A conversation with Dr. Adam Bogart about the Bolsheviks and Lenin’s and Stalin’s illnesses by Miguel A. Faria, MD

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November 12, 2016, Hi Miguel, Food for thought [“Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev (1857–1927): Strange Circumstances Surrounding the Death of the Great Russian Neurologist” by Kesselring J] … It seems either Stalin or some of his colleagues consulted a neurologist about his withered arm in 1927, and the neurologist made a diagnosis of syringomyelia. [But] it is usually attributed by historians to either beatings by his father or childhood infection of some sort. But as you say, historians cannot be doctors [or medical scientists!].

It could be Stalin actually wanted to find out if anything could be done for the arm, because he was so embarrassed by it. We know a few of his toes were webbed on one foot, and he was embarrassed about that too so he always wore boots even when swimming!

Unfortunately, the neurologist was somewhat ignorant of the conditions of the USSR in this era, and added a short psychiatric note as well. Looks like we have another case of poisoning by Stalin, not of him… In the meantime I will be searching for Lenin’s autopsy report. Best regards, — Adam

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November 12, 2016, Hi Adam, I first learned on the Bekhterev-Stalin affair after reading the book, Great Men with Sick Brains by the neurosurgeon Bengt Ljunggren shortly after it was published by The American Association of Neurological Surgeons in 1990. Dr. Bekhterev was also Lenin’s neurologist, and although apolitical, he provided propaganda “services” to the Russian revolutionaries by pledging allegiance to the new regime. According to this book, rumors circulated that Bekhterev had also diagnosed Stalin with “grave paranoia” — a lethal mistake for the great doctor.
 
In any case Stalin also had Bekhterev’s son Pietr shot because the son suspected that Bekhterev was poisoned by order of Stalin. Prof. V.N. Vinogradov (1882-1964), who I mentioned in my opening article on Stalin’s death was more fortunate. As Stalin’s doctor and physician in the Kremlin, he told Stalin he needed to slow down, which Stalin construed indiscreet or malicious, and Vinogradov was arrested and pulled into the concocted Doctor’s Plot, the dyelo vrachey.

Unlike Bekhterev who was dealt by Stalin immediately, Prof. Vinogradov was saved by Stalin’s sudden death. 

[November 23 addition] As to historians not capable of being physicians, I was explaining Dr. Plinio Prioreschi’s statement, “Medicine being a very esoteric field cannot easily be mastered by nonphysicians.” Prioreschi added, “the asymmetry (in esoterism) between science and the humanities… allows the physicist to be a poet but forbids a poet to be a physicist.” His truism was affirmed in the case of Stalin’s medical death as I explained elsewhere. — MAF

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Interesting, Miguel. I did not know about the son. I see he does not make the diagnosis of syringomyelia explicitly, and I am not sure I agree if he did think that. I don’t see any spasticity when Stalin walks, but I need to take another look at a film clip and watch more closely.

It’s interesting that Hitler did not mind doctors speaking frankly to him on what the problem was and what he should do. Then, concerning the Jewish doctor’s plot, it is also interesting that Stalin was not anti-Semitic by policy as was Hitler, so although he made many crude remarks about Jews, I have always concluded that by 1948 he was already showing signs of organic disease. 

In 1927, Stalin did not have the absolute power over the USSR that he would by 1929. I don’t even think Trotsky was booted out yet, though powerless. So, I wonder if that made a difference in how he had to deal with Bekhterev. Best, Adam

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Hi Adam, Stalin was in a power struggle with Trotsky in 1924. He successfully tricked and was allied to Zinoviev and Kamenev (forming the “Triumvirate”) against Trotsky. After Trotsky was defeated politically, Stalin, at the Party Congress, December 1925, remained allied to Bukharin but turned against his former allies whom he detested, Zinoviev and Kamevev. He declawed them by 1926 and had expelled Trotsky from the Party by 1927. Bukharin was easily outmaneuvered and allowed to remain as head of the “right wing” of the Party (as supporter of the New Economic Policy of Lenin [NEP], some liberalization, etc.) nominally until 1929, at which time he too was expelled from the Politburo. Stalin basically had near absolute power by 1927. The token opposition was terrified by then. By 1929 he had absolute power and basically no serious opposition. The old hard Bolsheviks had been tamed to submission; they would all be eliminated later!

Joseph Stalin (left) photographed with Vladimir Lenin (right)

Stalin was inclined to anti-semitism as shown by his late anti-cosmopolitanism campaign, but recognizing the number of prominent Jews in the Party, his indispensable Jewish associates, and Jewish wives in the leadership, he tolerated them until the 1940s. Beria was the great sponsor of the Jews, again because he and Stalin could use them in a variety of projects because of their shown resourcefulness, devotion to the cause, and loyalty to the Party.
 
I have reviewed Stalin’s major biographies as well as one of Beria and Ezhov, (NKVD heads) at HaciendaPublishing.com. I strongly recommend the two books on Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore, one of them, Young Stalin, I reviewed as well. Montefiore’s two books are cliffhanger tomes, perhaps the best biographies with a lot of personal stuff found nowhere else. You can easily search them at haciendapub.com. Thanks for Lenin’s post mortem! Miguel

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Hi Miguel, That’s all true, but in 1927 Stalin could not simply have anyone arrested and shot with or without trial, unless there was some reasonable pretext. Especially a man as well recognized and respected as Bekhterev. Zinoviev and Kamenev were a cinch to tackle, because they were one of the original old Bolsheviks who found it amusing to place Stalin in the position of General Secretary, having no idea what kind of power that position really granted him. They were intellectuals, and as such, were too stupid to know just what kind of evil genius they were dealing with. It was always the same old story with all of them. Of course, it was Trotsky whom he tricked into not revealing the contents of Lenin’s last testament, which would have had them remove him from power forever. Note that all three of them were Jews (I think Kamenev may have been half Russian Orthodox), but this had absolutely nothing to do with Stalin’s hatred of them.
 
He surely did tolerate anyone who was useful to him, but Lazar Kaganovich was a friend, and that is probably because he was as almost as cruel and brutal as Stalin was, but he never gave any indication that he wanted to grab more power than Stalin allowed him. Stalin essentially gave Kaganovich and Nikita Khrushchev unlimited power to mastermind the Holodomor in Ukraine, where they both came from. But I am told by Ukrainian physicians and physicists I know that in modern day Ukraine, most of the blame for that is placed on Kaganovich alone, so I have to assume it is because he was Jewish.
 
Yes, I always thought Beria was no lover of Jews, but he was much more practical with how he handled them. That leads me to a perplexing aspect of Lenin. He was clearly philosemitic, and would not tolerate anti-Semitism because he truly believed Jews made the best communists.  Yet, we know now that Lenin placed a few Jews in high positions to make it look like the majority of Jews were in charge of the Communist Party, and he knew that they could be used as scapegoats that way, which they still are to this day. When you examine the Communist Party roles for 1920, you find 10% Jews and 90% Russians, but that is the opposite of the common perception, which is exactly what Lenin wanted.
 
I am glad to have found a copy of the autopsy report for you. Let me know your thoughts. There is no indication of syphilitic cerebrovascular disease, and even the aorta shows changes consistent with atherosclerosis, not syphilitic aortitis. Many people will still insist upon it, but I just don’t buy it. Best, Adam

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November 13, 2016, Hi Adam, The Jewish contribution to the Bolsheviks, not surprisingly, was in the relatively more educated leadership and their wives. It was less so in the illiterate Russian proletariat in the rank and file.

Actually Beria employed many Jews in high positions even while Stalin was already imprisoning them or having many Jewish communists shot after returning from the Spanish Civil War. Beria pulled them out of jail and employed them. This is testified by both Sudoplatov and Aleksandr Orlov.
 
As far as Lenin’s autopsy, this is what I think. True, the gross autopsy findings are less consistent with neurosyphilis than with atherosclerotic cerebrovascular disease. Nevertheless meningovascular syphilis can also result in endarteritis with obliteration of arterial lumens, arterial thrombosis, and ischemic necrosis of the brain parenchyma. No doubt occlusion of the left ICA accounted for his right hemiparesis and Wernicke’s aphasia observed clinically with the necrosis of the cerebral parenchyma in the left hemisphere seen pathologically. The hemorrhage in the quadrigeminal plate caused his death but again this could have resulted from inflammatory vascular changes of syphilis or atherosclerosis. No mention was made of gummas, but without microscopic sections around the involved blood vessels and brain parenchyma I don’t know if we can rule out neurosyphilis completely yet. Miguel

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Yes, that is true. I believe Molotov’s wife was Jewish, as was Yezhov’s, and I could look up a number of others that prove you right. It is untrue that Stalin married “Rosa Kaganovich” as his third wife, but I do think he had affairs with Jewish women, however. When it came to relieving his enormous sexual appetite, he did not discriminate.
 
The illiterate Russian proletariat in the rank and file were who Stalin enlisted through his role as General Secretary because they did what they were told and had no idea what the bigger picture was all about, but why did Lenin appoint Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky (a Jew) to head the team who assassinated the Czar and his family? He did not do an especially good job of it, and people to this day remember only him, not that the rest were Russian Orthodox.
 
I will read these articles you have linked me to as soon as I get a chance. Thank you for the material. I always appreciate more information on this subject.
 
No, I can’t agree with you that the hemorrhage in the region of the corpora quadrigemina was the immediate cause of death, given he [Lenin] died during status epilepticus the evening before. As you have pointed out, we need to have the clinical information along with the autopsy, and in Lenin’s case it is well documented. But, we do know the brain sections are still extant in the Russian archives and they will not release any of them to the Americans for examination, which makes no sense to me at this point. If there are questions about the histology, they would be trivial to answer even now. Best regards, Adam

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Adam, Actually although not abstinent to either, Stalin was relatively temperate as to both alcoholic drinks and women. In this regard, the best and most captivating biographies on Stalin’s personal life, remain Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Young Stalin and The Court of the Red Tsar (2003), which I strongly recommend.

We need more information. That is why you need to research and write the paper with whatever material we can get. Yes status epilepticus is one of the conditions that was reported clinically, but autopsy-wise, the little hemorrhage in the region of the corpora quadrigemina is all we can pinpoint pathologically. Psychotic behavior and delirium were also reported. There was no evidence of transtentorial herniation with swelling and edema secondary to acute infarction or hemorrhage anywhere else. Convince me with a good paper about your thesis. Cheers, Miguel

Written by Dr. Adam Bogart and Dr. Miguel Faria

Adam Bogart, PhD, is a Behavioral Neuroscientist at the Sanders Brown Center for Aging University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY. Behavioral Neuroscience Kent State University Kent, OH. Post doctoral fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center Bronx, NY. MS Immunology conjointly Adelphi University/Mount Sinai Medical Center New York City, NY.

Miguel A. Faria, MD, is an Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International (SNI). He is a retired Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History, Mercer University School of Medicine. Former member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2002-05). Realclearhistory contributor (2012-present). He is President of HaciendaPublishing.com.

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. A conversation with Dr. Adam Bogart about the Bolsheviks and Lenin’s and Stalin’s illnesses. HaciendaPublishing.com, November 21, 2016. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/a-conversation-with-dr-adam-bogart-about-the-bolsheviks-and-lenins-and-stalins-illnesses-by-miguel-a-faria-md/.

Copyright ©2016 HaciendaPublishing.com

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6 thoughts on “A conversation with Dr. Adam Bogart about the Bolsheviks and Lenin’s and Stalin’s illnesses by Miguel A. Faria, MD”

  1. Free Love Advocate?
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on June 27, 2017 — 7:29pm.

    If, as we had privately discussed, Dr. Faria, Lenin was much more of a sexual creature than he is traditionally portrayed by the Russians, why did he have such contempt for Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952; photo, below), the foremost old Bolshevik feminist who gave her body to any man she found attractive?

    I am well aware that the quote “We should make sex just like drinking a glass of water.” is wrongly attributed to her, but while officially she did not take such a hard line position on open sexuality, she did so in her private life. After Lenin died, Stalin did not get rid of her because he found it amusing to treat her as the butt of his clever but sadistic practical jokes until she died in 1952.

    Stalin wouldn’t have cared about what she did with her body, but Lenin seems to have greatly. If you believe this, then is the new idea of a “sexual Lenin” also a hypocritical Lenin?

    This may have been a private discussion about a possible paper on Lenin’s immediate cause of death, but anyone is welcome to add whatever they think, if they have any opinion on it. —ARB
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    Hi Adam, as always, you come up with intriguing ideas and questions, and I offer the explanations! There are two answers: The answer submitted by the feminism of the New Left (c. 1960s; provided the person was not the saintly Lenin, of course, but a typical chauvinistic male) is that as a man, he was a “sexist pig,” easily accommodating sexual double standards: It is OK for the man but not for the woman. And he could also be puritanical with others but not so much with himself. The other answer is that I don’t categorize Lenin, or even Stalin, as “sexual creatures.” True, Stalin had several paramours and carried a few affairs during his many long isolated exiles, and later, rarely, in his travels as Soviet leader. For his part, Lenin had a well-known mistress, Inessa Armand (1874-1920; photo, below), and may have cavorted with a few prostitutes in his travels probably contracting neurosyphilis in the process — but, I suppose, being an adolescent growing up in the late 1960s and 70s in America, I don’t consider them particularly great womanizers or “sexual creatures.”

    Stalin, amoral as he was, had no sexual hangups anyway; his sex life was kept private for political reasons. Lenin, more outspoken on the subject was a “free thinker,” as with Ms. Armand and the French prostitutes, but also puritanical, as with Ms. Kollontai, holding both ideas simultaneously, and thus hypocritical. Trotsky, incidentally, was consistently serious and puritanical on sexual matters, as the story I related to you elsewhere concerning Stalin.

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    Sexual Creatures
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on June 28, 2017 — 12:18pm.

    Yes, MAF, I confess. You are the man with all the answers, and I do enjoy reading what you have to say so much that it is the best part of my morning before work to see what your response is to an interesting query on Bolshevik or neurosurgical trivia. No fact is trivia to me, but to many it might be. I believe you feel similar. No one has ever asked me a question in my life that I thought was trivial. How could it be, if you honestly want to know?

    But you are right. From what we know, neither Lenin nor Stalin were “sexual creatures” compared to adolescents growing up even today. Far from it. In fact, so far from it that it is a bad idea to prove Lenin was not puritanical in his private life by demonstrating neurosyphilis, which was my real objection to it. Since syphilis may be acquired from the first prostitute you had an encounter with, even if you utilized a thousand. Or maybe you just utilized only that first one? So how many encounters with prostitutes did it take Lenin to contract the disorder? That we shall never know, but it is the most crucial question for a thesis trying to disprove Lenin’s puritanical portrayal in that indirect manner. Because, as I had indicated, all Wassermann reactions on the blood and CSF since 1923 were negative, but that did not mean he did not have it. The Wassermann is not specific for syphilis, and false negative are very high in tertiary forms.

    Still, as such proof is lacking, and the autopsy did not furnish any more, people who do subscribe to the neurosyphilis theory for Lenin’s demise need to make some speculation from historical (not medical) sources. I don’t blame them, and I have changed my position on it myself to an extent, but I think it is only fair to point out that this approach is not without its pitfalls either.

    PCR to test for nucleotides coding for the cell wall of T. Pallidum in a brain preserved in formalin since 1924 would likely be trustable and the only way to solve it, but as I have said, the Russians will just not allow it. They may have already done it long ago, and just never told anyone the results.

    Yes, I’ll say that 60’s feminists fit the Kollontai mode, so your answer rings true, and they were the ones who first mistakenly attributed that quote to her. But Kollontai’s Ukrainian/Finnish background gave her an exotic if not pretty face, so that odd attractiveness is what separates her from the usual Krupskaya phenotype feminist.

    True about Trotsky. He married, but beyond that, he did not seem to have any interests but power and Marxist theoretics. I remember your story, and the offense he took at Stalin’s crude remark. Actually, it wasn’t all that crude to me, but then Trotsky was a true Bolshevik! —ARB

  2. Power begets more sex
    Submitted by Isabella on June 29, 2017 — 3:47pm.

    Human beings are sexual creatures. Having said that, I might add that there are some women who will gravitate to men because those men are in positions of power. And if these women need to use sex to get closer to those men, then they will do so. Why? It might be that it is power that is the aphrodisiac, and not necessarily the man. Even Henry Kissinger famously observed, “power is an aphrodisiac.”

    In a 2012 article from Psychology Today written by Ian H. Robertson, Ph.D., in regards to Gen. David Petraeus’ peccadilloes, Robertson noted, “Both men and women who have a high need for power have sexual intercourse more often than those who have lower power needs.”

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    Sex, Bolsheviks, and the REAL point!
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on July 3, 2017 — 4:43pm.

    I forgot to add what the real point of all of this was. This is how I see it, and I think it is relevant today.

    Lenin was building a classless and sexless society. That was to him true equality. I can’t be sure about Stalin, but I am convinced that Lenin really thought he was doing what was best for the Soviet people. For him (as for most totalitarian dictators), it is always the ends that matter. If he had to shoot 50 or 100 or 1,000 people to convey his message, it didn’t matter to him because his message would be improving the lives of so many more people than that!

    If he was to have a truly egalitarian society, women would not be able to or want to use sexual advantage over men to amass power. This is essentially no different than well off people using money for the same ends, which we know the Bolsheviks wanted to halt, as that was something only the capitalists would allow.

    I believe it was upon the introduction of the new Soviet Constitution (along with the infamous Article 58) that Stalin stated, “Mistakes will be made. But the edifice we are building is so grand, that in the end they will not matter.”

    I don’t think he was lying. If you take my position, then it is quite possible that he believed as Lenin – that he was doing good for the Soviet people, and any of his actions we consider evil were not evil for him, because he could justify them the same way Lenin did his. It is an uncommon evil person who thinks they are evil. Those who revel in their evilness are mostly in the movies.

    So today, it should be obvious to you how the “sexless” society of Lenin is being built in this country by our own left. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear of it. But there is also that old Leninist contradiction —they seem to be erasing sex and gender, but at the same time promoting division of it. —ARB
    —–
    Perhaps in recognizing the devilish incitement of contradictions and mayhem, you are thinking of pandemonium: The war of all against all, class warfare, sexual and racial wars, etc. This brings about another major contradiction: The corruption of the human soul by fraudulent and evil temptations, and thus bringing about the socialist utopia, the dictatorship of the proletariat, communism as paradise on earth. We know better after the decimation of 100 million victims of totalitarian communism/socialism. For a hellish but satiric look at this, read C. S. Lewis’ masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters.

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    Controlled Pandemonium!
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on July 5, 2017 — 9:13pm.

    I think I will call it controlled pandemonium, in the same way Dmitri Volkogonov referred to the USSR under Stalin as “lawless” in his 1991 book, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy.

    Actually it was full of laws for just about everything, and even if they were not broken, they usually resulted in the same few punishments, but not usually for the highest ruling class, and never the man on top.

    Pandemonium can easily result among the average citizen under those conditions, but it can just as easily be called to a halt when the ruler pleases. It has been suggested that one reason the great purges ended is because Stalin felt they had gained so much momentum that they might just spiral out of even his control. No, terror always had to be left up to him.

    What is interesting about this is though it has been documented that Lenin had been the target of assassination attempts several times besides the famous attempt by Fanya Kaplan, Stalin likely was never an intended victim of one, except for the last one that finally killed him, and that was not conducted by ordinary citizens. To me, this suggests that his use of show trials on a massive scale compared to Lenin, plus his development of a cult of personality (which Lenin despised — hence his specific orders not to mummify him), were so effective in instilling complete faith in him from the general population, that it just wasn’t a consideration.

    At the same time, studies have indicated that it was likely that the average foreign communist (American, British, etc.) at this time believed the defendants were genuinely guilty of the charges in the trials of 1937-1938, but the average Russian did not. They could not say so, and they knew it, but it still did not prevent them from revering their leader with love.

    But Stalin and Hitler were alike in this aspect. They knew very well some segment of the population might have seen through their facade of lies, but so long as they kept these thoughts to themselves, it was unimportant to them. It only was a problem if these concerns were voiced.

    *You may see several contradictions in this comment, and it does not seem possible to write on this topic without being contradictory yourself!
    ————
    The purges of the Red Terror in the 1930s ended when Beria ended them after replacing Yezhov and the Yezhovshchina. Stalin probably realized that war may be coming, and, as pointed out by his friend Voroshilov, he had already decimated the members of the politburo and the officers of the Red Army. It was only the Red Terror of 1937-38, the purges of communists and Bolsheviks (there were none left, anyway) that stopped. The repression of the “enemies of the people, wreckers, and spies” continued. During the patriotic war, it was the turn of the soldiers themselves, especially those who had been in enemy territory or POWS, to be persecuted by the NKVD. Towards the end it was the Jews…— MAF

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    Other Perspectives on the Pandemonium
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on July 7, 2017 — 5:24pm.

    MAF, you are correct in your assessment of the Yezhovshchina.

    I do need to point out that while the mockery of justice occurring between 1936-1938 was conducted via public show trial for several undesirable classes Stalin wanted eliminated, it did not spare the ordinary citizen either, who was just as likely to be caught up in the Red Terror of that era. But for such people, he did not need the sleaze passing for evidence conjured up by Vyshinsky and Ulrich. Mere arrest was proof of guilt, and while a signed confession was desirable, it did not prevent the NKVD from passing and carrying out sentence without any trial whatsoever if one could not be obtained.

    As I had pointed out in my previous comment, studies have shown that while foreign communists were initially convinced of the guilt of the defendants, Russian citizens were much more likely to believe the trials were a ruse. Stalin was probably aware of this, and so although Russians kept quiet about it (except for the odd circumstance, such as one unknown citizen Volkogonov quotes as saying, “In Nicholas’s time they couldn’t hang enough people, now they can’t shoot enough.”) he still needed a scapegoat to place blame for the purges on in order to maintain his cult of personality. Yes, Beria may have been the one to publicly put a stop to the purges and make sure that the public also knew Yezhov was the one who was out of control, but as much power as Beria had, he could not have done this without the approval of Stalin. The powers granted Beria were formidable, but not completely plenipotentiary.

    I don’t have a copy of Volkogonov’s book on Stalin with me at present (I mean, it’s here somewhere, but if I knew anything about organization, I’d be an M.D.), but I believe it was he who first suggested that part of the reason the purges were stopped was because Stalin felt even he was losing control over them. Yes, Stalin did sense that war might be coming with Germany, and Voroshilov did give him repeated warnings (as it would appear he was the only one who could do so and not suffer severe ramifications) but I’m not sure that even Stalin originally anticipated that the purges would gobble up two of his NKVD heads who were in charge of them. That they did so with his approval is beside the point. It is this “duality of thinking” (also contradictory, which we have been previously discussing as characteristic of the Bolshevik mind) that seems to be what Stalin was employing. Just look at how long after he ended the purges it took Voroshilov to finally convince him that that he’d better do something about the Germans, as they had invaded the USSR and already killed millions. Yet, wasn’t fear of that why he ended them? That is why, by the way, I mentioned the alternative theory of why Hitler invaded Poland – because he saw evidence Stalin was about to invade it first. That you demonstrated proof that it didn’t happen that way does not mean this theory couldn’t be true. I think almost everybody would agree with you, as it has always been well known that Hitler invaded first. All that is being suggested is that there has to be more to the story, because it is so hard to believe that Stalin would be so trusting of the Germans so late in time when as you correctly point out, he realized war might be on the horizons as early as 1938.

    On that note of speculation, I would like to end this comment with a few links. The first is to a portion of the “Trial of the Twenty One” in early March of 1938.

    Here, Judge Ulrich convicts Rykov, Bukharin, and Yagoda. It is instructive to pay attention to what Ulrich finds them guilty of, and what sentence he passes for all of them. Also of note is what Prosecutor Vyshinsky finds suitable to present to the court as evidence. There is no rebuttal to this “evidence,” because not only do the defendants have no right to counsel; they have no right to be present at their own trials.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25JpnWlEfvE

    These last three are links to what I believe is the earliest documentary on Stalin produced just before the USSR crumbled. It was aired on PBS in 1990, and despite how much we have learned since then, I rarely have come across a more enjoyable, well done, and informative short historical series. There are several reasons for that, and perhaps many are a matter of personal taste, but quite a few people who would be discussed in later documentaries are still alive here and they are interviewed. All of them are such colorful characters. One such character who gives (unknowingly, I think) great insight into how she feels about her father is Svetlana Stalin. She denounces her father’s crimes in no uncertain terms, and makes this very clear, but it is striking how she gives one the feeling that she would rather not have to say anything about him, and if only people would leave the whole terrible subject be………

    I know there was a great rift between them, but it almost seems to me that she still loves him. I would not be surprised if she lacked a considerable amount of self insight, but it is well known how much he adored her, and being adored by Stalin was not something very common. So, Svetlana holding a life long ambivalent attitude towards her father and not completely appreciating it would not be that shocking. Well, here are the links if anyone would like to see this series:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK8NhPPLmuA
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pc_qWNsV9w
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HFSnmUUs7k

    BTW, some of the material in this series on the purges of the late 1930’s and the early history of the Great Patriotic War fits in well with this comment, and it is not so dated as one might expect. In fact, I think some of what is discussed in it is far ahead of its time.
    Best to All,
    Adam
    —————-
    Andrey Vyshinsky (1883-1954), as you know was a Menshevik that Stalin spared, knowing he could be used and did. He eventually served as Foreign Minister (1949-1954) and survived Stalin by one year. He was minister as Alexandra Kollontai also served as cultural ambassador to various countries. Truly, Sovietologist could not find a better fountain of interesting knowledge on Stalinism, Leninism, communism, and the USSR than at this website! Thanks, Adam, for your fascinating comments.—MAF

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    A short additon to Vyshinksy et al….
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on July 9, 2017 — 9:27am.

    Yes, and not only that, but Vyshinksy had been one of those who signed an arrest warrant for Lenin in 1917, when Kerensky was still in power. To think of how many thousands were purged for so much less, and with Vyshinksy making the case against them!

    As for Kollontai being cultural ambassador, I think that was one way Stalin enjoyed screwing (no pun intended) with her. He believed that sort of position amounted to practically nothing, and she knew it. —ARB

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    True, power begets more sex, but…
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on June 30, 2017 — 5:53pm.

    Isabella,
    There is no doubt of what you say. Personally, if a woman has anything she can use (brain or body or both) to get closer to a power source, I think that is fair because those “power sources” used whatever talents (good and evil) they were granted to gain their power.

    But this is not a discussion on the women; it is a discussion on whether Bolsheviks were able to avoid that method of power climbing, as that is how they portrayed themselves in early Soviet Russia. My conclusion is that it seems like a lot of them more or less did, because as Dr. Faria points out, neither Lenin nor Stalin would be considered womanizers by even the standards of their day.

    There were many who would be considered womanizers in that era of Soviet history, but not the highest leadership. One good example is an alleged quote from Stalin: “What shall we do? We shall envy!” Что делать будем? Завидовать будем!

    Rumored to be said after receiving a report about Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky’s inappropriately large number of female lovers. (Wikiquote talk: Joseph Stalin)

    He didn’t care what the NKVD said Rokossovsky was doing, but yet he probably did not indulge in nearly as many encounters as did Rokossovsky. He jokes about it; he is not jealous or offended. Rokossovsky was not even a Russian, but a Pole. Not all Russian Bolsheviks appreciated this. Stalin wasn’t Russian either, but over the course of his time as leadership, he seems to have developed distinct feelings of Russian nationalism, nonetheless.

    If Dr. Faria is reading this, I would like to point out that in Stalin (1992), Stalin is awoken with a woman in his bed on 9 Nov 1932 to come see his wife’s body with a bullet in her head. This is not the only casual portrayal of Stalin satisfying sexual desires as they arose in that movie. Funny enough, another might be when 17-year-old Nadezhda Alliluyeva reveals to him on a train that she has memorized some of his poetry he wrote in exile. It was fairly good Georgian poetry.

    I myself have pointed out numerous minor historical inaccuracies in this movie, so I am not saying that is really what happened, but I am saying those who wrote the script somehow developed a similar notion of Stalin’s sexuality as I did.

    Best Regards to All,
    Adam

  3. Forensic Musings on the suicide of Nadezhda Alliluyeva
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on February 28, 2017 — 6:37pm.

    It is often said that Stalin’s second wife, Nadezhda Sergeevna Alliluyeva (1901-1932; photo, below), had a tremendous argument with him in November 1932 because he and his cronies were celebrating the 15th anniversary of the October 1917 revolution too lavishly for communists, while she saw how poorly the general population was living.

    This is why Stalin did not want his wife to get a college education. He knew she would see how badly the people were being treated, and how well the party elite lived. She was found with a bullet in her head the next morning. I believe Stalin loved her in his own way, but he certainly was capable of murdering his own wife because she embarrassed him in public.

    But the other camp in this matter believes she committed suicide. She was a devoted communist and unlike Stalin, really cared about the common Soviet people. Her economic ideas may have been a bit kooky, but unlike him, she possessed the faculty of being human. It is easy to see her killing herself when she saw what the communist system really was like. It shattered all of her ideals.

    From all I can tell, she was buried without an autopsy, as the cause of death seemed clear. Gunshot to the brain. I’ve no doubt that was the cause of death. What I wonder is why her body is not exhumed? It is probably little more than a skeleton now, but I am betting the wound in the skull bones would tell us where the shot was fired from and how close it was fired from. Also, the angle, and whether it is consistent with suicide.

    In the USA, this is such a common problem dealt with by the police and medical examiners all the time. MSCT can reconstruct a bullet trajectory with great accuracy, even if the soft tissues have long disappeared. It is not a big deal, radiologically speaking. Yet, this is still a fascinating question for many historians.

    Why not solve it once and for all? Get the body! Or could it be the Russians don’t think like us? They don’t care or they do not like disturbing corpses? I just don’t get it. Who would stand to benefit or lose by whatever was found in that coffin? Anyone that possibly could has long since died themselves.

    Further research has uncovered a solitary claim that she was autopsied and the pathologist in 1932 found the bullet to have been fired from a distance of 4 meters, indicating that Stalin likely did kill her. The doctor was executed following a show trial shortly after his report. I am not sure I believe this, as why would Stalin allow any autopsy, if he knew they would find that? But still, exhumation would show the autopsy cuts in the skull if this were the case. This scene is reconstructed in the 1992 movie Stalin with Julia Ormond as Nadezhda.

    The historical faithfulness is commendable, but even here the movie lets the viewer draw their own conclusion as to how she was shot. —ARB
    ——–
    Dr Faria replies: Very true Adam. But I believe the Russians want to leave their communist sordid past behind and don’t want to uncover the buried wrecks of communism. They don’t want it “thrown back on their faces.” This is nicely stated by the young, urbane, good guy SVF chief in the masterpiece film Archangel (2008) with Daniel Craig, whose review is also noted under the same link above on Hacienda’s Random Notes: Classic Movies and Documentaries.

    Incidentally, Adam, Nadezhda committed suicide at Stalin’s home at the time, the exuberant Poteshnye Palace (“Palace of Amusement”) built by Peter the Great’s father, Tsar Alexei (1645-1676), the second Romanov Tsar. The best narrative on the incident is found in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s tour de force, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003). Great comment!—MAF

    —————————————–

    Nadezhda’ skull, Soviet executions
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on March 4, 2017 — 5:31am.

    Hi Miguel,
    I am trying to figure this out. You seem to agree a physical examination of the skull and CT scans of it will tell us what we need to know about the distance and angle of the shot (and obviously, that we hardly need the brain), but what is your “legal” opinion? Do you personally believe she committed suicide or that he might have killed her? I was never sure, even now.

    There are, of course, many Russians who do wonder about it (you can see this if you read some Russian accounts of the incident), but I suppose you mean the overriding desires of the population to rid themselves of their horrid past.

    There is also what you have referred to in the past — why non-physicians (or even non-scientists) cannot be medical historians. This is why it is hard to determine many of the medical aspects of the sick Soviet leaders we have been discussing, because the popular literature is either obviously wrong or at least inconsistent.

    I believe it was in Sebag Montefiore’s book (but I could be wrong) that I first read of Yezhov appropriating Yagoda’s property for himself while Yagoda was being prepared for show trial. Two gruesome items he found were the bullets extracted from Kamenev’s and Zinoviev’s brains after their executions. I don’t doubt a man like Yagoda would want these as keepsakes, but since I read that, I have read numerous account of the same story, and all claim the bullets were removed from the brains.

    I find this hard to believe, as most of the Soviet executions following “conviction” were carried out by gunshot at point black range to the back of the head. Now, I have seen photographs of various skulls exhumed after Soviet murder in this fashion (such as those found by the Germans in Katyn) and all show frontal or temporal exit wounds with no bullet left inside the head. Nazi pathologists noted this. Of course, Hitler was not attempting to obtain justice for the Poles, but rather pin (and rightfully so – maybe the one thing Hitler ever did do right) the crimes on Stalin. By the 1930’s, pistols were powerful enough that they caused perforating wounds at point blank range as opposed to penetrating ones.

    In contrast, Abraham Lincoln’s autopsy report after a point blank shot to the back of his head shows the bullet only had enough kinetic energy to land in the anterior frontal white matter and fracture the orbital plates (yes, I know these plates may be fractured by a bullet to the brain from anywhere, but not in his case – it was almost direct). The longitudinal sinus was opened, but that is only because the bullet entered near that area. My point is that the Derringer ball in those days did not have the kinetic energy to exit.

    So I wonder if these bullets Yezhov took really needed to be removed from the brains, or Yagoda just picked them up off the floor? It is more sensational to say they were still in the brains, but is it scientifically accurate? A journalist or pure historian would never question that. —ARB
    ——–
    Dr. Faria replies: As for Nadezhda, it is almost certain that she committed suicide. She was a devoted communist, a true believer, with blind faith in the falsities of communism and the utopia of the Workers Paradise. Yet, she had seen the lies under Stalinism, the mass starvation, the purges and elimination of friends as “enemies of the people,” etc. It was more than she could bear and besides, she had a history of instability and depression. Stalin made her life miserable on purpose and on top of everything else and drove her to suicide!

    I don’t think you read about this gruesome bullet details in Montefiore’s books, but details are sprinkled throughout several narratives as braggadocio and mementos of their evil deeds. Nevertheless as to specifics, without radiographic evidence or examination of the skulls, we cannot ascertain whether the bullets were picked up from the floor or from inside the skulls. The assassins may have used different types of pistols, British, German or Russian of different calibers.

    All the NKVD chiefs — Yagoda, Yezhov, Beria, etc., ultimately paid with they own lives

    My reviews of Beria and Yezhov’s biographies may be instructive in some of these details. My information on the Katyn Forest massacre of the Polish officers by the NKVD, which you have read, is graphic but excellent intelligence on methods and ballistics.

    ————————————————

    The mass executioner: NKVD officer Vasily Mikhailovich Blokhin!
    Submitted by Adam R. Bogart PhD on March 6, 2017 — 2:17am.

    Your commentary on the Katyn massacre was excellent, as always. I learned several interesting aspects about it I was not aware of, but pertinent to this conversation is the chief executioner Vasili Mikhailovich Blokhin (1895-1955), who set the “Stakhanovite” quota for the killing of the officers, as you mentioned. The calculations indicate Blokhin (photo, below) killed one Polish officer every three minutes with a shot to the back of the head.

    For technical reasons, he brought his own German Walther pistols to carry out the job, but I am not clear what he used back home in Russia to dispose of those convicted during the great purges of 1936-1937. Also, it was thought best that if the corpses were found, the deaths could be linked to German bullets.

    Blokhin is believed to have been the man who shot Yagoda and Yezhov, as well as most of the prominent old Bolsheviks who were convicted by Judge V.V. Ulrich, and tried by Stalin’s greasy prosecutor Andrei Vyshinksy. Those would include G. Zinoviev and L. Kamenev.

    So as I had mentioned some time ago, I enjoyed the 1992 movie Stalin immensely, but I said Beria kept popping up in odd places where he should not have been historically. I meant particularly when he is seen performing the executions Blokhin had actually done.

    Now, given that (as I also said previously) the Katyn skulls all show exit woulds with multiple fractures, we can reasonably assume the bullets did exit Kamenev’s and Zinoviev’s heads if we can determine whether Blokhin preferred his private Walther pistols in Moscow, or used the standard Soviet issued TT-30s.

    I would find this an interesting little exercise.
    ————
    Dr Faria replies: click here to view the gruesome story of Blokhin and how he carried out his work!

  4. Dr. Adam R. Bogart

    Just to update my thoughts on Lenin: it is because he did not display the typical signs of tertiary cerebral syphilis that I am still on the fence after the almost five years since this article appeared on the Hacienda Publishing website. I’m aware that he was hemiplegic and partially aphasic, though it was aphasia of some sort of mixed variety. Probably it was largely Broca’s area that had been injured by the strokes, but the lesions seemed big enough that part of the underlying arcuate fasciculus must have also suffered. Of course, the right side of Lenin’s body must have displayed the typical upper motor neuron signs associated with spastic hemiplegia, but in the paretic, I would expect as a minimum that all deep reflexes are exaggerated and the eye grounds reveal primary optic atrophy, reflecting the same type of axonal damage that is occurring in the brain.

    At the same time, I was making a mistake in 2016 by assuming that if Lenin had syphilis of the brain, that by necessity meant he had General Paralysis. Why would he? His behavior certainly did not seem that of a paretic. Not that all become grandiose, or riddled with delusions and hallucinations, but enough do so that we might say he would be an unusual case if he did have GPI. Lenin was never truly grandiose, he just was what he was. In fact when dying, his thoughts remained crystal clear and firmly grounded in reality when considering the problem of Stalin and Trotsky, neither of whom he saw fit to succeed him.

    Plus, there are the admittedly scant records of the countless neurologists, ophthalmologists, and psychiatrists who examined his dating back to 1900 rule out primary atrophy of the optic nerves and upper motor signs not directly attributable to the right hemiplegia, first noted in December 1921. Paretics often exhibit speech difficulties, but of the pseudo bulbar type, because the infection causes destruction of the pyramidal tracts bilaterally. That’s not aphasia, and a right sided [only] hemiplegic would not have pseudo bulbar signs or aphasia if there were sparing of the speech centers.

    So yes, you are right, Dr. Faria. Lenin may have had a meningo-vascular syphilis without any behavioral component past that of what we see in cases with considerable loss of cerebral substance in both man and animal (unless, as proved by a former professor of mine [in monkeys], a large lesion is created by a huge number of tiny ablative surgeries). I couldn’t say for sure though, because that would never explain the massive vascular calcification and atherosclerosis found at the autopsy. He was only 54, and his early death by this pernicious disease mirrored that of his father and at least one other brother. It is now believed by some that this was a genetic disorder which afflicted the family tree on Lenin’s father’s side. I am much more inclined to believe this.

    1. “…in the two years before he died, Lenin had three debilitating strokes. Prominent European doctors were consulted and proposed a variety of diagnoses: nervous exhaustion, chronic lead intoxication from the two bullets lodged in his body, cerebral arteriosclerosis and “endarteritis luetica.”

      “Dr. Vinters speculates that the last term referred to meningovascular syphilis, inflammation of the walls of blood vessels mainly around the brain, resulting in a thickening of the interior of the vessel. But there was no evidence of this on autopsy, and Lenin’s syphilis test was said to have been negative. He had been treated anyway with injections of a solution containing arsenic, the prevailing syphilis remedy. Then, in his last hours and days of his life, Lenin experienced severe seizures.

      “An autopsy revealed a near total obstruction of the arteries leading to the brain, some of which were narrowed to tiny slits. But Lenin did not have some of the traditional risk factors for strokes. He did not have untreated high blood pressure — had that been his problem, the left side of his heart would have been enlarged. He did not smoke and would not tolerate smoking in his presence. He drank only occasionally and exercised regularly. He did not have symptoms of a brain infection, nor did he have a brain tumor… https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/health/research/lenins-death-remains-a-mystery-for-doctors.html

      In reading the whole article here, we can reach another potential diagnosis — poisoning on top of everything else, by who? Stalin, who had complete access, of course. But besides poisoning, seizures can also be precipitated by Luetic paresis… so we may have gone full circle, my friend Adam.— Dr Miguel Faria

      1. All true, Miguel, and I noted that the Wasserman reaction was often falsely negative in tertiary cases when the CSF and blood were tested. So I don’t put any faith in that, but it is true that Lenin was treated with neo-arsphenamine, which was safer than direct arsenical preparations, but still not without danger. Its working molecule was still arsenic. If Stalin wanted to poison him, he could have used the Salvarsan. He was in charge of Lenin’s medical care, so no one would question if he claimed the doctors increased the dosage. Or maybe he would increase it and tell no one. Against this is the lack of findings of arsenic poisoning at the autopsy, such as gross and severe intestinal spasm.

        You are correct. Endarteritis luetica is “neuro-lues”, in particular of the cerebral vasculature. However, it really isn’t a clinical diagnosis, so if calcification and atheromatous vessels were found at the autopsy, those would be the findings I trust.

        As for the bullets, we had previously touched on those. For whatever reason Lenin’s course went rapidly downhill after the bullet lodged in his neck was removed in April 1922. That could be coincidence but my interest was in the x-rays taken to localize the bullet before surgery. For the strangest reason, the very thorough autopsy report doesn’t mention the state of the common carotids in the neck. There is no reason they should not have calcification and atherosclerosis reflecting what was described in the internal carotids. X-rays in this area will often show such calcification, as dentists well know from pantomograms of the jaws, still popular today. If these x-rays still exist somewhere in Russia, they would be invaluable as a piece to this puzzle. I haven’t the slightest idea how to inquire about them, or even to who!

        Now if the genetic hypothesis of Lenin’s illness is correct, then no risk factors for cerebrovascular disease on Lenin’s part are needed!

        Adam

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