31st October 1961 Stalin’s Corpse Demoted

Shivering with the proles outside the walls of the Kremlin: J Stalin

Fifty-six years ago today, the Soviet Union’s policy of de-Stalinisation reached its peak when the tyrant’s body was removed from Lenin’s tomb in Red Square and reburied about 300 feet from that mausoleum, among minor leaders of the Revolution. A few weeks later, the grave was – with neither fanfare nor media invitation – decorated with a plain dark granite stone engraved simply: J. V. STALIN 1879-1953. The new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchëv had inaugurated his de-Stalinisation policy half a decade previously with the incendiary 1956 speech, “On the Personality Cult and its Consequences”, which the Soviet leader had on February 25th delivered to a closed session of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party. At that time, the very idea of criticising Stalin, who had died only three years previously in 1953, was a shocking concept. But by the early ‘60s, de-Stalinisation was at its peak as evidenced by the removal of his embalmed corpse from Red Square. And on November 11th, the Hero City of Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd, a gigantic cultural cleansing for sure, though small beer to the parents, relatives and lovers of the twenty million Russian heroes that Stalin – with typically Custeristic flair – had flung into the inferno of the Great Patriotic War, the tyrant determined not to lose caste in the face of the Nazi onslaught.

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