WI: Joseph Stalin commits suicide in 1941

"Everybody was afraid of Beria" is a piece of Soviet propaganda made up after Beria's death. There is no fact-based evidence for that. Beria was to Khrushchev what Trotsky was to Stalin: the ultimate villain to blame for everything.
I agree with you that everyone was happy to make Beria into the ultimate bogeyman, in a large part to distract from their own bogeyman like activities. However, he was the only one of the top post-Stalin leadership who was executed rather than simply marginalized, which has to mean something - for whatever reason he must have been thought of as a higher risk if left alive. Or maybe he was the one person no one could compromise with. As has been pointed out in this thread, being feared is all fine and good but it's not enough on its own.

It is an interesting question how long before the suicide becomes public knowledge. It would be a fairly narrow circle at first, so I think it stays under wraps during the war. But if there is some version of OTL de-Stalinization afterwards, it would be awfully tempting for whoever is running it to throw in something about the "horrible tyrant Stalin, having led the socialist state to the brink of disaster, did not even have the courage to be held accountable by the party... " and so on - you get the idea. And of course the inevitable whispered conspiracy theories about who really pulled the trigger.

I find it very difficult to say whether Stalin's death would result in the USSR doing worse or better in the war. I think the transition itself would be reasonably smooth. It has been pointed out that rule by committee is not very effective, but the Bolsheviks won the civil war through rule by committee; Lenin was there of course but he was much more primus inter pares than unquestioned ruler in the way Stalin was in 1941. Some figures in the Defense Committee are bound to end up more powerful than others, I think that's the nature of all committees, but nothing focuses the mind like an existentialist struggle, in 1941 and 1942 they should all have a clear understanding that if the Germans win, they will all hang together.
 
I think it's relevant to consider how Stalin ends himself, as well. I mean it's one thing for the arriving committee to just find him dead. It's another thing entirely for them to arrive and have him assume, in his paranoia, that they're going to coup him, and he decides to take a few of them with him. Which ones, if any, he manages to kill will greatly change the dynamic of post-Stalin developments.
 
Zhukov might not be high enough in 1941, he was the Chief of General Staff, but Timoshenko was the People's Commissar of Defense, so he may end up being the representative of the military for the time being.
 
Is it possible that the Soviet military would acquire far greater political power in this timeline? I can see a big drop in morale at first as everyone's wondering why Stalin died of vague "illness" at such a critical time (they will guess he either got killed or killed himself), then the collective leadership realizes the USSR is doomed if they don't let the army do its job. In the absence of a strong paramount figure like Stalin to exercise control and take all the credit for leading the Motherland at the darkest hour, it seems likely that this role would have to fall to a junta.
 
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So my guess is that the Soviets will jut say Stalin died of vague natural causes. I still see this having a bad effect on morale. Germany is sweeping through the USSR and their leader dies as it starts. It'll be interesting if a new "troika" styled government emerges, but someone will be on top. Who would it be? Beria? God help us.

I don't think that Stalin's death would affect to general moral of the people. FDR's death didn't cause any effect to Americans so I don't think there being any effects to Soviets. Yes, USSR and USA were different countries and FDR and Stalin were very different but still I don't think that it would change much on moral of the people.
 
I agree with you that everyone was happy to make Beria into the ultimate bogeyman, in a large part to distract from their own bogeyman like activities. However, he was the only one of the top post-Stalin leadership who was executed rather than simply marginalized, which has to mean something - for whatever reason he must have been thought of as a higher risk if left alive. Or maybe he was the one person no one could compromise with. As has been pointed out in this thread, being feared is all fine and good but it's not enough on its own.
The impression I've always had is that this wasn't Fear or Pragmatism, it was simple Hate.

(And honestly, it was Beria. Who could blame them?).
 
The military will remain strictly bound to party discipline in all areas outside their delegated remit. It’s what they did. You got actual traitors but you didn’t get actual bonapartists: the culture of the elite precluded that.

while the existential threat like the second five year plan means the nomenklatura will be willing to eat its own children the level of hubris in the German attempt on the Soviet Union means they won’t have to.

but you’ll still get forced socdem mergers and after that purges as new nomenklatura in the colonies^w fraternal states cement their^w working class power.

what you don’t get is the storming of Berlin.
Millions of Soviet men will be alive to be resentful.

Autocorrect sucks
 
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This. Throw in an operation where some poor schmucks - sorry, crack Abwehr agents - are caught and shot "resisting arrest" near a neutral border to bring the story to a close and that'll be it. It'll probably even be widely believed, at least for a while.
The german lines are closer than the nearest neutral that is turkey
 
Who would emerge as the titular head of state? Even if a troika takes over, someone has to assume the role as leader. Would Molotov be the safest bet? Or would it go to a mere figurehead like Mikhail Kalinin or someone like Beria or Zhukov usurps it?
 
The committee of people’s defence won’t elect a leader formally. Not even the chairman will be decisive. However, the war itself will require a figurehead for propaganda and the party will evolve a non-military figure to act as the embodiment of its power. Due to the structure of nomenklatura networks like comrade card file it will be the leader with the densest communications network throughout the party and government.

but lacking a congress of victors he won’t be ultimate just preeminent.
 
Who would emerge as the titular head of state? Even if a troika takes over, someone has to assume the role as leader. Would Molotov be the safest bet? Or would it go to a mere figurehead like Mikhail Kalinin or someone like Beria or Zhukov usurps it?

Molotov seems quiet safe candidate. I don't know about Kalinin. I don't see Beria having much of chances. He wa<sn't very liked. Zhukov has zero chances. He wasn't yet that strong at this point and political leadership never would accept military personel becoming leader of Soviet Union.
 
Molotov seems quiet safe candidate. I don't know about Kalinin. I don't see Beria having much of chances. He wa<sn't very liked. Zhukov has zero chances. He wasn't yet that strong at this point and political leadership never would accept military personel becoming leader of Soviet Union.
While I do think Molotov would be the de facto leader, I think the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact wounds him worse than IOTL, considering Stalin is now dead and Molotov created the pact that was broken. So he would not be a very strong leader at that, or even last that long. We might have a "revolving door" of de facto leaders until the Soviets win/lose.
 
The Soviets would never admit to their Glorious leader shooting himself out of cowardice(Thats what It would be seen as by most people if the truth got out) and would probably say he was killed by borgueise western assassins trying to stop the revolution or some other bollocks shortly after sending the few people who knew the truth who weren't part of the clique that took power to a nice warm Gulag in Siberia.
They would say he was murdered by a German assassin.
 
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