Q: What was the response sir to the Marshall Plan?
A: Stalin's response after a complicated and little bit uncertain initial period during which he may have divided ideas, uncertainty about it, was a strong no to the Marshall Plan. A no not only on behalf of his country but on behalf of those countries that he now controlled in eastern Europe including Czechoslovakia which hadn't quite yet brought under - been brought under full control as it would be in February 1948. That in itself being perhaps an outgrowth of the response to the Marshall Plan or non-response to the Marshall Plan. So that we can see the formation of the Cominform and the important speech given by Zhadanov in September 1947 in Poland, the declaration of a Europe divided into opposing systems and opposing camps as Stalin's response to the Marshall Plan.
Q: I'll keep on the global political issues and come down to the question of the anti-marriage Act and so on later on. Can we move on to 1949 and Stalin's 70th birthday. How was it celebrated - what did it mean and what did it say?
A: The celebration of Stalin's 70th birthday in December 1949, was presented in the Soviet media as an enormously important event. The celebration itself was held, I think I may be right in this - on the Bolshoi Theatre, rather than in the Kremlin, and of course he was the prime person present, and speeches were given and in the aftermath of the event a special museum of presents to Comrade Stalin on his 70th birthday was set up in Moscow; presents having come not only from different parts of Russia but from all over the world. Not only did the celebration take place during December - round December 21, his official birthday, but in the aftermath of the celebration for weeks and weeks the papers printed long lists in fine print of perhaps each day fifty to seventy-five names of organisations that had sent greetings to Comrade Stalin on his 70th birthday, so long after the 70th birthday the public was being reminded of the 70th birthday as the major event that had occurred.
Q: Why would this be? Why would there be that sort of coverage? Why would Stalin want it, why would it actually happen?
A: This event could be looked upon as the culminating event of what came later to be called 'Stalin's cult of personality.' In this event his greatness as a leader, his greatness in early life as a Revolutionary, Supreme military genius in the Second World War were all over and over again spelled by high level people, by Generals, by others in tributes to him. And this event must have been for him in some sense a culmination. A recognition of the genius that he ascribed to himself. We have abundant evidence that came out beginning with the secret speech that Khrushchev gave in 1956, at the 20th Party Congress in Moscow, that this image of Stalin as Stalin the great, Stalin the grandiose was something in which Stalin sincerely believed. And therefore the event, the 70th birthday celebration was a recognition of the Stalin that he believed himself to be.
Q: It's an odd thing to contemplate and deal with. Tell me you haven't mentioned the gulag or this - what was the present, was it anything like the 30s, how did this affect the way in which Stalin was seen and discussions went on? I mean what was the presence of the regime in terms of stifling discussion and in causing people worry? Can you say something about that for us?
A: It was dangerous for anyone to open his or her mouth to say anything whatever to anyone other than a trusted family member, or a completely trusted friend, that in any way negated the official party line that was put out daily in many, many newspapers, the official position of the Stalin regime. To say anything in the slightest bit contradictory to that was dangerous because one could be turned in, one could be reported to have said such a thing and then one would disappear. So that the most elementary sense of safety and survival dictated to any sensible Russian to keep his or her mouth shut.
Q: How did people cope with people disappearing?
A: Did people cope with tragedy?
Q: How did people cope with that sort of tragedy with people just disappearing? Did you acknowledge it, did people not acknowledge it?
A: Well this was something that the foreigner in Moscow didn't really know because he was not likely to be acquainted with such families. So what we know about the way in which people coped with the disappearances of people who were close to them is that they grieved; that in some cases if it was, let us say, a wife who remained efforts would be made to send clothing or food to the arrested, imprisoned one in the gulag or letters that all people who knew about this tragic event would be even more careful in the future never to say a word to anybody.
Q: Can you tell me something as you saw it or as you know it about Stalin's treatments of his colleagues still at this time and indeed of his wife's sisters. Was anybody aware that this was going on? Were you aware in the embassy that it was going on or in your work rather as a reviewer of press material at this time?
A: No these matters having to do with Stalin's treatment of his wife, of his no longer living wife's sisters, one of whom had published a book of reminiscences, family reminiscences that he disliked, they arrested that person, solitary confinement for ten years, that kind of punishment. In 1949, I believe it was, Molotovo's wife was sent into exile. The wife of Kalinin, who was technically the President of the Soviet Union, as head of the President of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, was in exile for years and while he sat around in the table in the Politburo with Stalin, as did Molotov, and these wives were simply gone. And they were not mistreated in the terrible and vicious ways that ordinary inhabitants of the gulag - inmates of the gulag were. That is to say they lived to return, especially in the case of Molotov's wife. But it gives us some idea of the Stalin of the final years.
Q: None of this information was public or was known - could you comment on that void in life as far as the newspapers, is there anything you can say like that?
A: Information concerning what was happening to members of the families of members of the Politburo was simply not available. It was - nothing of this kind was published in the media. Foreigners, including high level foreigners, ambassadors had no way of knowing in 1950 that Molotov's wife was in exile. That Molotov himself would only arrange to have her brought back as soon as Stalin died. Not until Stalin died could Molotov have his wife back.