And they gave up the notion of using an anti-aircraft gun for his injections.
Have you ever read about the pathetic last two days of Stalin's life?
Late that evening, Stalin summoned Malenkov, Beria, Khruschev and Bulganin like normal to watch a movie. After, they retired to Stalin’s Kuntesvo dacha, where they sat down to a meal, during which Stalin inquired whether confessions had been extracted for a trial he would soon oversee. That winter, Stalin had been waging a witch hunt against Kremlin physicians, many of whom were Jewish, claiming they murdered top Soviet officials in a “doctors' plot. The trial against the Kremlin doctors was to commence within weeks.
According to Khrushchev’s account of the night, they finished around 5 or 6 in the morning. “We said goodbye to Comrade Stalin and departed," he wrote. “I remember that when we were in the entrance hall Stalin came out as usual to see us off. He was in a jocular mood and joked a lot. He waved his index finger or his fist and prodded me in the stomach, calling me Mikola. He always used the Ukrainian form of my name when he was in good spirits. Well, we left in good spirits too, since nothing had happened during the dinner. Those dinners did not always end on a happy note.”
But perhaps all wasn’t so rosy the night of the 28th. “[H]ad some great row finally broken out?” Salisbury asked in his memoir. “Were they prepared to let events move forward and possibly engulf them all? Three of them — Malenkov, Beria and Khrushchev — were as crafty, as skilled, as tough as any figures to be found in Russia. Did those three march down the path to the precipice without making a move to save themselves?”
The next day, a Sunday, Khrushchev says he remained at home, expecting Stalin to call to extend an invitation for that evening. But Stalin did not call him, or anyone else for that matter. He didn’t ring for food, nor had the sensors installed in Stalin’s rooms detected movement.
According to later interviews, those working at the dacha claimed they were too scared to disturb Stalin. But in The Unknown Stalin, historians Zhores Medvedev and Roy Medvedev are suspicious of that narrative: “t would not have been normal for the staff to be afraid of entering Stalin’s room or even to ring him on the house line,” they wrote.
It took until around 10:30 at night for someone to check on Stalin. According to one account, one of the guards, Peter Lozgachev was the one who finally entered Stalin’s quarters, ostensibly to drop off official mail from the Kremlin. Other accounts say it was the longtime maid.
Whoever entered the room found the dictator on the ground in his pajamas, the floor soaked with urine. An empty glass and mineral water were on the table, and it appeared as though Stalin had gotten out of bed to get water, but then had a stroke.
Members of the dacha staff carried him onto the dining room sofa, where they covered him with a rug. While the consensus among those present was to call a doctor, the officers on guard wanted to wait on instructions from the party leadership. Eventually, they got Beria on the phone, who demanded they tell no one of Stalin’s illness.
Beria and Malenkov arrived first at the dacha. According to testimony compiled by Miguel A. Faria in the journal Surgical Neurology International, Lozgachev said that Beria, upon seeing Stalin snoring, asked, “Lozgachev, why are you in such a panic? Can’t you see, Comrade Stalin is sleeping soundly. Don’t disturb him and stop alarming us.”
Even if no one had poisoned Stalin the night before, Simon Sebag Montefiore in Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar suggested they could have observed the state he was in, and made a decision there to hasten his death. Signs pointed to Beria having fallen out of Stalin's good graces—and thus he potentially stood to gain the most from the leader's death. But Beria could have also believed what he was saying; to an untrained eye, Stalin may very well have appeared to be sleeping. And with the doctors’ plot trial in the offing, no one wanted to have to be the one to call a doctor. “[The inner circle was] so accustomed to his minute control that they could barely function on their own,” Montefiore added.
Intentionally or not, it took until around 7 in the morning for the members to reach a decision to call the Minister of Health to select doctors for an initial look. When the doctors finally arrived, they found Stalin unresponsive, his right arm and leg, paralyzed, and his blood pressure at the alarmingly high rate of 190/110. “They had to examine him, but their hands were too shaky. To make it worse, the dentist took out his dentures, and dropped them by accident,” according to Lozgachev’s testimony. They ordered complete quiet, put leeches behind his ears, a cold compress on his head and recommended he not eat.
Two days after the doctors first saw him, Radio Moscow made the announcement, revealing Stalin had suffered a stroke on Sunday night.
The message said he was receiving suitable medical treatment under the close eye of party leaders, worded in such a way to reassure a public frenzied by the doctors' plot allegations that none of the doctors treating Stalin were in any way connected to the alleged conspiracy. (Ironically, those consulted actually did include several imprisoned Kremlin doctors, according to Joshua Rubenstein in The Last Days of Stalin. One, a pathologist named Aleksandr Myasnikov, said he was mid-interrogation when his captors suddenly started asking for medical advice instead.)
On March 5, Stalin vomited blood and his stomach started hemorrhaging, a detail cut from the final report issued to the Central Committee, until scholars Jonathan Brent and Vladimir Naumov unearthed the detail in 2013.
The long-buried evidence could suggest a cover up. It’s known that on the night of February the 28, Stalin drank "fruit juice" (diluted Georgian wine). Poison, perhaps in the form of the poisonous, tasteless blood thinner warfarin, could have easily been slipped in Stalin’s drink and could have caused his stomach hemorrhaging, Faria writes. But whether that’s the case will likely forever remain a matter of speculation, Brent and Naumov concluded in Stalin's Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953. That night, Stalin’s iron-fisted 30-year rule over the Soviet Union ended. His death was recorded at 9:50 p.m.
During his three decades in power, the Soviet Premier commanded not just the party leadership, but also the hearts and minds of the Russian public. His personality cult was such that in spite of his reign of terror that caused tens of millions to die, he remained “Uncle Joe,” the "father" of all Russians to his final days.
In other reports Beria claimed he smothered Stalin with a pillow.
Berias end was pathetic: he was on his knees crying and pissing himself when he was shot.