

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