Hundreds of soldiers stand in formation as a casket draped in red is transported to the Red Square. Dozens of dignitaries march, carrying funeral wreaths. Crowds stream toward the square to bid farewell to their departed leader.
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These are scenes from Josef Stalin's 1953 funeral, as captured on video by an American assistant army attaché standing on the balcony of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The clips – the only independent footage of the Soviet leader's funeral, according to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – emerged this week.
The video was shot by U.S. Army Major Martin Manhoff, who was serving in Moscow when Stalin died, according to RFE/RL, which obtained the footage from Douglas Smith, the Seattle-based historian who discovered it.
Manhoff served at the embassy in Moscow from February 1952 until June 1954, when he was expelled on charges of espionage, Smith wrote on his Facebook page. During his time in the U.S.S.R., Manhoff recorded "thousands of color photographs taken on the streets of Moscow, Leningrad, Murmansk, Yalta, and at points along the Trans-Siberian Railroad."
Smith said that, after the death of Manhoff's wife, he was asked to visit their home. "I was amazed at what I discovered," he said. "For the past several months I have been digitizing and organizing the photographs and films." Smith said he was now looking for a way to make Manhoff's archive available to the public.
While official footage of the procession was released by the Soviet authorities, Manhoff's video is unique because it is raw and unedited. RFE/RL suggested the video, which Manhoff shot while on duty as U.S. government employee, may have been parsed by U.S. intelligence agencies looking for clues on who will succeed Stalin.