Unhonored and unmourned. Vasily Stalin, younger son of the dead dictator* and once the youngest general in the Red air force, last week was reported to have died in remote Saratov, 460 miles southeast of Moscow. He was 41 or 42. twice married and the father of two children. His death, variously said to have been caused by suicide or "excessive drinking." was scarcely noted inside Russia since Soviet newspapers did not report it. But even if they had, few Russians would have been inclined to send flowers.
Raised in the tyrant's shadow, Vasily made the worst of it, demanded and got the same fawning servility he saw heaped upon Stalin. Despite special tutors, he was an indifferent student. Only flying seemed to interest the short (5 ft. 3 in.), slim, red-haired youth, and in 1941 he finally got his wings. In the air Vasily won the reputation of a daredevil pilot; during the postwar years, he occupied a lavish, heavily guarded 30-room villa at Dallgow, near Potsdam, earned notoriety as caring only for drink and women. Partial to cruel practical jokes, he enjoyed rousing high-ranking officials in the middle of the night, barking ''This is Stalin," and demanding some special privilege.
But otets (father) was understanding, and in 1949 Vasily, not yet 30 and a major general, was handed a juicy job: command of the air force in the Moscow military district. Proudly he led the flypast during May Day military exhibitions, devised formations that spelled "Glory to Stalin" in the skies over Moscow.
Vasily abruptly dropped from public notice after Stalin's funeral in 1953, earned his own destalinization even before his father was disgraced. He drank more heavily than ever, was busted from the air force, reportedly killed a woman while driving drunk. Rumors swirled about his fate: he was in a sanatorium for the mentally ill; he was in jail; he was in a Russian arctic slave labor camp. Last week's report ended the speculation: mourners bringing flowers to a grave in a Saratov cemetery noticed a new tombstone engraved with the name of Stalin's son.
* Stalin's elder son. Yakov Dzhugashvili, reportedly died in a German concentration camp during World War II. He was the only child of Stalin's first wife. Vasily and a sister, Svetlana, believed now living in Moscow, were the children of the dictator's second wife, Nadezhda Allilueva, whom Stalin shot to death inside their Kremlin apartment in 1932 during a fit of rage.