The death of Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in March 1953 came as a shock to everybody regardless of the fact what was one's personal attitude to the Soviet leader and what emotions were elicited by the unexpected news. While the type and range of reactions cannot be assessed by reference to 'hard' statistical data, we have plenty of testimonies and opinions which blend into hasty generalizations and conjectures. That should not mean, however, that no valid generalizations can be made. For one thing, it was obvious to everybody, without exception, that Stalin's death marked the end of an era. One can also be certain that the reactions to that death ranged from hysterical grief and despair to indifference (probably a rare response), relief (probably more common) and even joy. The momentous event heightened the sense of fear, but also woke up hopes of a change for the better. As not all of those sentiments could be shown in public people tended to express their opinions in a very guarded manner within a narrow circle of family and friends they could trust. There were some isolated cases of people unable to hide their relief and joy at the death of the dictator: in so far as the authorities found out about such incidents the culprits had to face the inevitable consequences. This article uses as its primary source a series of reports written in the wake of Stalin's death on 5 March 1953 at the local branches of the Ministry of Public Security of the Voivodeships of Cracow and Lublin. The author has also consulted a raft of memoirs and biographical materials, among them the memoirs of Maria Dabrowska, Zofia Nalkowska and Marian Wyrzykowski.
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