A conversation with Dr. Adam Bogart about the Bolsheviks and Lenin's and Stalin’s illnesses

Exclusive for HaciendaPublishing.com
Article Type: 
Published Date: 
Monday, November 21, 2016

November 12, 2016, Hi Miguel, Food for thought [“Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev (1857–1927): Strange Circumstances Surrounding the Death of the Great Russian Neurologist” by Kesselring J] … It seems either Stalin or some of his colleagues consulted a neurologist about his withered arm in 1927, and the neurologist made a dx. of syringomyelia. [But] it is usually attributed by historians to either beatings by his father or childhood infection of some sort. But as you say, historians cannot be doctors [or medical scientists!].

Stalin and LeninIt could be Stalin actually wanted to find out if anything could be done for the arm, because he was so embarrassed by it. We know a few of his toes were webbed on one foot, and he was so embarrassed about that, he always wore boots even when swimming!

Unfortunately, the neurologist was somewhat ignorant of the conditions of the USSR in this era, and added a short psychiatric note as well. Looks like we have another case of poisoning by Stalin, not of him… In the meantime I will be searching for Lenin's autopsy report. Best regards, — Adam


November 12, 2016, Hi Adam, I first learned on the Bekhterev-Stalin affair after reading the book, Great Men with Sick Brains by the neurosurgeon Bengt Ljunggren shortly after it was published by The American Association of Neurological Surgeons about 1990. Dr. Bekhterev was also Lenin’s neurologist, and although apolitical, he provided propaganda “services" to the Russian revolutionaries by pledging allegiance to the new regime. According to this book, rumors circulated that Bekhterev had also diagnosed Stalin with “grave paranoia” — a lethal mistake for the great doctor.
In any case Stalin also had Bekhterev’s son Pietr shot because the son suspected that Bekhterev was poisoned by order of Stalin. Prof. V.N. Vinogradov (1882-1964), who I mentioned in my opening article on Stalin’s death was more fortunate. As Stalin's doctor and physician in the Kremlin, he told Stalin he needed to slow down, which Stalin construed indiscreet or malicious, and Vinogradov was arrested and pulled into the concocted Doctor’s Plot, the dyelo vrachey.

Unlike Bekhterev who was dealt by Stalin immediately, Prof. Vinogradov was saved by Stalin’s sudden death. 

November 23 (addition) As to historians not capable of being physicians, I was explaining Dr. Plinio Prioreschi's statement, "Medicine being a very esoteric field cannot easily be mastered by nonphysicians." Prioreschi added, “the asymmetry (in esoterism) between science and the humanities… allows the physicist to be a poet but forbids a poet to be a physicist.” He truism was affirmed in the case of Stalin's medical death as I explained elsewhere. — MAF


Interesting, Miguel. I did not know about the son. I see he does not make the dx. of syringomyelia explicitly, and I am not sure I agree if he did think that. I don't see any spasticity when Stalin walks, but I need to take another look at a film clip and watch more closely.

It's interesting that Hitler did not mind doctors speaking frankly to him on what the problem was and what he should do. Then, concerning the Jewish doctor's plot, it is also interesting that Stalin was not anti-Semitic by policy as was Hitler, so although he made many crude remarks about Jews, I have always concluded that by 1948 he was already showing signs of organic disease. 

In 1927, Stalin did not have the absolute power over the USSR that he would by 1929. I don't even think Trotsky was booted out yet, though powerless. So, I wonder if that made a difference in how he had to deal with Bekhterev. Best, Adam


Hi Adam, Stalin was in a power struggle with Trotsky in 1924. He successfully tricked and was allied to Zinoviev and Kamenev (forming the “Triumvirate”) against Trotsky. After Trotsky was defeated politically, Stalin, at the Party Congress, December 1925, remained allied to Bukharin but turned against his former allies whom he detested, Zinoviev and Kamevev. He declawed them by 1926 and had expelled Trotsky from the Party by 1927. Bukharin was easily outmaneuvered and allowed to remain as head of the “right wing” of the Party (as supporter of the New Economic Policy of Lenin [NEP], some liberalization, etc.) nominally until 1929, at which time he too was expelled from the Politburo. Stalin basically had near absolute power by 1927. The token opposition was terrified by then. By 1929 he had absolute power and basically no serious opposition. The old hard Bolsheviks had been tamed to submission; they would all be eliminated later!

Stalin was inclined to anti-semitism as shown by his late anti-cosmopolitanism campaign, but recognizing the number of prominent Jews in the Party, his indispensable Jewish associates, and Jewish wives in the leadership, he tolerated them until the 1940s. Beria was the great sponsor of the Jews, again because he and Stalin could use them in a variety of projects because of their shown resourcefulness, devotion to the cause, and loyalty to the Party.
I have reviewed Stalin’s major biographies as well as one of Beria and Ezhov, (NKVD heads) at haciendapub.com. I strongly recommend the two books on Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore, one of them, Young Stalin, I reviewed as well. Montefiore’s two books are cliffhanger tomes, perhaps the best biographies with a lot of personal stuff found nowhere else. You can easily search them at haciendapub.com. Thanks for Lenin’s post mortem! Miguel


Hi Miguel, That's all true, but in 1927 he [Stalin] could not simply have anyone arrested and shot with or without trial, unless there was some reasonable pretext. Especially a man as well recognized and respected as Bekhterev. Zinoviev and Kamenev were a cinch to tackle, because they were one of the original old Bolsheviks who found it amusing to place Stalin in the position of General Secretary, having no idea what kind of power that position really granted him. They were intellectuals, and as such, were too stupid to know just what kind of evil genius they were dealing with. It was always the same old story with all of them. Of course, it was Trotsky whom he tricked into not revealing the contents of Lenin's last testament, which would have had them remove him from power forever. Note that all three of them were Jews (I think Kamenev may have been half Russian Orthodox), but this had absolutely nothing to do with Stalin's hatred of them.
He surely did tolerate anyone who was useful to him, but Lazar Kaganovich was a friend, and that is probably because he was as almost as cruel and brutal as Stalin was, but he never gave any indication that he wanted to grab more power than Stalin allowed him. Stalin essentially gave Kaganovich and Nikita Khrushchev unlimited power to mastermind the Holodomor in Ukraine, where they both came from. But I am told by Ukrainian physicians and physicists I know that in modern day Ukraine, most of the blame for that is placed on Kaganovich alone, so I have to assume it is because he was Jewish.
Yes, I always thought Beria was no lover of Jews, but he was much more practical with how he handled them. That leads me to a perplexing aspect of Lenin. He was clearly philosemitic, and would not tolerate anti-Semitism because he truly believed Jews made the best communists.  Yet, we know now that Lenin placed a few Jews in high positions to make it look like the majority of Jews were in charge of the Communist Party, and he knew that they could be used as scapegoats that way, which they still are to this day. When you examine the Communist Party roles for 1920, you find 10% Jews and 90% Russians, but that is the opposite of the common perception, which is exactly what Lenin wanted.
I am glad to have found a copy of the autopsy report for you. Let me know your thoughts. There is no indication of syphilitic cerebrovascular disease, and even the aorta shows changes consistent with atherosclerosis, not syphilitic aortitis. Many people will still insist upon it, but I just don't buy it. Best, Adam


November 13, 2016, Hi Adam, The Jewish contribution to the Bolsheviks, not surprisingly, was in the relatively more educated leadership and their wives. It was less so in the illiterate Russian proletariat in the rank and file.

Actually Beria employed many Jews in high positions even while Stalin was already imprisoning them or having many Jewish communists shot after returning from the Spanish Civil War. Beria pulled them out of jail and employed them. This is testified by both Sudoplatov and Aleksandr Orlov.
As far as Lenin's autopsy, this is what I think. True, the gross autopsy findings are less consistent with neurosyphilis than with atherosclerotic cerebrovascular disease. Nevertheless meningovascular syphilis can also result in endarteritis with obliteration of arterial lumens, arterial thrombosis, and ischemic necrosis of the brain parenchyma. No doubt occlusion of the left ICA accounted for his right hemiparesis and Wernicke’s aphasia observed clinically with the necrosis of the cerebral parenchyma in the left hemisphere seen pathologically. The hemorrhage in the quadrigeminal plate caused his death but again this could have resulted from inflammatory vascular changes of syphilis or atherosclerosis. No mention was made of gummas, but without microscopic sections around the involved blood vessels and brain parenchyma I don’t know if we can rule out neurosyphilis completely yet. Miguel


Yes, that is true. I believe Molotov's wife was Jewish, as was Yezhov's, and I could look up a number of others that prove you right. It is untrue that Stalin married "Rosa Kaganovich" as his third wife, but I do think he had affairs with Jewish women, however. When it came to relieving his enormous sexual appetite, he did not discriminate.
The illiterate Russian proletariat in the rank and file were who Stalin enlisted through his role as General Secretary because they did what they were told and had no idea what the bigger picture was all about, but why did Lenin appoint Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky (a Jew) to head the team who assassinated the Czar and his family? He did not do an especially good job of it, and people to this day remember only him, not that the rest were Russian Orthodox.
I will read these articles you have linked me to as soon as I get a chance. Thank you for the material. I always appreciate more information on this subject.
No, I can't agree with you that the hemorrhage in the region of the corpora quadrigemina was the immediate cause of death, given he [Lenin] died during status epilepticus the evening before. As you have pointed out, we need to have the clinical information along with the autopsy, and in Lenin's case it is well documented. But, we do know the brain sections are still extant in the Russian archives and they will not release any of them to the Americans for examination, which makes no sense to me at this point. If there are questions about the histology, they would be trivial to answer even now. Best regards, Adam  


Adam, Actually although not abstinent to either, Stalin was relatively temperate as to both alcoholic drinks and women. In this regard, the best and most captivating biographies on Stalin’s personal life, remain Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Young Stalin and The Court of the Red Tsar (2003), which I strongly recommend.

We need more information. That is why you need to research and write the paper with whatever material we can get. Yes status epilepticus is one of the conditions that was reported clinically, but autopsy-wise, the little hemorrhage in the region of the corpora quadrigemina is all we can pinpoint pathologically. Psychotic behavior and delirium were also reported. There was no evidence of transtentorial herniation with swelling and edema secondary to acute infarction or hemorrhage anywhere else. Convince me with a good paper about your thesis. Cheers, Miguel

Adam Bogart, Phd, is a Behavioral Neuroscientist at the Sanders Brown Center for Aging University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY. Behavioral Neuroscience Kent State University Kent, OH. Post doctoral fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center Bronx, NY. MS Immunology conjointly Adelphi University/Mount Sinai Medical Center New York City, NY.

Miguel A. Faria, MD, is an Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International (SNI). He is a retired Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History, Mercer University School of Medicine. Former member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2002-05). Realclearhistory contributor (2012-present). He is President of Haciendapublishing.com

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. A conversation with Dr. Adam Bogart about the Bolsheviks and Lenin's and Stalin’s illnesses. HaciendaPublishing.com, November 21, 2016. Available from: http://www.haciendapublishing.com/articles/conversation-dr-adam-bogart-about-bolsheviks-and-lenins-and-stalin%E2%80%99s-illnesses

Copyright ©2016 HaciendaPublishing.com

Your rating: None Average: 5 (6 votes)
Comments on this post

Free Love Advocate?

If, as we had privately discussed, Dr. Faria, Lenin was much more of a sexual creature than he is traditionally portrayed Kollontai by the Russians, why did he have such contempt for Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952; photo, right), the foremost old Bolshevik feminist who gave her body to any man she found attractive?

I am well aware that the quote "We should make sex just like drinking a glass of water." is wrongly attributed to her, but while officially she did not take such a hard line position on open sexuality, she did so in her private life. After Lenin died, Stalin did not get rid of her because he found it amusing to treat her as the butt of his clever but sadistic practical jokes until she died in 1952.

Stalin wouldn't have cared about what she did with her body, but Lenin seems to have greatly. If you believe this, then is the new idea of a "sexual Lenin" also a hypocritical Lenin?

This may have been a private discussion about a possible paper on Lenin's immediate cause of death, but anyone is welcome to add whatever they think, if they have any opinion on it. --ARB
Hi Adam, as always, you come up with intriguing ideas and questions, and I offer the explanations! There are two answers: The answer submitted by the feminism of the New Left (c. 1960s; provided the person was not the saintly Lenin, of course, but a typical chauvinistic male) is that as a man, he was a "sexist pig," easily accommodating sexual double standards: It is OK for the man but not for the woman. And he could also be puritanical with others but not so much with himself. The other answer is that I don't categorize Lenin, or even Stalin, as "sexual creatures." True, Stalin had several paramours and carried a Iness Armandfew affairs during his many long isolated exiles, and later, rarely, in his travels as Soviet leader. For his part, Lenin had a well-known mistress, Inessa Armand (1874-1920; photo, left), and may have cavorted with a few prostitutes in his travels probably contracting neurosyphilis in the process— but, I suppose, being an adolescent growing up in the late 1960s and 70s in America, I don't consider them particularly great womanizers or "sexual creatures." Stalin, amoral as he was, had no sexual hangups anyway; his sex life was kept private for political reasons. Lenin, more outspoken on the subject was a "free thinker," as with Ms. Armand and the French prostitutes, but also puritanical, as with Ms. Kollontai, holding both ideas simultaneously, and thus hypocritical. Trotsky, incidentally, was consistently serious and puritanical on sexual matters, as the story I related to you elsewhere concerning Stalin.

Sexual Creatures

Yes, MAF, I confess. You are the man with all the answers, and I do enjoy reading what you have to say so much that it is the best part of my morning before work to see what your response is to an interesting query on Bolshevik or neurosurgical trivia. No fact is trivia to me, but to many it might be. I believe you feel similar. No one has ever asked me a question in my life that I thought was trivial. How could it be, if you honestly want to know?

But you are right. From what we know, neither Lenin nor Stalin were "sexual creatures" compared to adolescents growing up even today. Far from it. In fact, so far from it that it is a bad idea to prove Lenin was not puritanical in his private life by demonstrating neurosyphilis, which was my real objection to it. Since syphilis may be acquired from the first prostitute you had an encounter with, even if you utilized a thousand. Or maybe you just utilized only that first one? So how many encounters with prostitutes did it take Lenin to contract the disorder? That we shall never know, but it is the most crucial question for a thesis trying to disprove Lenin's puritanical portrayal in that indirect manner. Because, as I had indicated, all Wassermann reactions on the blood and CSF since 1923 were negative, but that did not mean he did not have it. The Wassermann is not specific for syphilis, and false negative are very high in tertiary forms.

Still, as such proof is lacking, and the autopsy did not furnish any more, people who do subscribe to the neurosyphilis theory for Lenin's demise need to make some speculation from historical (not medical) sources. I don't blame them, and I have changed my position on it myself to an extent, but I think it is only fair to point out that this approach is not without its pitfalls either.

PCR to test for nucleotides coding for the cell wall of T. Pallidum in a brain preserved in formalin since 1924 would likely be trustable and the only way to solve it, but as I have said, the Russians will just not allow it. They may have already done it long ago, and just never told anyone the results.

Yes, I'll say that 60's feminists fit the Kollontai mode, so your answer rings true, and they were the ones who first mistakenly attributed that quote to her. But Kollontai's Ukrainian/Finnish background gave her an exotic if not pretty face, so that odd attractiveness is what separates her from the usual Krupskaya phenotype feminist.

True about Trotsky. He married, but beyond that, he did not seem to have any interests but power and Marxist theoretics. I remember your story, and the offense he took at Stalin's crude remark. Actually, it wasn't all that crude to me, but then Trotsky was a true Bolshevik! --ARB

Power begets more sex

Human beings are sexual creatures. Having said that, I might add that there are some women who will gravitate to men because those men are in positions of power. And if these women need to use sex to get closer to those men, then they will do so. Why? It might be that it is power that is the aphrodisiac, and not necessarily the man. Even Henry Kissinger famously observed, “power is an aphrodisiac.”

In a 2012 article from Psychology Today written by Ian H. Robertson, Ph.D., in regards to Gen. David Petraeus’ peccadilloes, Robertson noted, “Both men and women who have a high need for power have sexual intercourse more often than those who have lower power needs.”

Sex, Bolsheviks, and the REAL point!

I forgot to add what the real point of all of this was. This is how I see it, and I think it is relevant today.

Lenin was building a classless and sexless society. That was to him true equality. I can't be sure about Stalin, but I am convinced that Lenin really thought he was doing what was best for the Soviet people. For him (as for most totalitarian dictators), it is always the ends that matter. If he had to shoot 50 or 100 or 1,000 people to convey his message, it didn't matter to him because his message would be improving the lives of so many more people than that!

If he was to have a truly egalitarian society, women would not be able to or want to use sexual advantage over men to amass power. This is essentially no different than well off people using money for the same ends, which we know the Bolsheviks wanted to halt, as that was something only the capitalists would allow.

I believe it was upon the introduction of the new Soviet Constitution (along with the infamous Article 58) that Stalin stated, "Mistakes will be made. But the edifice we are building is so grand, that in the end they will not matter."

I don't think he was lying. If you take my position, then it is quite possible that he believed as Lenin - that he was doing good for the Soviet people, and any of his actions we consider evil were not evil for him, because he could justify them the same way Lenin did his. It is an uncommon evil person who thinks they are evil. Those who revel in their evilness are mostly in the movies.

So today, it should be obvious to you how the "sexless" society of Lenin is being built in this country by our own left. Not a day goes by that you don't hear of it. But there is also that old Leninist contradiction - they seem to be erasing sex and gender, but at the same time promoting division of it. -ARB
Perhaps in recognizing the devilish incitement of contradictions and mayhem, you are thinking of pandemonium: The war of all against all, class warfare, sexual and racial wars, etc. This brings about another major contradiction: The corruption of the human soul by fraudulent and evil temptations, and thus bringing about the socialist utopia, the dictatorship of the proletariat, communism as paradise on earth. We know better after the decimation of 100 million victims of totaliarian communism/socialism. For a hellish but satiric look at this, read C. S. Lewis' masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters.

Controlled Pandemonium!

I think I will call it controlled pandemonium, in the same way Dmitri Volkogonov referred to the USSR under Stalin as "lawless" in his 1991 book, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy.

Actually it was full of laws for just about everything, and even if they were not broken, they usually resulted in the same few punishments, but not usually for the highest ruling class, and never the man on top.

Pandemonium can easily result among the average citizen under those conditions, but it can just as easily be called to a halt when the ruler pleases. It has been suggested that one reason the great purges ended is because Stalin felt they had gained so much momentum that they might just spiral out of even his control. No, terror always had to be left up to him.

What is interesting about this is though it has been documented that Lenin had been the target of assassination attempts several times besides the famous attempt by Fanya Kaplan, Stalin likely was never an intended victim of one, except for the last one that finally killed him, and that was not conducted by ordinary citizens. To me, this suggests that his use of show trials on a massive scale compared to Lenin, plus his development of a cult of personality (which Lenin despised - hence his specific orders not to mummify him), were so effective in instilling complete faith in him from the general population, that it just wasn't a consideration.

At the same time, studies have indicated that it was likely that the average foreign communist (American, British, etc.) at this time believed the defendants were genuinely guilty of the charges in the trials of 1937-1938, but the average Russian did not. They could not say so, and they knew it, but it still did not prevent them from revering their leader with love.

But Stalin and Hitler were alike in this aspect. They knew very well some segment of the population might have seen through their facade of lies, but so long as they kept these thoughts to themselves, it was unimportant to them. It only was a problem if these concerns were voiced.

*You may see several contradictions in this comment, and it does not seem possible to write on this topic without being contradictory yourself!
The purges of the Red Terror in the 1930s ended when Beria ended them after replacing Yezhov and the Yezhovshchina. Stalin probably realized that war may be coming, and, as pointed out by his friend Voroshilov, he had already decimated the members of the politburo and the officers of the Red Army. It was only the Red Terror of 1937-38, the purges of communists and Bolsheviks (there were none left, anyway) that stopped. The repression of the "enemies of the people, wreckers, and spies" continued. During the patriotic war, it was the turn of the soldiers themselves, especially those who had been in enemy territory or POWS, to be persecuted by the NKVD. Towards the end it was the Jews...--- MAF

Other Perspectives on the Pandemonium

MAF, you are correct in your assessment of the Yezhovshchina.

I do need to point out that while the mockery of justice occurring between 1936-1938 was conducted via public show trial for several undesirable classes Stalin wanted eliminated, it did not spare the ordinary citizen either, who was just as likely to be caught up in the Red Terror of that era. But for such people, he did not need the sleaze passing for evidence conjured up by Vyshinsky and Ulrich. Mere arrest was proof of guilt, and while a signed confession was desirable, it did not prevent the NKVD from passing and carrying out sentence without any trial whatsoever if one could not be obtained.

As I had pointed out in my previous comment, studies have shown that while foreign communists were initially convinced of the guilt of the defendants, Russian citizens were much more likely to believe the trials were a ruse. Stalin was probably aware of this, and so although Russians kept quiet about it (except for the odd circumstance, such as one unknown citizen Volkogonov quotes as saying, "In Nicholas's time they couldn't hang enough people, now they can't shoot enough.") he still needed a scapegoat to place blame for the purges on in order to maintain his cult of personality. Yes, Beria may have been the one to publicly put a stop to the purges and make sure that the public also knew Yezhov was the one who was out of control, but as much power as Beria had, he could not have done this without the approval of Stalin. The powers granted Beria were formidable, but not completely plenipotentiary.

I don't have a copy of Volkogonov's book on Stalin with me at present (I mean, it's here somewhere, but if I knew anything about organization, I'd be an M.D.), but I believe it was he who first suggested that part of the reason the purges were stopped was because Stalin felt even he was losing control over them. Yes, Stalin did sense that war might be coming with Germany, and Voroshilov did give him repeated warnings (as it would appear he was the only one who could do so and not suffer severe ramifications) but I'm not sure that even Stalin originally anticipated that the purges would gobble up two of his NKVD heads who were in charge of them. That they did so with his approval is beside the point. It is this "duality of thinking" (also contradictory, which we have been previously discussing as characteristic of the Bolshevik mind) that seems to be what Stalin was employing. Just look at how long after he ended the purges it took Voroshilov to finally convince him that that he'd better do something about the Germans, as they had invaded the USSR and already killed millions. Yet, wasn't fear of that why he ended them? That is why, by the way, I mentioned the alternative theory of why Hitler invaded Poland - because he saw evidence Stalin was about to invade it first. That you demonstrated proof that it didn't happen that way does not mean this theory couldn't be true. I think almost everybody would agree with you, as it has always been well known that Hitler invaded first. All that is being suggested is that there has to be more to the story, because it is so hard to believe that Stalin would be so trusting of the Germans so late in time when as you correctly point out, he realized war might be on the horizons as early as 1938.

On that note of speculation, I would like to end this comment with a few links. The first is to a portion of the "Trial of the Twenty One" in early March of 1938.

Here, Judge Ulrich convicts Rykov, Bukharin, and Yagoda. It is instructive to pay attention to what Ulrich finds them guilty of, and what sentence he passes for all of them. Also of note is what Prosecutor Vyshinsky finds suitable to present to the court as evidence. There is no rebuttal to this "evidence", because not only do the defendants have no right to counsel; they have no right to be present at their own trials.

These last three are links to what I believe is the earliest documentary on Stalin produced just before the USSR crumbled. It was aired on PBS in 1990, and despite how much we have learned since then, I rarely have come across a more enjoyable, well done, and informative short historical series. There are several reasons for that, and perhaps many are a matter of personal taste, but quite a few people who would be discussed in later documentaries are still alive here and they are interviewed. All of them are such colorful characters. One such character who gives (unknowingly, I think) great insight into how she feels about her father is Svetlana Stalin. She denounces her father's crimes in no uncertain terms, and makes this very clear, but it is striking how she gives one the feeling that she would rather not have to say anything about him, and if only people would leave the whole terrible subject be.........

I know there was a great rift between them, but it almost seems to me that she still loves him. I would not be surprised if she lacked a considerable amount of self insight, but it is well known how much he adored her, and being adored by Stalin was not something very common. So, Svetlana holding a life long ambivalent attitude towards her father and not completely appreciating it would not be that shocking. Well, here are the links if anyone would like to see this series:
BTW, some of the material in this series on the purges of the late 1930's and the early history of the Great Patriotic War fits in well with this comment, and it is not so dated as one might expect. In fact, I think some of what is discussed in it is far ahead of its time.

Best to All,
Andrey Vyshinsky (188-1954), as you know was a Menshevik that Stalin spared, knowing he could be used and did. He eventually served as Foreign Minister (1949-1954) and survived Stalin by one year. He was minister as Alexandra Kollontai also served as cultural ambassador to various countries. Truly, Sovietologist could not find a better fountain of interesting knowledge on Stalinism, Leninism, communism, and the USSR than at this website! Thanks, Adam, for your fascinating comments.---MAF

A short additon to Vyshinksy et al....

Yes, and not only that, but Vyshinksy had been one of those who signed an arrest warrant for Lenin in 1917, when Kerensky was still in power. To think of how many thousands were purged for so much less, and with Vyshinksy making the case against them!

As for Kollontai being cultural ambassador, I think that was one way Stalin enjoyed screwing (no pun intended) with her. He believed that sort of position amounted to practically nothing, and she knew it. ---ARB

True, power begets more sex, but...

There is no doubt of what you say. Personally, if a woman has anything she can use (brain or body or both) to get closer to a power source, I think that is fair because those "power sources" used whatever talents (good and evil) they were granted to gain their power.

But this is not a discussion on the women; it is a discussion on whether Bolsheviks were able to avoid that method of power climbing, as that is how they portrayed themselves in early Soviet Russia. My conclusion is that it seems like a lot of them more or less did, because as Dr. Faria points out, neither Lenin nor Stalin would be considered womanizers by even the standards of their day.

There were many who would be considered womanizers in that era of Soviet history, but not the highest leadership. One good example is an alleged quote from Stalin: "What shall we do? We shall envy!" Что делать будем? Завидовать будем!

Rumored to be said after receiving a report about Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky's inappropriately large number of female lovers. (Wikiquote talk: Joseph Stalin)

He didn't care what the NKVD said Rokossovsky was doing, but yet he probably did not indulge in nearly as many encounters as did Rokossovsky. He jokes about it; he is not jealous or offended. Rokossovsky was not even a Russian, but a Pole. Not all Russian Bolsheviks appreciated this. Stalin wasn't Russian either, but over the course of his time as leadership, he seems to have developed distinct feelings of Russian nationalism, nonetheless.

If Dr. Faria is reading this, I would like to point out that in Stalin (1992), Stalin is awoken with a woman in his bed on 9 Nov 1932 to come see his wife's body with a bullet in her head. This is not the only casual portrayal of Stalin satisfying sexual desires as they arose in that movie. Funny enough, another might be when 17 year old Nadezhda Alliluyeva reveals to him on a train that she has memorized some of his poetry he wrote in exile. It was fairly good Georgian poetry.

I myself have pointed out numerous minor historical inaccuracies in this movie, so I am not saying that is really what happened, but I am saying those who wrote the script somehow developed a similar notion of Stalin's sexuality as I did. Best Regards to All,--- Adam

Forensic Musings on the suicide of Nadezhda Alliluyeva

It is often said that Stalin's second wife, Nadezhda Sergeevna Alliluyeva (1901-1932; photo, below), had a tremendous argument with him in November 1932 because he and his cronies were celebrating the 15th anniversary of the October Nadezhda Alliluyeva1917 revolution too lavishly for communists, while she saw how poorly the general population was living. This is why Stalin did not want his wife to get a college education. He knew she would see how badly the people were being treated, and how well the party elite lived. She was found with a bullet in her head the next morning. I believe Stalin loved her in his own way, but he certainly was capable of murdering his own wife because she embarrassed him in public.

But the other camp in this matter believes she committed suicide. She was a devoted communist and unlike Stalin, really cared about the common Soviet people. Her economic ideas may have been a bit kooky, but unlike him, she possessed the faculty of being human. It is easy to see her killing herself when she saw what the communist system really was like. It shattered all of her ideals.

From all I can tell, she was buried without an autopsy, as the cause of death seemed clear. Gunshot to the brain. I've no doubt that was the cause of death. What I wonder is why her body is not exhumed? It is probably little more than a skeleton now, but I am betting the wound in the skull bones would tell us where the shot was fired from and how close it was fired from. Also, the angle, and whether it is consistent with suicide.

In the USA, this is such a common problem dealt with by the police and medical examiners all the time. MSCT can reconstruct a bullet trajectory with great accuracy, even if the soft tissues have long disappeared. It is not a big deal, radiologically speaking. Yet, this is still a fascinating question for many historians.

Why not solve it once and for all? Get the body! Or could it be the Russians don't think like us? They don't care or they do not like disturbing corpses? I just don't get it. Who would stand to benefit or lose by whatever was found in that coffin? Anyone that possibly could has long since died themselves.

Further research has uncovered a solitary claim that she was autopsied and the pathologist in 1932 found the bullet to have been fired from a distance of 4 meters, indicating that Stalin likely did kill her. The doctor was executed following a show trial shortly after his report. I am not sure I believe this, as why would Stalin allow any autopsy, if he knew they would find that? But still, exhumation would show the autopsy cuts in the skull if this were the case. This scene is reconstructed in the 1992 movie Stalin with Julia Ormond as Nadezhda.

The historical faithfulness is commendable, but even here the movie lets the viewer draw their own conclusion as to how she was shot. ---ARB
Dr Faria replies: Very true Adam. But I believe the Russians want to leave their communist sordid past behind and don't want to uncover the buried wrecks of communism. They don't want it "thrown back on their faces." This is nicely stated by the young, urbane, good guy SVF chief in the masterpiece film Archangel (2008) with Daniel Craig, whose review is also noted under the same link above on Hacienda's Random Notes: Classic movies and Documentaries.

Incidentally, Adam, Nadezhda committed suicide at Stalin's home at the time, the exuberant Poteshnye Palace ("Palace of Amusement") built by Peter the Great's father, Tsar Alexei (1645-1676), the second Romanov Tsar. The best narrative on the incident is found in Simon Sebag Montefiore's tour de force, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003). Great comment!---MAF

Nadezhda' skull, Soviet executions

Hi Miguel,
I am trying to figure this out. You seem to agree a physical examination of the skull and CT scans of it will tell us what we need to know about the distance and angle of the shot (and obviously, that we hardly need the brain), but what is your "legal" opinion? Do you personally believe she committed suicide or that he might have killed her? I was never sure, even now.

There are, of course, many Russians who do wonder about it (you can see this if you read some Russian accounts of the incident), but I suppose you mean the overriding desires of the population to rid themselves of their horrid past.

There is also what you have referred to in the past - why non physicians (or even non scientists) cannot be medical historians. This is why it is hard to determine many of the medical aspects of the sick Soviet leaders we have been discussing, because the popular literature is either obviously wrong or at least inconsistent.

I believe it was in Sebag Montefiore's book (but I could be wrong) that I first read of Yezhov appropriating Yagoda's property for himself while Yagoda was being prepared for show trial. Two gruesome items he found were the bullets extracted from Kamenev's and Zinoviev's brains after their executions. I don't doubt a man like Yagoda would want these as keepsakes, but since I read that, I have read numerous account of the same story, and all claim the bullets were removed from the brains.

I find this hard to believe, as most of the Soviet executions following "conviction" were carried out by gunshot at point black range to the back of the head. Now, I have seen photographs of various skulls exhumed after Soviet murder in this fashion (such as those found by the Germans in Katyn) and all show frontal or temporal exit wounds with no bullet left inside the head. Nazi pathologists noted this. Of course, Hitler was not attempting to obtain justice for the Poles, but rather pin (and rightfully so - maybe the one thing Hitler ever did do right) the crimes on Stalin. By the 1930's, pistols were powerful enough that they caused perforating wounds at point blank range as opposed to penetrating ones.

In contrast, Abraham Lincoln's autopsy report after a point blank shot to the back of his head shows the bullet only had enough kinetic energy to land in the anterior frontal white matter and fracture the orbital plates (yes, I know these plates may be fractured by a bullet to the brain from anywhere, but not in his case - it was almost direct). The longitudinal sinus was opened, but that is only because the bullet entered near that area. My point is that the Derringer ball in those days did not have the kinetic energy to exit.

So I wonder if these bullets Yezhov took really needed to be removed from the brains, or Yagoda just picked them up off the floor? It is more sensational to say they were still in the brains, but is it scientifically accurate? A journalist or pure historian would never question that. --ARB
Dr. Faria replies: As for Nadezhda, it is almost certain that she committed suicide. She was a devoted communist, a true believer, with blind faith in the falsities of communism and the utopia of the Workers Paradise. Yet, she had seen the lies under Stalinism, the mass starvation, the purges and elimination of friends as “enemies of the people,” etc. It was more than she could bear and besides, she had a history of instability and depression. Stalin made her life miserable on purpose and on top of everything else and drove her to suicide!

I don’t think you read about this gruesome bullet details in Montefiore’s books, but details are sprinkled throughout several narratives as braggadocio and mementos of their evil deeds. Nevertheless as to specifics, without radiographic evidence or examination of the skulls, we can not ascertain whether the bullets were picked up from the floor or from inside the skulls. The assassins may have used different types of pistols, British, German or Russian of different calibers.

Al these NKVD chiefs — Yagoda, Yezhov, Beria, etc., paid ultimately with they own lives http://www.haciendapublishing.com/articles/stalin-communists-and-fatal-s...

My reviews of Beria http://www.haciendapublishing.com/articles/beria-%E2%80%94-stalins-first... and Yezhov’s http://www.haciendapublishing.com/articles/stalins-loyal-executioner-peo... biographies may be instructive in some of these details. My information on the Katyn Forest massacre of the Polish officers by the NKVD, which you have read, is graphic but excellent intelligence on methods and ballistics. http://www.haciendapublishing.com/articles/stalin-communists-and-fatal-s...

The mass executioner: NKVD officer Vasily Mikhailovich Blokhin!

Your commentary on the Katyn massacre was excellent, as always. I learned several interesting aspects about it I was not aware of, but pertinent to this conversation is the chief executioner Vasili Mikhailovich Blokhin (1895-1955), who set the "Stakhanovite" quota for the killing of the officers, as you mentioned. The calculations indicate Blokhin (photo, below) killed one Polish officer every three minutes with a shot to the back of the head.


For technical reasons, he brought his own German Walther pistols to carry out the job, but I am not clear what he used back home in Russia to dispose of those convicted during the great purges of 1936-1937. Also, it was thought best that if the corpses were found, the deaths could be linked to German bullets.

Blokhin is believed to have been the man who shot Yagoda and Yezhov, as well as most of the prominent old Bolsheviks who were convicted by Judge V.V. Ulrich, and tried by Stalin's greasy prosecutor Andrei Vyshinksy. Those would include G. Zinoviev and L. Kamenev.

So as I had mentioned some time ago, I enjoyed the 1992 movie Stalin immensely, but I said Beria kept popping up in odd places where he should not have been historically. I meant particularly when he is seen performing the executions Blokhin had actually done.

Now, given that (as I also said previously) the Katyn skulls all show exit woulds with multiple fractures, we can reasonably assume the bullets did exit Kamenev's and Zinoviev's heads if we can determine whether Blokhin preferred his private Walther pistols in Moscow, or used the standard Soviet issued TT-30s.

I would find this an interesting little exercise.
Dr Faria replies: click here to view the gruesome story of Blokhin and how he carried out his work!

But was it Blokhin?

Many sources seem confused as to whether much of what is attributed to Blokhin was really carried out by Ivan Serov.

If one must, the old Al Capone gem of "It's business, not personal" might partially apply to Blokhin. But Serov was a real piece of filth. A September 1958 CIA report on him says much:


Even back then, his cunning, hatred, and ruthlessness were evident to the Americans. --ARB

Dr. Faria replies: Blokhin, despite setting the world's record for committing the most single-handed documented executions, was small fry compared to Ivan Serov.

Ivan Serov (1905-1990) was the first Chairman of the restructured Committee for State Security (1954-1958), KGB, following Stalin’s death. He betrayed Beria to survive and served under Malekov and Nikita Khrushchev. In the 1940s, Serov served under Khrushchev as NKVD official in the Ukraine, an essential cog in the wheel of the totalitarian state who carried out persecutions and deportation of Tatar, Chechens, and other ethnic minorities. In the early 50s, Serov was in charge of security of Soviet leaders. During the Hungarian uprising Serov deported Hungarians and orchestrated the abduction of Hungarian leaders, including Imre Nagy, who was executed. He was succeeded as head of the KGB by world strategist Aleksandr Shelepin, who I have described elsewhere in terms of building the Soviet Grand Deception that involved Anatolyi Golitsyn.

In Khrushchev’s restructuring, he was then made head of the GRU, Soviet military intelligence, from 1958-1965. His real fall came with the Cuban Missile Crisis debacle: He was dismissed, stripped of Party membership and went into obscurity. Serov lived to see the collapse of the Berlin wall and the beginning of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990.

Also concerning KGB Chairman Ivan Serov...

Thank you for expanding, but let us not forget that Serov's diaries have given us the best clues yet as to what happened to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. A thaw in relations between Sweden and the USSR led Khrushchev to think that further investigations into Wallenberg's disappearance might help warm them up even further, and Serov was assigned the task. Apparently, even as leader of the USSR and one of Stalin's closest comrades, Khrushchev really didn't know Wallenberg's fate.

Serov claims that Wallenberg was executed and cremated in 1947 on the orders of Stalin and Molotov for being a "Hungarian" spy working for the USA. There is good reason to believe Wallenberg actually was this, but there are still many problems with this account, not the least of which is that memoirs found hidden in a wall since around 1971 are not usually given much weight by historians.

Also, to add to what you compiled on Serov is the task Stalin assigned him to "Sovietize" the Baltic states after the USSR re-annexed them in 1939. The three small countries had been given a brief breathing spell and a taste of independence from greater Russia after the Romanov dynasty had been toppled. Serov did this brutally and efficiently, by executing or deporting all anti-Soviet hostile elements.

Stalin did not like the policy of "Russification" under the Tsarist regime, and this is what may have turned him and many similar young men of his generation towards Marxism in Georgia and the rest of the non Russian countries that were then a part of the Russian empire. Yet, we find that later, when he was to rule, he would apply this same policy to non Russian SSRs. As has been said before, at this point, "Stalin becomes a Russian."

Tsarist Russification was far less brutal than Stalin's version of it, but the reason why I think it had to ultimately happen (no matter who was ruling) is because there was no way that such a diverse group of people could be cohesively ruled if they did not share much culturally in common, including language.

Isn't it interesting that the left today in the United States does not understand this, but we on the right do? Both Tsars and Communists were essentially not incorrect.

Dr. Faria replies: Tsarism was far less brutal than commnunism. I savor the incident I recount elsewhere:

Russia’s tsarist legacy of autocracy and authoritarianism must not be confused with the much worse Soviet-style communism and totalitarianism. In fact, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, writing about his experiences in Siberia, could not muster approval from the Tsar’s or (Czar's) censors for some of his writings because his description of life in exile was deemed too comfortable and would invite criminals to commit crimes to get there! Compare that with the Soviet gulag system! imagine the irony: Dostoyevsky had to edit his manuscript (magnify his discomfort in exile) in order to pass the censors and get published in Tsarist Russia!

Of my very popular 3-part series on the Political Spectrum, the third part dealing with the true far right, "anarchism," has lagged behind the others, probably because the major political battles have been waged between "democracies"(center) and totalitarianism (left) with anarchy (right) playing little role (except for in the Dark Ages) in the competing more statist world scene at least since the Medieval period. My friend Dr. Blaylock was one of the few to get the full literary and political import of this part. Take a look at it when you have time.

Political Spectrum, Psychosurgery, Epilepsy, etc.

I would be happy to read this, as I will have free time tomorrow. Could you point me to your series on psychosurgery? You had mentioned it, but I am not sure where to find it. You did not provide the link.

That is an excellent but terribly ironic commentary on Tsarism vs. Communism in Russia using Dostoyevsky's experiences in exile.

But you know, of course, that Stalin had some very similar, as he merely walked out of his own exile in Tsarist Siberia many times after his own sentence. His freedom there was such that he could do almost anything he liked, and he did write and read, as well as cavort with enough women that it is claimed there may be many of his descendants still around today that don't even know it. So maybe when he said, "Gratitude is a sickness of dogs.", he was thinking about his version of Siberian exile compared to the Tsarist one? He had no need for reciprocation.

Dostoevsky always interested me because he had epilepsy, and with a psychic aura that he described as such an intense feeling of pleasure he would give 10 years of his life just to experience one second of it.

In behavioral neuroscience, those who have interest in Pavlovian or operant conditioning (not me, as I turned to more accurate neuropsychiatric diagnosis using radiology) might use painful stimuli or food to shape an animal's behavior. However, if food is used, it is very difficult to accurately measure how much is consumed and even more difficult to make the animal consume it when you wish. Most of the small animals in the medical or neuroscience laboratory are herbivores, and unlike something such as a dog, they don't endlessly eat everything in sight. They eat only when they are hungry.

The usual solution for this is to insert an electrode under stereotaxy into the area of the medial forebrain bundle. A slight current delivered there will cause feelings similar to what I think composed Dostoyevsky's aura. The animals will starve themselves to death self delivering it by pushing a footpedal; that is how good it feels. Also, delivering current to the electrode when they perform a desired behavior is an excellent way to make sure they never forget how to do it. Finally, this enables the current delivery to be placed entirely under the decision of a computer, with an accurate recording of records.

So, now and then, I wonder about where his focus was.

Victor Horsley invented the stereotacic frame in 1892, and in that era he was the man to see regarding surgical relief of epileptic seizures, if the prescribed medications of the day (usually bromides) didn't work effectively. If any of the motor or sensory cortex was not grossly gliotic, he would stimulate it electrically (under local anesthesia) until he could reproduce the seizure. Unfortunately, to make a long story short, he had to operate on his own son in 1900 for intractable epilepsy, and the results were disastrous. I think he died 15 years later prematurely because of this incident.

As long as we are on this subject, and now I have thought about it, I feel Pavlov was so venerated by communists in Russia because essentially they used a simple form of Pavlovian associative learning to brainwash their subjects. What do you think they are doing in this country currently? It is much more difficult to do this to a human than to a rat, but we do know that once it is done to a rat, the rat remembers the association until it dies, and it is very difficult to break it. ---ARB

PS Let me add that in the 1950's (as an alternative to lobotomy in psychotic depression) neurosurgeons and psychiatrists tried this type of subcortical electrical stimulation as an experimental treatment, but it didn't end up being very efficacious. Probably even less so than lobotomy.

BTW, Stalin had outlawed "ice pick" lobotomies in 1951, long before we stopped them. But it was not out of compassion that he did so. It was because of the burden on the state of now caring completely for an apathetic person who may have been cured of his anti-communist ideations, but was also cured of caring about everything else.
Dr Faria replies: Excellent comment Adam. I think you will enjoy Part III of the Political Spectrum. It combines history, politics, and literature. And now that I know you are interested in the history of Psychosurgery have a treat:


This three part series on Psychosurgery have had together nearly 100,000 "reads," from all over the world. Part III was a big hit one of the top 5 articles for several months. Your friend, Miguel

Nadezhda' skull, Soviet executions reply

I have read many accounts of the Katyn massacre, but I will definitely read what you have to add to it.

I do know that Beria was killed by a shot to the forehead, and whether it exited or not I have no idea, but he was cremated and tossed in a river, so we will never know about that one. I think it may have been standard practice to eliminate all traces of executed high officials, so we might never find those skull of the other NKVD chiefs.

It would not hurt to read your accounts of the NKVD chiefs, because every time I read one, there is always something new I didn't know before.

I will say (and we may or may not have discussed this previously) that I might include Iron Felix in that list - even though he was GPU chief when he collapsed and died after a Politburo meeting on a very hot Moscow day in August 1926. Sure, he was relatively young and being treated for heart disease, but his relations with Stalin deteriorated significantly when he had a sudden change in conscience about all the blood he spilled, and devoted much of his time trying to find good homes for all of the young children that were turned into orphans by his own hands. Stalin could not have helped but have been disgusted by this show of weakness and probably became suspicious of Felix as a counterrevolutionary as well.

You can see where this is going. Many have suggested Felix was poisoned and the heart disease was used as a convenient cover. We will never prove this, but it would be no surprise to me if it were true. Also, Iron Felix was Lenin's man, not Stalin's, and sooner or later Stalin would have had to have him removed.

Yes, she probably did commit suicide for all the reasons you have mentioned, which makes my suspicions about that 1932 autopsy being false even stronger. STILL, it will continued to be debated, because we cannot furnish the proof without the skull. --ARB

Wood revisited once.

We could discuss Wood and Gershwin for a long time because there is so much to say about them, but there is the work on early Russian and American neurosurgery as well as the Lenin paper to think about now as higher priorities.

I did want to add that Wood is of especial interest because he was a celebrity type of political figure in those days, and everybody knew of him. Contrariwise, Cushing in 1910 was only known to his colleagues and the patients who he had operated on.

The subsequent reporting in the newspapers of the 1910 operation not only made Cushing a household name, but it made Americans aware of the infant specialty of "surgical neurology", as before this people were used to the notion of operations on the brain being performed by a general surgeon sometimes with a neurologist in the operating room directing him.

Cushing's dictum that a neurological surgeon should concentrate on neurological cases only (but maintain or exceed the technical proficiency of a good general surgeon), and his insistence that the neurological surgeon should also be a good neurologist was a departure from the accepted practice of brain surgery at the time. Part of this was due to his work from 1900-1910 to lower the tremendous mortality in cerebral operations when the intracranial pressure was increased. Patients knew of these statistics and were so terrified to have a tumor removed that they would rather die with it untouched. As late as 1893, Allen Starr advised the surgeon to simply shave off any portion of the brain that herniated when the dura was opened. As a result of this type of practice, surgeons could simply not make a living if they took on only neurological cases.

PS Funny enough, in December 1910, Sir Bernard Spilsbury was making a name for himself as the first "celebrity pathologist" by working for the Crown during the trial of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen.

Gershwin and Wood

Hi Miguel,
Briefly for now, because you raise some issues always in and out of my consciousnesses. Maybe I wish they weren't!

Especially Gershwin. I thought he never regained consciousness after surgery and spiked a high fever, so the surgeon must have accidentally disturbed the medulla. It is generally considered he was hopeless anyway, since the diagnosis was glioblastoma. I think it was temporal, which would account for his smells of burning rubber and bouts of strange behavior. However, the abnormal behavior preceded operation by many years (how long not known until recently), leading some to suggest recently it couldn't have been that malignant. I believe reexamination of the slides has confirmed this but I would have to check. If not for the highly Freudian stance psychiatry took in that era, an earlier diagnosis might have saved him. As it was a temporal lesion, Gershwin is considered to have suffered from the "Uncinate fits" of Huglings Jackson. You see more here:


Yes, Wood's case is very interesting and the brain is still viewable at Yale. I would like to see it. First operation, 1910. Easily localized without x-ray, but Cushing replaced the bone flap which was hyperostosed by the tumor, so local recurrence was inevitable. I don't think the meningioma was malignant. I don't remember why he died after the 1927 operation. Was it excessive blood loss, because the meningiomas are as a rule, vascular? It would be very ironic, because if so, in 1910 the operation went fine, and they did even not have these two things:

1911- Cushing introduces his silver clips to stem bleeding from small cerebral vessels.

1925- Working with his biophysicist Dr. William Bovie, he introduces the electrocautery.

Cushing also did not coin the term "meningioma" until 1922, as before that they were known as "Dural Endotheliomas."

Cushing was an extremely nasty person, but never to his patients. That is why when he lost one of his closest friends in the operating room, he never totally got over it. It broke him. --- ARB

Loose end tied up- Composer George Gerswin's illness

As Dr. Faria knows, I am preparing (a bit slowly!) a little treat about some personal family experiences in the Baltic states, so I am trying to tie up a few loose ends here. I won't be able to get to all of them, but the simplest ones I can tackle.

This is an older thread on George Gershwin's famous last illness. I had mentioned it is currently though that he did not have a glioblastoma, and some had examined the old slides taken from tissue at his autopsy. They had shown this was the case. Of course, it is very possible that what they originally took was part of a glioblastoma that was not yet grade 4 in the sampled area, so it can't be conclusive.

However, I had forgot to add the link to an article written by Loyal Davis (we have mentioned him before) in 1928 concerning how he dealt with a "spongioblastoma multiforme" in a musician. I picked this case because it is from the same era as Gershwin's and as close to the same profession as his that I could find. The description is the usual course of the illness in those days. That is what makes me suspicious of the original diagnosis assigned to Gershwin. Even more striking is that unlike Gershwin, she was considered a neurological case from the beginning, so there was no delay in administration of the appropriate treatment. Davis was only about 30 when he first saw this patient, so he likely had recently finished his residency with Cushing. -ARB

Interesting case and follow up, Adam. Loyal Davis, M.D., was a famous neurosurgeon who wrote a textbook of Neurosurgery and, incidentally, was a friend of Ronald Reagan, who married his daughter, Nancy Reagan, (nee. Davis).---MAF

Loose end FINALLY tied up- Composer George Gerswin's illness

I was almost finished with Gershwin for my neurology and musicians series, but we did have a loose end or two to tie up.

In the Journal of Medical Biography for March 2001 (9:28-30), Gregory Sloop lies out what is basically my case, but he supplies histology from slides made out of tumor tissue taken from Gerswhin's autopsy, so he stands on a bit of firmer ground.

The notion that the course of the illness was just too long for the tumor to have been a glioblastoma is what I was trying to demonstrate by previously referencing Loyal Davis's paper on the typical course of a glioblastoma in the mid 1920's. That did not change appreciably by the time Gershwin died in 1937.

I had alluded to the psychoanalytic zeitgeist of psychiatry in the 1930's, and how organicity was not a concept psychiatrists in those days had as firm a grasp on as they do today. As Gershwin's tumor manifested symptoms that were all behavioral, it is not surprising that no psychiatrist ever thought Gershwin might be physically ill. I believe there was one internist who did, but skull and chest x-rays, plus neurological examination were all normal, so he went back to the psychiatrists.

Gershwin also presented with "gastric crises", but these were considered by his psychiatrists to be a somatization disorder - the mind transfers some disordered state of thinking into a physical symptom. Yet, it was no secret back then that this is also associated with complex partial seizures, formerly known as temporal or psychomotor epilepsy. Also, before each bout of bizarre behavior, he would complain of smells of burning rubber. That is very uncommon for a severe neurosis, but also well known even then to also be prodromal to temporal fits.

So we all know the rest of the story. When he was finally admitted to the hospital in a coma with multiple neurological signs (beginning herniation?), he never recovered from surgery to remove a gliomatous cyst of the right temporal lobe, which was localized by ventriculography. This was three years since he began showing symptoms.

The slides were reexamined in 2001 by Dr. Sloop, who saw clear cut evidence of pilocytic astrocytoma, a very low grade malignancy, and potentially curable. The tumor cells show no evidence of mitosis or necrosis, presented with pleomorphic nuclei, and "hair like cytoplasmic processes."

Dr. Sloop correctly points out that pilocytic astrocytoma and glioblastoma can both show cellular pleomorphisms, and he believes that is why the tumor may have been mistaken for a glioblastoma by the pathologist in 1937.

Is this the final word on it? Well, no, if we had the entire tumor to take multiple additional samples from, but we don't, so I think this conclusion will stand.

A legacy of great men destroyed by sick totalitarian brains!

Hi Miguel,

I am aware of the great works in general medicine and biology in the late Tsarist era, and we know the so called "progressive" label now refers to people that are anything but. You will find the American liberal, while not a lover of Stalin, will at least unconsciously practice his techniques.

Yes, and Harvey Cushing died in 1939 of heart failure, with the famous meningioma or colloid cyst found around the third ventricle (no consensus on that one). Cigarettes? Loyal Davis, as one of his residents, thought he would be treated
more kindly if he bought Cushing a pack of his favorite brand. No, Cushing just snatched them out of his hands and said nothing.

I would say Walter Dandy might have been able to do it, but I like to remind people it is not completely correct to say he was the first to observe what air might do when it is in the ventricles. I wouldn't bet my life on it, but I think
he read this paper. The x-rays are not published here, but I have them from elsewhere.

Pavlov may have been, but he trained as a general surgeon. He couldn't study behavior if he couldn't operate on those dogs. Application of the x-ray as early as 1896 with bread soaked in Bismuth Sub-nitrate for contrast in cats by Walter Cannon confirmed some of his observations. Thank you for your best wishes! Best Regards, Adam
Hi Adam,

Before the 1917 Revolution, Russia was quite advanced culturally in art, philosophy, literature, and in the pursuit of science & medicine. Consider the great Russian novelists, such as Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoi, and Dostoyevski; artists and composers, such as Vladimir Mayakovsky and Pyotr Tchaikovsky; neurophysiologists and other scientists, such as Ivan Pavlov (Nobel Prize 1904) and Dmitri Mendeleev, etc. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, a physicist, discusses this in his masterpiece, November, 1916, a part of his brilliant work, the Red Wheel series. He adds financiers and, most importantly, for the advancement of Russia at the turn of the century, engineers.

The USSR under Lenin advanced in the police state tactic and under Stalin advanced in heavy industry and bellicosity and also repressive tactics, but sank in the arts and science. Lysenko was king!


Neurology and neurosurgical text books from the early twentieth century would give an idea of the status of neurology and surgery and would have cited not only Pavlov but also Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev (1857–1927), Prof. V.N. Vinogradov (1882-1964), and Nikolay N. Burdenko (1876-1946), the father of Soviet Neurosurgery. Burdenko had predeceased Stalin, so he could not have operated. Surgery could have been done in Stalin but with little chance of a positive result. Even if he had survived, he would have been left with a severe right hemiplegia and aphasia. Walter Dandy, in my opinion, would have been his best bet, but the American giant had died of a heart attack the same year as Burdenko (1946) and would not have been available.

But even if Stalin's surgery could have been done, don't forget the problem was not with the technical difficulties of the operation, which would have been routine, but the need of the Soviet physicians to bring down his blood pressure, and to stop the bleeding diathesis from the rat poison (i.e., Vit. K blocker derivative) that cause the hemorrhage to begin with. Incidentally, you mentioned Harvey Cushing, who had died in 1939, but the best technical surgeon at the time, especially for heroic neurosurgery, without a doubt, would have been Walter Dandy, but any competent surgery would have sufficed. When George Gershwin became acutely ill in Los Angeles with a brain tumor in 1937, Cushing in retirement, recommended Walter Dandy to operate but the neurosurgeon was in a yatch fishing in the Chesapeake Base with the governor of Maryland. The coast guard and private planes were sent to bring him back to the West coast. Gershwin was operated At Mount Sinai in LA and died there before Dandy could reach him. Harvey Cushing did operate on a meningioma afflicting Leonard Wood, the former American military governor of Cuba, but the Major-General, then the Governor-General of the Philippines died at a second operation by Cushing when the meningioma recurred two decades later in 1927.

You could insert the link to that paper by Wilder Penfield in a relevant and related comment by you on the subject, if you decide to do so. I mentioned Pavlov in the context of B.F. Skinner. Both men were behaviorists:

Sincerely, MAF
Hi Miguel,

Concerning Lysenko, he was Ukrainian, and Stalin was no friend of them. BUT, he came from a very poor family and treaded his way up to fame through hard work, even if misapplied. This is as opposed to Trotsky et al, who came from a well to do family to begin with. Stalin liked Lysenko, because he put hard work into what he did, and did not leech off family money. Or so he thought. True enough, that Stalin didn't. His family had none. Except Stalin had to ignore how rich Lenin's family was. Also that he was highly educated and a lawyer. Though, I sometimes wonder with Stalin's genius for acting, if he really hated Ulyanov.

it is not easy to find descriptions of Russian neurosurgery in the late Tsarist era. Problem is that the Russian sites on this are heavily propagandized. I can see they are lying about the accomplishments of many of the surgeons. However, I could be selective and post what I think might be true.

Well, it is possible Stalin was free of bleeding diathesis if we take the position we can't be sure of the poisoning. You could give me your opinion as you know better, but I would have recommended the old two stage procedure of the early 1900's. Subtemporal decompression under local anesthetic, and wait until the patient stabilizes...blood pressure would lower if part of it was due to increased intracranial pressure. Then you could re-operate and attempt to remove the lesion under a general anesthetic - chloroform in those days, because the coughing with ether raised the intracranial pressure. Maybe you think this wouldn't apply, but if it did, then you wouldn't need Dandy. Also, they would needle the brain during a decompression to see if the resistance changed and suppose that might be the lesion. Maybe you still do - I don't know. But we have more than skull x-rays now.

If the patient had been comatose, they could and did decompress with no anesthetic. Even now, I'm pretty sure in something like severe gunshot wound to the head, you don't need to use it in all cases. This is not to say that a
neurosurgeon will find all 10% of gunshots to the head that reach him alive operable. I don't have to tell you! Best Regards, Adam
MAF, Yes Stalin was poisoned; alternative theories, conjectures, yes; but no one has been able to dispute the evidence and my conclusions, when considering the clinical and autopsy findings in the context of the political times and the behavior of his inner circle. Not even the German historian at the Kremlin has disputed or even answered my queries to him on the subject:


Wikipedia Propaganda!

I had seen this quite some time ago, but I had forgotten to post it in these previous comments. Concerning General Leonard Wood, a excerpt from the Wikipedia article on him says,

"Wood died in Boston after undergoing surgery for a recurrent brain tumor. He had initially been diagnosed in 1910 with a benign meningioma brought on by exposure to experimental weapons refuse.[citation needed] This was resected by Harvey Cushing at that time, and Wood made a full recovery until the tumor later recurred. The successful removal of Wood's brain tumor represented an important milestone, indicating to the public the advances that had been made in the nascent field of neurosurgery, and extending Wood's life by almost two decades.[13]

"He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[14][15] His brain is held at the Yale University School of Medicine as part of an historic collection of Harvey Cushing's patients' preserved brains."

All of this is what I had previously mentioned, except the second sentence about the etiology of the meningioma. It is interesting that after all these years on Wikipedia, a citation is still needed.

I'm not a neurosurgeon, but so far as I know, no specific causes have yet been assigned to the meningiomas. Even if they were, how would anyone know what had caused it in Wood's case? This assertion smells suspiciously to me like left wing propaganda. I believe Cushing thought there was a definite relationship between them and head trauma, but many since have disputed even that. But he nor any other physician involved in Wood's care never stated it was due to refuse from experimental weapons. I think right sided spastic hemiplegia and Jacksonian fits were present for several years before his first operation in 1910, so what kind of weapon was this they were experimenting with during that era? [Cushing 1910 pre-op exam notes: "... pyramidal tract palsy on the left side."]

I have seen this type of unverifiable lie inserted many times in Wikipedia articles, even though I think their content has dramatically improved over the past 10 or 15 years. When one reads about the military causing illness in humans by toxic byproducts of weapons or experiments dispersed into the environment, I do not think it is paranoid to believe that such nonsense has been deliberately inserted by those who knew exactly what they were doing. They know it will be accepted instantly by the majority of people reading it, because most will not even know what meningiomas are, and will assume that their etiology is well established. --ARB
Adam, you are absolutely correct. There is no evidence for any experimental (chemical) weapons etiological reason for meningiomas. Even the classical Cushing's possible traumatic causation has not been verified in any scientific investigation.--- MAF

Stalin's outcome with Beria as his keeper!

I certainly did not mean to say I didn't accept your conclusion of poisoning, but I did want to make sure we agreed it can never be positively proven. However, since doctors at the time he was dying did not know he was poisoned, they would likely not have tried to treat a bleeding diathesis before surgery.

Let's say he wasn't poisoned (or even if he was). If surgery to evacuate the hematoma was successful, how is you make the statement that hemiplegia and aphasia would be permanent?

I'm not saying a person like you who studied and practiced neurosurgery for so long does not have opinions that are likely much more based on facts and experience than mine, but you read Lenin's autopsy report and saw for yourself why the left Sylvian artery occlusion had to be the cause of some of his symptoms. I cannot make any kind of statement regarding localization or prognosis from the brevity of writing that is Stalin's autopsy report.

If you are correct, however, it would be amusing to think that he would have then have been in Lenin's position under Beria's charge, and Beria would have likely done every same thing to him as he did to Lenin when Lenin first became ill. Perhaps even worse, as Stalin was motivated by a grab for power, while Beria would have to had his need for sadism thrown in. Stalin could control that if it was not essential to what he needed. Beria was a base animal who couldn't help it. --- ARB

Dr. Faria replies: We must assume it was a large hemorrhage in the left hemisphere, and he died of rostro-caudal deterioration with transtentorial herniation, as discussed in the clinical course of my paper, and such an expansive hematoma in the critical area at the crossroad of the speech and motor areas at Stalin's age, would have caused extensive primary neural and axonal damage, and from my experience, which is quite extensive with treatment of intracerebral hematomas — from aneurysmal, hypertensive, and bleeding diathesis (waiting until the clotting disorder is corrected) at Emory hospital, and for traumatic (blunt, penetrating, and GSW) hematomas at Grady hospital in Atlanta — I can assure of the most likely two outcomes!

And yes, ironies or ironies, Stalin would have been in the same boat as Lenin with Beria as his gatekeeper! ---MAF

I believe it!

Yes, I needed your opinion, and that is probably exactly what happened, so it was hopeless even if he survived. In such condition, even if Beria did not hold him in a dungeon, there could be no possibility of him ever returning to his role as head of state.

Still, you would operate knowing the most likely outcome, and what I have wondered before is why they didn't attempt something more radical, since they had nothing to lose. I assume part of it was politically based, but it is difficult to find hard evidence of that. Although, likely fright of Beria no matter what they did is easy to guess at.--- ARB
PS. As regards aneurysms, it is funny that they were one of the only neurosurgical conditions Cushing would never touch.

Another famous Soviet brain I saw....

In this same hospital (Roosevelt/St. Luke's in NYC) I also viewed the brain of George Balanchine. He was born in Tsarist Georgia as Giorgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze in 1904. We now know he died of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, but in 1978 when his symptoms first commenced, CT was not of high enough resolution to make the diagnosis, even with the clinical information. In fact, it was not until his autopsy in 1983 that the diagnosis was actually made. From what I understand, the autopsy suite was packed, because everyone wanted to know what he had.

While on tour in Germany in 1924, he defected. I don't know who exactly was running the USSR at this time besides Stalin. I suppose it was more than just Kamenev and Zinoviev, but I am sure whoever had any power just after Lenin's death must have been completely furious!

As for his brain, grossly it showed nothing special but the usual atrophy seen in the cerebellar-pontine angle and brainstem characteristic of the disorder.

You, Miguel, love medical history (as do I), and Roosevelt Hospital is absolutely full of it. In 1995, the skeleton of its original benefactor was found inside one of its walls during remodeling. Not a total surprise, as that is what he requested in his will if he gave the hospital the starting money.

Hatred of Intellectuals

I've been busy myself lately, Miguel, so I am sorry I did not see this response until yesterday. I realize we may have moved on from this topic somewhat, and now you and Dr. Ausman know I am planning to formally start writing the paper on V.I. Lenin's final illness next month.

I'm sorry, but this topic to me is one that hits so close to home. It may be why I can see in myself a bit of begrudging admiration for Stalin. Not at all in his lust for blood, but in the way that he was so intelligent and yet was mocked so smugly by "academia" who had no idea what kind of man they were so casually dismissing.

Yes, you know this is the internet on a public forum, but I will say this anyway because I feel so strongly about it. To me, it is so much like the smugness of the American left here who thinks we on the right are a bunch of uneducated and ignorant "fascists" who live in "trailer parks" and want to remove the vote from women and bring back slavery.

We did not react to this complete nonsense with the terror of a Stalin, but I do believe we voted in Mr. Trump because we were sick and tired of being the true intelligent force in this country, yet treated like a bunch of fools by the ignorant people on the left, who are the real danger to our country. They do not even know what the electoral college is, or how it works! We are the ignorant ones?!?

Most of us here have advanced degrees, but unlike those on the left do not consider them some badge that gives us the right to spit on others. However, having such degrees usually means we have come into very close contact with the type of leftist that dominates academia, and in my case, I find them so repellent that they (in large measure) are the ones who made up my mind as to the leaning of my current politics. They are anything but open minded and tolerant, and quite frankly, I find many of them to be prejudiced, racist, and just miserable, hateful, and hypocritical human beings.

That doesn't mean I can't get along with them in a working relationship, but it does mean I can't imagine how I could vote for the same people they do!

BTW, I had a neurosurgical question for you, if you don't mind it being out of place here. I just don't want to forget asking you again. In the article I sent you privately written by Victor Horsley in December 1910, he claims to have observed a sizable reduction in the volume of gliomas merely following a subtemporal decompression. I find that fascinating if it is true. He did not at all touch the tumor. I am thinking. With a malignant tumor expanding in the skull, the brain is increasingly compressed, and a decompression operation would naturally restore much of the normal size and position of its structures (i.e. ventricles, nuclei, white matter ,etc.). But what of the tumor? It too, must be compressed in a similar manner as the brain, so a decompression should rapidly expand the tumor as well, should it not?

Could such rapid expansion of a glioma damage its naturally more friable blood supply and infarct much of it? I am just guessing here, and I apologize again for putting this question out of place, but it has been off and on my mind and I have kept forgetting to ask you.

There is some relation of this paper to Lenin's illness, so perhaps we could consider the question not totally off base in this section? Best Regards, Adam

Glioma regression

Dr Faria replies: Good comments, Adam. Regarding the loaded neurosurgical questions. Let me simply say that the decompression helps the normal brain generally in part for the reasons you stated, but it has no physiologic effect in the tumor remaining that we can detect either radiographically or clinically. What Victor Horsley stated to the German Society of Neurologists in Berlin in 1919 and published in the paper you mentioned was:

Indeed, it was owing to a patient deciding before an operation that no procedure involving an increase of his hemiparesis should be carried out, that I made the first observation that a simple decompression operation could cause arrest and complete degeneration of a glioma. Though the same result has been observed since in other cases, they are so few that it is impossible to draw any conclusions as to the factors which combine to render such a fortunate result possible.

Perhaps, Horsley meant by simple decompression a partial removal of a tumor. I taken he meant removal of swollen cerebral tissue in a "silent" area of the brain, leaving the dura opened or grafted, and/or bony removal (craniectomy or leaving the bone flap out).

First, Decompression certainly allows more room for the normal brain to function with improvement in symptoms, as discussed by Horsley, and this truism still holds today. But, the specific claim made by Horsley about glioma regression by simple decompression, presumably by removing bone and possibly normal or swollen cerebral tissue, unfortunately has not been substantiated. Second, partial removal of glioma gives temporary relief. Third, Gliomas, particularly astrocytomas, have been known to spontaneously regress (in rare situations); more commonly they have been noted clinically to have become dormant with or without surgery for years. Fourth, at the time of Horsley, without the benefits of CT scars or MRIs technology, arrest in the growth of brain tumors following decompression and partial removal of the tumor could have caused improvement in the clinical condition of the patient. Fifth, postoperative radiation frequently causes further regression of tumors. In all such cases, the radiographic findings of improvement based on the techniques of the time — namely ventriculography or pneumoencephalography — and the accompanying clinical stabilization, could have been easily ascribed incorrectly as “cures” (Horsley's "degeneration of a glioma") in slow growing or dormant gliomas such as astrocytomas or oligodendrogliomas without residual mass effect.

Decompression continued

I think you are right about Horsley. He did not have CT or MRI to follow the growth or decrease in the volume of the tumor. He had the skull x-ray, but we know even the most vicious tumors usually present as normal that way. I'm not talking about shift of physiological calcification, because that might not be an accurate method of measuring the volume of tumor. He died in 1915, three years before the introduction of air studies.

I believe some of the lower grade gliomas can be cured, but we don't know what kind of gliomas he was referring to, because it took until about 1926 for Cushing to introduce the present grading system. I tended to side with you, even before you wrote that, but I wanted your opinion anyway. He likely saw improvement after decompression because of relief of intracranial hypertension, but how would he differentiate that from shrinkage of the glioma? I am sure he had autopsies done on such patients, but without imaging, how would he know what they looked like before he operated?

One thing might give us a tip. He, (along with early many neurosurgeons from the 1890's to 1920's) occasionally referred to patients diagnosed with "glio-sarcoma." I'm not the expert here, but I know that these tumors are fairly rare and even worse than any glioma.

I saw when I was very young a formalin filled jar with Ethel Merman's brain in it. She died about 10 months or so after surgery for glio-sarcoma. I thought about that brain later, and I realized that these early neurosurgeons were referring to a glioblastoma, and the error was in their terminology. There simply couldn't be that many glio-sarcoma cases as you would think there were if you believed what neuropathologists said in that era. So, I wasn't try to load the question. I was thinking maybe we overlooked something really promising from the old literature. Shrinking a high grade glioma just by decompression might offer some interesting possibilities in combination with other treatments. However, I knew you were right. It is just too easy.

Bukharin & Stalin

Stalin and Bukharin actually had been very good friends. Not that it mattered in the end, as we know all too well. But Stalin had another good reason to share leadership (or at least make it appear so) of the USSR with Bukharin after he dissolved the triumvirate he shared with Kamenev and Zinoviev.

In 1926, Stalin does not as of yet have any particular economic plan of his own. Bukharin, as the well known and charming party intellectual truly is brimming with ideas, not just a few of which will (and do) improve the lot of the common peasant.

So, it is safe to say that Stalin goes along with Bukharin's ideas for a while (with correction, because he does not want to reveal how truly ignorant of Marxist economic philosophy he really is), but that is more or less all, because the reality of power now is that it is almost fully concentrated in the party apparatus, and Bukharin is not in it.

I have summarized some of this from an excellent PBS documentary made in 1990 on Stalin, and it explains why placing Stalin in the seemingly unimportant position of General Secretary in the early 1920's gave him an understanding of the power contained in the party apparatus, while the other old Bolsheviks had no comprehension of this, preferring instead to work in the "government."

Stalin's extensive theological education is generally considered to be the reason why he had such difficulty grasping the abstract concepts of Marxist philosophy. I don't know how true this is, but Dmitri Volkogonov gives an excellent account of the tragedy that befell the unknowing Jan Sten of the Institute of Red Professors when Stalin hired him on as a tutor in Marxist theory in 1925, clearly grooming himself to be Lenin's heir apparent.

Reply — I really doubt Stalin had difficulty with Marxist philosophy or anything else, except languages. He simply discarded what he did not want to use and adapted whatever methods he deem appropriate — whether political philosophy or tactical repression, gulag system, famine, kangaroo trials, etc., whatever was needed at the moment to satisfy the needs of the totalitarian State that he identified as himself, and not the dogmatism of Karl Marx. ---MAF

Linguistics & Philosophy

Perhaps you say languages because he spoke Russian with a thick Georgian accent and was mocked by Tsarist teachers, party and peasantry because of this? Yet, that would not be a difficulty with languages per se. But he had hired an actor who taught him how to speak in a slow but regular cadence, which was more suited to his tone of voice and did captivate the masses in a different way than Hitler, because their basic styles of emoting were so different. At least, unlike Hitler, Stalin KNEW more than one language.

Every politico-economic system (even one so ridiculous as Marxism) has to have a philosophical underpinning, and most are quite complex. Stalin's method of thinking was so rigid in this respect that he just could not grasp the abstract concepts of party theory, because being an abstract genius in evil does not necessary translate over to being an abstract genius in political science. Though he was such a intelligent man, why do you think he harbored such a life long hatred and jealously of the party intellectuals? He himself was fairly well educated and well read, so what difference would they make to him?

Because both he and they knew he could not (and Beria was even worse) grasp the simplest elements of abstract Marxist theory.

But you say, "He simply discarded what he did not want to use and adapted whatever methods he deem appropriate — whether political philosophy or tactical repression, gulag system, famine, kangaroo trials, etc., whatever was needed at the moment to satisfy the needs of the totalitarian State that he identified as himself, and not the dogmatism of Karl Marx."

Yes, and despite what I said, you are 100% correct. In fact, he totally inverted the scheme of Marx and Lenin, as he limited himself to communism in one country, at least until after the war. Best, Adam
Most German and Russian intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th century, including Marx and Lenin, spoke several languages. Stalin only spoke Georgian and Russian and reportedly tried but failed to learn English. Yes, he disliked intellectuals, although he was brighter and as well-read as most; he ended up annihilating most of them anyway. His quintessential intellectual was Trotsky, whom Stalin detested following one amusing occasion. In the early days, two comrades, man and woman Bolsheviks, were making love behind a curtain. Stalin heard them "frolicking" and alerted Trotsky with a smirk of a smile. Trotsky made the mistake of rebuffing and curtly reproving Stalin for his lack of social graces. It was a great mistake, and Stalin never forgot or forgave it. From then on he judged Trotsky a fastidious prick, a prig; Trotsky thought of Stalin as crude and misjudged him as, “an outstanding mediocrity of our Party" (Montefiore) — another fatal miscalculation!--- MAF

On Trotsky, his mortal injury, and the Kronstadt rebellion!

I wanted to say that I never had any sympathy for Trotsky, because I think Stalin was content with the psychological torture Trotsky underwent when he was thrown out of the USSR forever. It only began to enter Stalin's mind to get rid of him forever when Trotsky began to viciously attack "Stalinism."

He was right to criticize it, but he criticized it for the wrong reasons. They were not so noble as he portrayed them. He was simply envious that he was not running the USSR, and butchering the same people Stalin was doing. If he would have killed a few less million, that would only be because he was just as cruel, but not as paranoid.

From s surgical standpoint I have seen evidence that the famous icepick hit his skull with the blunt end, not with the sharp pick. So it was blunt head trauma, not penetrating head trauma he sustained. That is why he survived a day or two day following the attack and operation. ---ARB

Dr. Faria replies:I agree that Trotsky was a vicious as Stalin in getting rid of political enemies and "enemies of the State," but not as paranoid; this is well documented when in March 1921 Trotsky suppressed the Kronstadt Rebellion and ordered the most capable Soviet general Mikhail Tukhachesky (later executed by Stalin as documented in this website) and the Red Army to destroy the former heroes of the Revolution, the Kronstadt sailors. This insurrection convinced Lenin of the need of the New Economic Policy (NEP). If I do remember correctly Trotsky's mortal injury was quite penetrating!---MAF

The irony of Gen. Tukhachesky's execution.

They needed Gen. Tukhachesky to fight the Germans, but yet Stalin allows Budyonny to live after voicing such stupid opinions as the need for a horse riding cavalry! In fact, I think he let him implement one.

Too bad Tukhachesky did not know Stalin liked to say "Gratitute is a sickness of dogs," especially since he meant it, and so it didn't matter how much the general tirelessly modernized the Red Army. --- ARB

MAF: An interesting aside, Adam, about Spanish gold, the elusive Alexander Orlov and his defection-deception and General Tukhachevsky is found in:

If they only had time to fly in Dr. Walter Dandy!

You are right. The injury was penetrating, but I was also right. He used the blunt end of the pick, not the sharp end. Not that it matters who is right, but I knew I read that somewhere years ago.


Trotsky's associates wanted Dandy after the Mexicans operated, but Trotsky died before they could secure a flight for him. You might give me yours, but my opinion after reading this is that Dandy might have saved him if he had operated in the first place.

You are right about the Kronstadt rebellion, if anyone needed any proof of his ruthlessness after his performance in the civil war as Red Army Commander. Probably Stalin first became jealous of him because of his major role in beating the Whites from 1918-1920, while Stalin himself had only a minor one. His mistake in underestimating Stalin was due to the usual snobbishness of a leftist intellectual, not because he lacked perception in general.

The NEP was probably one of the most positively impacting policies Lenin had ever implemented, and given that Marx had expected revolution to occur in a more capitalistic and advanced country than Tsarist Russia, was completely in line with his philosophy.--- ARB

MAF: As for Ramon Mercader, Trotsky's assassin, he spent, I believe 20 years, in a Mexican prison refusing to reveal one iota of who he was or the conspiracy. He was released after completing his sentence and went to Cuba where he was a hero of the Cuban Revolution and the DGI but otherwise incognito as to the general public. Ramon's mother Caridad mercader was a Spanish communist and mistress of a top KGB agent, the legendary, Leonid Eitingon, the actual organizer of Trotsky assassination working under Pavel Sudoplatov and Beria. I discussed Mercader briefly in my article "Stalin, Communists, and Fatal Statistics." The whole story is in Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov's book, Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness - A Soviet Spymaster

Ramon Mercader, Assassin, Communist Hero!

1. The article in Neurosurgery is interesting because it tells me that the wound was not mortal. They say he died of loss of blood and shock, but it is not possible to go into shock from loss of blood in the brain only, if it stays in the skull, is it? We are not talking a ruptured spleen here. It must have been herniation through the tentorium, but you can see that in 1940; you would not want to go to Mexico for any kind of surgery. One of the surgeons even admits as such that he does not believe in craniotomy to stop bleeding.

2. So did Stalin intend a quick and neat death for Trotsky? I think so. He did not punish Mercader, but I have to think the hit he put out on Trotsky was much more clean and efficient.

3. I wonder what kind of revolutionary hero the Cubans thought Mercader was? As we now know, the party Lenin started in October 1917 looked nothing like the party of December 1929, when Stalin assumed full rule and announced on the 21st that all Kulaks were to be liquidated as a class. As bad as Lenin was, Mercader would not have been a hero for him.

Than you for the interesting links. I will get to read those by the weekend. Also, Dr. Blaylock's article is wonderfully written PLUS historically correct, and I would to add a thing or two to it. --ARB