12

That Stalin ruled with terror is reasonably well-known, and the terror, of course, went all the way up to the top of government. But at the very, very top, at the level of Lavrentiy Beria, who was head of the secret police, and Khrushchev, Stalin ruled with terror and drunkenness.

The method was simple. Stalin would call up his politburo and invite them round for supper. They weren’t really allowed to refuse. At supper Stalin made them drink, and drink, and drink; and again, they weren’t really allowed to refuse. Krushchev remembered that:

Almost every evening the phone rang: “C’mon over, we’ll have dinner.” Those were dreadful dinners. We would get home toward dawn, and yet we had to go to work… Things went badly for people who dozed off at Stalin’s table.

Stalin was merely doing to his own cabinet what Soviets delighted in doing to everybody. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 was celebrated by a dinner that included twenty-two toasts before any food arrived. But Stalin’s private dinners had a more nightmarish quality to them. Stalin would laugh till he cried as Beria did an impersonation of the dying screams of Grigory Zinoviev, whose death Stalin had ordered. The dictator would tap out his pipe on Krushchev’s bald head before ordering him to do a Cossack dance. The deputy defense commissar was always getting pushed into a pond.

Stalin himself didn’t drink much. At least, he drank a lot less than his guests, and there was a rumor that the vodka he was putting away was in fact water. This was a trick that Beria actually attempted, but he was caught. In the end he was philosophical about it and said, “We’ve got to get drunk, the sooner the better. The sooner we’re drunk, the sooner the party will be over. No matter what, he’s not going to let us leave sober.”

The point of it all was that the politburo was humiliated, that they were set against each other and that their tongues were loosened. It was very hard to plot against Stalin anyway, but much harder when you had to get drop-dead drunk in front of him every night.


Source:

Forsyth, Mark. “Russia.” A Short History of Drunkenness. Three Rivers Press, 2017. 204-5. Print.


Further Reading:

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin

Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev

Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev

>That [Stalin](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Stalin_Full_Image.jpg) ruled with terror is reasonably well-known, and the terror, of course, went all the way up to the top of government. But at the very, very top, at the level of [Lavrentiy Beria](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/Lavrentiy_Beria_%28close-up%29.jpg), who was head of the secret police, and [Khrushchev](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c5/Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-B0628-0015-035%2C_Nikita_S._Chruschtschow.jpg), Stalin ruled with terror and drunkenness. >The method was simple. Stalin would call up his politburo and invite them round for supper. They weren’t really allowed to refuse. At supper Stalin made them drink, and drink, and drink; and again, they weren’t really allowed to refuse. Krushchev remembered that: >*Almost every evening the phone rang: “C’mon over, we’ll have dinner.” Those were dreadful dinners. We would get home toward dawn, and yet we had to go to work… Things went badly for people who dozed off at Stalin’s table.* >Stalin was merely doing to his own cabinet what Soviets delighted in doing to everybody. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 was celebrated by a dinner that included twenty-two toasts before any food arrived. But Stalin’s private dinners had a more nightmarish quality to them. Stalin would laugh till he cried as Beria did an impersonation of the dying screams of [Grigory Zinoviev](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Grigorii_Zinovieff_1920_%28cropped%29%282%29.jpg), whose death Stalin had ordered. The dictator would tap out his pipe on Krushchev’s bald head before ordering him to do a Cossack dance. The deputy defense commissar was always getting pushed into a pond. >Stalin himself didn’t drink much. At least, he drank a lot less than his guests, and there was a rumor that the vodka he was putting away was in fact water. This was a trick that Beria actually attempted, but he was caught. In the end he was philosophical about it and said, “We’ve got to get drunk, the sooner the better. The sooner we’re drunk, the sooner the party will be over. No matter what, he’s not going to let us leave sober.” >The point of it all was that the politburo was humiliated, that they were set against each other and that their tongues were loosened. It was very hard to plot against Stalin anyway, but much harder when you had to get drop-dead drunk in front of him every night. _______________________________ **Source:** Forsyth, Mark. “Russia.” *A Short History of Drunkenness*. Three Rivers Press, 2017. 204-5. Print. _______________________________ **Further Reading:** [Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin) [Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavrentiy_Beria) [Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev) [Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigory_Zinoviev)

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