On March 5, 1953 Joseph Stalin finally died. One might think that the general reaction would have been one of relief and even jubilation, and surely there was much of both. But the most apparent and public reaction was of grief and confusion. Huge crowds thronged Red Square, and an endless line of mourners streamed past the generalissimo as he lay in state. This was partly staged for show, of course. The honor guard, the crepe, the music, and the flowers didn’t appear spontaneously. But much of the grief and confusion was real. Stalin had led the country for twenty-five years through some of its most momentous changes and events, and the years of the cult of personality and its pervasive propaganda had their effect. Many people could hardly imagine the future of the Soviet Union without Stalin’s firm hand. On the other hand, others could, including the jokesters. They celebrated the monster’s death with glee and wished for more.