4. Josip Broz Tito
Many of the people Stalin wanted dead, ended up dead. Josip Broz Tito is one of the exceptions to the rule. This wasn’t due to any lack of effort. In fact, the Soviets made at least twenty attempts on Tito’s life.
So who was Tito and why did Stalin hate him so much? Tito was the communist leader of Yugoslavia, a country that consisted of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Located near the Soviet Union, you’d think that the two communist countries would have been natural allies.
Only, Stalin wasn’t interested in being allies. He wanted Yugoslavia to become a puppet state akin to Eastern Germany and the numerous other countries in the communist bloc in Eastern Europe. Tito was having none of it and staunchly refused to bow to Moscow’s pressure.
So Stalin tried to have him assassinated on at least twenty two different occasions. Among the more bizarre attempts was a jewelry box that released toxic gas. Yugoslav forces also caught assassins with rifles, bombs, and other tools of the trade. Yet none ever got through to Tito.
Growing sick of the assassination attempts, Tito wrote Stalin a letter in which he famously declared:
“Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. (…) If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.”
Stalin appears to have gotten the message as the assassination attempts appear to have stopped. In his dwindling years Stalin was growing more and more paranoid and his health was slowly deteriorating.
Some believe that Tito may have had the last laugh. Stalin died in 1953, most likely from a stroke. However, some historians believe that Stalin may have actually been poisoned. There were some questionable actions carried out by his bodyguards that hint at them covering things up. For example, they didn’t call for medical help immediately after they found Stalin collapsed on the floor.
Either way, Tito went on to live a long life, dying in 1980 at the age of 87.