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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Secret CIA Files Show Shake-Up After Stalin

WASHINGTON -- The Soviet leadership undertook a hasty shakeup of top government and Communist Party posts following the death of Josef Stalin in March 1953 to head off possible "panic and disarray" among the country's long-repressed population, newly released CIA documents show.

The reorganization was completed in advance of Stalin's funeral in an apparent attempt to show the people and the rest of the world that the Soviet house was in order, the documents said.

They said the decision to hold a joint meeting of the Council of Ministers and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet after Stalin's death was almost unprecedented.

"It strongly suggested that the leaders in this moment of crisis had moved swiftly to show their unity and to gird themselves for any battle that might be coming from inside or out," the study said.

The CIA commentary, stamped "top secret," was completed about four months after Stalin's death.

Despite Stalin's reputation as a brutal dictator responsible for the deaths of millions, particularly in the 1930s, the analysis said the Soviet leader was revered by ordinary Russians.

"It seems to be the consensus of most Western students of Soviet affairs and propaganda that the deification of Stalin was so all-pervasive in scope, so penetrating, as to have had a profound affect on the Russian people, particularly the uneducated," the analysis said.

"Stalin was portrayed as a god, who of course could do no wrong. His goodness was unbounded."

The study noted that information under the system Stalin had created was so tightly controlled that no one knew for sure the details of his death.

"It is impossible to determine whether Stalin had been dead for some time, whether he was murdered, or whether he died in the way the medical bulletins said he did," the study said.

He was reported to have died about three days after suffering a stroke. He was succeeded by Georgy Malenkov, a party leader and close collaborator of Stalin's.

The analysis was contained in a large group of documents, some of which were released by the CIA last week.

They covered the period from 1953 to 1973 and were prepared by specialists in the communist world. Many of the documents covered developments in China during the period.