On October 31, 1961, Joseph Stalin's embalmed body was removed from the Mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square and buried inside the Kremlin wall. Stalin’s reburial became the final act of the “de-Stalinization” campaign launched by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 was a shattering event for many. His body was embalmed and laid in state for public viewing on Red Square in Lenin's tomb, which was then called “The Mausoleum of Lenin and Stalin”. The burial several days later attracted hundreds of thousands of people to Moscow to bid farewell to their “Leader” – so many that hundreds of them died in a stampede.
In 1956, Khrushchev made history with his now famous speech “On the Personality Cult and its Consequences” to the 20th Party Congress. In his address he denounced Stalin as a torturer and a murderer, thus taking the first steps to crushing the aura of greatness that surrounded him.
Khrushchev's drive to erase Stalin's influence from the public sphere continued through to the late 1950s. His efforts were marked by the removal of Stalin's name from the map as cities, landmarks and facilities, which had been named after the Leader.
The process of “de-Stalinization” peaked in 1961. During the 22nd Party Congress, Khrushchev delivered a much-approved speech, in which he stated:
“The Mausoleum on Red Square…is to be named in the future: The Mausoleum of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The further retention there of the sarcophagus with the bier of Stalin shall be recognized as inappropriate, due to the serious violations by Stalin of Lenin's precepts, abuse of power, mass repressions against honorable Soviet people…”
However, the government was aware that such a decision could provoke unrest in the country, since many still saw the late dictator as a hero. Therefore, the removal of Stalin's body was carefully prepared for and carried out in secret.
Late at night on October 31, 1961, in an atmosphere of absolute secrecy under the pretext of a parade rehearsal, Red Square was cordoned off. The entrance to the Mausoleum, as well as the grave dug out for the reburial, was hidden behind sheets of plywood. After resting next to the leader of world socialism for eight years, Stalin's coffin was encased in a pit filled with tons of cement to ensure it wouldn't be moved again.
Contrary to expectations, the news of Stalin's body being moved from the Mausoleum was embraced rather calmly by soviet citizens.
In 1970 a monument by sculptor Nikolay Tomsky was erected on Stalin's grave.