Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Chapter 15
Without Stalin: The New Public Atmosphere

Two hundred people gathered around the Mausoleum. It was cold. Everyone thought that the sarcophagus with Stalin's body would be carried out through the main entrance. Nobody noticed the wooden screens to the left of the Mausoleum, electric lights burning over them.

Late in the evening a covered military truck approached the Mausoleum from the right. Someone shouted: "They are moving him!" The soldiers carried a glass coffin through a side door of the Mausoleum and loaded it onto the truck. And then we saw behind the screens soldiers digging a grave. There were no cameras or TV reporters around the Mausoleum at that time. 1

These are the journalist Viktor Strelkov's memories of the second burial of Stalin [when he was expelled from the Mausoleum, 1961-- H.R.], not at all like the one that took place in 1953. Pravda announced Stalin's death on 6 March. Ilia Ehrenburg recalls his feelings that day: "I began to wonder: what will become of us now? But I could not think. I felt what many of my compatriots likely felt at the time: I was numb." 2

And then there was Trubnaia Square in Moscow [where a procession gathered to walk to the Hall of Columns in order to view the body--H.R.]. Poet Yevgenii Yevtushenko was there.

The breathing of tens of thousands of people huddled together formed such a thick white cloud above the crowd that the naked limbs of the swaying trees were reflected in it. It was an eerie, fantastic spectacle. People gathering in the rear of this crowd put ever more pressure on it. The crowd turned into a terrible maelstrom. Suddenly I felt that I was

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