"Is Stalin really dying?"
"No, but his liver's going bad."
"I've heard it was his lungs."
"Some say it's his heart"
"Anyhow he's back in" Moscow from that sanitarium."
"It wasn't really a sanitarium! Do you know, I've heard. . . ."
Thus all Russia has gossiped for a month or more. Soviet censorship concealed absolutely the real condition of "The Man of Steel," Dictator Josef Stalin. He might be as near Death as was Britain's beloved George V last November. His signed articles in Soviet news organs had ceased to appear. Comrades were fearful. On Stalin's life, as on Mussolini's, depends a whole regime. Suddenly one night last week the saturnine, enigmatic Dictator, who dresses like a common workman, holds no office in the Government and rules in all-potent obscurity as Secretary General of the Communist Party, rent the clouds of fear and rumor by a dramatic appearance.
It was the eve of Revolution Day twelfth anniversary of proletarian conquest. In the once Imperial Theatre the Soviet of Moscow had met to jubilate. On the platform stood a nervous peasant, Comrade Michael Son-of-Ivan Kalinin, the puppet President of Russia. He started uneasily when someone shouted. "Is Stalin sick or well?" He looked as though he would like to run when the whole hall began to clamor, "Tell us! Sick or well? We demand to know!"
Pounding for silence, and securing instantly a dead hush, the President said: "I hope there will soon be a favorable . answer to these questions." Then, amid I discontented grumbling, he proceeded with a stodgy though important speech, announcing that Soviet grain collectors in the provinces have succeeded in forcing the peasants to sell at the Government's price some eleven million tons of grain. This is 10% more than last year, will amply suffice to feed the Red Army and the proletarian population of Russia's cities throughout the winter. "Let us rejoice and sing!" cried the Peasant-President, motioning to the orchestra leader. "Once more the good Russian Land has given us plenty of bread!"
Stirred as Russians easily are by music, the docile audience sang revolutionary songs with gusto for a half-hour, broke off in confusion when suddenly the President's Committee on the stage began to clap. Sharp-eyed, they had seen a swarthy man of medium build enter the once Imperial Box and sink into a back seat where he sat composedly stroking his long, dark moustache. "STALIN!" shouted someone and Comrade jostled Comrade as the audience roared frenzied cheers, then burst spontaneously into the Red anthem, The Internationale. Delirious minutes passed before STALIN would step to the front of the box. Smiling but silent, he took the cheers. He looked thin but well.