Libel Plots Against Physicians (Who Killed Dr. Zhivago?)
In the freezing, early morning hours of March 13, 1953 Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, greeted its readers with strident, bold headlines of a murderous plot against the highest levels of the communist leadership. The would-be killers were none other than a band of malevolent doctors. Western observers, who wryly noted that Pravda (ironically meaning “truth” in Russian) and its sister paper Izvestia rarely reported unadulterated news, eyed the dramatic account with a healthy dose of skepticism. The average Russian, however, bombarded with sophisticated and perennial communist propaganda most likely viewed the news as equivalent to the Gospel. Communist parties throughout the world generally toed the Soviet line and turned governmental fiction into reality. Strangely enough, Russian physicians were more frightened by these headlines than the allegedly targeted leaders. And they had reason to be. This tune had been played before by the leader of Russia.