Lenin was only nine years older than Stalin. As founder and unchallenged leader of the Bolsheviks, maker of the world’s first dictatorship of the proletariat, it was reasonable to assume in, say, 1920 that Lenin would have many years as effective head of the Soviet regime, that Stalin would spend most of his career in Lenin’s shadow and that he might be too old to be a plausible successor to Lenin by the time the founder’s career did reach its end. Not that Stalin in 1921 was by any means the heir apparent among Lenin’s lieutenants. But Lenin was not genetically fortunate. The same premature arterial sclerosis that had felled his father at the age of 54 announced its claim on him during 1921 through headaches, insomnia and — so unlike Lenin — apathy toward his work. From early December to 1 March 1922 he spent much of his time on leave, living outside Moscow, trying to rest and regain his vigour. Then, on 25–7 May, he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage that temporarily paralysed his right arm and leg and impaired his speech.1 For Stalin, and perhaps others, a whole range of new opportunities suddenly appeared.
KeywordsCentral Committee Soviet Regime Soviet State Party Congress Minority Nationality
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