The internationally renowned Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko was among the many who attended the March 1953 funeral of Joseph Stalin, the justly feared head of state. The celebrated American novelist John Steinbeck read about the macabre scene Yevtushenko described in his autobiography and suggested that he make a film of it. Many decades later, the poet directed and wrote this movie. After Stalin's death, his body was displayed for a few days in the Palace of the Unions, and citizens were required to pay their respects to the dead leader. Thousands of people flooded the streets around the palace waiting for their turn. At one point, when the gathering was especially crowded, a stampede broke out which resulted in many people being trampled or killed. Some commentators believe that this was a secret action planned by the KGB (or whatever it was called back then) in order to heighten the sense of fear and awe among ordinary people, a sort of human sacrifice similar to those practiced by pagans in ancient times.
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