September 1, 1939 – Moscow, Office of Josef Stalin His leg ached and was so stiff he could hardly move it below the knee. That coupled with the hangover from the drinking the night before made Stalin even more irritable than usual. It was his custom to arrive for work late and work late, but give what the German were up to in Poland he had his aid roust him out of bed early, well 10:30 which was early by his standards. He had snapped viciously at Kalinin when he came in with some inane party business. The idiot had babbled his apologies profusely before retreating from his office. No doubt the ‘Chairman’ had warned others of his foul mood and that meant there would be few disturbances this morning. As Stalin reached to relight his pipe the large clot that had been throwing off pieces all week suffered a major break. The coagulated blood struggled through the veins and made it way quickly to his heart. There it lodged in Stalin’s right lung from receiving almost any air. The pain of the pulmonary embolism racked his body. He began to sweat and a tight pain gripped his chest. Oddly he also began to cry as he collapsed back into his chair. The room grew steadily darker and he sank down. He wasn’t found until later that afternoon. September 4, 1939 – London, Office of the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax paced the room slowly as Sir Cadogan summarized the ambassador’s report. “In any event my lord, it appears that Stalin is quite definitely dead. The fact that no one is in a position to exploit this by removing their opposition would support the ambassador’s belief that the death was accidental and sudden.” “Yes, I can agree with that Alexander.” Replied Halifax “The question now arises what will the Russian bear do? It would be very much to the benefit of this government if the Russians could be convinced to renounce their recent pact with the Nazi’s and enter into an agreement with the French and us. I know Neville would be relieved to have the Russians pressing in on the Germans.” Cadogan nodded. “Yes it would improve our position, but I don’t thinks will settle down over there for some time. I imagine the infighting might get pretty vicious until someone can consolidate power.” September 5, 1939 – Report German Ambassador to USSR, Friedrich Schulenburg ….Currently a high degree of chaos reigns in the Soviet capital. Stalin’s sudden death has created a near complete power vacuum. The Party, the Police, the Army and the bureaucracy are all struggling for supremacy. The only direct news I can report is that Foreign minister Molotov has contacted the embassy to confirm that our treaties with the USSR remain in place, however Molotov himself appears to be in some danger. Should he be removed it is possible that our position here would be compromised. I cannot stress the necessity to move quickly in concluding our operations in Poland and the need to honor our treaty commits there with the USSR. September 15, 1939 – Moscow, Kremlin General Timoshenko sipped the hot tea that had been set out on the conference table. Adjusting his tunic he pulled it taunt and sat down. As the last man to get his drink he had some time to look over the assembled party. Beria sat at the end of the table, as befitting a policeman he faced the door and kept a careful eye on everyone’s movement. Molotov was close at Beria side a little to right. He had removed his small glasses and was absently polishing them with his handkerchief. The party block sat to the left, Lazar Kaganovich seemed to be in nominal charge, but the new man Khrushchev seemed to be the most animated, he would have to keep an eye on him. “If the comrade General is prepared we had best discuss what to do given the tragic loss of Comrade Stalin.” Begin Kalinin. Timoshenko nodded and looked over at his men, each stoically returned his star. “Of course it will be some time before we can permanently address someone to take up the heavy burdens Comrade Stalin carried, but given the war on our border some decisions must be made. I think comrade General Kulakov can best report on the situation?” Timoshenko’s man rose up and unveiled a map of Poland. “The German advances are quite startling in their speed and depth. We had hoped that the Germans would bloody themselves against the Poles, but as you can see by this map the Polish forces are rapidly collapsing. The main Polish army is trapped in these two pockets.” He pointed to the center of the map. “One is centered on Warsaw and the other to the West. The only free Polish forces are further South, their Krakow and Carpathian armies, neither of which is capable of relieving the trapped central forces.” “How long will the Poles hold out?” asked Kaganovich “The Western pocket will be gone in a day or two, Warsaw perhaps two weeks? The Poles are trying to reorganize farther East, but their support system is in a shambles. Perhaps if the allies attack in the West…” “Impossible” interrupted Molotov “the English and French imperialist will do nothing to save the Poles. Their ‘guarantee’ was just so much paper.” “So the question becomes do we enter the war? Comrade Molotov assures me that the Japanese are close to agreeing to a ceasefire in Siberia.” Said Kalinin “Well it was delayed due to our tragedy. But I can expect a formal ceasefire to be signed with Togo next week or certainly by the end of the month.* That should remove the threat of a wider war with Japan.” “Which opens the question should we move into Poland at all.” Interjected Kaganvich. “The whole thing could drag us into a war with the West. Do we really want to be allied with Germany?” Timoshenko looked at Molotov, this was a clear criticism of the foreign minister. Time to test the NKVD – Molotov alliance. “Yes, good question” offered the Marshal “while I am prepared to carry out the will of the Soviet people do we really want to risk a war with the west and identify so closely with the fascists?” Almost involuntarily eyes shifted to Beria. The policeman stared back. He could see the emerging alliance between the party and the army. He looked over at Kalinin, “Yes perhaps Comrade Molotov had better explain why this alliance is so vital when it appears to me to violate many of the fundamental principles of the revolution.” September 22, 1939 – Times of London (lead) Foreign Minister Molotov removed from office. Sources in the Soviet capital reported today the Foreign minister Molotov has been removed from office and his predecessor, Maxim Litvinov has been reinstated. This is seen as a favorable sign towards his majesty’s government as Minister Litvinov is widely seen as pro-Western in his approach. Litvinov has promised to pursue an immediate end to the on-going border dispute between Japan and the USSR. Once this issue is settled it would appear the Soviets can focus more of their attention and energy on the Polish issue *About a week or two later than in our TL.