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A new investigation, based on previously unseen KGB documents, reveals the startling truth behind Stalin's last great conspiracy. On January 13, 1953, a stunned world learned that a vast conspiracy had been unmasked among Jewish doctors in the USSR to murder Kremlin leaders. Mass arrests quickly followed. The Doctors' Plot, as this alleged scheme came to be called, was Stalin's last crime. In the fifty years since Stalin's death many myths have grown up about the Doctors' Plot. Did Stalin himself invent the ...
A new investigation, based on previously unseen KGB documents, reveals the startling truth behind Stalin's last great conspiracy. On January 13, 1953, a stunned world learned that a vast conspiracy had been unmasked among Jewish doctors in the USSR to murder Kremlin leaders. Mass arrests quickly followed. The Doctors' Plot, as this alleged scheme came to be called, was Stalin's last crime. In the fifty years since Stalin's death many myths have grown up about the Doctors' Plot. Did Stalin himself invent the conspiracy against the Jewish doctors or was it engineered by subordinates who wished to eliminate Kremlin rivals? Did Stalin intend a purge of all Jews from Moscow, Leningrad, and other major cities, which might lead to a Soviet Holocaust? How was this plot related to the cold war then dividing Europe, and the hot war in Korea? Finally, was the Doctors' Plot connected with Stalin's fortuitous death? Brent and Naumov have explored an astounding arra of previously unknown, top-secret documents from the KGB, the presidential archives, and other state and party archives in order to probe the mechanism of on of Stalin's greatest intrigues — and to tell for the first time the incredible full story of the Doctors' Plot.
|Introduction: The Inverted World||1|
|1||The Untimely Death of Comrade Zhdanov: Moscow, September 6, 1948||11|
|2||Stalin's Silence: Valdai, August 1948||54|
|3||The Pygmy and the Terrorist: Lubyanka-Lefortovo, November 1950-March 1951||93|
|4||The Grand Plan: "Nothing" Comes From Nothing: Lubyanka, July 1951-August 1951||136|
|5||Recognizing the Enemy: Lubyanka, August 1951-November 1951||171|
|6||Waiters in White Gloves: Lubyanka, November 1951-November 1952||190|
|7||An Intelligence Phantasmagoria: The Plan of the Internal Blow, 1951-1953||235|
|8||Spies and Murderers Under the Mask of Doctors: November 1952-December 1952||249|
|9||The Great Storm: January-February 1953||283|
|10||The End: Stalin's Blizhnyaya Dacha, March 1-5, 1953||312|
|Conclusion: The Conspiratorial Mind||330|
|Glossary of Names and Organizations||337|
|Chronology of the Doctors' Plot||377|
You went your glorious way, comrade Zhdanov
Leaving eternal footsteps behind
-- Aleksander Zharov, Pravda, Sept.1, 1948
With what biting sarcasm he threatened all the old enemies, all those
who would poison young Soviet literature with their pernicious
poison! With what annihilating scorn and hatred he exposed
the mercenary bourgeois literature of the West today, that
corrupts the minds of readers, that aids reaction, that served
fascism once in no small way and now serves the lackeyism of the
imperialists -- the instigators of a new war!
-- Mikhail Sholokhov, Pravda, Sept.2, 1948
The workers of the entire world mourn the untimely death of com. A. A. Zhdanov
-- Izvestia, Sept.3, 1948
On August 31, 1948, at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Andrei Aleksandrovich Zhdanov, a powerful member of Stalin's Politburo, "unexpectedly" died in Valdai, a health resort for members of the Soviet political elite, about two and a half hours by car to the north and west of Moscow, on the road to Leningrad. Zhdanov was fifty-two years old. His death provoked a public outpouring of grief throughout the Communist world. Condolences were published over many days. Mao Zedong from China and Georgi Dimitrov, the new president of Bulgaria, expressed their sorrow, as did the leaders of Communist parties of Great Britain, France, and Austria, as well as all the Soviet satellites. His body was borne on a gun carriage through Red Square to the Great Hall that housed the Politburo, followed by a procession of dignitaries and mourners, with Stalin in the lead. Eulogies by Molotov and other Politburo leaders were declaimed in Red Square to a sea of mourners. Poems were dedicated to his eternal memory. Mikhail Sholokhov and other noted writers, along with members of the cultural elite, referred to the "great heart" and the "crystal bright mind" of this "true son of the Motherland and the party." It was said at the time that no Kremlin leader had been buried with such public attention since Sergei Kirov, who died in 1934.
A. A. Zhdanov had been the former, brutal boss of the Leningrad party and the architect of Soviet postwar ideology and cultural policy. It was he who gave the keynote speech at the 1934 International Writers' Congress, where he had invoked Stalin's dictum that writers were the "engineers of human souls." In 1946 Zhdanov had issued the infamous "report" on literature and ideology that included, among other things, harsh criticism of the poetry of A. A. Akhmatova, and led to her banishment from the Writers' Union. Akhmatova, Zhdanov wrote, was "A nun or a whore -- or rather both a nun and a whore who combines harlotry with prayer." He described her poetry as "utterly remote from the people ... What can there be in common between this poetry and the interests of our people and State? Nothing whatsoever." Another time he had rebuked Shostakovich for not writing music the average Soviet worker could hum. Zhdanov's report unleashed what came to be termed the "Zhdanovshchina," which terrorized Soviet arts and letters for a decade until the Khrushchev "Thaw."
After the Second World War Zhdanov had been represented as a hero of the siege of Leningrad; he had given his life to the "interests of the State." At the time of his death he was considered by many to have been the most powerful member of the Soviet government after Stalin. He had defended Stalin and Stalinism all his life and had earned the respect of the people as well as Stalin's confidence. In September 1947 Stalin entrusted Zhdanov, not Molotov, with delivering the keynote speech at the Szklarska Poreba conference in Poland that set out the basic terms of Stalin's Cold War vision to leaders of the satellite countries and foreign Communist parties. Zhdanov depicted the postwar world as "irrevocably divided into two hostile camps." American expansionism, he charged, was comparable to that of the fascist states of the 1930s.
More than just professional or political sympathy drew Stalin and Zhdanov together. Stalin was said to have personally preferred him because Zhdanov was educated and more literate than most of the other Politburo leaders. Zhdanov enjoyed playing the piano at Stalin's dacha and discussing literature with Gorky. In the spring of 1949 his son, Yuri, married Stalin's daughter, vetlana Alliluyeva, something that was possibly more a sign of political realities than of personal choice.
But in early July 1948 Zhdanov had fainted on the way to his office in Old Square near the Kremlin, returning from a Politburo meeting held in Stalin's "nearby" dacha the Blizhnyaya. Though just over fifty, he had had a bad heart for some time, the result of years of overwork, drinking, and hypertension. Earlier that spring Stalin had given him other reasons to be anxious. In April, only nine months since Zhdanov's historic speech at Szklarska Poreba, Stalin had reacted very negatively to the role Zhdanov's son, Yuri, had played in discussing the botanist T.D. Lysenko at a meeting held under the auspices of the Central Committee, saying that those responsible for this provocation should be punished in "exemplary "fashion. Although not formally dismissed from the posts of Secretary of Ideology of the Communist Party and head of the Leningrad party, Zhdanov knew his position in the party was now at risk and his life might also be in jeopardy. Stalin's suggestion that he recover in Valdai had carried with it the same solicitude that had accompanied the demotion of other Kremlin leaders since the thirties. The head of the Kremlin Hospital signed the medical certificate authorizing Zhdanov's leave and he was sent to Valdai on July 13. "Strict bed rest" was ordered for him to safeguard his health, but its other purpose, as Zhdanov might have guessed, would have been to keep him out of active political life.On September 6, 1948, one week after Zhdanov "went his glorious way," an emergency session of experts was convened in the Kremlin Hospital to investigate whether the doctors who treated him in Valdai had misdiagnosed Zhdanov's illness and had provided criminally negligent treatment. The Kremlin Hospital doctor responsible for the last EKGs of Zhdanov's heart had sent a secret letter accusing the doctors of this negligence to Lieutenant General Nikolai Vlasik, the Head of the Kremlin Bodyguards, known as the Okhrana. In her letter of August 29, 1948 -- two days before Zhdanov's death -- Lidia F.Timashuk asserted that the attending doctors had underestimated the "unquestionably grave condition of comrade Zhdanov." Soon after his death this evaluation turned into an accusation of outright murder.
For some fifty years this accusation has been viewed as the essential element in the instigation of the Doctors' Plot, and for fifty years, ever since the accusation against the doctors was dismissed by the Soviet government after Stalin's death, it has been widely assumed to have been a false charge, stemming from a premeditated plan to launch a conspiracy against the doctors ...Stalin's Last Crime
Posted March 28, 2012
Posted July 22, 2003
Some very interesting books are emerging concerning the former Soviet Union now that their archives are open for scholarly investigation. This book is certainly one of them, a well-written and carefully documented investigation of one of the darkest aspects of the Stalin era. No one, with the possible exception of Adolph Hitler¿s Nazi Germany, was directly responsible for the deaths of more human beings during the 20th century than was Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union¿s first comrade, a brilliant psychopath so deluded in his paranoid fantasies that he suspected everyone, always, of continuous conspiracy and perfidy against him. His resulting excesses included the campaign of terror, first instituted in the 1930s, and the systematic purges that became an integral aspect of the terror campaign. During the 1930s alone, he is estimated to have worked millions to death in enforced labor camps, creating what is now described as a ¿Gulag¿ in recent books such as Anne Applebaum¿s recent book of the same name. Yet although the Gulag and the terror campaign that supplied the bodies for its proliferation was most pronounced both before and during the Second World War, it was after the war that the extent of his murder and mayhem reached it horrific peak. Indeed, on the eve of his death in 1953, Stalin was actively planning to execute a bizarre and insane plan to kill hundreds of thousands of additional Russian citizens in what Jonathan Brent and Vladimir Naumov describe in their book, ¿Stalin's Last Crime: The Plot Against The Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953¿ as constituting what they refer to as the ¿Doctor¿s Plot¿. The authors trace the evidence linking Stalin and the development by his staff produced false documentation of such a plot by doctors within the Soviet Union of intending to purge the Soviet Ministry of Security as well as the elite elements of government in a bizarre alleged conspiracy between Jewish M.D.s living in Russia and the American government to foist a coup d¿etat of the Soviet regime. Stalin had concocted the idea based on the fact that he knew the lingering anti-Semitism within the Soviet Union would help convince the people that such a plot was both feasible and logical, which of course, it was not. What it really was a clever Machiavellian ruse to give Stalin the excuse he needed to purge the very institutions he was about to accuse the Jewish doctors of attempting to damage. In their stirring narration of the events and their consequences, the authors offer both provocative and damaging evidence of the standard Stalin course of action; by first obtaining a series of forced confessions, he would develop asset of anecdotal information files that he would then twist into a substantial set of circumstantial evidence supporting his theory. One of the more interesting of the findings was he evidence that late in life he seemed to develop a more cautious and deliberate approach to his domestic terror program, as though he sensed the overall mood of the country to have changed in the direction of wanting and supporting legitimacy, and he wanted to continue to ensure his power base both by working within the framework of what he believed to be the public consciousness on the one hand, and undermining his imagined foes by creating the docile of false evidence he could use to disarm and defeat them on the other. Most fascinating of the authors¿ theories is the idea that in attempting to foist yet one more purge on the feckless party hierarchy, Stalin set the stage for his own demise, which the authors argue may well have been a disguised assassination and not the natural death the rest of the outside world was led to believe it was. This is a wonderful book, and I am sure it is only the latest of what promises to be a steady stream of excellent books rewriting the history of the Soviet experiment with new information coming from the treasure trove of the Soviet archives. Enjoy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.