One of the scariest parts about Stalin’s crimes is that he may have been particularly cruel because of a brain injury. Stalin suffered from cerebral atherosclerosis, which is when arteries in the brain harden over time due to a build-up of plaque and fat. The illness not only contributed to the stroke that eventually killed Stalin but was also so advanced that one of the doctors who performed the autopsy believed that it affected Stalin’s psyche.
“The major atherosclerosis in the brain, which we found at the autopsy, should raise the question of how much this illness — which had clearly been developing over a number of years — affected Stalin’s health, his character, and his actions,” Dr. Alexander Myasnikov wrote in his diaries, which were kept secret for years and only published in the past decade, per The Independent. “Stalin may have lost his sense of good and bad, healthy and dangerous, permissible and impermissible, friend and enemy. Character traits can become exaggerated so that a suspicious person becomes paranoid,” he added.
Indeed, psychosis has long been linked with cerebral atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease also has a strong correlation, according to JAMA Network. That said, whether Stalin’s actions were the result of a diseased mind or his own sick nature, they were undoubtedly evil and will remain a tragedy in the annals of world history.