Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Prof. R Tucker


Q: Moving closer to Stalin's death, how did Stalin's fear of plots against him, how did that come out in the pand in the atmosphere of the time and moving on to the do' plot. Can you describe how these last years of Stalin's life showed themselves?

A: The last years of Stalin's life showed themselves I think above all in xenophobia. There was a huge campaign against all things foreign. Against writers; Soviet writers, prominent ones, who had in one way or another failed to show the proper attitude toward the west, which was an attitude of being supremely non - anti western; who accused of being persons who cow-towed to all things foreign, and I would say that this was a master theme of those years, approximately from 1948 through for five years until Stalin died in 1953, and that the case of the Kremlin doctors was the supreme final manifestation of this xenophobia. In the case of the Kremlin doctors, which was announced in the Soviet press on the 13th of January, 1953, a group of now arrested Kremlin doctors - most of them having been Jewish, were accused of having acted with the help of a foreign Jewish organisation called the 'Joint' Distribution Committee, which was active during the war, at the behest of the Anglo American Intelligence Services, to shorten the lives of Soviet leaders. And the doctors were accused of having shortened the lives of two prominent Soviet leaders, one named Shcherbakov who had died in 1945, and the other Andre Zhadanov, a Member of Stalin's Politburo who had died apparently of heart failure in 1948. And to have aimed to shorten the lives of prominent military figures - Generals. And so a plot was announced as having taken place and been foiled by the arrest of these doctors who obviously were being prepared for some kind of being shown in a trial - a show trial, confessing to their guilt. And this was a guilt that involved British and the American governments. After all the intelligence services in America are parts of their government, so we have to see that this was not merely an internal event that was occurring, but was very much a part of the Cold War.

Q: Was it madness?

A: Numbers of psychiatrists in the late 1980s in Russia, and some in this country now, studying the material, feel that in those final months of his life, may be even the final year or two of his life, Stalin was what they call clinically paranoid. That he'd passed beyond the stage of paranoia in which one is in full control of one's resources, in command of oneself, into a stage where that command of oneself is no longer present. I myself am somewhat dubious of that view. I have no psychiatric expertise, but various indications are that toward the very end of his life Stalin was still - even though plotting against those alleged to be plotting against him, was doing it in a logical, rational way. For example no more than a week before he died we know - this was in late February 1953, he called in a high level security Soviet security man who would long, long decades later, publish his memoirs about the subject in the west and passed on to him a plan to have Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia assassinated in Belgrade, by somebody who would walk into his office with a bomb and blow himself up along with Tito. And Stalin asked this man, security service man what he thought of it and he said he didn't think the plan was properly conceived and didn't think it would work. And - but at that late time, a matter of a week or so before Stalin died, he was still functioning. It wasn't as though he were lying in bed having hysteria.

Q: What was the response of the American community at this time? Were you seriously fearful of what was happening with the whole doctors' plot? Was this seen as some kind of crisis because of what was happening within the Kremlin and within Stalin's mind in particular?

A: I think the American community was deeply, deeply concerned and worried about the events that were taking place in the last few months and weeks of Stalin's life. It needs to be remembered that we had no Ambassador in Moscow at the time. That in September 1952 Ambassador Kennan who'd come back in 1951 as our Ambassador, had left Moscow on this way to London for a meeting of American Ambassadors and had made a statement to the press in Berlin in which he compared his situation in Moscow as ambassador and that of the Americans in Moscow, to the time of his internment in Hitler's Germany where he'd been serving as a diplomat at the time that Hitler declared war on us in 1941. This news of course was a sensation and immediately got back to Moscow and a day or so later he was declared persona no gratia. We had no Ambassador; we had a charge d'affairs, Jacob Beam. The Embassy by then was a very small embassy. Not very many people in it. things seemed to be going from bad to worse. One didn't know from day to day how much worse they could get. There was simply no way of knowing. Later, we learned, but much later, that there was in preparation a trial of the doctor murderers as they were called in the Soviet media and that this trial would be followed by pogroms against Jews in Moscow, Leningrad and other major cities of European Russia, followed by their mass deportation into the Siberian interior. In short there was going to be a Stalinist version of a semi 'final solution' for the Jews of the Soviet Union. All of this was in prospect. We had no way of knowing in February and the beginning of March, 1953, that this is what was coming but we knew that bad things were coming.

Q: I'd like to move on to a more personal note. In 1947 there's the Anti-marriage Act and you yourself are - tell me about how it was that you married a Russian citizen and what this actually did to your life and how you were affected by the politics of this crazy time?


Q: Professor Tucker, tell me something about how your personal life were affected by this climate and this time in your work in Russia?

A: It had just happened that I became a witness of those years. Staying on in Moscow, rather than going home after the war, as I'd planned to do in 1946, because I'd met a Russian girl before that. She was a student in the Moscow Pedagogical Institute, the Language and Literature faculty, and in 1945, during this whole friendly period one would meet and be with Russians, that was still possible for foreigners. We went to the theatre, I was introduced to her parents and their small, one room apartment - she was the only child. Her name was Yvegenia Pestratsova and so we became close friends and in 1946 we married. At that time it had been customary for the Soviet government, every six months or so, to issue (clears throat) a set of visas, exit visas for wives of - Russian wives of foreigners, including Americans, and so when one would marry the assumption was that within a few months one's wife would receive an exist visa to accompany you home, and it was about time for me to be going home so I was looking forward to Eugenia being able to come home with me later in 1946. Instead what happened is that on March 12, 1947, there appeared in the official gazette of the - the laws.

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