On December 16, 1952, head of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's security, General Nikolay Vlasik, was arrested for high treason.
For many years, Vlasik was the personal bodyguard to Stalin and the longest serving of his guard chiefs. Assigned to the leader in 1927, not only did he become the head of security, Vlasik in essence was a member of Stalin's family and one of the closest people to the leader, possessing immense power behind the scenes. After the death of Stalin's wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, he was the tutor for Stalin's children and virtually in charge of raising them.
Vlasik was truly loyal to Stalin. He is said to have disobeyed him only once. It happened during a German air attack when several bombs fell on the territory of the Kremlin. Stalin threw on his coat so he could run outside to see what had happened. Vlasik blocked the doorway and refused to let him pass. “You don't work for me anymore,” said Stalin. Vlasik was prepared to accept this. The next day Stalin's anger had changed to affection and Vlasik stayed on.
He remained Stalin’s closest confidant up until he removed him from his position on that day in 1952. After his arrest, Vlasik was mercilessly beaten and tortured. His desperate letters to Stalin protesting his innocence remained unanswered. He was accused of abusing his authority, embezzling large sums of state money and valuables. He was convicted, deprived of his general rank and banished for ten years to Krasnoyarsk.
Stalin died several months after Vlasik's arrest, on March 5, 1953. The official cause of his death was listed as a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke). However it has been suggested that Stalin was poisoned in a plan masterminded by NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) chief Lavrenty Beria.
It has been said that Beria had been laying the groundwork for sometime in order to liquidate Stalin by getting rid of Vlasik and all those in Stalin's personal guard who were particularly devoted to him. It is believed that Vlasik was arrested on the basis of false charges fabricated by Beria and member of the Politburo (Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) Georgy Melnikov.
Vlasik's daughter Nadezhda had said in 2003 interview “He (Vlasik) was in the way of Beria getting to Stalin, because my father would have never let him die. He would not have waited days behind the door, like those guards on March 1, 1953, waiting for Stalin to ‘wake up’.”
According to his wife, Vlasik was convinced that Beria “helped” Stalin die.
By amnesty in 1953, Vlasik's term was reduced to five years, and in 1956, Vlasik was pardoned through the reversal of his previous conviction.
In his autobiography Vlasik wrote, “I have been severely offended by Stalin. For 25 years of doing an excellent job, with promotions and awards, I have been excluded from the party and thrown into prison. For my boundless devotion he put me into the hands of the enemies. But never, not for one minute, no matter what state I was in, to what abuse I was exposed to while in prison, had I in my soul any harm against Stalin.”