Stalin 'planned to kill Tito by infecting him with the plague'

A RUSSIAN historian with access to KGB archives has revealed that Stalin planned to assassinate the Yugoslav leader, Josip Broz Tito, by having him injected with germs of bubonic plague. Only Stalin's own death in 1953 saved Tito from this fate.

Writing in the daily Izvestia, Dmitry Volkogonov said the Soviet dictator made up his mind to 'liquidate' Tito after he fell out with him in 1948. Stalin's secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, was not very keen on the idea but knew better than to argue with his brutal and paranoid boss, so a plot codenamed 'Scavenger' was hatched during a meeting of senior KGB officers in Vienna in 1952.

The officers wrote to Stalin nominating a man called Yosif Grigulievich or 'Max', a Soviet citizen who passed himself off as a Costa Rican diplomat, for the job of administering the plague, and suggested three ways in which he might do this. He could seek an audience with Tito and, at close quarters, shoot a deadly pellet into him using a 'noiseless mechanism hidden in his suit'. He could follow Tito on a trip to London and, at a reception at the Yugoslav embassy there, shoot him while throwing tear-gas bombs to distract the other guests. Or he could send Tito a present - for example a jewellery box which, when opened, would squirt the poison into the Yugoslav leader's face.

'This all sounds like the plot of a racy detective thriller,' Mr Volkogonov said. 'But it's not the scenario for an adventure film, it's the authentic thinking of the leadership of the Ministry for State Security.'

Mr Volkogonov, a military historian who advises President Boris Yeltsin, said he doubted 'Max' had volunteered for this mission as, if one of the first two plans was adopted, he would be unlikely to escape. 'Max' was supposed to leave a letter saying he killed Tito from motives of personal hatred, to hide Moscow's involvement.

Stalin apparently expressed reservations about the plot. He wondered whether 'Max' was up to the job since his only terrorist experience had been in a failed attempt to shoot Trotsky. And he doubted the feasibility of injecting Tito with germs. (He should not have been so sceptical. A poison-tipped umbrella worked perfectly on the Bulgarian Georgy Markov.) Nevertheless, Stalin gave the go-ahead and preparations for the killing began. But in March 1953 Stalin died. Beria, fearing he would be blamed for the plot to kill Tito, cancelled it.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in