Dangerous Times: When Paranoids Do Politics

In 1927, Jozef Stalin summoned the Russian neurologist Bekhterev to give a medical examination of the dictator.  Later that day, Bekhterev returned to a medical meeting and told colleagues, "I have just examined a paranoiac with a short, dry hand."  Stalin's left arm was shorter and weaker than the other.  The following day, Bekhterev was poisoned and died.  He was killed for calling Stalin a "paranoiac."  He did not mention Stalin by name, but his medical colleagues knew exactly whom he was talking about. Writing in European Neurology, the historian Juerg Kesselring says that Stalin met all the clinical standards for paranoia: Excessive sensitivity to rejection; bearing on slights, suspicion; tendency to distort experiences; neutral or friendly actions of others misinterpreted as hostile or contemptuous; unjustified suspicions regarding sexual fidelity of spouse or sexual partner; contentious and continued insistence on their own rights; inflated...(Read Full Article)

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