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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Author: Bodyguard Killed Stalin

NEW YORK -- Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator who ordered the executions of millions of people, was himself murdered by trusted aides or at least allowed to die untreated after collapsing at home, a new book claims.

The official Soviet government line was that Stalin died March 5, 1953 -- 43 years ago Tuesday -- after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage and a stroke. But Russian writer and playwright Eduard Radzinsky says in his new biography, "Stalin," that the dictator was probably poisoned by a bodyguard acting on orders from Lavrenty Beria, then head of the Soviet secret police.

When another bodyguard found Stalin lying on his bedroom floor in a puddle of his own urine, Beria and other top government officials, including Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin's eventual successor, refused to summon medical help for more than 13 hours, hastening his death, Radzinsky said Monday.

"If they did not kill him by poison, they killed him" by withholding medical care, he said.

Radzinsky's book is based on interviews -- including new testimony from the bodyguard who discovered the dying Stalin -- and a trove of previously secret documents in government, Communist Party and KGB archives.

Radzinsky says Beria ordered Stalin's death out of fear he would soon be executed. Soon after Stalin died, Beria was, in fact, killed by a firing squad.

Radzinsky says he detected the first clues in accounts by three of Stalin's bodyguards found in the State Archive of the October Revolution.

Two of them said that hours before he suffered his stroke, the workaholic Stalin gave them an unprecedented order: "I'm going to bed. I shan't be wanting you. You can go to bed, too."

But the bodyguard who found Stalin on the floor, Pyotr Lozgachev, told Radzinsky in an interview that the order did not come directly from Stalin; rather, it came from another bodyguard who went home before Stalin was found.

Radzinsky acknowledges he has no firm evidence. But he says only Beria was in a position to arrange Stalin's murder and that it was probably committed by the bodyguard who told the others to go to sleep. Radzinsky identified the alleged killer as Ivan Khrustalev.

Radzinsky regrets the current nostalgia in Russia for Stalin -- blaming it on weakness among the country's democratic forces and a longing for stability at a time of growing crime and falling living standards.

"They need today in Russia, unfortunately, a master, a man who created order," Radzinsky said. Stalin is a "symbol of strength, a symbol of power."