RUSSIAN COMMUNISM AFTER STALIN
THE death of Stalin lifted from the Russian people a massive burden of fear which had weighed upon them for more than two decades. His had been a rule of terror, with the dreaded secret police watching and spying in every sector of Russian life. Set against the universal fear inspired by the purges and liquidations there was, however, an awed admiration for Stalin as the leader under whom Russia had acquired a powerful heavy industry and had emerged victorious from a desperately fought war. On the morrow of the entry of the Russian army into Berlin it is probable that feelings of admiration exceeded those of repulsion among the great majority of Russians. But by 1953 there was a general desire, both among the masses and in the Party itself, for a more relaxed way of living, and when the preliminary exposure of the "Doctors' Plot" indicated that a great new purge was about to begin, alarm and despondency spread through all the population. In the midst of a growing anxiety about what the future was about to bring, Stalin had a cerebral haemorrhage and died.
"Destalinization" began almost immediately. The Doctors' Plot was declared to have been fabricated by the secret police. Since it implicated leading members of the Party, Stalin's successors could not do otherwise than declare the evidence to be false. But by so doing they discredited the secret police to a degree which could not but greatly reduce their status and power. Since the instrument was thus damaged, it became harder for anyone, however much he might wish to do so, to carry on the government by the methods Stalin had used.