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Friday, March 6, 1953
Lines 2 miles long wait at Stalin bier
By HENRY SHAPIRO
MOSCOW, March 6, 1953 (UP) -- Moscow's millions swarmed to the trade union building in the center of the city today to view the body of Josef Stalin as it lay in state awaiting the greatest funeral in Russian history.
The streets were black with sorrowful people, weeping and murmuring prayers. They stretched in lines two miles long, 50 abreast, awaiting their chance to honor the man who died at 9:50 p.m. yesterday after leading them for 29 years.
Stalin's body was taken from Kremlin, where he died in his four-room apartment with members of his family and the government around his bed, to the great Hall of Columns of trade union building five minutes' walk away.
The body lay in an open bier on top of a black-framed catafalque. It was clad in Stalin's marshal's uniform with only one of his innumerable decorations on the breast. It was the decoration of the hero of Socialist labor.
Wreaths of fresh flowers almost smothered the catafalque.
At 4 p.m. the doors were thrown open. Men, women, children, who had waited for hours in the biting sub-zero cold began shuffling past the bier.
Around the catafalque stood guard members of all the branches of the armed services in full dress uniforms, like breathing statues.
Military orchestras played funeral dirges and other compositions by Stalin's favorite composers, Glinka and Tschaikovsky.
It was in the same hall that the body of Lenin, Stalin's predecessor and father of communism, had lain in 1924.
Russia's people heard of their leader's death at about 4:05 a.m. today.
The announcement had come over the radio in the form of a statement by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Cabinet and the Presidium of the Supreme Council of Parliament. A medical bulletin detailing the death followed.
The official statement contained a warning to any country that might attack Russia in the wake of Stalin's death.
But the statement said also that Russia wants peace and "international collaboration and the development of business-like relations with all countries."
Thousands of messages from heads of state, Communist Party branches and individuals began flooding the Moscow communications centers.
Among first ones from notables were those of Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese Communist leader, President Bolewet Beirut of Poland, President Klement Gottwald of Czechoslavakia, and French Communist Leader Maurice Thores.
A black-bordered portrait of Stalin was mounted above the portals of the union building. It depicts Stalin in his marshal's uniform, wearing a single decoration - hero of Socialist labor. No date has been yet set for the delivery of the funeral oration.
A seven-man committee has been named to handle the funeral arrangements. The group includes prominent leaders of the War Ministry, the Communist Party and the Supreme Soviet.
All Moscow is in mourning. Black-bordered flags fly from private and public buildings. At foreign embassies, including the American, the national colors are at half-staff. The Moscow radio, which several hours ago sent out the news of Stalin's death, is broadcasting heroic Russian folk songs and symphonic music on tragic themes.
U.S. Charge d'Affaires Jacob Beam was among the foreign diplomats who arranged to call at the Foreign Ministry today to offer condolences.
News of Stalin's death was withheld for more than six hours. Nightshift workers organized factory meetings, pledging themselves to new efforts to fulfill the present five-year plan and to reach the goal laid down in a statement of the Council of Ministers and the Central Committee. All entertainment programs were canceled.
Over the Moscow Radio home service came the chimes of the Kremlin and the Soviet national anthem. Then the senior Moscow announcer began reading the full statement put out by the Central Committee, the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Soviet Presidium.
It announced "with profound sorrow" Stalin's death.
It said that "in these sorrowful days, all peoples of our country are rallying even closer in the great fraternal family under the tested leadership of the Communist Party, created by Lenin and Stalin."
(In London it was recalled that Stalin, as successor to Lenin, delivered his funeral oration. It was speculated that Stalin's successor might be disclosed similarly. Most speculation centered on Georgi Malenkov.)
The official government and party statement said that "together with Lenin, Comrade Stalin created a mighty party of communism, reared and forged the party. Together with Lenin, Comrade Stalin was the inspirer and leader of the great October Socialist revolution, founder of the world's first Socialist state."
It said he had "led our country to victory over facism in World War II which brought a radical change in the entire international scene."
And it said this about foreign policy.
"The foreign policy of the Communist Party and the government of the Soviet Union has always been and always is the policy of maintaining peace, the struggle against preparation and unleashing of another war, the policy of international collaboration and the development of businesslike relations with all countries.
"The people of the Soviet Union ... strengthen and develop... friendly relations with workers of the capitalist and colonial countries fighting for the cause of peace, democracy and socialism."
And then, "In these sorrowful days," it appealed to the party and the people to "rally even closer around the Central Committee and the Soviet government" and to "mobilize all their forces and creative energy in the great cause of building communism in our land."
The nine doctors under the direction of Health Minister A.L. Tretyakov who had battled desperately to save Stalin's life, issued a fourth and final bulletin shortly after his death.
It was titled:
"Medical diagnosis of illness and death of J.V. Stalin."
They had used both modern and ancient methods in their attempt to save him - ranging from oxygen and penicillin to leeches to draw blood.
Their three previous bulletins had described in exhaustive detail changes in pulse, temperature and respiration and the emergency steps they had taken.
The fourth bulletin said that during Thursday Stalin suffered "constant attacks" of the heart and its great artery.
"In the afternoon of March 5 the condition of the patient deteriorated rapidly, respiration became shallow, the pulse rate reached 140-150 beats a minute; pulse pressure dropped.
"At 9:30 p.m., with cardiac failure growing, J.V. Stalin died."
It was the end of two stunned and anxious days for the Russian people. News of Stalin's illness had been withheld from them for 48 hours and when it finally broke early Tuesday many at first refused to believe.
To those who had grown up since the revolution of 1917 it was almost inconceivable that Stalin could be taken ill.
Thousands wept unashamedly in the streets.
On Stalin's last day, Christian, Buddhist and Jew prayed for him.
The committee named to handle the funeral arrangements included:
N.S. Khrushchev, Communist Party secretary and member of the party presidium.
L.N. Kaganovich, vice chairman of the Council of Ministers.
N.N. Shvernik, chairman of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet.
Marshal A.M. Vasllevaky, minister of war.
N.M. Pegov, member of the party secretariat.
Col. Gen. P.A. Artemyev, commander of the Moscow garrison.
M.A. Yasnov, member of the Central Committee.
Copyright 2007 by United Press International.