The style and spelling of the originals have been preserved.
Mikhail Prishvin (1873-1954), writer, kept diaries for almost 50 years1
6th of March
Stalin died yesterday at 9:50 pm. Today at 6 am Literaturnaya Gazeta informed me and ordered an article at 10 am. I’ve never written anything like this in my life, but I have to…
The big ones die just like the little ones, we have seen enough of all this since childhood. And in this necessary event in the life of every person, we must note that it is much easier for a really great person who gave his life to die himself: he has already given his life. But it is more difficult for close people to stay without it.
So now we are left with this thought… alone for the first time. We are alone now! And so, when we are left alone, for the first time the works of a great man in our soul begin to combine in one great duty. So, even now, the cause of the struggle for peace around the world is completely merged with what our great comrade called the transformation of nature. After the death of Comrade Stalin, both the struggle for world peace and, of course, the transformation of natural elements into human kindness (Stalin was taken from us) becomes our common spiritual cause. Comrade Stalin is no longer with us, now we must do everything ourselves.
Stalin’s funeral. Photo: RIA Novosti
Sergei Dmitriev (1906-1991), historian, professor at Moscow State University2
7 of March
In the evening, Igor came and said that a colossal line stretched at 7 o’clock in the evening already past the Belorussky railway station. The police did not seem to know where to place the fabulously lengthening queue of those wishing to pass in front of the coffin. They said that there were also accidents, they crushed a child. Women with babies were apparently let through without queuing. It was quite cold, in the afternoon it was -11-12, and on the morning of March 7 the temperature even dropped to -18, and there was a thick fog.
The surprise and cinematic speed of the entire event is incredible. On the morning of Wednesday, March 4, the country first heard about IV Stalin’s illness, and the next day in the evening he had already died, and on the morning of March 6, on Friday, his death was announced. That same day the coffin with the corpse was already in the Hall of Columns. Three days – and everything changed. And everything continues to change, and the impression is that even now (I am writing this at one in the afternoon on Saturday March 7) one after another, almost continuously, some shifts, shifts, changes come and go.
Participants of the farewell ceremony with IV Stalin in his homeland, in the city of Gori. Photo: RIA Novosti
Finally, my usual life began again: intrigues, defense of dissertations … During this week, someone strong repeatedly turned the kaleidoscope of life, usually idle: you roll your eyes and see the same combination you see again: fu, nothing again! But the hand of history has worked hard this week, turning the kaleidoscope around.
I learned about the death of the composer CS Prokofiev3. He died, apparently, on the day of the death of IV Stalin, that is, on March 5, 1953. In this regard, nothing was mentioned in the press about the death of Prokofiev. The composer was brilliant, he had his own face in music. That’s why he was usually silenced or scolded.
Muscovites in the Hall of Columns. March 6, 1953 Photo: RIA Novosti
Mikhail Romm (1901-1971), director and screenwriter, winner of five Stalin prizes
There are a million people in the streets. The mass of those who died in the stampede – everyone knows. Confused Natasha. Confusion in the house. I only clearly remember: with my conscience I understood, thank God, maybe it will be easier! Maybe we will survive.
But somehow my heart did not reconcile, because at the same time I somehow believed in Stalin with my heart. I remember Lelya4 asking me at night, with her eyes wide open:
– Rommochka, what will happen to us?
I told her:
– Lelya, it won’t get worse… it won’t get worse. – I say, but I myself do not think so.
Minutes of mourning in the Stalin workshops of the Yaroslavl railway at the time of the burial of the body of IV Stalin. Photo: RIA Novosti
Ilya Erenburg (1891-1967) – writer and journalist6
I remember going to Moscow. There was a lot of snow. Children drowned in snowdrifts. The words were spinning in my head: “Comrade Stalin lost consciousness.” I wanted to think: what will he become of all of us now? But I couldn’t think. I experienced what many of my compatriots must have experienced at the time: numbness.
“At nine fifty minutes at night…”
The medical report spoke of leukocytes, collapse, atrial fibrillation. And we have long forgotten that Stalin is a man. He became an omnipotent and mysterious god. And then God died of a brain hemorrhage. He looked amazing.
The house where I live is located in an alley between Gorky and Pushkin streets. To enter one of these streets, you needed the permission of a police officer, long explanations and documents. Huge trucks blocked the road, and if the officer allowed it, I would get on the truck, jump off, and after fifty paces they would stop me, and it would start all over again.
The writers’ mourning rally took place at the Theater of Film Actors on Vorovskogo Street. They were all depressed, confused, and spoke inconsistently, as if they were not seasoned writers, but mathematicians or excavators speaking at a meeting for the first time. There were many speakers. I also said, I don’t remember what, probably the same as others: “I won the war… I defended peace… I left… we cried… we swore…”.
Muscovites in the Hall of Columns. March 6, 1953 Photo: Anatoly Garanin / RIA Novosti
The next day they took us to the Hall of Columns. I was with the writers in the honor guard. Stalin lay embalmed, solemn, with no trace of what the doctors said, but with flowers and stars. People passed by, many were crying, women were raising their children, mourning music mixed with sobs.
I saw people crying in the streets. From time to time screams were heard: people ran towards the Hall of Columns. They talked about those crushed on Trubnaya Square. They brought police detachments from Leningrad. I don’t think history knows such a funeral.
I did not feel sorry for the god who died of a stroke at the age of seventy-three, as if he were not a god, but a mere mortal; but he was afraid: what will happen now?.. he was afraid of the worst. The cult of personality didn’t make me a believer, but it did affect my grades; I connected the future of the country with what has been called “the wisdom of a brilliant leader” every day for twenty years.
Joseph Stalin’s son Vasily with his wife Ekaterina Timoshenko. Photo: RIA Novosti
Svetlana Alliluyeva (1926-2011), daughter of IV Stalin7
… The father was unconscious, as the doctors said. The blow was very strong; he lost his speech, the right half of his body was paralyzed. Several times he opened his eyes, his eyes were blurry, who knows if he recognized someone. Then they all ran towards him, trying to catch the word, or at least the desire in his eyes. I sat next to him, took his hand, he looked at me, barely saw. I kissed him and kissed his hand, there was nothing left for me to do.
How strange, in these sick days, in those hours when only the body lay before me, and the soul flew from it, in the last days of farewell in the Hall of Columns, I loved my father more and more tenderly. than in my entire life. He was very far from me, from us children, from all his neighbors.
… My father was dying terribly and hard. And this was the first, and so far only, death that I saw. God gives easy death to the just…
A hemorrhage in the brain gradually spreads to all centers, and with a healthy and strong heart, it slowly captures the breathing centers, and the person dies from suffocation. Rapid and accelerated breathing. During the last twelve hours it was already clear that the lack of oxygen was increasing. His face darkened and changed, gradually his features became unrecognizable, his lips turned black. The last hour or two people just slowly suffocated. The agony was terrible. She strangled him in front of everyone. At some point, I don’t know if she was really like that, but she seemed like it, obviously at the last minute, she suddenly widened her eyes and looked at everyone standing around her. It was a terrible look, either insane or angry and full of horror at death and at the unfamiliar faces of the doctors who bent over him. This look turned everyone upside down in a fraction of a minute. And then, it was incomprehensible and scary, I still don’t understand it, but I can’t forget it, she suddenly raised her left hand (which was moving) and pointed up or threatened all of us. The gesture was incomprehensible, but threatening, and it is not known to whom and what he meant… The next moment, the soul, having made the last effort, escaped from the body.
… The soul flew away. The body calmed down, the face paled and took on its familiar shape; in a few moments he became serene, calm and beautiful. They all stood petrified, in silence, for several minutes, I don’t know how many, it seemed like a long time.
Then the members of the government ran to the exit, they had to go to Moscow, to the Central Committee, where they all sat and waited for news. They went to tell the news that everyone was secretly waiting for. Let us not sin against each other: they were torn by the same conflicting feelings as I was: pain and relief …
…The servants and guards came to say goodbye. There was the true feeling, the sincere sadness. Cooks, drivers, dispatchers on duty from the guards, waitresses, gardeners – they all entered quietly, quietly approached the bed, and they all cried. They dried their tears like children, with their hands, sleeves, handkerchiefs. Many cried bitterly, and the sister gave them valerian, crying herself. And I, stone, sat down, stopped, looked, and even if I shed a tear… And I couldn’t leave, but I kept looking, looking, I couldn’t tear myself away.
All these people who served with my father loved him. He was not capricious in everyday life, on the contrary, he was modest, simple and friendly with the servants, and if he scolded, then only the “bosses”: guard generals, general-commanders. The servant could not complain about either tyranny or cruelty, on the contrary, they often asked him for help in something and never received a refusal.
Here no one considered him a god, a superman, a genius or a villain: he was loved and respected for the most ordinary human qualities, which servants always unequivocally judge.
… And they took the body away. A white car drove up to the very gates of the dacha – they all got out. Those who were standing on the street, near the porch, also took off their hats. I stood at the door, someone threw a coat at me, I was hitting everything. Someone hugged him by the shoulders, it turned out to be NA Bulganin. The car closed the doors and drove away. I buried my face in Nikolai Alexandrovich’s chest and finally burst into tears. He also cried and stroked my head.
1. Prishvin MM Diaries. 1952-1954. / Prep. text by Ya.Z. Grishina, Los Angeles Ryazanova; comments Ya.Z. Grishina. Saint Petersburg: Rostock, 2017. P. 3042. From the diaries of the historian SS Dmitrieva / Publ. and COM. RG Eymontova // Domestic history. 1999. No. 5. Art. 144, 145.3. Sergei Sergeevich Prokofiev (1891-1953), famous Russian composer, died on March 5 because of Stalin’s funeral, his death was actually not announced.4. Wife Elena Alexandrovna Kuzmina (1909-1979) – film actress, People’s Artist of the RSFSR, winner of three Stalin Prizes.5. Romm Mikhail Ilyich. oral stories. M.: Kinotsentr, 1989. 188 p.; Audio recording https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp88lhRXB-E&ab_channel6. Ehrenburg IG People, years, life. In 3 volumes. M.: Text, 20057. Alliluyeva SI Twenty letters to a friend. New York: Evanston: Harper & Row, Police. 1967. 216 pp.