The Time Stalin Tried to Assassinate John Wayne and 4 Other KGB Plots
The Time Stalin Tried to Assassinate John Wayne and 4 Other KGB Plots

The Time Stalin Tried to Assassinate John Wayne and 4 Other KGB Plots

Brian - October 1, 2016

The Time Stalin Tried to Assassinate John Wayne and 4 Other KGB Plots
Josip Broz Tito

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.

The Time Stalin Tried to Assassinate John Wayne and 4 Other KGB Plots
Basic design of umbrella weapon

5. Georgi Markov

One of the most infamous assassinations of the Cold War, Markov was likely assassinated by the Bulgarian secret police. It is believed, however, that the KGB played an important support role. Georgi Markov was born in Bulgaria in 1929. At the time, Bulgaria was a communist state and close ally of the Soviet Union.

For a time, Markov enjoyed a successful career as a brilliant, up-and-coming writer in Bulgaria. His works quickly garnered attention and awards, but they also pushed the boundaries of what communist censors would allow. Many of his plays were banned from being performed because they were considered too controversial. And one of his books was stopped mid-print because it talked about the roof collapse of the Lenin steel mill.

In 1969 Markov decided to head to Italy to visit his brother. Once there, he decided to stay until things cooled down back home. In September of 1971 the Bulgarian government refused to extend his passport, trying to force Markov to return to the country. Instead, he fled to London and began working for the BBC.

Markov took to the airwaves too, working for Radio Free Europe, a staunchly anti-Communist radio station. This drew the ire of the Bulgarian government. On September 7th 1978 Markov was walking across the Waterloo Bridge where it spans over the River Thames. Waiting for a bus, Markov suddenly felt a sharp stabbing pain in his right, back thigh. Turning, Markov saw a man had dropped his umbrella. The man apologized for the accident and they went their separate ways.

After getting to the BBC office, Markov noticed that the pain had not subsided. He also noticed a red welt on his leg and decided to go to the hospital. Four days later, Markov died of ricin poisoning, something that was discovered only after investigators ordered an autopsy.

Ricin, by the way, is the infamous and essentially incurable poison featured in the popular “Breaking Bad” TV series.