It’s Sunday, October 13, 1935, and someone, we don’t know who mails a letter from the outskirts of Moscow. It’s addressed: “Kremlin. To Comrade Stalin.” It arrives a few days later.
There was nothing odd about people writing Stalin. They wrote to him a lot. To plead for help. To give advice. To complain. To denounce. And to threaten.
The letters could be incredibly personal. And also incredibly irate. So many letters poured into Soviet officials, one historian called letter writing “a national pastime.”
So, when Comrade Sentaretskya, one of the secretaries sorting Stalin’s mail, got to this letter, she had no reason to worry . . . . that is until she opened it.
A Gift for Stalin was written, edited, and produced by Sean Guillory.
Voiceovers by Maya Haber and Greg Weinstein.
Music by Harry Edvino, J. R. Productions, Lugvig Moulin, Stationary Sign, and Semen Slepakov.
Art by Nik Arnoldi.
Thanks to Arch Getty and Jon Waterlow for participating and Michelle Ransom, Alice Garner, and Rusana Novikova for their ears.
For a list of sources consulted for A Gift for Stalin, go to The Eurasian Knot at euraknot.org.